The trickiest bits of any ocean row are the beginning and the end. Of course it is not all that easy in the middle either, but at least there is no land to bump into there, so that’s one less thing to worry about. My main concern right now is trying to make a safe landfall. At the moment I am only twelve miles from land, but unfortunately that is not the land I want to go to.

It is Abemema Atoll*. I don’t know what’s there, but probably not very much. Certainly no airport, and definitely no members of my team. They are on Tarawa which is 90 nautical miles away from me, at an increasingly challenging angle. I need to be about 50 miles further north ideally, but I’m being whisked rapidly west by the winds and current. It looks as if I might run out of west before I make enough northern progress.

We do have a back-up plan: we’d already intended to have a pilot vessel to guide me through the reef . It is apparently very difficult to navigate even for those who know it well. So it would be very hazardous for said rowboat and rower better adapted to the mid-ocean. So if needs be, the pilot boat can come out a bit further and lasso me as I whizz past to the south of the island. The only problem being that we don’t yet have a pilot boat. But Nicole is working on it and I can only hope that she succeeds before I disappear past Tarawa into the great blue yonder.

So I am doing everything I can to hang onto those precious westerly miles. For every mile west I want to be making a mile north and I’m using the sea anchor to try and hold ground while I sleep. Last night this resulted in a very sad loss. It was about 10pm and I was just putting out the sea anchor for the night. As I untied the main line from a D-ring on the boat, there was a small clink and a gentle splosh. I looked in disbelief at my wrist. My watch was gone – my lovely, trusty, beloved G-shock Pathfinder watch. Solar powered, given to me by Casio a few years ago. It and I have been through so much together It had survived the airlift of 2007 and my row from San Francisco to Hawaii . I once thought I had killed when I went caving with my sister . Some grit and mud got into its buttons but it rallied even from that, only to be lost at sea just days before the end of this passage.

I still don’t know quite how it came to vanish . It had a metal wristband of the sort that should still remain around your wrist even though the clasp might come undone. So when I hooked it on the D-ring the strap actually parted company from the watch . It was like that horrible feeling that you get when the front door slams behind you and you realize that you have left your keys on the inside. Just too late to do anything about it. I would have given anything to rewind and replay the last three seconds. There are not many possessions that I am attached to: my laptop, my iphone and my watch are the three that come to mind. I loved the watch for the fact that it was solar-powered and never needed a new battery. It just lived on my wrist, telling me time, date, the day of the week, should I need it, the altitude, not that relevant at the moment living mostly at sea level, compass bearing, and barometric pressure. No fuss, no bother, just dependable. I even wear it quite conspicuously in the photo on the front cover of my book. But now it is no more, well it is, but by now probably 2 miles away under the sea. I hope that it doesn’t get eaten by a shark or a sea creature it wouldn’t do them much good at all. Having survived all that it has, I wonder whether it will ever turn up on a fish-monger’s slab somewhere, still working.

Oh well, watches can be replaced. It was only a thing, I keep reminding myself. Only a thing.

*Editor’s note: This was added by TeamRoz. We suspect Roz called it Bike, which is an islet on Abemema.

[photo: Tarawa from the air, taken by Nicole]

47 Comments

  • The missing word is Bike, which is an islet on the south-western side of Abemama atoll (see map at . Roz has pronounced it as the English word, but in the Kiribati language it is pronounced bee-keh. It is the Kiribati word for beach and, probably appropriately, appears in many place names. Bike was the place where the former king of Abemama kept his pigs.

  • You can see Bike very well on gogle earth. There are also a couple of places on the east side where you may be able to put in and keep to the windward side for when the winds shift. The reefs are not visible on Google though, at least not on the standard version.

  • Roz, don’t worry too much about the watch… consider it another offering to King Neptune.

    The trusted Casio must’ve sensed that you were close to the end of this journey and decided to sacrifice itself so you can move on to a new watch and have it all broken in by the time you leave for the third leg of your row next year.

  • I lost my diver’s watch in the same way: I was coming about when a line caught the wristband and threw the watch 50 feet before “plunk”, it was gone. The tiny pins that hold the links together in the wristband are no match for the pressure of the line. I purchased another, but it was never the same, and now sits in a drawer somewhere. An offer to Neptune is a great way to remember it by. I hope you thread the eye of the needle OK, or find a good sheltered beach to sneak into! Good Luck!! Our thoughts are with you on this critical part of your journey.

