They have to be hailed as the Heroes of the Week, if not the Year. 85-year-old Londoner Anthony Smith and three retiree friends sailed their raft made of pipes, dubbed the An-Tiki, from the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa to the Caribbean island of St. Maartens. Sixty-six days and 2,800 miles later, the crew reached St. Maartens on Wednesday.
The rafting crew
They made the trip to raise money for WaterAid, a British nonprofit which brings drinking water to poor communities, and to prove the elderly are capable of embarking on adventures frequently considered dangerous.
'Some people say it was mad,' Anthony Smith told the Associated Press. 'But it wasn't mad. What else do you do when you get on in years?'
To recruit his team of 'mature and intrepid gentlemen,' Smith, a former science correspondent for the BBC, placed an advertisement in British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.
It read: 'Fancy rafting across the Atlantic? Famous traveller requires 3 crew. Must be OAP. Serious adventurers only.'
An-Tiki - they've made it across!
In the end Smith was joined by John Russell and Andrew Bainbridge, his physician. They picked up the fourth crew member, David Hildred, a civil engineer who lives in the British Virgin Islands, three days into the trip after one of the raft's rudders broke.
The raft was built with four water supply pipes measuring nearly 40 feet long, and 14 cross pipes. Seven pipes held the crew's fresh water supply. The raft also had a nearly 40-foot-long mast and a 400-square-foot sail. Twin rudders provided the steering, along with centerboards and two oars. The raft traveled at an average speed of four knots.
While enjoying their time on the high seas, the crew were glad to be back on the ground, looking forward to having a nice shower and enjoying a good meal.
Their rafting skills were obviously excellent, but their provisioning skills may need some brushing up.
'We haven't had fresh food for a long time, Russell said. 'We've been living out of tins. Our fresh fruit and vegetables ran out a long time ago.'