Week 9 - Ten Days To Go Until They Reach Land - On A Raft Made of Plastic

84 year old Acton resident Anthony Smith and his crew  are raising money and awareness for WaterAid

Anthony Smith
Anthony Smith of East Acton

Acton Man Sets Sail

Follow Antiki's Progress

Antiki Crew
The An-Tiki Crew

Four English adventurers led by 84-year-old East Acton resident Anthony Smith have set sail 2,800 miles across the Atlantic on a raft made from plastic gas pipes. The quartet are hoping to raise £50,000 for the charity WaterAid. To sponsor them, go to the JustGiving page here. They are scheduled to reach land in 10 days.

Here, Anthony Smith tells us about Week 9.

The raft An-Tiki is floating upon a massive quantity of water. Our charts indicate depths of two miles, sometimes more than three. To look at the total quantity of water on Earth, some 96.5 per cent of it lies in the oceans (and is, most unhelpfully, salty).

So where is the 3.5 per cent that is not salty, the diminutive share so vital for every living thing? A huge amount is in polar ice, which adds up to 1.7 per cent. A further 1.7 per cent lies in ground water deep beneath the land's surface. Therefore the amount we really know about, and want, and need, is the 0.1 per cent either on the earth's surface or in the atmosphere.

Track the raft's progress here

The An-Tiki sets sail
The An-tiki     Photos: Robin Batchelor

Of course, our fresh water comes mainly by evaporation from the sea. Unfortunately, most of the water picked up from oceans – some four-fifths of the total – promptly falls back into the sea. So there is water, water everywhere, but most of it is the kind we do not want.

Which is why, totally surrounded by water, we on An-Tiki have chosen WaterAid (www.wateraid.org) as the charity to promote (World Water Day was last week, on March 22). The charity's thoughts and interests are dominated by those in the world who don't have enough drinkable water. We who have enough, who even flush our lavatories with this precious resource, find it difficult to imagine a lack that is so widespread.

After all, it falls from the sky. It fills huge rivers, with the Amazon alone pouring 10 million cubic feet of it per second into the Atlantic. It is also there in abundance when we turn the tap, save, of course – for those who have no tap or who spend half of every day carrying buckets/pots/gourds of water from where there is a little to where there is real need.

As of now, our own water supplies are in good shape. We still have three 18-ft long, 12-inch diameter pipes full of it. Our larder is still well stocked and our morale is high. Travel is on the slow side, despite the trade wind, but we are generally making some 40 miles a day.

If something dreadful happened – to our course, our raft or our provisions – it is the water supply that would be most critical. Without food, so say the books, a man will die in 60 days. Without water that figure drops to 15 days, even fewer where it is hot. And here it is hot but pleasingly so, as a friendly wind is usually puffing our sail and cooling us as well.

We wonder, whenever a ship passes by, if such thoughts occur to those on board. When a freighter, bound for Venezuela, came near us several days ago, she altered course to pass nearer to us, plainly curious as to why a vessel was travelling at a mere one knot – surely their near-neighbour was in distress? We spoke via radio, explained that rafts do travel slowly, and expressed gratitude for the interest shown. Thus comforted, she sped off at 11 knots and, by now, will have reached her destination and, probably, travelled elsewhere.

We, on the other hand, will not reach our end-point for at least another month. The goose-neck barnacles are beginning to speckle our under-sides and a grass-like growth is forever waving in their company.

Lovely but perishable food – oranges, apples, potatoes, bananas – have all gone, adding to our sense of time consumed, but packaged, tinned and bottled supplies are still abundant.

And so is water, the stuff all around us which, in different form, is the 0.1 per cent which only some of us enjoy in abundance and which should be available to all. Think, for a moment, of not having it there when you turn the tap. Or having no tap. Or having nowhere to go where you can find any of this life-saver.

P S. I meet another birthday next week and will hit 85. Perhaps we'll have pineapple chunks for pudding, our usual treat, or I'll just look one day older. But at least I won't be thirsty; that would be terrible.

By Anthony Smith 3:42PM BST 28 Mar 2011 (first printed in the Sunday Telegraph)

30 March 2011

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