See those little dots in the top right? That's Tarawa. And all those arrows pointing northwest? That's bad news!
See those little dots in the top right? That's Tarawa. And all those arrows pointing northwest? That's bad news!

These were almost the first words that my new weatherman, Lee Bruce, uttered when we met for the first time on a Skype call last week. What he means is that the winds between Tarawa and Australia make it impossible to get from one to the other. As Australia is my stated destination, this was bad news.

I knew that I had my work cut out this year, especially as last year I’d had to make landfall in Tarawa rather than my first choice of Tuvalu. Tuvalu, which lies about 660 miles south of Tarawa, would have set me up better for this year’s row, but it was a big gamble to try and make it there. My watermaker had broken, so I had no way of generating fresh drinking water. I was living off my limited reserves of water ballast, so the potential downside of missing Tuvalu was too big a risk to ignore. Death from dehydration in mid-Pacific was not an appealing prospect.

So Tarawa it was, but as Lee so succinctly put it, this has put me in a very difficult starting position for this year.

If you look at the wind chart left, you can see the problem. Once I pass the Solomon Islands and get into the Coral Sea (the green and yellow area) the winds pick up. And they are all out of the southeast.

What this means is that while I am rowing, I will always be rowing beam-on to the waves, which is not fun. And whenever I stop rowing (for eating, sleeping, podcasting or blogging) I will be blown off course.

Me with Mick Bird in 2007, poring over charts in Dog River Coffee, Hood River
Me with Mick Bird in 2007, poring over charts in Dog River Coffee, Hood River, Oregon

But there is some good news. Sometimes, just sometimes, the wind in Tarawa comes out of the north, or even north-northwest. If I can set out into such a wind, I can make some useful southerly progress before the unhelpful southeast winds kick in again.

And other people have managed to make it. Looking at the stats, Mick Bird rowed from the Marshall Islands to Cairns via the Solomons in 1999. The Marshall Islands are west and north of Tarawa, so are an even worse starting point than mine. I’ll be seeing Mick Bird next week in Vancouver, WA, so will be interrogating him to find out just how he managed it.

Jason Lewis pedalled from Tarawa to Australia in 2000, although they had to be towed the last stretch in order to reach an official Australian port of entry. (See Solomons leg and Coral Sea Crossing in his online logbook.)

Last week I exchanged a few emails with Jason, and he had this to say: “I was considering altering course for Thursday Island in the Torres Straits to clear customs and Immigration. As I’m sure you know, Cairns is the nearest such venue to the south, and the Aussies are sticklers for mariners entering via designated ports. They will come to you if pushed, but they’ll charge you arm and a leg (Cooktown, a mere 200 miles from Cairns, would have cost something like seven grand US).”

So as if the navigational and meteorological challenges weren’t great enough, apparently there could be a financial challenge too. If I have to be towed to Cairns, that will cost me. But if I land anywhere other than at a designated port of entry, that will cost me too. And if I land up on Thursday Island, that will also have financial implications. My boat ends up in a very inconvenient place, so if I decide to go ahead and do the Indian Ocean (which is still very much under discussion, but won’t be decided until/unless I get to Australia) I would have to get my boat shipped from Thursday Island to the Australian mainland.

At the moment I have raised only $5,000 of my bare-bones budget of $20,000, let alone the $100,000 I had really hoped for. So getting clobbered for any of these extra expenses would be way beyond my means.

There are many possible scenarios. Australia, Thursday Island, Papua New Guinea… PNG would be the easiest to get to, as it lies downwind from Tarawa. That’s where Erden Eruc ended up after 331 days at sea in 2009. No doubt by then any piece of dry land looked pretty good. I’ve got nothing against PNG – but it’s not where I said I was going. And I like to deliver on my commitments as nearly as I can.

So I will try for Australia, but I wanted to manage your expectations. It’s not impossible – just nearly.

Other Stuff:

Interesting metaphor here. The further off course I go, the harder it is to get back on track. Ecologically, are we getting ourselves into a situation where we can’t get there from here?


  • “If it was easy…”
    Well now, Roz; your first leg, to Hawaï, was easy – exciting in parts – but easy going. Your second leg was a lot harder and you ended up in the wrong (unplanned) place. Logical progression suggests that leg three be the most challenging and that’s what will make it most meaningful for you. With your extensive experience and expertise it would surely be boring for it to be anything else!

    It will also be most exciting for us land-based armchair companions, so it behooves us all to do what we can by contributing a little cash to ensure that you can actually afford to do it.

    How about it, everyone? Times are hard for all of us (especially us retirees with lost pensions). For the price of a few CDs or paper-backs we can share a real life adventure with a real heroine.

  • Roz; Here’s a thought – how about rowing to Tuvalu and waiting there for suitable conditions? I’m sure the inhabitants would be happy to see you after missing you last year.

