Roz Savage Attempts to Row the PacificAfter successfully paddling the Atlantic Ocean alone, she sets her sights on bigger, wilder waters.
Text by Ryan Bradley Photograph courtesy Roz Savage
Roz Savage battles the waves midway through her Atlantic paddle in 2006. Savage is about to launch a bid to become the first woman to row across the Pacific alone.
UPDATE: August 13, 2007
Roz Savage launched her boat, the Brocade, Sunday, August 12, at 7:00 a.m. PST, from Point Saint George in Crescent City, California.
August 2, 2007
The storyline runs a lot like something out of a romantic comedy: girl grows up, gets the job, the man, the big house, all the things she thought she wanted, yet is unhappy. So she quits her job, leaves her husband, the big house, the manicured lawn ... the perfect life.
Then she makes an epic decision: to row across the Atlantic Ocean. During the voyage, her oars break, her satellite phone stops functioning, she moves painfully slowly and records troubled, depressed messages into a video camera. But after a grueling 103 days, Savage completed her row across the Atlantic when she hit the coast of Antigua on March 13, 2006.
Now, she's rowing the Pacific, or will be, in a matter of days. Savage is waiting for the waves pounding the Northern California coastline to abate just long enough to launch her row some 7,000 miles (11,265 kilometers) over three years across the world's largest ocean. If she is successful, she'll be the first woman to row solo across the Pacific from North America to Australia.
Adventure caught up with the indomitable Savage, 39, to talk about dealing with sea sickness, picking the right oars, and how a lack of phone access can lead to personal tranquility—even alone at sea.
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How are your preparations going?
Roz Savage: There's a problem with the water-maker and the boat had to go back [for repairs] yesterday. We've lost a third of the working day today, and it looks really unlikely that we'll be ready [to depart] tomorrow night.
What's so particular about tomorrow night?
Savage: There will be a period of calmer wind, so I can hopefully get away from the shore safely. Probably the first 200 and last 200 miles [322 kilometers] of the crossing are the most hazardous. The bit in between is relatively O.K., because ocean rowboats are best designed for being in the middle of the ocean. Due to the size of my boat relative to my own power, I'm very, very vulnerable to wind. On the California coast, the winds are trying to blow me back on shore, and I'm trying to avoid that.
Will you have to paddle longer hours than normal?
Savage: Yeah, it will be pretty brutal at the start. I'll have to put in long hours, but the beginning will be pretty bad anyway because I'll probably be seasick.
Really? Even after months in your rowboat on the Atlantic?
Savage: It always takes a few days to adjust. It's a very small boat [24 feet or 7.3 meters] and the motion is pretty extreme.
You've said during your Atlantic crossing you "learned how not to row an ocean."
Savage: On the practical side, I'm not taking carbon-fiber oars. Last time all the oars broke; wood this time around. More on the psychological side: this time around I'm taking one mile at a time. I scared myself last time because I was moving so slowly. I was going at less than walking speed, and had tendonitis in my back. I got better at it toward the end. I was much more Zen, taking things as they were, rather than building up hopes, expectations, or fears.
Is your mind at that state now, or does it take being in the middle of a very big ocean to get there?
Savage: I've taken this setback with the water-maker pretty well. I do find it a lot easier to be relaxed on dry land than I do in the ocean. It will be interesting to see if my Zen-calm survives once I get out to sea.
Is there anything you're looking forward to about the trip?
Savage: My initial memory of the Atlantic was that it was totally miserable from start to finish. But in revisiting it, I realized there were times of complete serenity. Paradoxically the best time for me out there was after my satellite phone broke. The weather forecast would make me either really optimistic or really despondent—and nine times out of ten the weather forecast would be wrong anyway. So when I didn't have access, I just was happy for a new day.
Interviewer's Note: There is a pause here, as Roz examines her photo in the San Francisco Chronicle and yelps.
Savage: I hate photographs of myself at the moment—I lost 30 pounds [14 kilograms] when I was on the Atlantic and so I've deliberately bulked up for this row. And when I look at photos of myself now, all I can see is this chubby middle-aged woman.
I read on your Web site that you wrote two versions of your obituary and that's why you gave up your "perfect life" ...
Savage: Looking back now, at how far I've come in the five years since I did that exercise, I have to admit I am quite pleased with the way that things are going. I'm now much more on track for the obituary I wanted.
So rowing oceans is your ticket to a more fulfilling life?
Savage: When I wrote those obituaries, I was trying to figure out what was going to work for me. I sincerely hope I'm not rowing oceans for the rest of my life. I'd like to move on to a different phase when the time is right, but for now, this is absolutely helping me meet my objectives.
Get updates on Roz Savage's progress at www.rozsavage.com.
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