September 1983 is a month, Tami Oldham Ashcraft’s life changed forever. Avid sailors, she and her fiancé were on their way to deliver a yacht from Tahiti to San Diego when Hurricane Raymond hit. Her fiancé washed overboard, Tami was badly injured during the capsizing of the boat. She survived 41 days under jury rig through the Pacific before she was sighted off Hilo, Hawaii and rescued. Her book “Adrift” (originally “Red Sky in Mourning”) relates the harrowing story. Today, Tami Oldham Ashcraft lives in Friday Harbor with her husband and family.
Susanne Bacon: Tami, you are wearing a sextant as a reminder of your ordeal and how you survived it. In the age of GPS, what advice do you have for other sailors?
Tami Oldham Ashcraft: In this day and age of electronics it is easy to rely on our battery power gadgets. Let’s face it, good electronics are wonderful. However, if you are going to cruise offshore I believe it’s important to have manual backup of the most important things. I always have a sextant (even if it is plastic) with the appropriate almanacs and books to refresh my navigation skills. I carry a manual bilge pump, emergency antenna and manual water desalinator. I also advise making sure flares are up to date and kept in a waterproof canister. Life vests and safety harnesses need to be updated and inspected and kept in good working order. I think one of the biggest overlooked items is the life raft. Most life raft companies recommend servicing every three years.
Susanne Bacon: You lost your fiancé and you were totally on your own for 41 days. What role did the writing process play in your life?
Tami Oldham Ashcraft: Writing the book happened many years later. I went back to sea and continued living my life. I wrote “Red Sky in Mourning” at a time in my life when I was settled and could take on such a daunting task. It took four years to write and it was such a cleansing experience. It allowed me to release many feelings I had harbored for so long about losing Richard and surviving. Writing the book helped me become stronger by allowing me to choose when I thought about the ordeal instead of being continuously consumed with the thoughts of what happened.
Susanne Bacon: There is a major movie out there now. You renamed your book “Adrift” after the movie. You are even cast in the movie. How do you deal with experiencing/watching the movie?
Tami Oldham Ashcraft: Being involved with and watching the movie brought up so many overwhelming emotions. At first being involved with the screenwriters Aaron and Jordan Kandell was unbelievably exciting. Being on set and seeing Shailene play me was like I was watching a dream, very surreal. I had four screenings of the movie before the premiere because I didn’t want to be a sloppy mess. Good thing, because I was a sloppy mess. I couldn’t be prouder of the movie. It is so good and really showcases the love, adventure, tragedy, survival, and resilience of the human spirit.
Susanne Bacon: You have founded a family after your terrible loss. You are even sailing again. Do you have a message for your readers you’d like to convey in a few words?
Tami Oldham Ashcraft: After a few tears I hope people come away from “Adrift” feeling resilient and empowered. We all have a story. At one time or another we all come up against major obstacles in our lives. I hope my story helps others to know that they are not alone. Digging deep and finding that inner strength to hold on, to hold on for one more minute because one thing is for sure, nothing ever stays the same. Choose to live life, choose to be happy. Just like the ocean life is a constant ebb and flow.
You probably have even further and different questions for author Tami Oldham Ashcraft. The 6th Annual Lakewood Film, Arts, & Book (FAB) Festival takes place on September 28, 29, and 30, 2018 from noon to 9 pm at the Shirley McGavick Conference Center at Clover Park Technical College. The book/author section is open from noon to 6 pm. Tami Oldham Ashcraft will be signing her novel and DVD’s on Saturday. Please find further information at www.facebook.com/lakewoodfilmartsbooks/.