In 2005, Roz Savage became the first woman to complete the Atlantic Rowing Race – solo. She set out from the Canary Islands with 3,000 miles of empty ocean ahead of her, carrying nothing more than what could be squeezed in her boat. Alone and with no support, Roz fought storms that broke every one of her oars before she had reached halfway, and also claimed her camping stove, stereo, and cockpit navigation instruments.
As the Atlantic Ocean gradually reduced her boat to the bare essentials, Roz’s voyage captured the attention of people all over the world. Despite her testing circumstances, Roz managed to keep a blog that she updated by satellite phone. Her determination to never surrender in the face of almost overwhelming conditions struck a chord with thousands around the globe. People stayed tuned as she repaired her oars, was blown backwards by adverse winds, and hit the wall – both physically and mentally.
When, 24 days before the end of her row, Roz’s satellite phone, too, succumbed to the harsh conditions onboard, Roz was presented with the toughest challenge yet – total isolation. But she perservered, an after 103 days alone at sea, she rowed into English Harbour, Antigua, and into the history books.
Atlantic Row 2005:
- Miles rowed: 2,935
- Oarstrokes: about 1,000,000
- Time alone at sea: 103 days, 5 hours, 43 minutes
- Oars broken: 4
- Wholebake bars consumed: 462
- Average hours of rowing per day: 12
- Pounds lost: 30
- Days with no communication system: 24
Pacific Row: Stage 1
After an aborted attempt on the Pacific in 2007, when her boat capsized 3 times in 24 hours, Roz set out from under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on May 25, 2008. For the first few weeks, strong winds repeatedly blew her back towards the Californian coast, but eventually she broke free and struck out towards Hawaii.
Unfortunately the rough conditions had taken their toll, and her watermaker succumbed to rust damage a few weeks later. A lucky encounter with some fellow environmental campaigners, also on a mission to bring attention to the plastic pollution in the North Pacific Garbage Patch, enabled Roz to replenish her water supplies. The encounter with the JUNK Raft also offered the opportunity for one of the most surreal dinner parties ever to take place – on board a vessel made of 15,000 empty water bottles, in mid-ocean several hundred miles east of Hawaii, with a menu of freshly-harpooned mahi-mahi.
Roz rowed in past Diamond Head on the Hawaiian island of Oahu after 99 days at sea, the first woman ever to row from California to Hawaii.
San Francisco to Hawaii 2008:
- Miles rowed: 2,324
- Oarstrokes: about 1,000,000
- Time alone at sea: 99 days, 8 hours, 55 minutes
- Watermakers broken: 2
- Larabars consumed: 336
- Average hours of rowing per day: 11
- Pounds lost: 25
- Audiobooks “read”: 62
Pacific Row: Stage 2
At sunset on May 24, 2009, Roz set out from Waikiki Yacht Club in Hawaii to row to Tuvalu in the South Pacific. This stage of her row was enlivened by a great number of encounters with marine wildlife, including a whale shark, dolphins, whales and turtles, and several booby birds who decided that her boat would be a convenient resting place and settled in for several weeks. There was also a very messy incident with three low-flying squid, who in their bid to escape from a predator by propelling themselves at high speed out of the water, were no doubt very surprised to find a small ocean rowboat in their way.
Once again the watermaker succumbed to conditions, and when strong westerly winds eventually made it impossible to reach Tuvalu, Roz was forced by dwindling food and water supplies to make landfall instead on the island of Tarawa in Kiribati. There she met the President, and learned from him how he plans to relocate his people as their low-lying islands become uninhabitable due to rising sea levels.
Hawaii to Kiribati 2009:
- Miles traveled: 3,158
- Oarstrokes: about 1,335,834
- Time alone at sea: 104 days
- Number of times across the Equator: 2
- Larabars consumed: 297
- Pounds lost: 30
- Whale sharks: 1
- Other sharks: dozens
- Other whales: dozen or so, species unknown
- Dolphins: dozens
- Turtles: 3
- Squid: 3, landed on deck, very messy
Pacific Row: Stage 3
At sunrise on April 19, 2010, the President of Kiribati was amongst the small crowd that waved Roz off from the Marine Training Centre in Tarawa for the third and final stage of her solo row across the Pacific. This voyage was notable for its brevity, a mere 48 days at sea, largely due to the strong currents in the western Pacific. Roz’s average daily mileage was 49 miles, compared with her previous best-ever day of 42 nautical miles.
Wildlife sightings were rare, but container ships were frequent, with 5 ships sometimes within sight as she passed through the Solomon Sea on the final approach to Papua New Guinea. On Friday, June 4, Roz arrived in Madang to a warm welcome. Around 5,000 people lined the shore to greet her, and many more came out in traditional canoes to escort her the last half mile into port, cheering her on as she became the first woman to row solo across the Pacific Ocean.
Kiribati to Papua New Guinea 2010:
- Miles traveled: 2,248
- Oarstrokes: about 460,000
- Time alone at sea: 46 days
- Average daily miles: 49 (compared with previous best ever daily mileage of 42)
- Larabars consumed: 210
- Pounds lost: sadly not enough to fit back into my jeans
- Container ships sighted: too many for comfort, sometimes 4 or 5 at once
Roz set out from Fremantle in Western Australia in May 2011 to row her third and final ocean, the Indian. She had originally wanted to aim for Mumbai in India, but this course would have taken her close to the coast of Somalia and through the Arabian Sea, where just that January four Americans had been shot on board a yacht. Upon taking advice from maritime security experts, Roz decided to aim instead for Mauritius.
This was her longest single voyage – exactly five months alone at sea without seeing either dry land or another human being. The Indian Ocean proved to be feisty, and despite the 100kg of lead that had been installed in the bottom of her boat’s keel as extra ballast after the capsizes on the Pacific, Roz nevertheless suffered several capsizes en route. After 154 days at sea she made landfall at Grand Baie in Mauritius, becoming the first woman to row solo across three oceans.