Archive for category rowing

Roz Savage Rows Oceans Solo For Adventure and Awareness


“I don’t have a bean…But my life now is one long adventure. Instead of waking up and knowing what will happen today, I have no idea what that could be. I don’t own designer clothes, or a sports car, or a huge house, but I am seeing the world, experiencing amazing things, and I have become an environmental campaigner.”

I bumped into Roz Savage during her radio interview. She is the first woman to row solo across three oceans: Atlantic, Pacific, Indian. She has a 23-foot rowboat. Most interestingly to me is that she was a successful management consultant, married, affluent…but something was missing. So she started rowing and bringing more awareness about the environment. The video above is more a pitch to take care of the planet, but she points out that she rowed 15,000 miles with 5 million oar strokes…one stroke at a time…and we can make a difference one decision at at a time. Not sure I agree with her strategy for stopping corporate and national pollution, but it’s her story and passion. You can read some of her advice here about how to live your own life. She is very supportive in helping people make changes they are afraid of. Here are some of her suggestions:

Don’t waste mental energy asking yourself if you CAN do something. Just do it. You’ll surprise yourself. I did.

Be clear about your objectives. Ignore others, stay true to yourself and measure success only against your own criteria. I was last to finish the race – big deal. I went out there to learn about myself, and I did.

The only constant in life is change. So don’t get depressed by the bad times, and don’t get over-excited by good ones. Accept that things are exactly as they are, and even bad times have something to teach us.

You used to be a management consultant. Why the change?

“I’ve been fortunate enough to find out through personal experience that money and material possessions don’t make you happy. I used to think that they would, but instead found that the materialistic lifestyle left me feeling empty and unfulfilled.

Roz starts rowing to Hawaii

Roz starts rowing to Hawaii

I did an interesting exercise one day – I sat down and wrote two versions of my obituary. The first was the one I was heading for if I carried on in my present lifestyle, and the other was the one I dreamed of having. They were very different.

So it was time for a change. I didn’t want to get to the end of my life and look back with regret on all the things I hadn’t done. It was time to stop dreaming, and start doing.”

Isn’t it dangerous?

To an extent – anything to do with the ocean is dangerous. But equally I could get on the London Underground and get blown up, or go to cross the street and get hit by a bus. You can’t wrap yourself in cotton wool if you want to really live life. And I do all I can to reduce the risks. And I seem to go into a different mindset when I am on the ocean. I am extra-vigilant, and more sensible and practical than on dry land. I’m very aware that when you’re on your own in the middle of an ocean, there are no second chances.

You can read more about her here and here.

On the youtube page that showed this different, earlier video below, Roz disclosed that she rows completely naked, except for her baseball cap. No fear of sunburn and skin damage either. What a woman!

thumpaholden:

I DO understand the environmental issues Roz is promoting (I’ve worked in environmental policy)… so I’m a tad embarrassed to be asking this trivial question: Roz, While rowing, you are always wearing singlet-tops. Aren’t you worried about getting skin cancer? Sunscreen can only protect you to a certain extent – especially when you’re sweating.

Roz Savage in reply to thumpaholden:

Thanks for your concern! I use organic sun cream to protect my skin. Actually I don’t usually wear even a singlet top – I’m usually wearing nothing but a baseball cap, but I put clothes on for filming!

Icreatemore:

You are entering my life just at the right time…I have 8 summers left, doing a lot of self awareness work and at 64 still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Roz Savage:

So why don’t you break free? It might not be as hard as you think–and once you get to the other side, life can be amazing!!

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Sculling at Versailles

Sculling on the lake at Versailles Palace, France

Sculling on the lake at Versailles Palace, France

I finally made it to the rural palace of Versailles lived in by the French Kings from 1682 to 1789. Lots of excess and fantastic gardens. The half-mile rectangular lakes—too big to be called ponds—are tree-lined with elegance. So imagine how delighted I was to be there at the end of the day, after most tourists have departed, and to see students practicing their rowing skills. Who’d have imagined the bureaucrats would allow such a sacrilege. I thought it was quite serene and beautiful…

a half-mile rowing track at the gardens of Versailles

a half-mile rowing track at the gardens of Versailles

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Rower/Adventurer John Fairfax Battled Raw And Primitive Nature

John in Britannia, in which he became the first person to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Here is an amazing story about a man who was clearly NOT ordinary. But what an inspiration. John Fairfax, a British journalist and adventurer, just died February 8th at age 74. He is best known for being the first person to row solo across the Atlantic and (with Sylvia Cook) to row first across the Pacific ocean.

