6 People Survive The Pacific For 38 Days In A 9 Foot Dinghy

Family And Friend Survive For 38 Days In A 9′ Dinghy !

6 People Survive For 38 Days On The Pacific In A 9 Foot Dinghy


The Roberston family, Doug, his wife Lyn, and their children, Douglas, Neil and Sandy had set sail on their round-the-world voyage in January 1971.

Also on board was Robin, a 22-year-old graduate who joined the family in Panama for the leg that would take them across the Pacific to New Zealand.

They were 200 miles down wind from the Galapagos Islands when the killer whale attacked.

"Sledgehammer blows of incredible force, hurling me against the bunk",

is how he Doug later described them.

He wrenched up the floorboards of the family’s 43-foot wooden schooner that was built in 1922 to see what was wrong and found himself gazing at a massive hole, punctured by a killer whale!

Water was pouring in with torrential force and it was immediately clear that nothing could be done to save the boat.

Soon To Be Alone and Adrift In The Pacific

As the Lucette filled with water, Doug managed to release the stricken schooner’s nine foot long fiberglass dinghy, named Ednamair, and was able to salvage some food and supplies.

Enough water for 10 days, a bag of onions, a few oranges and lemons, and some candies.

And within minutes, the Lucette slipped beneath the surface of the Pacific.

"There was a huge splashing noise behind me and I turned around and saw three whales".

"I thought, this is how I’m going to die. I’m going to be eaten alive",

Doug recalls.

A Ordeal That Would Last For 38 Days

The family had hardly any food and water to survive and they were lost in the middle of the earth’s biggest ocean.

"Breakfast consisted of a quarter-ounce biscuit, a piece of onion and a sip of water",

says Doug.

Those scant supplies soon ran out and the family knew that if they were to have any to survive, they would have to live off the ocean.

And their tiny dingy was so overladen that they had to take turns to sit on the only dry seat, while the others sat submerged to their waists.

Manna From Heaven And The Ocean

A sudden rain shower brought them a supply of water!

And soon after that, a huge dorado (Mahi-mahi) plopped into the bottom of the boat and Doug grabbed his knife and,

"plunged it into the head, just behind the eye".

The family’s ordeal was made worse by the heat of the tropical sun, which beat down on their dinghy.

"We lay gasping in the torrid heat, sucking at pieces of rubber trying to create saliva to ease the burden of our thirst".

And by the end of the first week, they were all suffering form skin eruptions due to the exposure to salt water, and by the end of the second week, they were once again seriously hungry.


yelled one of the boys.

They managed to grab it and heave it aboard, plunging a knife into its throat in order to drain and drink the blood.

"I felt as if I’d just drunk the elixir of life".

Says Doug.

Growing Confidence And Storms

As time went on, the family grew more confident that they could survive.

They made basic tools, and supported one another psychologically.

Violent storms flung their dinghy from peak to trough and they faced both extreme heat and terrible cold and at one point, they found themselves caught in a ferocious tempest.

"The rain doubled and redoubled until a frenzy of water fell from the sky; above the noise of the storm, I could hear Sandy sobbing and Lyn praying".

The Family Increases Its Survival Skills

As time went on, the family got increasingly adept at capturing food from the ocean.

They managed to capture thirteen turtles, using a spear that they fashioned from a paddle, and even killed and ate a five-foot shark!

Water Had To Be Anally Imbibed

Doug’s wife Lyn, who was a trained nurse instigated an undignified but very effective technique to keep them all hydrated with the rainwater that had collected in the boat.

The water was contaminated by turtle blood and various offal and would be poisonous if drunk.

Aware of this, she insisted her family take enemas using tubes from the rung of a ladder.

Her reasoning was that if water is taken rectally, the poisons don’t work their way through the digestive system.

On day 38 of their ordeal, Doug gazed towards the horizon and caught sight of something.

A Ship A Ship!

"A ship! There’s a ship and it"s coming towards us!".

It was indeed a ship, the Toka Maru II, a Japanese vessel.

The Robertson’s Arrive In Panama

After four days on board the Toka Maru II, the Robertsons reached Balboa in Panama, where they landed to a welcome fit for heroes.

The Ednamair Is Now A Star Attraction

The family later donated the Ednamair to the National Maritime Museum Cornwall in Falmouth UK and it now gets admired by tens of thousands of visitors, and it deserves its fame.

What a dinghy!

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One Response to 6 People Survive The Pacific For 38 Days In A 9 Foot Dinghy

  1. Reg Spragg says:

    His son said that, while he admired his father’s tough-mindedness, his book ignored the others’ contributions.

    “My dad gave us the drive and had the brains, but my mother had the caring aspect, rubbing our sores with turtle oil and even sitting in the water so we could stay dry”.

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