One of the motivations behind me taking to the oceans was the hope that they would provide me with the opportunity for some kind of spiritual experience. Another was that a good long row would help me lose weight.

To an extent ocean rowing does achieve both these objectives, but overall I wouldn’t recommend it. For losing weight – check yourself into the most expensive health spa you can find. It will be easier, cheaper, and a hell of a lot more relaxing. For your spiritual quest, maybe a nice quiet monastery up a mountain somewhere.

Not that ocean rowing is a complete bust as far as retreats go, but it does leave quite a lot to be desired.

At the time I took up this rowing malarkey, I was very influenced by Aldous Huxley (The Perennial Philosophy), Henry David Thoreau (Walden Pond), and other writers who had pursued their spiritual quests in solitude and wilderness. Well, okay, Aldous Huxley also pursued his in psychedelic drugs (The Doors of Perception), but that seemed a rather risky avenue to take. (Risky? As opposed to rowing alone across vast tracts of ocean? Well, I suppose we all have different definitions of risk!)

So, in my romantic view of the ocean, it seemed to offer the promise of spiritual fulfillment. But I overlooked a few basics.

On Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, basic human necessities like water, food, shelter, companionship and security all have to be taken care of before an individual has the emotional bandwidth to start thinking about needs of a more spiritual nature. On my rowboat, supply of these basic needs is far from certain. Failing watermakers, diminishing rations, leaking cabins and lockers… there are many mundane matters to distract me from higher thoughts.

Then there is the discomfort. If I were on dry land, I could light a candle, sit cross-legged, quiet my breathing and contemplate life. On board, the only place I can be anywhere close to comfortable is in my bunk, and lighting a candle is out of the question.

I feel closest to nature, and hence closest to my spiritual self, when I am out for a walk and can admire the way the world is put together – the trees, sunbeams, flowers, leaves, birds and insects and animals. So much to look at, and marvel at.

At sea…. not so much. There is a lot of water, and some very pretty clouds, and of course the stars can be amazing if it’s a clear night, but most of the life is microscopic and/or hidden below the water. I’ve found that my form of spirituality depends very much on awareness of the living things around me, and I miss the richness and the visibility of life when I am on the ocean.

Despite these caveats, the ocean does offer a chance to step off the world and see it more clearly. But I don’t think that it is necessary to go to sea to do that – all it takes is an inquiring mind and a reasonably functional b/s-ometer. You know what I mean.

Spending months alone on a rowboat also makes me very much more appreciative of things that most people would take for granted. I sometimes feel like life on my boat is akin to spending time in a developing country – I no longer take access to potable water, adequate food, and bathing facilities for granted, and feel greater compassion for those humans who live their entire lives in this way.

So, yes, the ocean does confer some spiritual insights. But so does land. Spirituality is less about where you are than who you are. I may spout forth from my purple palace, but you could do just as well from your bedroom, no doubt. The truth is all around us – in the world, in books, from teachers and leaders. And most importantly of all, truth and wisdom are inside us – which is often the last place we remember to look.

Other Stuff:

Today was a rough day, in every sense. The wind has been 25 to 30 knots, and the waves big and bullying. The good news is that I tried out my Smartwool accessories (ankle-warmers or arm-warmers, not quite sure which) and they were a great help. Now I just wish I had one big Smartwool body stocking!

My iPod Aquapac headphones expired, so I switched over to another Aquapac with new headphones. But this brought the discovery that the old headphones must have been on their way out for a while, so the volume on my iPod was cranked to the max. And the control wheel on my iPod is kaput. So now I am stuck with max volume, which is deafening. All very trying….

It looks like it’s going to be another rough night. I’m expecting juggernauts to clobber me noisily at intervals, giving me a vicious shake for good measure. Don’t these waves know I need my beauty sleep?!

Anderz – well done for having gone a month with no TV. During my disrupted sleep last night I had a horrible dream. I was being forced to watch TV. When it got to the ad break I made my excuses and tried to go, but invisible hands grabbed me around the neck and started strangling me, telling me I HAD to watch the adverts. It was awful, and I was very relieved to wake up!

