Persistence in pursuing a dream is important to Trevor Wilson, a 72-year-old British author and sailor who apparently has a solo sail across the Atlantic Ocean on his bucket list.
“The greatest risk in life is in not taking one,” the author of numerous history books has boldly said.
Unfortunately, he made that declaration after he was rescued May 8 — for the fourth time in an Atlantic crossing attempt — this time just 70 miles off the East Coast of the United States. Each Atlantic crossing attempt —one of which actually succeeded — has ended with the loss of his sloop.
During Wilson’s latest rescue a Coast Guard aircrew from Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., deployed a rescue swimmer who took Wilson off his sailboat and brought him to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Virginia.
Click play to watch the Coast Guard's recent rescue of Wilson.
Wilson activated his 406-MHz EPIRB about 6 a.m., which alerted 5th District watchstanders, according to a Coast Guard press release. They deployed an air crew aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Elizabeth City. Crewmembers found the 30-foot Erma and talked to Wilson on VHF radio.
A former merchant navy man who has been a passionate sailor since his teenage years, Wilson told the air crew that he had been unconscious for seven hours and believed he had fallen and hit his head.
Wilson’s trans-Atlantic quest was inspired by the story of a remarkable 8,000-mile voyage in 1945 of 16 exiled men, women and children aboard a 70-year-old, 36-foot, double-ended wooden sloop named Erma from Stockholm, Sweden, to Norfolk, Va.
It was in 2000 that Wilson first attempted to sail alone across the Atlantic, according to a report by Sail-World.com. That voyage ended when the rudder dropped off his 24-foot boat, Osama, and he had to be rescued.
"Halfway across the Atlantic, the Osama lost its rudder. I was adrift for three days before I was picked up by a merchant ship,” he told the Daily Post. “Sadly, the yacht smashed against the ship and sank."
In 2002, Wilson tried again, but this time he was caught in a hurricane. The storm battered the 29-foot Bowden and its skipper. Wilson was rescued and his boat was again lost.
"When I was 100 miles south of Cork the boat rolled over in a hurricane, breaking three of my ribs and an arm,” he told the Daily Post. “It took me 11 days to get back to shore. I was helped by a lifeboat."
Undeterred, Wilson acquired a third yacht — named it Erma — and successfully made an Atlantic crossing in 2005, arriving off the coast of Guyana, which is still some distance from Virginia, his ultimate destination. The trip would not end well.
"That was a great feeling to have achieved part of the dream. But the voyage was only half-finished,” he told the Daily Post. “I sailed up the coast into the Caribbean, where the boat was struck by lightning. This caused damage to the mast and I drifted onto rocks off Devil's Island, French Guyana, and sank in 10 minutes."
Between his third and fourth attempts, Wilson wrote a book, “Sailing Alone Across the Atlantic: A Pensioner’s Tale.”
It took several years, but Wilson eventually raised enough money for a fourth boat, this one also named Erma, and he set off last month for Virginia, the destination he has yet to reach (apart from landing in the hospital after he was rescued).
No word yet on whether Wilson will boldly make a fifth run at an Atlantic crossing.
— Rich Armstrong