Fairfax died Feb. 8 of an apparent heart attack, The New York Times reported. Only his wife Tiffany survives him.
Fairfax is best known for his two journeys by rowboat: he crossed the Atlantic after six months at sea in 1969, becoming the first man in history to achieve such a feat. In 1972, he crossed the Pacific in the same manner, this time with his girlfriend and later wife Sylvia Cook, over the course of a year.
His life up until then could have been something out of an adventure novel. He was born in Rome on May 21, 1937, to an English father and a Bulgarian mother.
At the age of nine, Fairfax used a pistol to settle a score with another boy. No one was hurt. At 13, while living in Buenos Aires with his mother, he ran away to live in the jungle, and became a fur trapper. At 20, heartbroken, he tried to commit suicide by letting a jaguar attack him. In Panama, he became a pirate's apprentice. When he met Cook, he was a professional gambler.