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3 Oct 2014
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Maurice and Marilyn Bailey wanted to travel to New Zealand - by boat.

For the first few days of their voyage by boat across the Pacific to New Zealand, all went well for Marilyn and Maurice Bailey. Then early one morning disaster struck. A 40 foot sperm whale surfaced alongside their boat and smashed its huge tail into the Bailey's boat. Immediately it began to sink. As the couple calmly collected up what they would need to take into the life raft with them, they knew, as experienced sailors, that rescue was a remote chance "even if a ship came along we'd have to pass under the bows to stand any chance of being seen".

For 119 days, a 4 foot life-raft was their home. Their supplies lasted 10 days After that, the inflatable cover on their raft was their only way of collecting rain water. Improvising with safety pins from a first aid kit and a piece off string, they managed to catch fish. Marilyn vividly recalls the time she caught a shark, "I held its tail and it stopped. What I didn't realise that if a shark stops swimming it drowns. I held onto this thing, and after a while, I realised it wasn't moving. I flopped it into the life raft and smothered its head in a towel Eventually it stopped breathing and we had our first shark!". As they drifted from an area plentiful in fish, to an 'oceanic desert', they thought they'd die of starvation or thirst. Maurice remembers, "it was then that the possibility of having to consume the one who had succumbed would be very real."

As they continued to drift, day after day, what really kept them occupied was the planning of another boat and another journey. Meanwhile, friends in England had no idea that the Bailey's were missing. The couple said they'd be in contact when they reached Tahiti; a long voyage.

It was Marilyn who heard the noise of a ship's engine. Maurice recalls "we roused ourselves and stood up shakily. All we had left were garments to wave. The ship seemed to go straight past us. It turned. It had seen us. Our rescue was imminent."

The Bailey's were taken to Honolulu for medical treatment. Two months later, they arrived back in England. Immediately they began planning their next voyage.

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