Friday, March 19, 2010

roz savage, "rowing the atlantic: lessons learned on the open ocean" book review

i found roz savage's book, "rowing the atlantic: lessons learned on the open ocean," at the library a couple of weeks ago and it seemed like the perfect tonic for the seemingly endless winter blues. "rowing the atlantic," was far removed from my typical running world, but it immediately appealed to me, as do most books on individual adventures and travel. i can't see myself stepping into a rowboat to cross a lake, much less and ocean, but i can readily identify with savage's desire to push beyond her comfort zone and discover what was out there.

her road to the water was almost a return to the familiar, after all the upheaval in her life. she had rowed competitively in college, but abandoned the sport for a decade before returning to it (in extreme fashion as it turned out). while most people often confront tough decisions by making lists of pros and cons, savage went straight to the obituary. her epiphany arrived after reading two versions of the obituary she wrote for herself. one was based on her current life, married, management consultant, toiling away at a 9 to 5 job she increasingly couldn't relate to as the drudgery mounted.

the second, way more interesting tale of a life, was based on sheer fantasy - the "what if" version of where she wanted to go. even so, the competing obituaries weren't enough to precipitate change. she was engaged in an extramarital affair and someone told her husband about it via an anonymous letter! even then, as she pointed out, her husband didn't toss her out but took the mature view and sought to put their life back together. despite the temporary reconciliation, roz decided to go it alone and realized she wanted a very different life.

the kick-off to that new version of herself was the 2005 atlantic rowing race (3000 miles from the canary islands to antigua)! savage was the sole woman entrant in a field of 26 rowing teams (composed of 4 person/2 person and some individual men). of the 26 starters, 6 capsized and didn't finish the race. of the 20 finishers, roz savage was the last one, taking 103 days to complete the transatlantic journey. when she arrived in antigua she had succeeded in her objective and banished a number of internal demons in the process.

some of the moments she shares are funny, such as the flying fish that lands in her boat. her first thought is "eke" and her second one is "supper" - and she does eat the little guy! some moments are frustrating (the uncooperative waves that continually seem to drop in when least wanted - during meals). and then there are the terrifying ones - when a rogue wave flips her into the water as she attempted to empty her bedpan (terrifying and funny). and, at the very end of the journey one last malfunction (after all of her oars had broken at one point or another), where she was forced to cut away her sea anchor!

"rowing the atlantic" is a quick and interesting read. i quickly got caught up in her trials and tribulations trying to remain "solo" (avoiding any assistance) and inching across the pond. at one point her satellite radio failed and she was unable to communicate (except point to point via her vhf radio). that opened up a more introspective aspect of the journey, as she admitted (even enjoying the cut-off more than she imagined she would).

the high of completing her journey never wore off! savage went on determined to row the pacific over 3 years (two of those legs have been now been completed). after finishing her book, i'm tempted to re-read some of buckley's sailing books :D

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