Acton Man On His Way Across The Atlantic - On A Raft Made of Plastic

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

Anthony Smith
Anthony Smith of East Acton

Follow Anthony Smith's Progress

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.

With a combined age of 259, the sailors on board the raft "An-tiki" will not be lacking in experience.

Other crew members on the epic voyage are Don Russell, 61, David Hildred, 57, and Andrew Bainbridge, 57. The team left on 31 January for the ten-week voyage from the Canary Islands to the small island of Eleuthra in the Bahamas.

All the materials have been either donated or purchased by Mr Smith, who is spending compensation he received after he was run over by a van two years ago – an accident that has left the adventurer, writer and grandfather with metal pins in his leg.

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

The former BBC Tomorrow's World presenter and science correspondent found his crew by placing an advertisement in The Daily Telegraph. It read: "Fancy rafting across the Atlantic? Famous traveller requires 3 crew. Must be OAP. Serious adventurers only."

The advert caught the attention of David Hildred, 57, an ocean yacht master who has sailed the Atlantic, and explored the Amazon in a dug-out canoe. Also in the crew are experienced seaman Andy Bainbridge, 56, and 61-year-old solicitor John Russell, a keen sailor from Gloucestershire.

Mr Smith hopes that his extraordinary adventure will be an inspiration to other senior citizens:

"Most people my age are happy with a trip to Sainsburys every Tuesday, or maybe helping out fixing the church hall roof. What I want to show is that you don't have to be satisfied with a trip to the supermarket. You can do other things."

Inspired by Thor Heyerdahl's famous 1947 Kon-Tiki voyage, the An-Tiki is built from 12 metre lengths of water and gas pipes, sealed at each end. The raft is equipped with state of the art navigation and communications powered by solar panels, so that its progress can be followed at

A former RAF pilot, Mr Smith has wanted to cross the Atlantic by raft ever since reading the true story of the survivors of the Anglo-Saxon. During World War II, the freighter ship was sunk by a German raider. The survivors managed to scramble into a lifeboat which drifted westwards in the current, landing in the Bahamas some two months later.

Water will be one of the main concerns of the voyage: "On An-Tiki, we will have more than enough on board but we will collect rain water, and transform salt water into fresh, thus reminding ourselves of its importance," said Mr Smith.

The team may have be travelling in 'basic' style, but they are definitely high-tech. They have a website with regular updates and a live satellite link to watch their progress.


10 February 2011

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