The Slow Boat to Hawaii

Imagine that you are sitting under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and you wanted to go to Hawaii. Most people would fly between the 2 places which are around 2400 miles or 3800 kilometres apart. Depending on if you get a direct flight, you can be touching down in Hawaii about 5 hours and 20 minutes flying time. However, if you can’t get on a direct flight, you could be looking between 8 and 12 hours with a change of plane and some time in a transit lounge.

That is what most people would do. When I was looking around the iTunes store for more podcasts to listen to, I found another podcast hosted by the TWiT (This Week in Tech) network host Leo Laporte called “Roz Rows Across the Pacific.”

Who in their right mind row across the Pacific Ocean? It turns out that one woman in her right mind would and the woman’s name is Roz Savage, a 40 year old English woman. Apart from the adventure and the endurance involved, the mission is to increase environmental awareness. Not surprisingly, this includes the effect that people’s actions have on the oceans of the world. Her aim is to be the first woman to row solo across the Pacific Ocean. This follows her successful rowing across the Atlantic Ocean in 103 days in 2005/2006. She left San Francisco just before midnight on 24 May 2008 with the next planned stop in Hawaii.

Over the next week of me listening to the podcast, I heard Roz talk with Leo which in real time was 3 times a week via satellite phone. During the time, I learnt more about the trip that Roz is undertaking. Each Saturday turned into Question Day where apart from the questions from Leo (which occur on all episodes), people who are following the adventure could ask questions of their own. Because I only started listening to the podcast about a week ago, I was able to catch up having started listening well after Roz’s departure. In some respects, I didn’t get the real effect of listening to the podcast 3 times a week or being able to listen live via TWiT. So I knew that because I still had some episodes to listen to, I knew that Roz was OK for a period of time rather than have to wait a few days for the next episode. Having said that, I was keen to listen and find out about the various trials and tribulations that one would surely have while rowing in the ocean solo.

Each episode runs between 20 and 40 minutes and surprisingly, the quality of the audio from the ocean end is quite good considering that a satellite phone is being used. On some occasions the audio at Roz’s end is understandably not easy to listen to. In the beginning of the podcast, Leo was calling Roz for about the first 20 or so episodes until Leo realised that calling a boat in the middle of the ocean was expensive. It was actually cheaper for Roz to call Leo.

In addition to talking to her support team (her mum and her weather guy) and Leo, Roz blogged daily about her trip including video and photos which is no mean feat considering that after all, she was in the middle of the ocean. But what else do you do when you are rowing in the ocean and you only have yourself and the occasional phone call for company? Apart from many hours of rowing, boat and equipment upkeep, blogging and more, Roz had 3 iPods full of music, podcasts and audio books (if you listen to the podcast, you’ll know the source of the audio books!) to listen to. Needless to say, audio books are a lot more convenient on the open ocean than paper books.

So, did Roz make it to Hawaii? She sure did! After 99 days on Monday 1 September, Roz paddled into Hawaii which marked the completion of stage 1 of her trip across the Pacific. Stage 1, I hear you ask? That’s right, there is more to this mission than rowing solo to Hawaii. While she is in no rush and there is no time to beat, the prize of first woman to row across the Pacific Ocean is still up for grabs. After a much needed rest, Roz has a busy time before starting stage 2. Before she sets off for stage 2, the boat needs to be cleaned, repaired and restocked, sponsorship needs to be locked in and a book needs to be written.

Stage 2 will be in 2009 (subject to locking in sponsorship) from Hawaii to the small Pacific island nation of Tuvalu. Tuvalu is only 26 square kilometres in area and the main links for sea or air transport is via Fiji. Interestingly, Tuvalu is halfway between Hawaii and Australia and the currency of Tuvalu is the Australian dollar!

Stage 3 is planned for 2010 and the current plan is for Roz to row from Tuvalu to Cairns which in Far North Queensland and is the closest main Australian mainland port from that area of the Pacific Ocean. If Roz does make it to Australia in 2010, that means that according to her current plan she would have rowed 7268 miles or 11 696 kilometres from San Francisco to Cairns.

Needless to say, that is going to be a long voyage. The podcast and Roz’s official website is well worth a listen if you are interested in rowing (that goes without saying!), people doing super human feats,  ocean based travel and adventure. Even with now knowing the results of stage 1, I still want to listen to the final episodes to conclude the voyage. And with stages 2 & 3, these stages are planned to be podcast as well in the future.

[Roz Savage’s Official Website]

[Roz Rows Across the Pacific – TWiT podcast site]

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