On 8th June 2018, 4 women set out for the journey of a lifetime – rowing 2,400 miles from Monterey, California to O’Ahu, Hawaii.
Those women were Emma Rogers, Mariana Cadore, Eliza Dawson and Anna Kirkin. Four fearless women prepared to take on the Pacific Ocean in their 29ft boat.
I was one of those women.
The row up to the start line was a feeling like I’ve never felt before. So much excitement and anticipation mixed with pure adventure. Nobody in my family had done this before, in fact nobody in the world had done this before in the way we were doing it; by getting to Hawaii we were setting a brand new world record. All we had to do was keep rowing.
Settling into the shift patterns was quite easy and we started rowing 3 hours on, 1 hour off. I didn’t really sleep in the hour off down to a mixture of seasickness and knowing I had to be back on the oars soon, but that didn’t seem to matter – I loved getting back out there and my body was ready to push through.
The weather took a turn for the worse so we dropped down to 2 on/ 2 off. Our average speed was around 1 knot into the wind (roughly 1 mile per hour on the water) so it was best to let the crew rest. Having 2 hours to sleep felt like luxury!
The weather worsened even more and it become too dangerous to row. We took the crew decision to deploy the para anchor and wait it out, so stuffed ourselves into our little cabins for who-knows-how-long. Our pause ended up being 48 hours stuck in air-tight cabins the size of a single bed, 2 people sharing with all of our kit. Not terribly comfortable, but Mariana and I were lucky to have a little overhang above our door so we could open it a fraction. I spent 48 hours holding a door open, shutting it as soon as it sounded like a wave would crash over us.
Most of that time was ok but there is one night that will stick in my mind because the seas were so bad it felt like we would capsize. We had so much kit with us that getting out of it without anyone being injured was unlikely.
Poseidon was kind to us that night and we didn’t capsize – instead, we rested. It took a lot of discussion to decide when it was safe to row again but we finally managed to agree and started on our way – all eager to get to Hawaii as quickly as possible.
Then, disaster stuck. Anna fainted on the oars. We had just swapped over for the first night shift so it must have been around 9pm, Eliza and I were tucked up ready to sleep and Mari and Anna had started their shift. We heard Mari calling us and knew something was wrong so threw our safety kit on and got onto deck in the howling wind. The sight of Mari standing over Anna, unconscious, will haunt me for a long time.
In those situations you never know how you’re going to react and I’m glad to say we reacted fast as a crew. We managed to get Anna into the cabin and Eliza spent the night caring for her, giving her vitals to the doctor every hour throughout the night and trying to keep her warm.
The next day we sat out on deck in the sparkling blue sea for a crew meeting, to figure out what we do next. Initially, Mari and I were worried that the fainting and fit were something serious but Anna wanted to carry on. After hours of phoning different people we worked out that some rest and food would be enough to get her back to health and were set to carry on our way, the three picking up the slack as Anna rested. But then things changed – Anna decided not to continue. She feared for her life on the voyage and wanted to get off the boat.
That decision was the most heartbreaking one. So much had gone into the row financially, emotionally, time-wise. We had all sacrificed so much to be there and achieved just 6 days on the water.
But the challenges facing our oceans still go on and urgent change is still needed. This journey isn’t about us – it’s about the people and animals we are rowing for. For me, there’s no other option than to get back on that boat and try again in 2020, with more drive and determination than ever before.
There were some great times on the boat like when we finally had little waves going in our direction, seeing the stars at night and nothing else around, losing sight of shore, just being on the oars. I have been so lucky to have this opportunity and meet some incredible women who are just as driven to complete the route in 2020 and can’t wait to get back out there!