Why would anyone choose to row across the Atlantic ocean in a small boat?

The stated reason for the voyage of Atlantic Wholff was to recreate the transatlantic journey of Christopher Columbus, except that this modern day adventurer made his trip solo in a rowboat.  Hence the name of his web site: www.columbusrun.com.

There was a time when the thought of such a voyage was incomprehensible to me, the same way it is to most people who live on land.  But after sailing around the world on my own small catamaran, I can begin to understand why people undertake such a voyage.


Some sailors make this type of trip as a method to raise money for charity.  Others do it because they are in a race.  While we were sailing across the Atlantic in our catamaran, there were dozens of rowboats north of us engaged in a transatlantic race for fortune and glory.


Strong-minded mariners row transatlantic for the same reasons that mountaineers climb mountains.  They like a good stiff challenge, and moments of adversity bring out the best in them.  They have excellent organizational skills, they are goal oriented, and self-discipline runs strong in their veins.  They have high energy levels, and when their energy wanes, their personal endurance shines through and saves the day.  They also like the immediate feedback provided by such a voyage.  When they do things right, their life is good, and when they make a mistake, the feedback loop is short indeed, and they act immediately to correct the error before the sea punishes them for their oversight.  They like being outdoors in the wide open spaces.  They connect with the sea, porpoises, fish, whales and sea turtles in their watery domain.  Although they live in a small rowboat, their world extends in all directions all the way to the horizon.  That is their domain, and in it they are the masters of their fate and captains of their soul.


Now that the whys are out of the way, let's focus on the hows of making a transatlantic voyage in a rowboat.

Transatlantic rowboats are actually lifeboats propelled by people power.  If you have a strong back and an even stronger will to get you through moments of adversity, you probably have what it takes to make the trip.

Modern transoceanic rowboats are different from those you find on lakes and streams.  These boats are sleek vessels powered by carbon fiber oars, and they carry modern equipment that makes a transatlantic voyage into more of an endurance contest rather than an exercise in survival.


The rowboats have small cuddy cabins at each end of the vessel.  These tiny watertight cabins render the boat unsinkable unless there is a massive boat splintering collision with a ship or whales.  The small cabins create a place to store food and water, and in inclement weather, it's possible to curl up and sleep in the largest of the cabins.  It might not be comfortable, but at least it would be dry.

Modern rowboats may not have many amenities, but they still are high tech.  Atlantic Wholff has two ways to generate electricity.  There are solar panels mounted on top of the largest cabin, and on sunny days, the solar panels top up the batteries.  An Aerogen windgenerator - windmill - provides massive amounts of electrical power when the rowboat is in the trade winds.  On my own yacht, I have two Aerogen wind generators that provide in excess of two-hundred amp hours of electricity each day when the trade winds are blowing.  The wind generator and solar panels combined should easily maintain a hundred amp hour battery in a nearly fully charged state.  There should be plenty of power for GPS, reading lights, navigation lights, radios, satellite phone, and boat position transponder.

On top of the cabin, there is an antenna for a SeaMe beacon that sends out a radio signal to big ships so they know that a tiny and nearly invisible rowboat is out there somewhere.  Although ships keep a watch both day and night, it's highly unlikely they will spot you from the bridge where they stand watch.  You are just too small to be noticed by monster ships unless you shoot off a parachute flare or deploy a smoke signal.  That's why the SeaMe beacon is so valuable.  Ships not only know you are there, they also know where you are relative to their direction of travel.  As long as they are not asleep on the bridge, it's unlikely they will run you down.


You can significantly increase your margin of safety by installing a Collision Avoidance Radar Detector which is similar to the radar detector in your car.  When a ship  paints you with his radar signal, it activates an alarm and lets you know he is there.  You have to sleep sometime, and the radar detector alarm will wake you up if a ship comes too close.

Rowboats carry an EPIRB which is an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon.  If you turn on the EPIRB, it sends a signal to a satellite, and within two minutes, the search and rescue authorities in the USA know that you have an emergency, and more importantly, they know your position out in the Atlantic.  They will transmit your latitude and longitude to the nearest ship in your area so it can rescue you.  Although your transatlantic rowing adventure will be over, you will survive to row another day. 


A watermaker is essential equipment for a transatlantic journey.  It would be difficult to carry enough water for a three month trip.  Now there are reverse osmosis watermakers that can be pumped by hand to make an unlimited supply of fresh water.  Some rowboats attach the piston of the watermaker pump to the sliding seat of the rowboat.  When you row the boat, the seat slides back and forth, activating the pump and filling your water tanks with fresh water.


Carrying enough food on board is a real problem.  Large quantities of food are heavy and food storage takes up valuable space.  It's difficult to carry enough food for such a long voyage - you certainly won't be eating three hot meals a day with fresh fruit and veggies on a trip like this.  Your rations are more likely to be basic, compact, and simple to prepare.  A rowboat has a violent motion in rough seas, and if you are in bad weather, you may not have a hot meal or hot drink for several days.  It's possible to catch a limited number of fish for food, but you can't depend on fishing as a reliable source of protein.  Most rowboats move at too slow of a speed to easily catch mahi mahi and other pelagic fish.