Among the highlights in his life:

* Ended his Italian Boy Scouting career with a pistol rampage at age 9
* Went to live in the Argentine jungle “like Tarzan” at age 13
* Lived as a pirate and gun smuggler
* Gave up piracy to appease his mother, and farmed minks for a while instead
* In 1969, rowed solo across the Atlantic (“battling storms, sharks and encroaching madness”), and received a congratulatory letter from the crew of Apollo 11
* In 1971, rowed from San Francisco to Hayman Island, Australia with Sylvia Cook, whom he met via a personal ad
* Bitten by a shark during the Pacific trip
* Attempted suicide by letting a jaguar attack him
* Lived in later years as a professional Baccarat player

This video of John just after he made it to Hollywood Beach, Florida in 1969 at age 32 records his description (starts at 8:15) of the white, mankiller shark attack (he was in the water scraping the bottom of his boat) and how he defended himself with a knife. Earlier he says how he is “a lone wolf…a happy guy, and therefore I don’t have any problems…I never thought I wouldn’t make it…It was a little harder than I thought, but I never give up.”

Mr. Fairfax was often asked why he chose a rowboat to challenge two roiling oceans. “Almost anybody with a little bit of know-how can sail…I’m after a battle with nature, primitive and raw.”

The row took 180 days. Upon completion of his row he received a message of congratulations from the crew of Apollo 11 who had walked on the moon the day after he had completed his voyage. In their letter the crew stated:

“Yours, however, was the accomplishment of one resourceful individual, while ours depended upon the help of thousands of dedicated workers in the United States and all over the world. As fellow explorers, we salute you on this great occasion.”

Fairfax used two different custom-made boats on the ocean journeys, and he used the stars to help him navigate. He survived by eating up to eight pounds of fish a day. He had a system to convert ocean water into drinking water.

“On the Pacific, a shark took a big chunk of his arm out” when he was spearing fish, said Tiffany Fairfax, his wife of 31 years. “There you are on the Pacific Ocean and there’s no hospital, and you need to row. He was an amazing, amazing human being.”

“He believed a human could accomplish anything if they had confidence,” she said. “When he would get an idea in mind, he would pursue it and say, `I can do it.'”

Fairfax remained lifelong friends with Sylvia Cook, 73, his rowing partner across the Pacific who lives near London.

John Fairfax and his girlfriend, Sylvia Cook, made history in 1972 when they became the first known people to cross the Pacific Ocean by rowboat.

This link to the Ocean Rowing Society contains excerpts from a book beginning in 1966, when John is seeking support for the first solo trip across the Atlantic, as well as selected journal entries during his historic voyage. Also included are details of his early years as a boy.

While seeking people to help plan his first transoceanic trip, he met Sylvia Cook, a secretary who became his girlfriend and fellow traveler on his two-person expedition.

“The only reason I am doing it is because it is the hardest way to cross the Pacific,” Fairfax told The Times in 1971. “This is the Everest of the sea.”

They set out in another custom-made rowboat, the Britannia II, in April 1971 and endured fierce storms and a cyclone that knocked out their ability to communicate for the final two months of the trip. Unable to swim, Cook spent much of the trip lashed to the boat.

“Had Been Feared Drowned” a Times headline declared when they arrived 363 days later at Hayman Island, Australia. Both appeared to be in good physical shape, but Fairfax had a deep gash on his arm caused by a shark bite while he was spearing fish.

John and Sylvia

After his second historic voyage, he declared: “It was a miserable journey. I don’t care if I never touch another oar.”

Here are excerpts from the New York Times obit by Margalit Fox:

…For all its bravura, Mr. Fairfax’s seafaring almost pales beside his earlier ventures. Footloose and handsome, he was a flesh-and-blood character out of Graham Greene, with more than a dash of Hemingway and Ian Fleming shaken in… Read the rest of this entry »

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Sports/Exercise Report

March ended up being an exhausting month of activity: 21 days total of sports and gym time and four crunch sessions. This compares with records of 25 physically active days in November and nine crunch sessions in December. I did increase to 750 ball crunches twice, up from 550 in February, but below my record 1050 in January. I think the two weeks of vacation travel with restaurant meals was unsettling and used up exercise opportunities. I can’t yet play tennis on a plane.

The three draining days of downhill skiing (one of those on moguls) wore me out for the last two weeks. The week I returned home, I played squash and tennis 9 out of 10 days. I was tired. For the month I played tennis 13 days and 27.5 hours (record is 16 days and 41 3/4 hours), squash two days and 2 hours (record is 8 days and 7.5 hours), made it to the gym four times (just 2 hours), rowed 4 times and went to one Zumba class.

