On Sunday, March 15th, 2010, Katie Spotz completed her goal of becoming the youngest person to row an entire ocean solo, and the first American to row a boat without help from mainland to mainland.
It only took her 70 days 5 hours 22 minutes to row from Dakar Senegal, Africa to Georgetown, Guyana, in South America.
Her 2,817-mile journey raised more than $70,000 for the Blue Planet Run Foundation, which finances drinking water projects around the world.
She was actually trying to land in Cayenne, French Guiana, but the wind and currents grew so strong that she would have needed a tow for the last few miles, which is not what she wanted. So, she pushed on another 8 days so she could row herself to Georgetown.
“You’re in a situation that you can’t escape, so you really have to dig deep,” said Spotz
The 19-foot yellow wooden rowboat was broadsided by 20-foot waves as she initially approached Caynne. It was a frightening ride, even though the boat was built to withstand hurricanes and 50-foot waves, said Phil Morrison, the British yacht builder who designed it.
Spotz had enough food to last 110 days. I can just imaging what the diet of mostly freeze-dried meals, granola and dried fruit, did to her figure. Her crossing took much less time because she had help from the trade currents, and was fortunate not to face any major weather or technical problems, so she ended with food and water to spare.
This is not to say she didn’t have problems. Early on in the trip, she broke the cable that allowed her to steer with her foot as she rowed, forcing her to use a cumbersome hand steering system.
Also, day before her landfall, she started smelling smoke – and discovered that her GPS tracker decided to light itself on fire. Spotz extinguished it, and by some miracle her GPS device for navigation was not damaged. Fortunatly her GPS tracker was only used to update her position on her blog, so it was not a big loss.
The little yellow boat’s solar panels, batteries, water desalination machine and the iPod she used to play audio books on Zen meditation remained functional.
Fact Check: Her accomplishment is truly significant and a great milestone for all athletes. But, she is not the first to row across the Atlantic. Actually the first ocean rowers were the, the Norwegian immigrants George Harbo and Gabriel Samuelson, who traveled from New York to France in 1896 in an open boat. But Spotz was solo, and a women, which had never been done before.
From 2000 to 2010, 110 rowboats have successfully crossed an ocean, according to the Ocean Rowing Society. Nearly as many rowboat crews, 102, tried and failed. One American, Nenad Belic, attempted to row solo across the Atlantic in 2001. He was lost at sea.
It took Spotz two years to plan the trip and to raise $100,000 to pay for it. Before leaving for Senegal, her biggest boating experience consisted of a 40-mile practice row on Lake Erie that ended with her boat being pinned against a cliff by wind and waves. Many people asked Spotz how she could row across the Atlantic if she could not even row on Lake Erie. Her response was that the biggest danger in ocean rowing besides hurricanes is coming too close to shore, where the current can overwhelm the rower and push the boat into the rocks.
Well, congratulations to Katie Spotz, this is a great accomplishment!!!