How long does it take to row a boat transatlantic?  That depends on the weather, the currents, and how much rowing you do.  If the currents are with you, it takes less time, and if the currents are against you, it takes longer.  If the the winds are against you, you may go backwards and lose ground each day.  If the winds are with you, your boat may drift downwind twenty-five to fifty miles each day without lifting an oar..  And if you are caught in tropical storms, you may not go anywhere for days at a time.  Rowers who are lucky with a favorable current and trade winds at their back can make the trip in as little as two months.  Those with bad luck can take three or four months to cover the same distance..


Rowing across the Atlantic isn't for everyone, and neither is sailing around the world on a yacht.  But for the right person with the right attitude, it's a dream come true.



Log 1 Peter Pan Around the World
Log 2 Weapons of Mackerel Destruction
Log 3 Pirates of the Malacca Straits
Log 4 Kissing Cobras
Log 5 Debriosaurus Rex
Log 6 Go Ahead - Live Your Dreams

Log 7 The Man Who Built His House on a Rock
Log 8 Ambivalent Eagles
Log 9 One-Shovel Full at a Time
Log 10 Hitchhiker's Guide to Planet Earth

Log 11 Keeshond

Log 12 The Red Sea Blues

Log 13 Feel the Freedom

Log 14 The Danger Zone

Log 15 Lucky Man
Log 16 Dream Machines - Land Rover Defenders

Log 17 Trade Wind Dreams
Log 18 Logs With Fins
Log 19 Everywhere, Everything
Log 20 Shark Slayer Is History

Log 21 Viking Funeral - Burial at Sea
Log 22 Improbable and Impossible

Log 23 Keep on Trucking
Log 24 Dream Machines II
Log 25 Bodysurfing Whales
Log 26 Hitting the Wall
Log 27 Surviving the Savage Seas

Log 28 The Next Step
Log 29 Welcome to Barbados
Log 30 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers
Log 31 The Man with the Unplan
Log 32 Dali Dolphins
Log 33 Flying Like a Turtle
Log 34 The Foolish Man Built His House on a Pitch Lake
Log 35 Go West Young Man
Log 36 Crossing the Atlantic in a Row Boat
Log 37 The Unsinkable HMS Diamond Rock
Log 38 Catamaran Capsize in 170 mph Winds
Log 39 When Are You Coming Home?

Log 40 Master and Commander of Anegada - Frigate Birds
Log 41 Baths of Virgin Gorda - Batholiths of Central Arabia

Log 42 Free at Last
Log 43 Stalking the Wild Manatee

Log 44 Spreaderman
Log 45 Attack of the Flesh Eating Bees
Log 46 Sharks and Coconuts
Log 47 Stingray Picnic
Log 48 Boo Boo Hill
Log 49 Whale Slayers
Log 50 Noddies (Not Naughty)


Log 51 Exumas Land and Sea Park
Log 52 David and Goliath
Log 53 Turquoise Clouds of Paradise

Log 54 Momma Nightjar
Log 55 Maximillian The Great
Log 56 Chiton Kingdom
Log 57 Flying and Holding On
Log 58 Far Horizons
Log 59 Clouds Are a Sailor's Friend
Log 60 Getting Connected
Log 61 Fear
Log 62 Grand Schemes and Other Important Things
Log 63 If Jellyfish Had a Brain
Log 64 Cousins That Don't Kiss
Log 65 Swimming With Sharks
Log 66 Perfect the Way You Are
Log 67 Space Travelers
Log 68 Aliens
Log 69 Monsters of the Mind
Log 70 My Butterfly Collection
Log 71 Somewhere Other Than Here Societies
Log 72 Five-Hundred Pound Spiders
Log 73 Red Sea Sunsets
Log 74 Gibraltar Sunrise
Log 75 Big Sea - Small Ship
Log 76 Just Cruising
Log 77 Castle Mania
Log 78 You Must Know the Sea
Log 79 Flying Like a Goat
Log 80 The Joy of Photography
Log 81 Universal Camouflage
Log 82 My Rainbow Collection
Log 83 Indian Ocean Reward
Log 84 Fiber W
Log 85 Turkish Reflections
Log 86 Mirrors and Mirages
Log 87 Lycean Tombs Rock
Log 88 Rigging Emergency
Log 89 Pamukkale
Log 90 Volcano Land
Log 91 Sniffing the Air
Log 92 Why I Don't Kite Surf
Log 93 Resurrecting Exit Only in Turkey
Log 94 Greased Pole Competition
Log 95 Tsunami Damage
Log 96 Afraid of Living
Log 97 Living on the Edge
Log 98 Borneo Adventure
Log 99 Uligamu Tree Tender with Full Benefits
Log 100 God's Fireworks Display

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