John Bartlett In ‘Nyad’: Is He Based On A Real Life Person? How Did Bartlett Die?


We are introduced to the character of John Bartlett in the Netflix film Nyad, who joins Diana’s crew and helps her accomplish her dreams of swimming from Cuba to Florida. John was good at what he did, and he knew every inch of the gulf waters. More than that, he was a great human being, and he was ready to give it all to the mission. He was one of those people who was not there because of some ulterior motive, but because he really wanted Diana to achieve her dreams and complete what she had started back in 1978. So, let’s get to know John Bartlett as a person and understand why he was with Diana and what drove him.

Is John Bartlett Based On A Real-Life Person?

The character of John Bartlett is based on a real-life person, and he was the one who made sure that Diana Nyad stayed on track and didn’t put her life in jeopardy. When you are willing to do something that has never been done, you need to have people around you who not only know their job but are the best at it. John Bartlett was a straightforward man, and he didn’t pretend when Diana came to him to basically interview him for the post of chief navigator. She had met people before him, but nobody seemed to impress her. The role of the navigator was paramount, as Diana’s life depended on that. In 1978, when Diana Nyad tried swimming from Cuba to Florida for the first time, she got derailed from the original route and couldn’t make it because the navigator wasn’t able to assess the currents and the axis of the stream properly. Diana didn’t want to commit that same mistake yet again, so she was being really cautious this time around.

John Bartlett was a straightforward man, and he told Diana upfront that if she wanted to have a chance of achieving that impossible feat, then she would have to hire him. He was an efficient sailor, and he had hours of experience sailing in those treacherous waters. He seemed to know everything about that stretch, and when Diana heard him talk about it in such detail, she was rather taken aback. Diana had gone there believing that she would grill this navigator and see if he was worthy of being taken abroad, but instead, the navigator had grilled her and told her that she wouldn’t be able to achieve this feat if she didn’t have a person by her side who knew what he was dealing with. Diana Nyad hired John Bartlett because she knew that he was the best she could get. Diana didn’t need people who were coming on board for their own vested interests. She needed a partner, and in John Bartlett, she saw one. She knew that this was a man who would not only be a great navigator but would be a great friend to her, too. And it is true that Diana and Bartlett shared a really close relationship in real life, and both had a lot of mutual respect and admiration for each other. They were the best at what they did, and they were not scared to take on challenges.

What was the conflict between Diana and Bartlett?

Bartlett was the navigator, and he could see the risk that Diana was taking to achieve that feat since he had been a part of the last three missions. Diana said that she wanted to make another attempt in a season that was not conducive to swimming, and Bartlett was extremely against it as he knew that it was sheer madness. He knew that there was going to be a lot of rain, and Diana would be putting her life at risk by doing so. But Diana, as we saw in the series and as Bonnie Stoll also puts it, was a very stubborn person, and at times, it got very difficult to instill some sense in her and tell her that she was not making the right decision. But Diana had her way, and later, she bore the consequences of her horrendous decision. Nothing worked in her favor, and Bonnie had to ultimately call it off. John Bartlett told Diana upfront that if she was going to be this stubborn and foolish, then he wouldn’t want to be a part of this madness. Bonnie and Bartlett both left Diana because they cared for her, and they didn’t want her to put her life at such risk in an already perilous mission by not taking the precautions that she ought to take.

How did John Bartlett die?

Diana knew that she couldn’t achieve the feat without Bartlett and Bonnie, but she probably knew that she had already committed a huge blunder and they wouldn’t come back to her. But she was wrong. As soon as she accepted her mistake and told them that she was wrong in not listening to them, Bonnie and Bartlett both came back, and at 64 years of age, Diana Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida. Bartlett couldn’t stop his tears when Nyad touched the shore. He hugged his friend and told her that she had done the impossible. Bartlett knew that he was not doing well physically, and before something happened to him, he just wanted to see Diana give it her all and finish what she had set out for. On December 10, 2013, just months after Diana completed the swim, John Bartlett passed away. Diana considered John to be her biggest supporter, one who had given his all to this mission and who had made sure that she made it to Florida safe and sound.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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