35 years later, incredible story of survival at sea to hit the big screen

Updated: Jun. 1, 2018 at 12:29 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii plays a role in the new movie "Adrift."

It's based on the real-life story of a woman who navigated a hurricane-wrecked sailboat across the Pacific to the Big Island.

Nearly 35 years after being lost at sea, Tami Oldham Ashcraft's life story is in theaters.

In 1983, Ashcraft arrived in Hilo after 41 days spent all alone out on the Pacific aboard the heavily-damaged yacht, "Hazana."

The movie "Adrift" recounts that harrowing story of survival.

Ashcraft was 23 years old when she and her fiancé Richard Sharp set sail from Tahiti to deliver the "Hazana" to San Diego.

But nearly three weeks into the journey, disaster struck.

Hurricane Raymond changed course and the couple tried to run north of the powerful category 4 storm.

With 40-foot waves pummeling the boat, Sharp sent Ashcraft below deck while he stayed up top, clipped to a lifeline.

"About four minutes after I got down below and secured, I heard him yell 'oh my God' and I heard this huge thump on the side of the boat and I blacked out," Ashcraft said, in 1983. When she came to, she "dashed on top and he wasn't there. And the safety harness line was still secured to the cleat, but the body part was gone."

Ashcraft never saw the man she loved again.

"I would give anything if all this, if I could just take a time warp and go back and be on our yacht with my fiancé," she said.

While coping with her grief, she rigged up a makeshift sail and set course for Hawaii, some 1,500 miles away.

"Trying to get the boat moving, and I had a sextant, all my electronics were fried so I had to rely on the sun and stars to find out where I was," she said, in a new interview to promote "Adrift."

After more than a month, she finally made it to Hilo Harbor. Three decades later, her story is on the big screen and she approves.

"Oh, that's very close to what happened if not exactly what happened," she said.

Ashcraft still sails to this day.

"Yeah! Yeah, I love to sail," she said. "I've actually, I've had a little sailboat but I've gone to power boating now because it's not everybody's passion in my family."

Ashcraft said it took years to emotionally heal from her ordeal at sea. She now lives in Washington State with her family.

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