Sailing a White Speck Across the Blue Sea, Billy Dunlop Breaks a Small World Record
Still, the 41-year-old sailor, a former trucker from Mechanic Falls, Maine, could have thought his was the voyage of the damned. Three days out he lost all radio contact. On the 66th day a storm rolled his boat like a kayak in whitecaps. Once he drifted closer than spouting distance to an unblinking whale. Part of Dunlop's 200 pounds of canned provisions spoiled, though there was one consolation: the fruit cocktail fermented. "That put some booze in it and gave me a bit of encouragement I needed," said a grinning Dunlop who, on reaching land, was about 15 pounds lighter than his usual 220 pounds.
"It was a lot tougher than I expected," he said as he stumbled into the arms of his waiting wife, Pam, 40, and mother, Hattie Thibodeau. "The hardest part was not going anyplace, just floating about. There's a hell of a lot of water out there." Sailing by the seat of his pants created other problems: "I've got rashes and sores all over my rear end."
Previous to all this, Dunlop learned something about long-distance loneliness while driving his rig on the Maine-to-Florida route and courted danger on the motorcycle and stock car circuits. Two years ago his bravado carried him to sea, sailing a 35-foot sloop solo across the Atlantic. Last year he skippered the same craft to the Bermuda Triangle and back.
What now? Pepsi-Cola is paying Dunlop to present slides and lectures of his exploits in schools. His only child, Kim Dunlop Piper, 19, explains: "My father doesn't say much—you have to know him to understand him. He wouldn't do anything impossible. He's not on a suicide mission." As for Dunlop's next feat, Kim ventures, "I can't read his mind, but maybe it will be to sail around the world." She pauses, then quips, "Maybe on a surfboard."