By WALLACE BAINE
There has to be an easier way to get on TV than the way Justin Moore did it.
Making the cut on “American Idol,” going “Naked and Afraid,” marrying into the Kardashian family – they all have to be a easier path to television fame than sitting on a 4-by-4-foot raft in the open ocean with no food or water with another person.
“It was just miserable, man,” said Moore of the experience which will be documented on the latest episode of “The Raft” on National Geographic Channel on Sunday.
Generally, Moore loves being out on the ocean. The long-time Santa Cruzan is a veteran sailor and waterman who was one of the captains on the popular Santa Cruz charter boat the Chardonnay II. But what he had to endure for “The Raft” was, to use his own word, torture.
“It kind of gives me the shivers thinking about it,” said Moore, 41, who moved to Maui last November. “You get a little bit of post-traumatic stress.”
The point of “The Raft” is put two people together on a life raft smaller than most kiddie pools, without provisions, to see how long they last in a more-or-less genuine simulation of what could happen after a ship’s sinking. Moore wouldn’t say how long he and his partner, Elliot Sudal of the British Virgin Islands, lasted under such circumstances – you’ll have to tune in to find out what happened to them – but he’s not shy about how awful it was.
He said he suffered “fairly well-developed salt water sores” on his body, as well as second-degree sunburn and sun blisters on his legs. Most life rafts, he said, have a canopy. Not so on “The Raft.” But as hellish the days were, the nights were even more horrible.
“At night, they would put a light on us, an array of LEDs for shooting purposes,” he said. “And I remember thinking, this is how you torture someone. You put them out in the sun with salt water and dehydration. Then, at nighttime, the temperature drops, you’re cold and constantly being splashed, and can’t even experience darkness so you can get a little shut-eye. Plus, light attracts fish, and fish attract sharks. It was really sharky out there.”
It was a year ago when Moore, working both on the Chardonnay II and at the Santa Cruz-based Pacific Yachting and Sailing, was offered a chance to be on a new reality show. The production company found him on the website “Find a Crew.”
When he heard about the challenge of the show, to be shot in the open ocean of the Caribbean, he figured he could engineer the raft to make landfall at a nearby island in, by his calculations, 30 to 40 hours. To do so would require repurposing parts of the raft designed to keep it stable in the water. At the last minute, however, the producers told him such modifications were prohibited.
“They changed the deal on me,” he said. “But eventually, I played along. It’s TV; you’re trying to make a television show. I think their purpose was just to see how long you could suffer.”
The two men were given minimal supplies, which included a pump that could desalinate ocean water for drinking, and a can of sardines. Moore said that the two had to pump about six hours a day to have enough drinking water to survive, and it was the paucity of water that, ironically, kept them mentally sharp.
“The worst part of it, when you have no food and it’s just calm and you’re floating, there’s nothing to keep you tethered to reality.” He had read several accounts of other people in such circumstances, and learned a few survival techniques, including the need to establish a routine to keep the mind engaged. That routine turned into taking one sip of water per hour.
“It gave you something to look forward to every hour,” he said. “That strategy gives you something to hold onto mentally. You really need that kind of structure to keep you from going crazy.”
New in Hawaii after having lived in Santa Cruz for 18 years, Moore said of the episode to air on Sunday, “I miss my surfing friends, and everybody at the Chardonnay II and Pacific Yachting and Sailing. I don’t even know if I’m going to watch it. I might not. I’m sure I’ll see it eventually.”
“The Raft” airs Sunday at 10 p.m. on National Geographic Channel.