Seaworthy - Adrift with Eilliam Willis in the Golden Age of Rafting
by Pearson, T. R.
pub. by Random House, NY. 2007       isbn 978-0-307-33595-1 -     - also pub by Crown (June 27, 2006) isbn - 0307335941       - - 304 p. - map on lining papers - illustrated
This is the definitive biography of William Willis born in Germany 1893 - (disappeared in the Atlantic Ocean 1968)
Willis served as a merchant sailor for some years. While staying in New York heard from his landlady that her son was wrongly convicted of murder in France and was sentenced to Devils Island (located in the Carribbean just off the coast of French Guiana.) He traveled there to attempt to rescue the man. The man had been released to mainland French Guiana to live there for the rest of his life. It seems that once sentenced to Devils Island at the end of the sentence one was not allowed to return to France, or anywhere else, but were permanently banished to French Guiana. Here hundreds if not thousands lived in the jungle in squalor. Few escaped. Willis managed to find his man and assist him to escape to a much more comfortable S. American country where the man lived the rest of his life in realtive contentment.
William Willis married but continued his adventurous life. In 1953 (at the age of 60) he sailed a Balsa log raft from Peru to American Samoa surviving some health issues by his own tough medical treatments, even after running out of water. He sailed with a parrot and a cat. This voyage exceeded the distance Kon Tiki voyage of Thor Heyerdahl.
He sailed a second raft from Peru to the northern coast of Australia arriving shortly after his 70th birthday. This raft was made of steel tubes.
He attempted to sail across the Atlantic in a small boat and was turned back by bad weather. In 1968 he tried again and was never heard of again.
Read this book to get the full picture of William Willis, a man who lived an extremely full and adventurous life.
This book also includes information on other rafting expeditions in the Pacific. Chapter 8 includes information on the voyages of Eric de Bisschop on Tahiti Nui in February 1957, from Tahiti to Peru (raft self destructed before it arrived) and Tahiti Nui II which sailed from Peru to Polynesia, where de Bisschop died when the raft wrecked in August 1958 on Rakahanga in the Cook Islands. This raft was very waterlogged and was barely afloat when it wrecked.
Another Pacific rafter was DeVere Baker, who came to believe that there was contact by raft between teh Aztecs and the Lehi people of the Book of Mormon and the people of the Pacific. He proposed to construct a raft and sail from San Francisco to Hawaii in 1954. His first raft Lehi I left San Francisco in July 1954. He ran into storms and he and crew were rescued off the raft not too long after their departure. He constructed Lehi II and it was towed to sea by a deckhand and without Bakers permission and was abandoned. Baker then built Lehi III , somewhat re-designed and only 16 feet long. It sailed along the California coast for some time. Baker then constructed a 18 foot by 24 foot wooden platform, Lehi IV which after a flashy launch was towed into San Pedro, California harbor. He managed to sail/drift to Hawaii, arriving at the end of September 1958, being towed in by the US Coast Guard.
Read this book to discover what a truly determined men can do.
~ 2014 ~

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