Stan – you’re right, we’re not the first generation to think we face a unique challenge. But things really do seem to be reaching a breaking point… or a tipping point. Time will tell.

Bill – thanks for the RMI recommendation, and the quotes. You’ve got me thinking about that insect in the bedroom/garden. If that’s a reference to me, I hope I’m buzzing in the appropriate place!

I’m going to pass along Bill’s quote here as my quote for the day – it certainly made me stop and think.

It makes all the difference whether you hear an insect in the bedroom or in the garden. (Robert Lynd)

Photo: I finally got a photo of the elusive storm petrel. Not easy at all, as they’ve been whizzing around like jet fighters on these strong winds today! Sorry it’s really just a silhouette, but I hope you can make out some of the markings.

Sponsored Miles: Gratitude to Tom Pollack, Richard Gerber, Cassandra Wilson, Carl Jones, Thurman Jamison, Judith Tillson, Percept Group, David Cook, Thomas Ward and Courtney Elwood for miles sponsored.


  • Ok…….. well I can’t relate to most of the problems you face, but I do understand the insect quote! 
    When the going gets rough and you feel the need for a break while in the ocean, I can imagine you feel like the traveler stranded in the Sahara. Whether it be sand or water, too much of anything is dismal at best.
    On the TV thought, I haven’t watched any TV in over 5 years and proud of it!
    “Progress is the product of human agency. Things get better because we make them better. Things go wrong when we get too comfortable, when we fail to take risks or seize opportunities”. Susan Rice[based on that, I would say you are making progress! 🙂 ]

    • are you able to fashion out a head band or pull-down from a hat. tape the earbuds strategically to the inside of this head band or flap, then tape piece of cloth over speakers. lastly re-tape in place. If you have a helmet, this might work inside the helmet. The tape may adequately dampen the volume without having to put cloth between. Or taping the earbuds so that they face away may do the trick.

      depending on the volume you may be able to directly tape the earplugs to your temples or to the bones behind your ears as they are great conductors of sound vibration.

      Advise you to keep any pictures of this to yourself for now:) if you get stuck on sea anchor long you can fasion rabbit ears 🙂

      suture kit in medic bag will suffice for sewing kit. alternatively cutting strips like “fingers” on either side of a tear and then tying the “fingers” together should adequately fix cloth tears unless the fabric is against a lot of tension(ie, sails v sleeping bag liner).

      Roz, you have plenty of friends gathering for your return welcome home
      parties no matter where in the world you arrive… keep up the strong strokes and you will be in good company soon!

      if or when you can, please let us know by posting approximate times you will be in approximate parts of the world between rows. Like February/March in Arizona USA for National Geo.Thanks Roz, you Rock!

      Roz is amazing us! 

      Roz rowing

  • Thanks, Roz, for reminding me of the obvious … you say it so well … and I seem to have forgotten momentarily … this has been a crazy week for me on the sea of regulatory amendments and economic impact analysis … a writhing ocean of numbers and words … constantly changing, challenging, fatiguing and distracting from what matters most to me …

    So … today … I’m going on a hike in the woods, up a mountain, with a friend.
    Sleep peacefully, Roz!

  • I agree, Roz and UncaDoug, time for a relaxing boat ride. Sun is out, wind is comfortable, just ease along in my kayak. Just missing a friend to do it with. Happy 4th you guys!

  • Really great posts, Roz (today’s and yesterday’s). I think it’s hard for us landlubbers to comprehend what it must be like to deal with the near constant discomfort that you’re in on the Sedna and that you still manage to generally (or at least seemingly) be in really good spirits. I would miss nature sorely I think, even though it certainly has its own interesting contributions to discomfort sometimes, such as ticks.

    As I’ve mentioned, Deb and I have been looking for a suitable place to make a farm and eventually retire to. The one thing all of the properties we’ve visited seem to have in common are their generosity in sending us home with a few ticks. Yesterday’s venture yielded 14 or 15 between the two of us, and it’s the first place that we’ve both really gotten excited about. Still, it will be well worth it if we get to have a farm.

