A Seaworthy Celebration: Hollywood Remembers John Fairfax

On July 19th, 1969, a very brave and ambitious man traveled across the Atlantic from The Canary Islands in a rowboat named Britannia and landed on Hollywood Beach at 1:45 pm. This man is the late John Fairfax, the first recorded person in recorded history to row alone across an ocean. Upon completion of his 180-day journey he was greeted with a heartfelt reception in the beloved South Florida city.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Fairfax’s landing on Hollywood’s glorious beach, the City of Hollywood will simulate his historic arrival from 8:30 to 11:00 am on Saturday, July 20th at the beach entrance on Garfield Street.

Lifeguards will be in rowboats and Mayor Josh Levy will give Fairfax’s widow, Tiffany, a key to the City. The Hollywood Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) will also install a plaque at the Community Center on the beach at Garfield Street.

At around the same time the British adventurer was landing on Hollywood Beach, Apollo 11 astronauts were landing on the moon. Just prior to his arrival, Tiffany received a Western Union telegram from The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) which she still holds near and dear.

Apollo 11 Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. said in the infamous message to John, “We find it an interesting coincidence that you completed your arduous voyage here on Earth at a spot very near the one from which we started our voyage to the moon, and that you arrived at your destination quite near the time we reached ours. Yours, however, was the accomplishment of one resourceful individual, while ours depended upon the help of thousands of dedicated workers in the United States and all over the world. As fellow explorers, we salute you on this great occasion.”

Those who attend the celebratory event will be able to see the original transcript and have the opportunity to purchase the two books authored by the lone sailor: Britannia: Rowing Alone Across the Atlantic and Oars Across the Pacific. The books recount the perilous tale of his travels. From the violent storms and large ships in the night to an encounter with a shark all while being alone in a 22-foot rowboat.

“It’s so wonderful that your community is honoring the fiftieth anniversary of my husband’s historic achievement and I know he will be there with us in spirit. After six months of rowing the Atlantic alone, he came ashore and was thrilled to be greeted on the beach by the good people of Hollywood! Perhaps some of them who remember that day still live locally. So impressed was John with this reception, that when I met him years later after he rowed the Pacific, we married and chose to live here in Florida, where we made many friends,” expressed Tiffany Fairfax. “I’m especially looking forward to reading the original telegram sent to him by NASA fifty years ago in which the Apollo 11 astronauts saluted what they called John’s ‘bold and courageous feat’ even as they were making history themselves by landing on the Moon for the first time.”