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New Jersey Woman Survives 14 Days On Dinghy After Sailboat Sinks In Ocean

July 31, 1989

NEW YORK (AP) _ A woman rescued after 14 days in a life raft in the Atlantic was trying to decide on a sailboat trip to Bermuda whether to marry her sailing partner. But authorities say he did not survive the ordeal.

The 37-foot sailboat Anaulis sank on July 16 as it carried Janet Culver, 48, of Passaic, N.J., and Nicholas Abbott, 50, toward New York from Bermuda, said Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Matthew Wannamaker.

The pair climbed into an inflatable dinghy and waited for help. On Wednesday, a fatigued Abbott climbed out of the raft without a life jacket and swam off, Wannamaker said.

″He seemed disillusioned, maybe even slightly deranged, according to Ms. Culver,″ he said.

Ms. Culver was rescued by a U.S. research vessel early Sunday, 450 miles southeast of New York or about halfway between the city and Bermuda, and was transported to the Royal Viking Star, a cruise ship with full medical facilities.

Ms. Culver’s mother, Hannah Culver, said the trip was the first major sailing venture for her daughter, a legal secretary.

She said Abbott had asked her daughter to marry him, but she did not want to agree until she determined whether she liked long sailing trips.

Abbott, a professional boat transporter, lived for the seas and spent his summers aboard a boat docked a New York yacht club, friends said.

″She wasn’t sure she could survive sailing. She gets seasick. She said, ’If I can’t take it, I don’t want to hold him back,‴ Mrs. Culver recalled.

Wannamaker said the Coast Guard did not yet know what caused the sailboat to sink; Coast Guard Lt. Mike Fijalka said there were no major storms in the area where the boat went down.

Ms. Culver was in stable condition suffering from exhaustion, exposure and sunburn but was sleeping and doing well, Wannamaker said.

The Coast Guard had been searching for the pair since July 23.

The search for Abbott was suspended Sunday and he was presumed drowned.

″He’s been in the water four days, did not have a life preserver and was observed to have slumped over by Ms. Culver,″ Wannamaker said.

″I can’t believe she was 14 days on that raft. How did she live?″ said Mrs. Culver.

She said she had been comforted Friday night by a dream that her daughter was all right.

The good news came by telephone from the Coast Guard Sunday morning, but it was tinged with sadness that Abbott was gone.

″I feel so badly because I know him and he’s a nice fella,″ Mrs. Culver said. ″It’s terrible.″

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