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Transatlantic Rower Found Dead in His Boat

Noruego
Family of Michael Holt / GoFundMe

Published Feb 27, 2024 5:37 PM by The Maritime Executive

A transatlantic solo rower has been found dead in his boat, days after falling ill mid-voyage. 

Michael Holt, a Welshman with Type I diabetes, had undertaken the row for a charity challenge. Years before, he had injured both shoulders and had had extensive reconstructive surgery, making a long-distance row a unique personal challenge.

Holt departed Gran Canaria on January 27. On February 20, as he transited off the coast of Cape Verde, Holt told his support team on shore that he had fallen ill, perhaps from a reaction to antibiotics. He decided to abort his voyage and head for the nearest land - São Vicente in the Cape Verde Islands, 300 nautical miles to the south of his position. At that time, he intended to get to shore under his own power.

In the days that followed, he ceased communicating with his shore support team, and his family worked with authorities in Cape Verde to arrange for a rescue. It took time to find a good samaritan vessel that could divert to assist. The crew of the fishing vessel Noruego agreed to divert on February 24, but was about one days' sail away. 

On arrival on the evening of February 25, the crew of the Noruego found Holt dead in his boat's cabin, the family said in a social media update.

"We have been working tirelessly to get help to Michael over the past four days but have found it incredibly difficult to do so," family members said in an online update.

In a statement, the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said that it is supporting Holt's family and is in contact with authorities in Cape Verde. 

The family has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $25,000 for repatriating Holt's remains.

"As a type 1 diabetic, [his voyage] was both groundbreaking and incredibly inspiring. It also brought with it an increased element of risk. He took considerable measures to limit any issues (a 12v fridge built into his boat for his insulin, automatic blood monitoring in his arm, 24-hour telephone support, etc.), but the risk was such that he was uninsurable. When you operate in the most extreme end of the possible, this is common," the family explained.