Madcap escape attempt fails after hour

SINKING FEELING::A tourist who tried to travel from Taiwan to Japan in a self-built, rickety raft because he was inspired by ‘Life of Pi’ had to be rescued on Sunday

By Jason Pan  /  Staff writer, with agencies

Wed, Jun 05, 2013 - Page 5

Inspired by Life of Pi, a Czech visitor who had overstayed his tourist visa and did not have money for an airplane ticket tried to leave Taiwan on a crudely built raft to travel to Japan.

Martin Psota launched his raft on Sunday from Oluanpi (鵝鑾鼻), Pingtung County, but did not travel far. Unfortunately for Psota, it was a much tougher task than he envisioned. He was soon overcome by exhaustion from rowing and the jerry-rigged raft made of logs and Styrofoam began to break apart.

It was his good luck that a Coast Guard Administration patrol boat picked him up off Oluanpi, ending his brief adventure.

The coast guard unit received a telephone call at about 11am on Sunday from a fishing boat, whose captain told them: “We are 5.5km offshore of Oluanpi. There is a foreigner floating at sea in a decrepit-looking raft.”

When the patrol boat headed there to take a closer look, the coast guard personnel were astounded by what they saw.

“How can anyone be so crazy? This man went out to sea in a small raft, consisting only of logs, driftwood and Styrofoam tied together. When we found him, the raft was already falling apart,” a coast guard officer said.

They were even more astonished when Psota told his story — that while traveling in Taiwan, he saw Life of Pi, which gave him the inspiration to build a raft from materials he found on the beach.

Psota was quoted as saying that he came to Taiwan in November, but had overstayed his tourist visa and had spent all his money, so he could not buy a ticket to leave the country. He thought sailing a raft would be a good way to get to Japan, his next destination.

Coast guard reports said that when Psota was found, he only had a few items in his backpack, including NT$3, a passport, some food and water, and a smartphone, with which he wanted to navigate to Japan by GPS.

Psota said he launched the raft near Oluanpi, but “after rowing for about an hour, I was exhausted and had no more strength left. The current got stronger and I could not do anything but drift along with it.”

The coast guard unit, from a base in Hengchun (恆春), Pingtung County, said Psota was transferred to the county’s National Immigration Agency for questioning.

An official there said that according to procedure, Psota is to be deported after undergoing medical check-ups and spending time at the agency’s detention center.