There are not many obituaries left to be written like “John Fairfax, Who Rowed Across Oceans, Dies at 74” published recently in the New York Times.
At 9, he settled a dispute with a pistol. At 13, he lit out for the Amazon jungle.
At 20, he attempted suicide-by-jaguar. Afterward he was apprenticed to a pirate. To please his mother, who did not take kindly to his being a pirate, he briefly managed a mink farm, one of the few truly dull entries on his otherwise crackling résumé, which lately included a career as a professional gambler.
Mr. Fairfax was among the last avatars of a centuries-old figure: the lone-wolf explorer, whose exploits are conceived to satisfy few but himself. His was a solitary, contemplative art that has been all but lost amid the contrived derring-do of adventure-based reality television.
And then there was the fact that rowed across two oceans. Rowed! No sail or motor other than his back and arms row row rowing his boat across the waves. It took 180 days for him to cross the pond from England to the U.S., then 361 days from America to Australia.
The hurricane slowed him down a bit.
Best quote? Here you go:
On July 19, 1969 — Day 180 — Mr. Fairfax, tanned, tired and about 20 pounds lighter, made landfall at Hollywood, Fla. “This is bloody stupid,” he said as he came ashore.
Bloody stupid indeed. Rest in peace Mr. Fairfax.