Q & A: Lochlin Reidy
Lochlin Reidy talks about the new book Overboard!, which details his rescue at sea after a harrowing 28-hour struggle to stay alive in the Atlantic.
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Looking for the perfect summer page-turner, a dramatic true-life tale with a local connection? Overboard! (Scribner) chronicles the ill-fated journey of the Almeisan, a 45-foot sailboat that put out from Bridgeport’s Black Rock Harbor in May 2005 bound for Bermuda. Four days into the trip, the Almeisan ran into a vicious storm that severely damaged the vessel and swept the captain and first mate Lochlin Reidy, 63, of Woodbridge, into the Atlantic. Through award-winning author Michael J. Tougias, Reidy tells of his harrowing survival experience—being battered for 28 hours in rough seas, the captain dying in his arms and his eventual rescue.
Recently, Reidy took a few minutes to chat with us about Overboard! and his experiences.
What is your take on the book?
I really enjoyed the book. I thought it was extremely well-written. Mike and I sat down at his home before we decided to do this to just talk over the experience, and he provided me with the several of the books he had written along these same lines. I thought that he wrote very well and he’d be a great partner. We originally we’d thought we’d do this collectively as a joint book, but it’s best that it’s written in his prose. So I wrote the chapters that primarily involved my part of the experience, and he re-wrote them. He did a fantastic job, and all the folks I’ve talked to have just raved about it. I know I’m very pleased and it seems he has quite a success on his hands here.
It’s really interesting. I didn’t get a chance to read it all the way through, but I picked it up the other day and started flipping through it, and I just found myself drawn in. It’s such a compelling story.
I get that lot. The folks who have read it say that they’ve read it in a day or a day-and-a-half. They don’t want to put it down because he does weave the incidents together very well, and it flows very nicely.
What was the experience like, re-telling the story?
It’s not difficult. I’ve done it many, many times, but in this case, it was obviously going to be preserved in print. I wanted it to be a book that was going to be an interesting story, which that was certainly a success, but also weaved through the story are bits and pieces that I wanted to get out to the boating public—one was how valuable the Coast Guard is and how what they do is so important to us boating folks. I also wanted to share some of the things I experienced while I was out there. If anyone ever ends up in that situation, there are things you need to do that will help you get through it. And that, I kind of hope, came out in the book. I think it did. The whole idea of conserving as much energy as you can, certain breathing patterns that you need to follow in rough seas like that. The clothes you’re wearing—how important that is, the gear you have with you. It all plays a part in the process, and I found that to be the part of the story I wanted to get out most to boaters and boating clubs. Mike and I did a presentation out at Bourne, N.H., at the old Air Force base that is now a Coast Guard air station. That experience and getting that information out was important.
For example, I’ve seen a lot of people of people with blue or white foul-weather gear, which would probably be the worst thing you could possibly wear. In situations like that, you should have yellow or orange, something very bright and visible. White, of course, wouldn’t visible in the foam, and blue in the water ...
It’s camouflage, which isn’t exactly what you want when you need to be found and rescued.
Absolutely. You want to be as visible as possible. You also want to be in the best physical shape you can be in. You never know when something can happen.
I truly believed I would be rescued. I just needed to be available—not to be passed out—when the Coast Guard or whoever was going to rescue me arrived so that I could help them. Fortunately, that’s pretty much how it worked out. I was pretty much at the end of my time there. Hypothermia was setting in and that’s debilitating. But it worked out.
Looking back, what else sticks out in your mind regarding the experience? I imagine there must be parts that you think about every day.
You’re absolutely right, as a matter of fact. I do think about some aspect of this every day, no question about that. I never think [negatively]. When I was out there, I never got into that ‘Woe is me’ mode. ‘Why is this happening to me?’ or ‘I don’t deserve this.’ I couldn’t start thinking along those lines out there because that would’ve been debilitating. On a daily basis, I’ll think of one aspect of it or another, but I don’t dwell on it. I never have nightmares about it, which I think is kind of interesting. I don’t know why that is—it must be some sort of psychological thing. I’m not about to take the time to try and figure that out.
I think of the positive—the goodness of the folks who were involved with this. The captain of that tanker who responded to the Coast Guard and drove that thing around for 24 hours in that storm. And the other four ships that were involved. The air crews—the one crew who flew down from the Canadian coast guard. The folks who put their life and limb in danger for us. There are really terrific people out and about who are there when you need them during a crisis. I think about that aspect of it. With all the negative news you see day in and day out in the newspapers, on the news channels and on the TV, there are really good things going on, too.