The last day I played tennis on the 29th, I was terrible…lots of unforced errors. Somehow I just couldn’t make it easily through 3 1/2 hours of tennis, when in previous months I was able to last for 4 1/2 to 5 hours. Maybe I will be recharged after my 69th birthday on April 5th.

How Do You Row Across An Ocean Alone When You Are Only 22?

Katie Spotz just completed a 70-day solo row across the Atlantic two weeks ago, the youngest person to ever cross an ocean in a rowboat. She is 22 and has been planning the trip from Africa to South America for two years. What an achievement, what an ordeal, what a brave journey, what an inspiration. You can read about it in this New York Times article written by Christopher Maag. Or you can go to her web site This is merely Katie’s latest athletic accomplishment. She really is not an ordinary human. One has to ask how some people become so extraordinary? Immediately below are some excerpts from the Times article.

Katie Spotz in her boat that she rowed across the Atlantic

Katie Spotz in her boat that she rowed across the Atlantic

Amazingly “…her biggest boating experience (prior to attempting the ocean crossing) consisted of a 40-mile practice row on Lake Erie that ended with her boat being pinned against a cliff by wind and waves. The boat was nearly destroyed. Many people asked Spotz how she could row across the Atlantic if she could not even row on Lake Erie.

The answer, she said, is that the biggest danger in ocean rowing besides hurricanes is coming too close to shore, where the current can overwhelm the rower and push the boat into the rocks.

…Her 19-foot yellow wooden rowboat was broadsided by 20-foot waves as she approached South America. It was a frightening ride, even though the boat was built to withstand hurricanes and 50-foot waves, said Phil Morrison, the British yacht builder who designed it…

…the voyage (was) a grueling test of endurance. Spotz developed painful calluses and rashes from rowing 8 to 10 hours a day…”

Here is some more on the story from an issue of EcoWatch published before Katie began her unbelievable rowing adventure.

Spotz plans to leave West Africa in mid-December and remain at sea from 70 to 100 days and travel 2,500 miles from Dakar, Senegal to Cayenne, French Guiana. Her 400-pound boat will be equipped with many safety measures, including a GPS tracking device, emergency beacons, water-maker, satellite phone and more.

Spotz is spending her days in Ohio working on three areas—physical, mental and ocean training. She is mixing high intensity cardio workouts with weight lifting and weekly long rows on the erg machine, and uses meditation as a form of mental preparation. Her boat is docked at the Mentor Harbor Yachting Club and she is training on Lake Erie through October, when the boat will be shipped to Africa.

Katie loves challeges

Katie loves challeges

“I love challenges, especially challenges where you push your mind over matter,” she said. “One reason I am particularly interested in ocean rowing is because it becomes a way of life. When you compete in most endurance events, you complete the event and then go back to all the comforts of home. I want a raw, inescapable challenge.”

Spotz is no stranger to challenges. In 2006, Spotz completed a 3,300-mile bike ride across America for the American Lung Association. In 2007, she went to Australia for a 62-mile ultra-marathon. And last year, she became the first person to swim the entire length of the 352-mile Allegheny River to increase awareness of the need for safe drinking water. In November 2008, Spotz also completed a 150-mile run in the Mojave and Colorado desert. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lawyer Martin Dodd Rows Daily At Lunchtime

I took up rowing about 25 years ago at the age of 32. Although the crew team recruited me heavily in college (I guess I had the build for it), I ran track and swam. I ran seriously through law school and eventually started doing triathlons, but knee surgery and a pretty stupendous bike crash got me seeking a new sport. At the time I was living right on Long Island Sound and could drop a boat in the drink right off my front yard, which I used to tell people went “all the way to Portugal.”

Leslie at about age 50—2008

Leslie at about age 50—2008

My first boat was an Alden double that was kind of sluggish but beamy, stable and fun. While I always rowed it as a single, it would comfortably accommodate a passenger, and often I’d let my girl friend row me around. On a scale of one to ten, Leslie was at least a fourteen-and-a-half, and with her at the oars in a skimpy bikini, while I lounged in the stern with Heineken in hand, I soon became the envy of many a yachtsman as we plied the waters around the Thimble Islands. “What’s that guy in the funny little boat got that I don’t?” Leslie is an accomplished actress and playwright who still lives on the shoreline. We usually get together once or twice a year and go for a row.

