Stein Hoff’s Boat Is Found!

The Fox II Had Been Missing Since His Rescue Last August.

On May 15th last year, Stein Hoff of Norway rowed a boat out of New York Harbor, intending to duplicate the trip made by fellow countrymen George Harbo and Frank Samuelsen 120 years earlier when they became the first people ever to row a boat across an ocean. Harbo and Samuelsen had been sponsored by the Police Gazette and named their boat the “Fox” after Gazette owner Richard K. Fox. Stein Hoff would also, at age 70, have been the oldest person ever to row an ocean. But on August 6th a violent storm destroyed the oars, rudder and sea anchor of his boat the “Fox II,” and his trip came to a premature end.

The freighter Ludolf Oldendorff rescued Stein, but was unable to save the Fox II. From that day until September 28th, Fox II’s GPS beacon continued transmitting as the boat drifted. There was hope she could be tracked and then picked up once she came close enough to shore. But the beacon’s battery finally died as the boat approached the coast of Scotland. And over six months passed with no sightings. Then, on April 16th, Stein received a phone call. “A young voice asked me if I was Stein Hoff,” he writes. “And when I said ‘yes’, he added ‘I found your boat!’”

The Fox II as it appeared this month in Spildra, Norway.

The Fox II had landed on the small island of Spildra in northern Norway. Fourteen-year-old Trygve Tidemann and his father Ivar Bjørklund were out fishing when Trygve spotted something and wanted to go in to investigate. When they got closer he recognized it as the boat Stein Hoff had used on his trans-Atlantic attempt, partly because he’d seen him in the news, but also because of a recently released Norwegian movie called Oskars America. In the film, a boy dreams of rowing the famous Harbo and Samuelsen boat, the Fox, back to America. Stein’s contact information was inside the boat, and that’s when Trygve gave him a call. The boy says Stein was elated at hearing the news.

Trygve Tidemann, who discovered the Fox II, holds the boat’s flag.

Since its discovery the boat has become quite a local curiosity. Jan Erik Pedersen, another local fisherman, has covered it with a tarp and placed a sign on it to prevent too much curiosity. It could be another four to six weeks before Stein and wife Diana can make the trip to try to recover Fox II. Spildra is way up in the land of the Northern Lights, and the boat is filled with quite a bit of ice and snow that will take time to thaw.

Stein’s attempt was sponsored mostly by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not—though the Police Gazette managed a small donation as well—and Ripley’s has promised to display the boat in one of its museums if found. Well, now it’s been found, and we’ll keep you updated with further developments.

Stein Hoff, aboard the Fox II on May 15, 2016, salutes the Statue of Liberty on his way out of New York Harbor at the start of his voyage.

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