  • I vote for Japan. It’s 2764 nautical miles from Tarawa to Tokyo Bay, versus 2448 nautical miles from Tarawa to Sydney Harbour. I’ve never been to Japan, love rice, and have always wanted to spend a little time in a (Japanese) Buddhist monastery. Seriously though, I think we had this discussion last summer, during the days just before the final Tuvalu-Tarawa decision was made. My only comment then … as now … is that “We always have more options than we think we do.” It’s just a matter of allowing the mind to explore the possibilities, without too much prejudice. And sometimes, when we get off course … to keep your metaphor going … truly magical things can happen. Almost every worthwhile movie or book is about people getting lost in life, and discovering something (a destination, love, a job, riches) that is even better than was their original goal. The only thing that I ask (and I know that I don’t really have a vote here) is that you aim for something that “rhymes” well with other words. I mean, I have a difficult enough job here as it is. Oz, for example, is a great word, and rhymes with “no bras” that brings up all kinds of memories from my adolescence. 🙂 PNG, on the other hand, is much more of a challenge for a poor amateur poet such as myself. Just be assured that we will support whatever decision you end up making, or whatever destination you aim for or reach. You are the Captain of this ship, and yours (rightly) is the final decision of where to go, and how to get there. 🙂

  • Wow, Roz! This may be the most exciting bit ever! I can’t wait to see what happens if you get to the barrier reef at low tide. I was there once and the water was only to my ankles!! I’m hoping your underwater camera is working for that event. Yes, this is going to be nail-biting. -Sindy

  • Hi dearest Roz
    what a bummer re Oz customs. When I sailed all the way around Oz….and went off to PNG and around the islands there, we left from Thursday Island and arrived back in to Cairns. Thought there was customs at TI too…but perhaps not. And…when we came from PNG to Cairns, that was the only time we had the wind and waves behind us (we were sailing the ‘wrong’ way round = up the west, across the top & then down). That PNG to Cairns leg was such fun, the others couldn’t get me off the helm – I was surfing down the waves, watching the knot meter and seeing how fast I could go. Couldn’t the same kinda waves help you? Dunno my friend….and keeping the possibility space open for you. xxx Romy

  • Hey there Roz. I’m at work this morning. It is my day off but someone threw a rock through my front door and so i am here dealing with replacing the door, buying (and reprogramming) a new cash register, and working through the police and insurance people.

    i tell you this because, compared to what YOU are doing and thinking about today, this is NOTHING. But we all have things that happen to us and things that we choose to do and perhaps the way to go is to make the best decisions we can and then deal with what happens.

    From MY meager point of view, wherever YOU go, you are still an amazing inspiration to Me and it really does not matter at all where that THERE turns out to be. of course the money is huge and all that and you will do better to get to the next leg if you end this leg in one place rather than another. But i would encourage you to remove worrying about us from your list of concerns as you figure out where you will go next.

    We just support your courage. Doesn’t matter where you end up.

    (And thanks for helping me see beyond a pile of broken glass this morning.)

    With great respect,
    Laurey in Asheville

  • Thanks for your comment, Romy – you were really lucky to have a northerly wind when you were in that part of the world – but it just goes to show that nothing is impossible. Can you remember what time of year it was?

  • Following on John Kay’s comment above … sometimes, I think people get sheepish when it comes to asking for money (or being asked for money) … but heck, we here all know this third leg of Roz’s row across the Pacific AIN’T happening without it, let’s face it! Someone being the first to have the vision, coupled w/ the faith and courage to pull it off, is crucial, yes … but without the help of others embracing the same vision and stepping up … the baby don’t get born!

    So … spurred on by Roz’s post above and John Kay’s brilliant comment as well, something hit me like a bag of rocks last night: If we each (all we Rozlings and Roz’s FaceBook fans) embraced that great quote of Roz’s that I LOVE* — together we could get her across the Pacific!

    * The quote being: “One oar stroke (dollar/euro/yen/deutch mark, etc.) isn’t going to get me anywhere, but if you take a load of tiny actions (dollars/euros/yen/deutch marks, etc.) and you string them all together, you really can achieve almost anything.” — Roz Savage (The moolah part is paraphrased by me, tee, hee.)

    Any FB fans and Rozlings willing to join the “Get Roz Across the Pacific Club” (just made that up)? It’s very exclusive when one considers we’re a planet of about 6.7 billion now, and we number a mere 2200. We can each send one “oar stroke” at a time — if we are able — over at Roz’s web page by clicking that magic “Donate” button. We could save up our 7 “oar strokes” and send ’em once a week … or once every two weeks.

    How fitting would it be that the very basic principle of healing the earth that Roz’s row across the Atlantic — and now her row across the Pacific personifies — that being, each person taking little steps, one step at a time, one day at a time adds up to a HUGE difference — would be the very thing that brings in the financing she needs!

    Anyone have any good ideas of how we could send out more invitations to this exclusive club?!

