Bill Dunlop of Mechanic Falls set sail from Portland Harbor 20 years ago.

PORTLAND (AP) – Twenty years ago this week, Maine adventurer Bill Dunlop set sail from Portland Harbor in his tiny sailboat for a planned round-the-world voyage.

The former truck driver from Mechanic Falls made it to the Cook Islands in the Pacific Ocean in his nine-foot boat, but disappeared after that. A search was conducted, but Dunlop was never found.

“For a lot of years, he was just missing. I thought he’d just come back,” said Dunlop’s 40-year-old daughter, Kim Davis. But she finally realized that wasn’t going to happen. “It was a long process. It took a long time to sink in.”

Before his attempted circumnavigation, Dunlop had gained world acclaim when he set a record crossing the Atlantic Ocean in 1982 in the same custom-built sailboat he used later in his final voyage.

The Atlantic crossing from Maine to Falmouth, England, took 78 days.

Dunlop set sail on July 31, 1983, in the Wind’s Will with plans for a westward circumnavigation in his small boat. The stocky, bearded Dunlop sailed to Virginia, Florida and Jamaica before crossing through the Panama Canal.

He made it to Tahiti and finally to New Zealand’s Cook Islands.

On his 43rd birthday, June 23, Dunlop left Aitutaki, the largest of the Cook Islands with plans to reach Brisbane, Australia, about a month later. It would have been the halfway point of his journey.

Australian authorities searched for Dunlop, and after they gave up Dunlop’s family and friends spent more than $20,000 – much of the money donated from across the United States – looking for the lost adventurer.

It was finally determined that Dunlop’s boat, which may have been overloaded, sank on June 25 in a severe storm with hurricane-force winds and 20-foot seas. Wind’s Will likely capsized in a cauldron of wind and waves.

His widow, Pam Dunlop, remembers her husband as generous and unselfish.

“And he had a great sense of humor,” she said. He could always make me laugh. I miss that. I miss everything about him.”

Pam Dunlop said her husband found success in other pursuits, such as when he started a construction business and took up archery and stock car racing.

“Everything was a challenge for him,” she said. “The way he figured it, the ocean is there, you should try to conquer it.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.