This Terrifying True Story of Survival Inspired the New Movie ‘Adrift’

Tami Oldham Ashcraft discusses what her 41-day ordeal stranded at sea was like in real life.

You might have seen the previews for Adrift, starring Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin. The pair are sailing across the Pacific Ocean when they get caught in a Category 4 storm that almost kills them and leaves them stranded. Well, Adrift is based on the real life story of Tami Oldham Ashcraft and her fiancé, Richard Sharp, who found themselves in the path of Hurricane Raymond as they sailed a 44-foot yacht from Tahiti to San Diego. Ashcraft told her story to Outside Magazine. 

She says that the storm’s violent waves and powerful winds seriously damaged the vessel. During the storm, she suffered a head injury that left her unconscious for 27 hours, and when she woke up, Sharp was missing, never to be seen again. Nevertheless, Ashcroft battled through her injuries and grief and rigged a makeshift sail to guide the battered ship, the Hazana, toward the nearest landfall, 1,500 miles away in Hawaii. Using only a sextant and her watch for navigation, she finally made it to Hilo Harbor 41 days later, despite scarce rations and serious injuries. Unlike in the movie, Sharp did not make it.

“I thought about Richard all the time,” she told Outside about her nearly six weeks at sea. “I thought about our life together, I thought about my family. Your mind just races and runs around. I would think, ‘Have I completed the things I wanted to do in my life?’ Then there’s the whole shout out to the universe: ‘If I live, I promise I won’t ever do this or that or whatever!’ I mean, you’re just making promises to the universe. It’s very humbling, and it really puts you in your place.”

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