  • If you are not going to put in on Bike then you had better point your nose directly into the wind and ROW LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT.
    With the easterly current and northeast wind it probably will.
    Weather Underground is forcasting more moderate Northeastast and East winds until Wednesday, when they will be 17 MPH from the Southeast and 20MPH SSE on Thursday.
    Otherwise perhaps the team can meet you in Naru 480 miles West, in about 10-12 days.

  • I read the article about you on CNN.com, never heard of you but I have been wanting to change my life style for years I am 28, married with one child and I am so inspired by you that I am seriously considering it. I want to travel the world and the difference between me and other people is that I will actually do it.

  • Your current vector might have you on Tabiauea before you run out of islands, you could land there and have the team come get you! Just hook around to the leeward side of the island and come ashore (I know, easier said than done!!).

  • To our dear, faithful, Rozlings – offering so much help and advice to Roz. At present with her email access problems, she can neither read your comments, nor my copy of the comments sent daily. We are coping as much as we can by using the satphone – Roz sending the blog by Evoca voice messaging, which I then transcribe for you to read. Roz does talk to me on the ‘phone once or twice a week, and I can send her an occasional message by Iridium. The later is confined to 160 characters. Not the best way to communicate a lot of information. Nicole and Roz are also using satphones to talk to each other. I do find it a bit frustrating not being able to pass on your helpful advice to Roz.

  • Just one other point to mention: there is no way that Roz can safely land unless there is a jetty or something similar. Ocean Rowing boats are not made to land on a beach. As Roz says in her blog above, the trickiest parts of ocean rowing are the beginning and the end.
    Meanwhile we can but watch and pray that she can arrive safely, wherever it may be. Thanks for the information about the name of Bike Island.

  • Roz,

    I completely understand your loss and I wish I could tell you it gets easier with time…hopefully it will. I lost a watch 2 years ago that was given to me from my ex-husband and STILL miss it. Yes, it may sound strange to miss something that my ex-husband gave me but boy, I was so sentimental about that watch. Roz, if there is a place that watches go, kind of like where all those missing socks in the dryer go, hopefully our two watches can keep each other company.

  • Oh Well then Rita and Nicole since Roz Can’t read this… when you asked her to “Slow Down” Last week when she HAD SE Winds, and darned good ones … You screwed up royally !!.. I can’t believe she actually listened to you..

  • Rita said “” there is no way that Roz can safely land unless there is a jetty or something similar. Ocean Rowing boats are not made to land on a beach.””
    Ever heard of an anchor ?
    Because if she is voyaging without one she does not belong on the water.

    You need to tell her to wait until the wind shift , right there on Bike or she won’t get close enough for you to get her.
    Chances are good she might not be able to land on the next Island and will be blown into the vast western Pacific at this point.

  • Just checked RozTracker, and she skirted it’s northern reef with 2 miles to spare. Speculation, but I think she must be at the oars still. I cannot believe she would have deployed the sea anchor so near Abemama — unless those currents are so strong and predictable — it will be interesting to learn what she is actually doing. Full moon and averaging 2.7 mph in the last 12 hours tells me she pulled an all-nighter, pulling her heart out. Way to go Roz! Hope she deploys the sea anchor and takes a short break.

    Tabiauea is only 60 miles and 24 hours. That has got to be the toughest stretch of the trip. No time to really rest. I suspect she will shoot for the Tabiauea lagoon, mingle with the locals and wait for the wind to subside. A little R&R and a hot shower, fix up the tresses, then row hell bent for leather across to Tarawa. I am sure she has all the options and possibilities mapped out in her head if not on paper. Best wished.

    Just remember Roz
    Semper ubi sub ubi

  • Interesting to see “Niu Hae Akala” currently very close to where Roz was about twelve hours ago. Perhaps a bit indicative of strength of current. Praying for your continued safety, Roz, connectivity with your team, and availability of necessary resources. While the rowing may be solo, the “greener future” needs a collective effort.

  • Colin: Clearly you know nothing about ocean row-boats. Except for the start and end of its voyage the water is generally several miles deep. The current situation is the first that Roz has seen where an anchor could be used. The boat draws only a few inches of water so tends to be top-heavy. Because of its wind resistance the boat would tug so hard that it would need a heavy anchor and several fathom of chain in addition to however many fathom of cable that might be needed. Also there is nowhere to stow anchors (one for soft and one for hard bottom) and cable, quite apart from its weight, which would reduce stability. Roz is not a novice at this and she has had the expert advice of hundreds of experts as well as that of the boat builders and others who row oceans.

