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The Rower: Roz Savage

Roz Savage solo rowed the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans—the first woman ever to do so.

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Before she rowed across two oceans, Roz Savage was a management consultant, working 14-hour days in London. “There has to be something more adventurous,” she thought. “I’m not getting any younger. Why not get on with it?” So she did. In 2005, Savage paddled the Atlantic in 103 days, battling several storms in one of the worst seas on record. This year, paddling to increase awareness of the ocean’s plight and show the extraordinary impact one person can have when they set their mind to something, the 42-year-old completed an 8,000-mile, three-part row across the Pacific. After 250 days and 2.5 million oarstrokes, she reached Madang, Papua New Guinea, on June 3, becoming the first woman ever to solo row across the largest ocean in the world. In 2011, Savage will set out to row 5,000 miles across the Indian Ocean.

—By Ryan Bradley

By Roz Savage

The Power of Accumulation
I’m not a naturally patient person, so it’s been tough crossing oceans at around two miles an hour. But it was a great lesson for me to learn, that you can achieve almost anything if you just keep chipping away at it and keep your bows pointed in the right direction.

Onboard Navigation
I keep hoping that there’s going to be a simplicity to the ocean, but there’s always a weather issue, or weird currents—around the Equator, they kept sending me backward. And something onboard is always breaking: cameras, my water maker, GPS. But it’s amazing how resourceful you can be when you’re in the middle of an ocean. I used the TomTom out of my car to navigate the first leg. And I fixed the oars with duct tape and the wheel axles off my spare rowing seat.

Dinner Guests
Trying to get away from the California coast was challenging, to say the least. My first attempt ended in three capsizes in 24 hours. When I finally did break free, my water maker broke. I ended up meeting Dr. Marcus Eriksen, of Algalita Marine Research Foundation, and filmmaker Joel Paschal on their JUNK raft in the North Pacific Garbage Patch, a few hundred miles east of Hawaii. They were running out of food. We met, exchanged commodities. Joel harpooned a mahi mahi, and we had one of the world’s more unusual dinner parties.

Just Another Animal
Being alone on the ocean makes you very aware that you’re just another animal. The ocean doesn’t give you any privileges because you’re human. I get really excited when I see wildlife out there—turtles and whales are especially friendly and come over to check me out. I was on the ocean during the BP oil spill and I felt like I should apologize to them.

End and New Beginnings
At the end of the Pacific row I landed in Madang in Papua New Guinea. The welcome was just incredible. About five thousand people came down to the waterfront to greet me, including a load of people in traditional dugout canoes. But it seems strange to me when people congratulate me on the Pacific record. To me it’s like, well, I haven’t saved the world from environmental disaster yet, so there’s still lots of work to be done.

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