Last May (2023), I attended an Ocean Survival course while visiting the UK. I attended the Row Aurora school. It was a daring experience as I was and am quite overweight. However, I have been reading books and blogs, listening to podcasts and watching YouTube for over ten years, learning everything I possibly can about doing an ocean row. While attending the course in the UK, I met some extraordinary young people who are scheduled to row; in fact, Jack is currently rowing the Atlantic with his team Marduk in the World's Toughest Row.
Jenny and Anna are doing a Pacific Cross in June 2024. They are an amazing team, worthy of support. You can find them by clicking this link United Row
Set A Date- Make a Commitment
I have been studying and reading and watching everything about ocean rowing for years, but 2023 was the first time I had the guts to attend a course. There is a lot that I have to learn. Plus I need to lose weight and get into reasonable shape. I decided to approach the fitness aspect differently. Instead of starting at a traditional gym, I have started with Pilates to regain my mobility and flexibility. Which you will hear me speak about constantly. Last month, while at a session, Shawna (my instructor) said, "I would like to see you commit to a specific ocean row. Register for it. Set a date". Setting a specific goal is an important step.
On Dec 24th, 2023. I officially signed up to do the Atlantic World Toughest Row race in Dec 2026. That is two years and 326ish days from now
What are my next steps, you might ask? Initially, I had to send some funds with the registration. That was a feat in itself. It's 2024, and sending money is still a challenge. The one constant over the next three years is the exercise. Starting with flexibility and mobility, followed by the strength to pull myself back into the boat.
As of June 2023, I have been attending personal training sessions with Zee Pilates and working with a nutritionist. I am a vegan and need to eat high-protein, high-energy meals. My nutritionist is ensuring that I do just that. Kim is a realist, non-judgemental and fantastic to work with; I highly recommend her if you think of eating more nutritiously. I have also added a peloton (cycling) and swimming into the mix. I have been predominantly sedentary for the last 15 years. And at the age of 63 and being overweight, all of this is a huge challenge. Is it doable? Absolutely!
Is it going to be easy? Hell no! Am I going to want to give up? Often. The more public this becomes, the harder it is to pull out of this adventure.
You can Accomplish...
I have heard that phrase my whole life! "You can accomplish whatever you put your mind to". The ongoing issues for me are fitness and nutrition. Part of this campaign is to raise awareness for my row and emphasize the truthful phrase that we can accomplish what we put our minds to (or test the theory). In addition, I need to create a not-for-profit organization in order to raise funds for the row and a charity or two.
What's it going to Cost?
Let's look at the row and some estimates of what is needed to prepare:
Ocean Row Boat $150,000
Shipping the boat $15,000
Food for the expedition $25,000
Para Anchor $4,000
Auto Pilot $8,000
Safety Equipment $8,000
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
There is so much to prepare in the upcoming years. I have heard from others that these years will fly by. Part of this is to follow a bit of a sequence; the decision to do it is one of the hardest. The next big step will be to order my boat. Once ordered, this campaign is active and moving! Preparing for this row is a full-time job in itself. The fundraising, the boat purchase, getting the equipment and the practice are intense.
No turning back. It was either this or learning to fly a helicopter.
Building an Ocean Rowboat
The boat manufacturer that I have been following for many years is Rannoch Adventure Charlie Pitcher. He is the owner that I met and toured his operation in Burnham on Crouch last year. Charlie has a wealth of information and is an experienced sailor and rower holding some world records. He advised me to work on my flexibility and get on the water as much as possible.
Seasickness worries me as I get motion sick on cruise ships, so I can imagine what a small vessel on the high seas will be like. However, I did not feel motion sick on my friend's boat. After listening to multiple ocean rowers, I realized that seasickness is a fact of life. Everyone will feel it for the first week at sea until you get your sealegs. On cruises, I used a patch and wristband. I am not sure how they will work on an ocean rowing boat. On a cruise ship, it is subtle, and you can't always see the water. The ocean boat is quite the opposite as I will be on the water practically.
It's funny when I tell people about the row. First, it's shock, then curiosity, followed by several wisecrack comments about my mental health. Then, a million questions. I have found that 99% of people are completely unaware that it is a thing. In the picture below, you can see the tracking devices on the current boats as they make their way across the Atlantic. Yes, you will be able to track me the whole way. Every mistake I make in navigation or whenever I have to deploy the para-anchor. You will be able to see it. Plus, I will be able to keep this blog up while at sea, as I will have a device called a BGAN, a satellite phone that allows access to the internet.
In the picture above, it seems like all the boats are on top of each other; however, from what I am told, it is rare that you will ever see another row boat. You will see ocean and cruise ships and private vessels like yachts or sailboats. Because I plan to cross with the World's Toughest Row, a support vessel and a support team will be available by phone. The vessel could be 3-5 days away, and if I am aided directly by the boat, my "unassisted row" would be over.
Five Days to Write - Comfort Zone
This post has taken nearly five days to write because it has made me think about things. The very first question everyone asks is WHY? "Just Because" isn't an acceptable answer. Every single aspect of this row takes me out of my comfort zone. There isn't a single part of this that I have ever done before. Planning, running a campaign, fundraising, learning how to navigate at sea and exercising on a regular basis for the next 3 years. It is all out of my comfort zone, and after all this other stuff is done, I have to row across an ocean.