  • … and another thing, Colin, if you had paid closer attention you would know that Roz is in daily satphone communication with various members of her shore team including her Mother, Nicole, and weather/navigator specialist among others.

  • It is good to see Roz angling up towards Tarawa – she knows what she is doing. There is no way she wanted to enter any lagoon without a pilot. Barely submerged coral pinnacles are everywhere. As long as she keeps east of the next atoll, Maiana (Tabiauea village on the map), she is home free.

  • To Rita: Thank you for helping Roz keep the blog updated. As we are all on the edge of our seat, I can’t imagine what it must be like for you. You have a remarkable daughter! Cheers to you! And cheers to an amazing journey!

  • Isn’t it funny, especially for those of us who pride ourselves in limiting our possessions to our few necessities, how maddening it is to lose one of those possessions, particularly when it has a certain sentimental value. I can sympathize totally with the loss of your watch–only today I was running around like a madwoman while running predictably late to get out the door and also attempting to find a belt that had wondered off, probably not without the help of a small person with big brown eyes and curly hair who likes to rummage in my dresser! I’m looking forward to hearing about your landing in Tarawa. I’ll bet anything that there will be a new watch waiting for you at some point. No matter, you’ll be focusing on the oars!!! You go girl!!!!

  • John Kay ,,, Clearly you kno nothing about boats of any kind, or boating laws.. You still need an anchor. Also that boat is in NO way top heavy or it could not self-right. I have been on boats of all kinds longer than Roz or most of her groupies have been alive thankyou.

  • Dear Roz (and wonderful Rita),
    Oooooh! I’m so sorry to hear of your beloved watch’s submarine-like behavior! I’m afraid Ol’ Davy Jones just won’t have the same emotional appreciation for it that you had.
    On the other hand, your today’s blog having given the Mssrs. Casio a huge basket of unexpected global marketing, I would think it most appropriate that a generous amount of cordial (and tangible) reciprocity is in order.
    But first, to shore! Have a happy, safe, and blissful landing!

  • “”don’t think i can make it north of maiana. will have to go south of the island.””
    As I said she will be carried straight past the Island. Hope you have an intercept planned to leave tommorow morning when you will only have to go 30-35 miles to get her ( by tomorrow afternoon ).

  • Colin, if you could present your message in the form of a witty haiku, or musical lyric, then you’d get their attention.

  • Brian – thanks for the details on the hazards of even a row boat entering a lagoon without a pilot! I keep forgetting how extensive and intricate the beds of coral are near shore. Roz is so far south – it looks like Nicole is going to have to find big boat to go far out to sea to “lassoo” Roz to bring her safely to shore “near” Tarawa.

    At least there is a full moon to guide Roz while rowing at night.

  • Colin, hundreds of people have rowed oceans. Not one of them has done so with an anchor aboard. Perhaps you know something that hundreds of people who have devoted their lives to this sport have yet to figure out, but I seriously doubt it.

    I am very concerned about Roz though. The fact that she is going to pass south of Maiana is very alarming considering the last we heard from Nicole she hadn’t yet found an intercept boat. I can’t help but to think that all the time Roz spent trying for Tuvalu could have better been spent lining up for a Tarawa approach. A few weeks ago when Roz was split between a Tuvalu/Tarawa decision, she said “one of the worst things I could do is wait too long to make a decision, and miss them both.” I sure hope that hasn’t happened. Seems her fate now rests in Nicole’s hands, and her ability to get out there before Roz is whisked off into the open Pacific, where her next landing possibility looks to be Nauru about 500 miles to the WSW. Yikes!

  • Well Marv.. in the first place to say that “Hundreds” have rowed oceans is pushing it to say the least. In the case of the pacific it is pure crap.
    In any case anyone caught on the ocean without an anchor is a fool and in the US would have their voyage immediately terminated by the Coast Guard. In this case it could very well save her life.
    Anyway what are you arguing about since your second paragraph is echoing the point I have been making for the last week.

    The Important thing at this point is to GET SOMEONE THERE TO INTERCEPT ROZ ! She is NOT making the progress necessary to clear the Maiana Atoll as of her latest position and heading ( 0.663 , 173.515 h 295deg ).

