Talk about a Christmas miracle! On Christmas Day, 54-year-old Zbigniew Reket and his cat were rescued by the French coastguard after seven months adrift at sea. Reket had been adrift in a modified lifeboat without food or any ability to call for help.
Reket was trying to travel to South Africa, but ran into trouble and was rescued along the coast of Reunion Island, east of Madagascar. His cat, Samira, was his only company, and after a one-month supply of soup rations ran out, they survived on fish Reket caught from the ocean.
Reket, who is originally Polish, had been living in the United States, but could not return after a trip to India because his green card had expired. It was in India where he bought his boat, which was originally a lifeboat for a cruise ship.
He planned to sail to Jakarta, Indonesia, but the mast broke. He managed to make it to the Comoros Islands, where he found Samira and spent two years there repairing his boat and attempting to contact officials in Poland through the embassy in Kenya.
Allegedly, the Polish embassy gave Reket €15o to help him out but refused to repatriate him. As a result, he decided to try to sail to Durban, South Africa with Samira, but that’s when he ran into trouble.
He claims his boat broke down, and that large waves destroyed his radio and other equipment, setting him and his feline companion adrift for seven long months.
Had Reket been successful, he would have sailed 1200 miles through the Mozambique Channel, which is a busy shipping route. Instead, he claims he drifted toward Somalia, then the Maldives, and then Indonesia again, but could never steer his boat toward land.
“Several times I could see land but I could never steer towards it. I spotted several ships but the battery on my radio was dead,” he claims.
When the French coastguard found him, Reket was reported to be malnourished but otherwise in very good health. He is now on the French island of Reunion, and, as an EU citizen, is considering staying there.
“I want to have a normal life, find a job, and why not stay here?” he said of the possibility.
However, officials are now investigating Reket’s claims, and are attempting to figure out the exact route he took to arrive at Reunion. It is proving difficult because the instruments on Reket’s boat were all smashed or damaged.
Officials have been able to check out the rest of his story. They have found his Polish passport, permit to stay in the Comoros Islands, and US green card, so Reket’s tale could very well be true.
In the meantime, a local charity is helping him and Samira out until they can get back on their feet.