The Brocade

Today I rowed past the Farralon Islands, also known as the Devil’s Teeth on account of their jagged silhouette. They are famous for their population of Great White Sharks.

Fortunately it’s not shark season (although there are still some lurking around, apparently) and the only natives of the islands that I encountered were relatively friendly (and with relatively small teeth) – a couple of marine biologists called Pete and Russ who came whizzing out on their rigid inflatable boat to investigate the unusual sight of a little silver rowboat passing by.

They offered to bring me a beer, which I declined (I run a dry ship – my one chance for a detox!) and a bunch of bananas and some M&M’s, which I accepted. They disappeared to fetch my goodies, and Pete returned half an hour later with three girls on board – student biologists who also wanted to investigate this strange new specimen of Rower Rozus Vulgaris.

I traded them a business card for the food. Don’t ask me why I have business cards on board. You just never know who you’re going to meet when you’re mid-ocean, and I hate to miss the opportunity to make a new friend.

As you may have gathered, I’m not trying to do this row unsupported. I’ve already proved I can do that – on my Atlantic row I refused to accept replacement oars when all of mine had broken, preferring to mend them rather than give up my unsupported status. Acceptance of any material assistance – be it food, water, or equipment – constitutes support. But I’m relaxed about it this time around – if anyone wants to bring me fresh food, I’m not going to say no.

If all goes according to plan, the Farralones will be the last land I see between here and Hawaii. At one point it was suggested that I could be towed out to the islands and start from there, as they are officially part of the city of San Francisco and the head start of 28 miles could make all the difference to my chances of getting away safely from the California coast – by far the most difficult part of my journey.

But I would have had to get special permission to set foot on the islands if it is going to be a valid ocean row, which requires that the row be from land to land – and there simply wasn’t time to get it arranged. Although I am not especially attached to being “first solo woman to row across the Pacific”, it would be a shame to eliminate the possibility right from the start. So for better or worse, I chose to leave from the Golden Gate Bridge and row the extra 28 miles.

The good news is that my “weather window” – the period of calm weather when the usual headwinds are relatively light – has now been extended to Thursday. I’ve got to try and get as many miles in as possible before the winds pick up and start pushing me back towards the coast. So I was up at 5 this morning, rowing away. It’s not so much that it’s hard getting away from the California coast – the problem is STAYING away. And much as I like California, I don’t want to go back there just yet.

[photo: me. And the Farralone islands in the background]

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