    Naomi in NY

  • Thanks, Naomi. I have (again) sent emails to all my lists including the folk I know who follow Roz when she’s rowing but drop off when she’s not. If we all do that it would help.

    And although an 8 Gig flash is bigger than I really need, I’d go for one, or a 4 if that’s what you decide, Roz.

  • Thanks, Naomi, for issuing the call to action – and thanks, John, for spreading the word. If everybody could do the same, to their respective networks, this would really help. As Naomi says, if everyone can chip in just a few bucks (e.g. maybe the price of a beer/cocktail/coffee/beverage of choice), it really does all add up!

    Plus, by the same token, the more people we can get involved with my eco initiative for this year, the more beautiful we can make our world!

    I’ll be announcing the eco initiative soon. But I found out last Friday that Archinoetics have got too much on their plate at the moment to help me with the technological infrastructure. So I’m pitching around various other contacts to try and recruit the necessary resources. I can’t announce until I’ve got the infrastructure in place….

    Just another challenge on my To Do list!

  • OK, Roz…I will check your magic donate button ever week or so. Meanwhile, I am not sure a row to Japan wouldn’t be a great idea. As to the wind…I will see if I have some Pilot charts around for that area. I do have them for the N Pacific. I am sure all of your weather gurus must know when the average winds will change. Oh yes, have fun with the bright blue EuroVan…and stay somewhat safe in your ventures. Seriously

  • John and Naomi, thanks for starting this conversation. It prompted me to look back to the day I made a decision to give Roz carrot$ as an incentive to look forward (she rows backward you know). On her blog Day 75 – To Preserve For Posterity she put out an appeal for support, and she wrote these words which made think twice …

    I am
 very much looking forward to making landfall, and I’d love to be able to
 share this special moment with you.

    That statement caused me to have and epiphany, and I donated some cash to her PayPal account as though I was figuratively tossing carrot in front of her on her way to Island X … she liked the idea.

    In the next day’s blog Day 76 – Positive Thinking: An Epiphany she wrote:

    I was focused on Where I Wanted To Be. … I was moving powerfully TOWARDS an exciting new life, not AWAY from the old one.

    Well, that was all I needed to continue spreading carrot$ in front of her. So, Roz, I will continue spreading carrot$ (aka dollars) in front of you on the minute longitudinal lines. Just tick them off. Your favorite number of course: 23 carrot$ are now stretched out on the first 23 longitudinal minute lines from Tarawa in a westerly direction, just waiting for your departure in April.

  • Hey Roz, There must be a bug of some kind in your “donate” account. I tried using my credit card, but it keeps asking for “county.” This seems restricted to UK credit cards, as all counties are UK counties. I want to give you some money, but I “can’t get there from here.” I hope others have not had this problem. I do not have a pay pal account; never had the need. And never had a problem. Spent a lot of money online and off with just a credit card, though, all around the world. So, it may be worthwhile to look in to this, as you may be losing opportunities/money?

  • Rozlings, Each of you whether you are involved in rowing or not have in your area rowing clubs. There are also many local rowing related web sites and blogs related to local rowing. After meeting Roz last week I posted on each of the rowing web groups I frequent a call to assist Roz in any way possible even if it just means getting the word out. I am sure that if each of you seek out the local rowing communities in your area and ask the same it will provide huge benefits to Roz’s endeavor. In addition, this does not need to be limited to rowing groups. Spread the word on any blog you frequent. Walt@noaa

  • Roz … surprised and excited to see your tweet earlier this morning:

    Long chat with ocean rower Mick Bird. Thursday Island starting to look more desirable as destination for Pacific III.

    Not knowing that part of the world, I did a quick check on Google Earth just to see what lies between Tarawa and Thursday Island …

    In a word: LOTS. Lots of islands, so it looks like it’s going to be a slalom course much of the way … you are one gutsy rower … nail biting time has begun in earnest for me … waiting for the next shoe to drop. Go Roz, I’ll be spreading a trail of carrot$ between the islands to help guide you through ;-D

    Have you seen or considered Mick’s and Chris’ Sponsor A Mile idea? I really like it. Check it out.

  • Steve, I just used Roz’s “penpal” donation site…it works for the US but you have to enter the dollar amount you are contributing and click that box…after these 2 steps are complete, it then brings up the proper information sheet where you can enter your “state” instead of “county”…it was kind of “trial and error” before I figured it out…maybe a brief instruction line can be inserted to alert people to “step 1” before proceeding…hope this helps other “Yanks” wanting to make a donation to Roz for her next big adventure…

  • Hi, Roz! Good to hear you will be rowing again! We’ll be praying for clear skyes, fair winds and easy seas for you. May I ask if we can use translations of your blogs for our educational programs at the Perpetuo Socorro Foundation, a non profit operation in Medellin, Colombia? It runs a Rural Library near a very poor community in Colombia’s northern coast.

    We wish you very good luck and our Lord’s blessings for your dedicated effort towards a better world for our next generations.
    We truly admire you.
    Happy rowing

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