A couple set out on 17 August 2016 to travel from one tiny island (Weno) to another (Tamatam), in the vast Pacific, in an 18-foot open boat. They landed on another island entirely, an apparently nameless, uninhabited island in Chuuk State, Micronesia. And there they waited to be rescued… for a week.
Their survival today is living (literally!) proof of the old adage, “It is better to be lucky than to be good.” They survived for seven days before being found, first by a passing ship which saw lights on the uninhabited island, and then by a US Navy patrol aircraft, which saw the “SOS” they’d drawn in the sand. The Navy snapped these pictures.
From that point, the rescue of the two marooned people was assured, although it took two more days (from Wednesday, 24 August, to Friday the 26th) for them to be picked up and delivered to safety.
Twenty-four hours after the two and their boat neither returned to Weno nor arrived at Tamatam, the Coast Guard was alerted. A seven-day search of 17,000 square miles came up dry (no pun intended), and the good fortune of a ship passing, and the survivors having a flashing light for signaling, made the rescue possible.
It’s a lot easier to list the things that these people did wrong than what they did right, but they did do a couple of things right — bringing a means of signaling was one, and leaving word ashore about their route and intentions was another. (We’ve heard the Coasties call this a “float plan.”) But this adventure came within a hair’s breadth of being, instead, one of those missing-persons mysteries that the vast Pacific produces every year.
So learn from what they did right and what they did wrong, when you’re out in open water.