I have since moved inland, and, while I get out into the salt as much as I can, I do most of my rowing now on the Farmington and Connecticut Rivers, as well as some lakes in Northwest Connecticut. Currently I have two rowing boats, an Alden Star and an Appledore Peapod.

Martin in his Appledore—1995

Martin in his Appledore—1995

Named after one of the Isles of the Shoals in Southern Maine, the Appledore is an old workboat design modified for sliding seat rowing. It’s 16 feet long, 33 inches wide, and was the proudest creation of Arthur Martin who basically invented the sport of recreational rowing with the introduction of the Alden Ocean Shell in 1971. The boat has a real sharp entry, a lot of bow flare and is relatively flat amidships. She can be rowed single or double, carry a passenger and a lot of gear (yes, for old time’s sake, Leslie still rows) and handle incredibly rough conditions. Somebody rowed one around Cape Horn once, and there have been times when it’s started to blow that I would have felt more secure in the Appledore than my 23 foot powerboat.

An Alden Star (not Martin or Martin's scull)

An Alden Star (not Martin or Martin's scull)


The Star at 22 feet long and 18 inches beam is also somewhat flat bottomed but does not pound. Its most unique feature is a squared-off reverse step transom that supplies some hydrodynamic characteristics of a longer boat, as well as lift to keep you from pooping in a following sea. (Ed: pooping is when the sea comes over the stern—rear—of a vessel) This boat is also truly amazing in big waves. It’s rugged, and I have dropped it a number of times and run it into all manner of stumps, logs, lobster pot buoys and other obstacles, all without damage, although I did need to patch the transom once (an easy job) after my ex-wife ran into it with her little blue Volkswagen.

I have a high pressure, sit-down job as general counsel of a large engineering company, but my office is about five minutes from a beautiful stretch of the Farmington River. I keep the Star on a rack on my pickup truck, and most days when there is no ice, I drop it in the river at lunch time and am gone for about an hour. I row downstream to an old dam, then turn around and row upstream back to where I started. Things that seemed like problems when I started are mere bagatelles when I finish. As Arthur Martin used to say, “my boat is too small to take my cares with me.” The other day as I was loading the boat back onto the truck, I asked myself how much extra money would I take to go back to the high-rise law firm world where I couldn’t do my noontime rows. The answer was: “no amount of money in the world!”

A lot of people work out at lunch here, Read the rest of this entry »

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Dan’s Love of Sculling Covers 54 Years

(None of the photos below are of Dan or his specific boat. But they will illustrate for newcomers some aspects of this wonderful sport.)

I have been rowing sculls in the northeast since I was 14 years old. On and off, except for one break of 15 years. It’s a great sport, a non-impact kind of exercise. You’re on the water, which gives me a good feeling, and is a nice place to be. I love going so fast.

singles rowers in foreground—notice squarish, symmetrical oar shapes

singles rowers in foreground—notice squarish, symmetrical oar shapes

It’s great cardio, uses every muscle in your body. You use your legs, arms, feet and back. I’m usually in pretty good shape.

Actually it’s not just exercise. It’s a total experience, being part of nature. I don’t even mind rowing if it’s raining.

I row close by each summer, beginning in April or May as soon as the ice is out. I’m off the lake early October. I usually row four to five times a week for an hour and a half each time, so it’s about two hours total round trip. I go around 7 to 7:30 in the morning or 7 to 7:30 in the evening, when there is a beautiful sunset.

Mt. Tom Pond, where I row, is about 65 acres, and I can go about 0.9 mile per lap. I do 6 to 8 laps each session. After it is too cold to row on the water, I use my Concept 2 rowing machine. (see photo below)

before the stroke with seat near feet—notice legs bent before pulling the oars

before the stroke with seat near feet—notice legs bent before pulling the oars

A scull is a boat in which your feet are fixed in foot stretchers, and the seat moves forward and backward on wheels in a track. There are two long oars that the rower uses.

Some rowing boats have 2, 4, or 8 oars, but each rower only handles one oar. These are called “sweeps.”

racing shell—notice legs extended after finishing the stroke

racing shell—notice legs extended after finishing the stroke

I have two different boats. One is a shell (a racing scull), which is 26 feet long, 11 inches wide—pretty narrow—and weighs just 45 pounds. I use it in the warmer weather. It’s made by a company called Schoenbrod.

The other is a wherry, an English style rowboat that is sleeker than what you usually see here. It’s about 15 feet long, 30” wide and weighs about 140 pounds. I use it when the water is cold and icy. Mine is a Heritage 15 design by Little River Boat Works. Read the rest of this entry »

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