In October 2002, Banshee, our 34 foot sailboat, hit a reef and sank in five minutes. (click here to see the map) I was trapped in the flooded cabin. A village fisherman pulled me to safety. Four days later, with both help and hindrance from the primitive villagers, we managed to patch and kedge our boat off the reef and refloat her. We were then marooned on the island for over three months before we could sail to safety on the north coast of Papua New Guinea.
We had sailed our boat, a 1971 Bristol 34 (Hull #1), from Palau to Hermit Island to seek the island’s fantastic scuba diving, friendly people and idyllic lagoon. Our stay was enjoyable until disaster struck and our ordeal began. Returning to the village from diving in the lagoon, we hit a reef. The impact rammed a large forward-looking transducer into the hull and tore a massive hole and a six foot long crack. The boat sank immediately. I was injured and a tip of my finger was torn off, severely disabling me. Our survival ordeal took place in very difficult circumstances, in a primitive part of the third world, where strangers are not always welcomed.
In late January 2003, we finally were able to sail away from Hermit Island on our own in our badly damaged boat using only wind and sails. We made the 300-mile voyage to safety in stormy conditions with no engine, no autopilot, no navigation lights, limited food and water and one tiny chart. After a perilous week alone at sea, we reached civilization at Madang, on the north coast of PNG, where there was a local marine railway in which we began repairs to our boat and our lives.
We spent two years in Madang rebuilding our boat ourselves on a very limited budget. In February of 2005 we finally sailed out of PNG via the Bismarck Archipelago through Micronesia and on to the Philippines—almost 4,000 miles by the log. We are now comfortable and safe in Subic Bay, Philippines.
Both of us are accomplished sailors. I am 67, a retired teacher, and have owned Banshee for over 37 years, making three previous Pacific crossings in her. Leslie Brown, 49, joined me on Guam in 1996. She is a scuba instructor who rebuilt and single-handed her own small sailboat in Hawaii for ten years after moving there from New York.
Our book about our incredible and true story, from the sinking, refloating and extricating Banshee from Hermit to finally reaching Madang, is now published by Seaworthy Publications in the US. We feel the book demonstrates what two women alone can do when faced with daunting physical and cultural challenges in a remote part of the world.
ISBN: 1-892399-27-X Seaworthy Publications, Inc. Published: 2008
Pages: 288 U.S. $19.95