    By the time she gets there , she WILL be too fatigued after two consecutive all nighters fighting the wind to pass Maiana on the east and north. If she continues on this heading and attempts to clear it she may well wreck on the east side of the atoll.
    If she slacks off tonight and passes it to the south, somebody had better be there to fetch her.
    She has not been making rational decisions given her situation the last couple weeks and cannot be in a good way. I don’t know how long she has been without a watermaker ( at least two weeks ) . Thats a minimum of 7 gallons of her “reserves” or 58 pounds of water she would need just to survive while rowing. That definetly is not enough to keep her brain functioning rationally, just survival rations under her conditions.

  • what’s with the abusive rage Colin- Wow! outtaline and outta place

    GodSpeed Roz! and I finally found a LaraBar yesterday- cinnamon roll- not bad at all and slightly cheaper than a Cliff plus Raw Vegan!

  • No matter what anyone who is negative may think, Roz will pull this off with amazing precision. Just wait and see. You will be amazed. A positive and determined individual can accomplish the unthinkable – this voyage has proven it thus far. We’re behind Roz 100%!

  • .
    Roz’s tweets …

    9/4/09 10:53AM – don’t think i can make it north of maiana. will have to go south of the island.
    9/4/09 3:28PM – struggling to maintain course in localized winds. every degree counts now!
    9/4/09 4:44PM – wind and seas not dropping. unless they do soon i won’t clear east of maiana.
    9/4/09 6:0PM – 50 miles to go to betio. into last 24 hours on the ocean.

    It is going to be a long all-nighter for Roz … and many of us …
    When will she decide to go with the flow south around Maiana?
    And then …

    Godspeed Roz!
    Fortunately you have the moon.

  • Good news … but how will the end-game unfold? … edge of my seat …

    9/4/09 6:51PM – we have a boat lined up for tmrw for filming, safety etc. will be first human contact in 104 days!

  • Counting down the hours!! It is all so thrilling

    Go Roz Go!!!!

    I keep m fingers crossed for you – hardly unable to type these words.

    My thoughts are allways with you.

    All the best

  • 9/4/09 9:16PM – woohoo! long-awaited southeast wind has arrived! perfect timing! thx neptune.

    Can it be Neptune’s gonna graciously let her squeeze by the northeast corner of Maiana?

    Cliff hanger tweet-by-tweet.

    Row happy Roz … experience joy …

  • .
    Roz tweet: 9/4/09 = 35 miles to go. conditions excellent. passing maiana atoll now.

    omg … incredible … good work Roz … thank you Neptune … deserves a new watch ;-D

  • Hey, Roz … you’re DOING it, girl! You’re about to complete the second leg of your SOLO ROW ACROSS THE PACIFIC! Just typing those words gives me goose bumps! I cannot imagine the mental challenge it has been for you to go 104 (possibly 105?) days without human contact (although some of us might actually welcome that if not in the best relationships, eh? … tee, hee), so I’m so happy that Team Roz will be there to MEET you and that Nicole & Crew have lined up a boat to both safely see you into land but also to film your arrival. YOU DONE GOOD, Roz! Cannot wait to hear your voice when you are once on terra firma.

    You continue to inspire — one oar stroke at a time. THANK YOU!

    Naomi

  • I forgot to say … Wish I could BE THERE w/ Team Roz to greet you at the shoreline of Tarawa. It would be so exciting! Maybe in Australia, eh? Now THAT will be the place for a full-on Team Roz blow-out celebration! (Except that the eco ‘footprint’ to GET to Australia probably would make that counterproductive.) Perhaps mini celebrations on all the continents where there are fans of your ‘work’? Yup. That’ll do. I’ll organize the one in NY!

    At this point you are probably down to only about a few miles from shore — heck, you may even be right on the verge of landing (as I have no idea of the time line; it’s 10:45 a.m. in NY) — so, Godspeed you on to land with hilarious joy and thanksgiving!

    (And SOMEONE, please manage to get this gal a beer, eh? There are ways …!) Those Haldane water jars are great for all KINDS of things!! 🙂

    Naomi

  • “Man who say it can’t be done, should not stand in the way of man doing it.” Enough said. Prayers and peace to Roz.

  • Us regulars are still here. We’re watching the very professional amateurs (as in do it for the love of it) go about their business methodically and calmly.Go Roz, Go team Roz! Jim Bell Australia.

  • Wo-a, Roz. What a wonderful ending to a fantastic voyage! You did lose a lot of weight didn’t you … happy eating to resupply.
    You GO, girl! Keep showing that beautiful smile.

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