John Fairfax, First Solo Atlantic Ocean Rower, Dies at 74

Byline: Associated Press/Martin Griffith

RENO, Nev. (AP) — John Fairfax, the first known person to row alone across the Atlantic Ocean, has died at his Las Vegas-area home. He was 74.

The self-described “professional adventurer” died Feb. 8 of an apparent heart attack in Henderson, his wife, Tiffany, said Feb. 19.

Fairfax gained international attention in 1969 when he became the first person in recorded history to cross the Atlantic alone by rowboat. He dealt with sharks, storms and exhaustion on the six-month, 5,000-mile journey from the Canary Islands to Florida.             In 1972, he and his then-girlfriend, Sylvia Cook, became the first known people to row across the Pacific Ocean. They survived a shark attack and cyclone on the yearlong 8,000-mile trek from San Francisco to Australia.

Fairfax wrote separate books about his ocean crossings that were both published in the 1970s.

He used two different custom-made boats on the ocean journeys, Tiffany Fairfax said, and he used the stars to help him navigate. He survived by eating up to 8 pounds of fish a day, and he had a system to convert ocean water into drinking water.

John Fairfax enjoyed many other adventures, including a trip to the Amazon jungle and a stint as a pirate. He also spoke five languages, was a talented chef and regularly played the card game baccarat at Las Vegas casinos, his wife said.

His only immediate survivor is his wife of 31 years, Tiffany, who moved with him to the Las Vegas area in 1992. No public services were planned at press time.


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