SI Vault
 
The Bold Man and the Sea
Amy Nutt
December 28, 1992
Adventurer Dwight Collins pedaled his way across the Atlantic to England in a record 40 days
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
December 28, 1992

The Bold Man And The Sea

Adventurer Dwight Collins pedaled his way across the Atlantic to England in a record 40 days

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2

The fear of being crushed by a trawler, however, can't be compared with the terror of having your Walkman die just days after putting to sea. To keep boredom at bay, Collins had stocked his craft with dozens of tapes, including favorites by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and the Kingston Trio, as well as numerous recorded books. Moisture, however, seeped into the tape player and led to its demise. "Listening to a biography of Ulysses S. Grant at 16 rpm can put you to sleep real fast," says Collins with a smile. Corinne, in daily radio contact with her husband, was worried enough about this turn of events to ask Sony if they could airlift a new Walkman to Dwight. Sony was willing but, given Tango's, location at the time, couldn't make the delivery.

Of course, if Tom Petty had been blasting into Collins's ears several days later, the intrepid sailor might never have sensed the trouble that was trailing him in the form of a 12-foot shark. "I got this feeling I was being followed," says Collins, "so I turned around, and there was this dorsal fin sticking three feet above the water. I stopped pedaling and it came toward me, then veered away. A half hour later I turned around again, and he was back. I wasn't scared, but I was relieved when he got bored and disappeared."

Forty days and 30 pounds after leaving Newfoundland—the cookies, high-carbohydrate drinks, energy bars and freeze-dried food apparently couldn't keep up with his calorie-burning pace—Collins coasted into Plymouth harbor. While Collins was being escorted to a dock by a British harbor patrol vessel, an officer was overheard to say, as if just catching on, "A bloody wally on a bicycle is pedaling across the pond!" He was soon dubbed the madcap mariner by the British tabloids and was the subject of a Daily Mirror story that ran under the headline: WHAT MAKES A MAN BATTLE 2,200 MILES ALONE ACROSS THE SEA IN A PEDAL BOAT? After seven paragraphs of serious psychologizing, here was the Mirror's answer: "...because Dwight is obsessed with the call of the wild...he cannot lace life without proving his manhood...and that means staring danger and death in the face."

Collins's own reason for his trip was much simpler. Perhaps someday another would-be adventurer will embark on a similar trip, inspired by a note Collins placed in an empty champagne bottle and dropped into the middle of a stormy .Atlantic: "To whoever finds this bottle—may you have the courage to pursue that which means the most to you."

1 2