February 19, 2012

The man who rowed across oceans.

John Fairfax, dead at 74.
At 9, he settled a dispute with a pistol. At 13, he lit out for the Amazon jungle.

At 20, he attempted suicide-by-jaguar. Afterward he was apprenticed to a pirate....

When piracy lost its luster, he gave his boss the slip and fetched up in 1960s London, at loose ends....

On Jan. 20, 1969, Mr. Fairfax pushed off from the Canary Islands, bound for Florida. His 22-foot craft, the Britannia, was the Rolls-Royce of rowboats....
The long, empty days spawned a temporary madness. Desperate for female company, he talked ardently to the planet Venus.

On July 19, 1969 — Day 180 — Mr. Fairfax, tanned, tired and about 20 pounds lighter, made landfall at Hollywood, Fla. “This is bloody stupid,” he said as he came ashore.
2 years later, with a bigger boat and a woman, he rowed across the Pacific.

25 comments:

madAsHell said...

“This is bloody stupid.”

Obviously, the lesson was soon forgotten.

Mitchell said...

John Fairfax did not always drink beer. But when he did, he preferred Dos Equis.

F said...

MAH: He might have forgotten the lesson about rowing across the ocean, but the not the one about doing so without female companionship.

edutcher said...

Did this guy ever get, like, a real job or did he just spend his life trying to prove he really was Peter Pan?

No mention of offspring, so we can be grateful for that.

kcom said...

He reached Florida the day before the first moon landing so I'm guessing he didn't get a whole lot of pub for his accomplishment. The focus of the nation was elsewhere.

Petunia said...

Wouldn't the current have carried him across the Atlantic by itself? I'd be interested to know if anyone has figured out how much distance he actually rowed, and how much distance he was taken by the current.

Kit said...

Best obit, ever.

cassandra lite said...

kcom said: "He reached Florida the day before the first moon landing so I'm guessing he didn't get a whole lot of pub for his accomplishment. The focus of the nation was elsewhere."

And the day of his departure was Nixon's inauguration.

Lem said...

... the lake in Hyde Park. Barely more than half a mile long, it was about one eight-thousandth the width of the Atlantic,

Their new boat, the Britannia II, also a Fox design, was about 36 feet long, large enough for two though still little more than a toy on the Pacific.


The oceans are sooo big..

Saint Croix said...

From my book, a review of The Aviator:

When we talk about Hughes today, we talk about his obsessions, his compulsions. We talk about him being a madman. The crazy monster with the long-ass fingernails. But as Scorsese's film makes clear, it was his obsession and his passion that made Howard Hughes go out and do amazing things. We mock and belittle Howard Hughes because we want to justify our vanilla, risk-free, tranquilized and safe existence. You want to do something amazing and cool? Get out of balance. Stability is for mediocrities.

Carnifex said...

I'm sorry, I missed the part where his insanity went into remission after the suicide by jaguar. I got to say this, I admire the crazy bastard. He is what gives me hope for our species.

The metrosexual society will never understand a mans man. To just throw out all your fear and go for it as a life style, and not a sneaker commercial. Can you imagine this guy meeting any of the OWS crowd?

I hope he died in bed with more than his spurs on. Shot by a 21 year old jealous husband.(I won't look, I prefer to keep my daydream)

Saint Croix said...

I am currently in my "mink farmer" period, by the way.

Chip S. said...

Words John Farifax and his gf lived by: Don't rock the boat.

Irene said...

A great obituary reads like a short story.

David said...

"We're going to need a bigger boat," said he, once a woman got involved.

ricpic said...

I hope he split the rowing fitty fitty with the woman. That would only be fair.

Saint Croix said...

Isn't it funny how John Fairfax's story is 1000 times cooler than "man trapped in a snowed in car for two months"?

But they're both survival stories, right?

And yet one is utterly heroic (or mad!) and the other is a horrible nameless victim, a loser.

Weird.

I guess "half a mile from civilization" is not quite as impressive a survival feat as crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a rowboat.

Hanging out in your car half a mile from civilization is like writing Walden while your mom washes your underwear.

traditionalguy said...

Suicide attempts must be really fun, but this may be the only guy who tried that many and got to live so long.

Chip S. said...

@SaintCroix--If the snowbound guy had had a woman with him, his story would've been a winner.

Saint Croix said...

@SaintCroix--If the snowbound guy had had a woman with him, his story would've been a winner.

well of course!

I would rather be snowbound with a woman guy than dumbass by myself in the Atlantic ocean. That's not even close.

Lem said...

If the snowbound guy had had a woman with him, his story would've been a winner.

Or if he had been a gay sheriff who co-chaired Arizona for Romney and had a relationship with a guy named Jose whom the sheriff (so it was alleged and denied) threatened to deport should their relationship be made public.

Gripping stuff.

Muns said...

ahh... all the greats are gone or going. They quit making characters years ago.

Chip Ahoy said...

The man who rowed the oceans twice had died.

Burial is planned for when his arms stop moving.

Icepick said...

edutcher is - the most boring man in the world. "I don't always drink water, but when I do, it's from the tap."

rcommal said...

Activity for a man such as Fairfax defines purpose.

There was a time when such as that changed and defined history itself and even set the charts for, in some cases, decades, scores and centuries (and, in the case of a rarefied few, millennia). Failed or not, the primal impulse and faded get-up-and-go-ness is unmistakable.

Nowadays, we've got your edutchers, for example: so emphatic and sure in their definitions and judgements and yet so unlikely to conquer anything new, much less discover such.