    Have you listened to “The Sex Lives of Cannibals” yet? If not, I think it will be good for a lot of good laughs and some fond memories from your time on Kiribati. My suggestion for the ear buds is to try to rig something with a bandana and/or your hat to get them placed near your ears, but not in them.

    I also wanted to mention that I’m so pleased to see so many mile sponsors! That was a nifty idea. For the other readers, I’ll gently point out that it takes a huge effort to do a thoughtful, well written blog post EVERY day after laboring at the oars all day long, and if you really love this blog like I do, show your thanks with a contribution. Every bit helps.

    Joan in Atlanta

    • Joan, glad you mentioned

      I bought a bunch of ’em and sprinkled them out across the ocean like a trail of carrot$ … so Roz has a carrot hunt kinda like an easter egg hunt … but the only difference is my carrot$ are an imaginary orange path leading direct to her destination … where ever that may be … SO ROZLINGS … get yourselves a bunch of mile$ with $mile$ ;-D

    • Check out Roz’s entry on the 7th of April for a comprehensive answer to that question. Worth reading!

  • Good shot of the petrel, Roz, they’re tiny little things and rarely seen. And, Rita, thanks for the contrast change and hope leg feling better. Don’t run after buses – there’s always another one along in a minute (or day).

    Just back on line after about 10 days due to move and oversight by ‘phone company. Now in new home built to our specs. Nephew, Niece and Great Nieces nearby also other animals including chickens, bobcat, deer, cougar, rattlesnakes etc. Carry revolver loaded with snakeshot when gardening.

  • Wow, Roz, you are amazing. SO much so!!!
    Are you in the Indian Ocean right now…and if so, what about the pirates there?

  • Roz, there is a known bug on a some iPods where the scroll wheel stops working, but can be fixed by resetting the unit (which does NOT erase your audio files). Maybe this will work for you.  The reset procedure is to flip the hold button to on and back to
    off, then push and hold the menu and play/pause buttons simultaneously until it resets, about 10 seconds.  On some models, it’s the menu and center/select buttons.  You may lose some settings like bookmarks and such, but your music & audio books will remain intact.  I’ve had to do this twice now to get my scroll wheel working again.  Hope it works for you!

  • Huxley wrote a lot of stuff about the enjoyment of “boredom”, so actually your iPod failing is the best thing that could happen to you … well at least in spiritual terms. But lets see, maybe this can be fixed nevertheless. There is a chance that you suffer from a software problem with the click-weel. When the buttons still work, but the click-weel don’t – you should try this:

    Shut down the ipod. Enable it again and don’t touch the click-weel now. When the ipod shows the main menu, switch the hold button to On (red marked) – but don’t touch the click wheel at any times! Wait a few minutes until the ipod goes into sleep mode. Then switch the hold button back to off and the ipod should wake up again.Still don’t touch the click-weel! Wait until it goes into sleep mode again. Now touch the selection button (the middle button)  to wake it up. The wheel might work now again. This error occurs sometimes when you touch the click wheel while switching the hold button. Good luck!

    If this fails: Go into hold mode and back to normal. Hold Menu and Selection for 6 to 10 seconds until you see the Apple Logo.

    If it fails: There are a million ways to get the Volume Level down.You could use a little resistor in your cable or attach a longer wire (5m) but the easiest way is to use your laptop and iTunes. Do you have iTunes on your laptop? I think i remember that you told about using iTunes as replacement for your iPod, right? Perfect! You can select all audio files in the notebook, go to information/preferences by right click on it. Go to options and change the Volume level of all the files. Then synchronize em all again with your ipod. I would try this with one audio file first, to find the correct volume level. If it works, use this setting on all the other files.

  • I read your post relating to the remoteness of the indian oceans where u mentioned that you were more than a 1000 miles from the Australian southwest coast (perth ??) from where u started off. I was a little surprised since i thought that you would be nearing Indonesian waters which is anything but remote.  Or did u plan to avoid the coasts and prefer to row west across open ocean and then use the monsoon winds (possibly reinforced by the winds from the Antarctic) to get to mumbai with relatively less effort ?

    Wish u all the best once again !!

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