438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea by Jonathan Franklin

438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea by Jonathan Franklin.

Wow is really the only word that came to mind when I finished the book. Indeed a truly extraordinary story of survival. Alvarenga, who survived at sea alone for 438 days, inspired me to never have another bad day again. If I’m tired and feel overworked, I just remind myself what this man experienced out at sea, all alone, for over a year. The book starts off with a little history on Alvarenga, his lifestyle, his skills in fishing, his friends and co-workers, all about him. Not my type of lifestyle, but he’s also not from America, nor has he lived the American lifestyle. Regardless, the introduction was good, because it gave you a background of Alvarenga that helped you understand what was on his mind for over a year while alone at sea.

The incident itself on how he ended up 7,000 miles from home was a good reality check. How often have we ran out of the house in a hurry forgetting minor details, like leaving our lunch on the counter. Or how often do we check our emergency supplies in our car? The last time I needed a flashlight I realized it had been so long since I checked the one in my car, the batteries had died, and I was without. How Alvarenga ended up at sea was sort of like that, perhaps a little more careless, driven by a paycheck that doesn’t come around regularly. But his perseverance was unmistakable, and his will to survive held strength I could never imagine.

What really hit home for me is that this isn’t some ancient story from decades ago. This just happened in 2012, modern times if you ask me. Yet a small boat in the middle of the ocean is unlikely to be found. As I was reading the book I thought back, what was I doing in 2012? Eating amazing food, in the comfort of my warm house, fresh water abundant, clean clothes tucked away in my dresser, while this man, out in a small banana boat, was thousands of miles from home, his only clothes on his body, catching rain water, and eating turtles, raw birds, and any other raw fish he could catch with his bare hands. While I was surfing the net for the latest health information, he was struggling to survive on meager blessings from the ocean.

I knew he survived, or there would not be a book. But I was curious how did he finally make it off the boat, and I kept reading in bewilderment of this man’s willpower to go on. I was also curious how the details of where he was at and when were so detailed. He had no paper or pen to track his days. But then it was explained later in the book how his journey was traced back based on when he disappeared, what fish he found in the sea, and the current patterns that took him away. To think, the day before his and his shipmates disappearance, he was only 15 or so miles from shore, from home, from safety. The sea is indeed powerful, and can leave the unprepared feeling helpless.

While I don’t foresee myself hopping on a small fishing boat and getting lost at sea, I did ask myself if I could survive such a feat. Could I eat turtle eyes? Could I handle the isolation? Could I eat the very last bird that was my only friend? I hope to never find out.

An excellent reality check, and a great reminder whenever I’m having a un-perfect day.

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