To herald the publication of my next book, Stop Drifting, Start Rowing: One Woman’s Search for Happiness and Meaning Alone on the Pacific, I am revisiting some of my blogs from the Pacific crossing, adding a postscript either with additional details or a kind of “if I’d known then what I know now….” comment.

Day 7: Land Looming Large Again

Roz Savage
18 Aug 2007, The Brocade

A container ship, a bit too close for comfort.

There is a distinct air of uneasiness hanging over the Brocade tonight. The wind has been pushing me east, so that I am now back to the same line of longitude that I crossed last Tuesday. I have made fair progress south, but that matters little to me right now. What does matter is that I can see land looming again, about 40 miles to the east, and this makes me anxious.

[Comment: To put it mildly! 40 miles might sound like a lot of room for manoeuvre, but if wind and/or currents are pushing you that way, land can loom large awfully fast. I’ve never actually shipwrecked, but believe me, when you’re in an unpowered rowboat, you’re definitely much happier when there’s no visible land to bump into.]

All day today I have battled to make progress into a headwind, trying to increase the safety margin between me and the California coast. At times I was rowing hard just to stand still. My speed over ground (as opposed to speed through the water) varied between 1 knot at best, and negative distance at worst, i.e. even though I was rowing west, the wind and the current were more than counteracting my efforts. It has been like trying to go the wrong way on a moving walkway – a very long moving walkway.

[Comment: this situation is the bane of an ocean rower’s life – rowing hard and going nowhere. No matter how slowly you run – or walk – a marathon, at least the ground doesn’t start carrying you backwards!]

I’ve now put out the sea anchor, in the hope that it can prevent too much more eastwards drift overnight. I am exhausted with rowing and need a break.

Even more worrying, strong winds and large waves are forecast for tomorrow morning. The weather front is due to pass quickly – hopefully before it sweeps me ashore. Compared with this threat, even this morning’s close shave with a container ship (see photo) has paled into insignificance.

[I’ve just been looking at the 36 comments that were posted on that day back in 2007. What wonderful words of wisdom, understanding, sympathy and encouragement. You can view them here in x-journal, the blogging tool I was using at the time. It’s hard to describe just how much strength I have drawn from my online audience over the years. Just amazing!]

Featured photo: In San Francisco before my launch, with Mike Klayko, then CEO of Brocade, my title sponsors. I saw Mike again earlier this year in San Jose, just a few weeks after he stepped down as CEO. We caught up on old times over a martini (or was it two?!).


  • It’s times like this I think it would have bee3n a good idea to keep a log (diary) myself! Looking forward to the book, Roz. Party hearty 😉

  • i am about to embark on a long bicycle trip, heavily loaded and over some substantial mountains…reading this makes me realize how easy i have it, for no matter how difficult a hill or headwind, i will still be moving in the direction i want to go. i will be thinking of your challenges as i ride and draw strength from your experience. thanx for sharing Roz.

    • Very best of luck with your bicycle trip! Where are you going? Be safe, and watch out for those big trucks – at least I didn’t have to worry about those!

      • thanx Roz, I am leaving from Lake Elsinore, which is south and east of LA, heading for the coast and going north with no particular destination. I am looking for a new home base on this trip. My bike is outfitted with an easel and oil paints and i will be painting along the way and carrying 20 or so finished paintings. I am not taking the micro gypsy wagon on this trip. I also build tiny dwellings that move and want to get a shop set up again and build some full size gypsy caravans. If you want to see what I just finished you can see an album of my bicycle powered gypsy caravan here:
        I followed your journey across the Pacific by Google Earth. Somehow I managed to miss following your Indian Ocean trip, I was caught up in something at the time, but after looking at the currents there it seemed to me you didn’t have much wiggle room for staying in the sweet spot on that trip. Is there a journal of your Indian Ocean trip somewhere online? I have drawn tremendous inspiration and courage from your life choices and your story. I know you did your trips to bring awareness to ocean pollution, and I know what an important issue that is, but I actually feel that what you’ve done to inspire others to examine the life they live is even more powerful than that. Thank you for being you.

  • Hi Roz
    I am just home from Bantry! I really enjoyed your presentation and was so inspired by your sense of self.
    Have you found the new meaning for going forward- busy working on this myself as I approach 60 and life is changing, quite excited about this time in life.
    I will drop in see what you’re doing next and God Bless with your life and work

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Rose. I hope you’ll keep me updated as you define your own journey. It’s great to hear that you are looking to the future with a sense of excitement. Wishing you all the very best.

  • Roz, this was a foreshadowing of “drunken spider” episodes soon after your launches from Honolulu and Fremantle. You kept me on the edge of my chair for days as you struggled with the winds and the currents, and persevered with steadfast efforts.

    This also describes how I feel regarding attempts to begin reducing greenhouse gases: “At times I was rowing hard just to stand still. … It has been like trying to go the wrong way on a moving walkway – a very long moving walkway.” The urgency that you felt then was a foreshadowing of the urgency humanity faces to seriously shift corporate capital investments from expanding carbon-based fuels to accelerated deployment of carbon-free energy technologies.

    In my travels, I have seen many surprisingly large installations of wind and solar energy facilities — 140′ long wind turbine blades are conspicuous on highways across the US. Specifically, Scandinavia and Germany are role models, and China is about to show the US up in the next couple years.

    But, this morning I learned that Australia is taking a giant step backward with its carbon tax in the wake of the EU’s failed carbon market. Somehow, humanity needs to find a way to “put out the sea anchor, in the hope that it can prevent too much more eastwards drift” to use your words — we need to stop slipping back to business as usual. Your persistence reminds me that we all need to have the same persistence.

    • I like your use of metaphor, Doug! I agree – we really do need to put out that sea anchor (although if we had a REALLY long anchor chain I’d rather hard-anchor to the ocean floor!) and think about which way we want to go. Seems to me that the destination we’re heading for right now is no place I want to go….

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