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Pensioner crosses ocean on raft

A British pensioner has written himself into the history books after successfully crossing the Atlantic on a raft made of pipes.

Grandfather Anthony Smith, 85, completed the treacherous 2,800-mile voyage from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean on Wednesday after spending 66 days at sea.

The former BBC Tomorrow's World presenter was joined on the fund-raising adventure by a three-man crew of "mature and intrepid gentlemen", aged from 56 to 61, which he recruited by placing an advert in the Daily Telegraph.

His intrepid team set off from the Canaries at the end of January on the An-Tiki - a sail-powered vessel built from 12-metre lengths of water and gas pipes.

After successfully navigating their way to the Caribbean island of St Maarten, Mr Smith told The Associated Press: "Some people say it was mad. But it wasn't mad. What else do you do when you get on in years?"

The London-based octogenarian's team, which included David Hildred, a civil engineer who lives in the British Virgin Islands and Brit John Russell, 61, aimed to raise £50,000 for the international charity WaterAid.

The organisation provides potable water to impoverished communities and works to highlight the fact that nearly a billion people worldwide live without clean water.

"Water strikes at the very heart of need, making 'water aid' a prime consideration," said Mr Smith, who celebrated his 85th birthday halfway across the Atlantic. "To voyage almost 3,000 miles upon the salty kind makes us intensely aware of places in the world that are without adequate supplies."

The raft was powered by a 40ft long mast and 400-square-foot sail and steered using twin rudders and oars. It travelled at an average speed of four knots, with the crew taking turns to keep watch when they were not reading, playing cards or whale-spotting.

The crossing, which was part-paid for by compensation money Mr Smith was given following a road accident, was generally smooth except for damage to two rudders. The crew intended to end their trip in the Bahamas, but strong winds and currents forced them to the Dutch Caribbean island of St Maarten.


From Belfast Telegraph