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  • Hi, my name is Roz Savage

  • and I row across oceans.

  • Four years ago, I rowed solo across the Atlantic,

  • and since then, I've done two out of three stages

  • across the Pacific,

  • from San Francisco to Hawaii

  • and from Hawaii to Kiribati.

  • And tomorrow, I'll be leaving this boat

  • to fly back to Kiribati

  • to continue with the third and final stage

  • of my row across the Pacific.

  • Cumulatively, I will have rowed

  • over 8,000 miles,

  • taken over three million oar strokes

  • and spent more than 312 days alone

  • on the ocean on a 23 foot rowboat.

  • This has given me a very

  • special relationship with the ocean.

  • We have a bit of a love/hate thing going on.

  • I feel a bit about it like I did about

  • a very strict math teacher that I once had at school.

  • I didn't always like her, but I did respect her,

  • and she taught me a heck of a lot.

  • So today I'd like to share with you

  • some of my ocean adventures

  • and tell you a little bit about what they've taught me,

  • and how I think we can maybe take some of those lessons

  • and apply them to this environmental challenge

  • that we face right now.

  • Now, some of you might be thinking,

  • "Hold on a minute. She doesn't look very much like an ocean rower.

  • Isn't she meant to be about this tall

  • and about this wide

  • and maybe look a bit more like these guys?"

  • You'll notice, they've all got something that I don't.

  • Well, I don't know what you're thinking, but I'm talking about the beards. (Laughter)

  • And no matter how long I've spent on the ocean,

  • I haven't yet managed to muster a decent beard,

  • and I hope that it remains that way.

  • For a long time, I didn't believe that I could have a big adventure.

  • The story that I told myself was

  • that adventurers looked like this.

  • I didn't look the part.

  • I thought there were them and there were us,

  • and I was not one of them.

  • So for 11 years, I conformed.

  • I did what people from my kind of background were supposed to do.

  • I was working in an office in London

  • as a management consultant.

  • And I think I knew from day one that it wasn't the right job for me.

  • But that kind of conditioning

  • just kept me there for so many years,

  • until I reached my mid-30s and I thought,

  • "You know, I'm not getting any younger.

  • I feel like I've got a purpose in this life, and I don't know what it is,

  • but I'm pretty certain that management consultancy is not it.

  • So, fast forward a few years.

  • I'd gone through some changes.

  • To try and answer that question of,

  • "What am I supposed to be doing with my life?"

  • I sat down one day

  • and wrote two versions of my own obituary,

  • the one that I wanted, a life of adventure,

  • and the one that I was actually heading for

  • which was a nice, normal, pleasant life,

  • but it wasn't where I wanted to be by the end of my life.

  • I wanted to live a life that I could be proud of.

  • And I remember looking at these two versions of my obituary

  • and thinking, "Oh boy,

  • I'm on totally the wrong track here.

  • If I carry on living as I am now,

  • I'm just not going to end up where I want to be

  • in five years, or 10 years,

  • or at the end of my life."

  • I made a few changes,

  • let go of some loose trappings of my old life,

  • and through a bit of a leap of logic,

  • decided to row across the Atlantic Ocean.

  • (Laughter)

  • The Atlantic Rowing Race runs from the Canaries to Antigua,

  • it's about 3,000 miles,

  • and it turned out to be

  • the hardest thing I had ever done.

  • Sure, I had wanted to get outside of my comfort zone,

  • but what I'd sort of failed to notice was that

  • getting out of your comfort zone is, by definition,

  • extremely uncomfortable.

  • And my timing was not great either:

  • 2005, when I did the Atlantic,

  • was the year of Hurricane Katrina.

  • There were more tropical storms in the North Atlantic

  • than ever before, since records began.

  • And pretty early on,

  • those storms started making their presence known.

  • All four of my oars broke

  • before I reached halfway across.

  • Oars are not supposed to look like this.

  • But what can you do? You're in the middle of the ocean.

  • Oars are your only means of propulsion.

  • So I just had to look around the boat

  • and figure out what I was going to use

  • to fix up these oars so that I could carry on.

  • So I found a boat hook and my trusty duct tape

  • and splintered the boat hook

  • to the oars to reinforce it.

  • Then, when that gave out,

  • I sawed the wheel axles off my spare rowing seat

  • and used those.

  • And then when those gave out, I cannibalized one of the broken oars.

  • I'd never been very good at fixing stuff

  • when I was living my old life,

  • but it's amazing how resourceful you can become

  • when you're in the middle of the ocean

  • and there's only one way to get to the other side.

  • And the oars kind of became a symbol

  • of just in how many ways

  • I went beyond what I thought were my limits.

  • I suffered from tendinitis on my shoulders

  • and saltwater sores on my bottom.

  • I really struggled psychologically,

  • totally overwhelmed by the scale of the challenge,

  • realizing that, if I carried on moving at two miles an hour,

  • 3,000 miles was going to

  • take me a very, very long time.

  • There were so many times

  • when I thought I'd hit that limit,

  • but had no choice but to just carry on

  • and try and figure out how I was going to get to the other side

  • without driving myself crazy.

  • And eventually after

  • 103 days at sea,

  • I arrived in Antigua.

  • I don't think I've ever felt so happy

  • in my entire life.

  • It was a bit like finishing a marathon

  • and getting out of solitary confinement

  • and winning an Oscar all rolled into one.

  • I was euphoric.

  • And to see all the people coming out to greet me

  • and standing along the cliff tops and clapping and cheering,

  • I just felt like a movie star.

  • It was absolutely wonderful.

  • And I really learned then that, the bigger the challenge,

  • the bigger the sense of achievement

  • when you get to the end of it.

  • So this might be a good moment to take a quick time-out

  • to answer a few FAQs about ocean rowing

  • that might be going through your mind.

  • Number one that I get asked: What do you eat?

  • A few freeze-dried meals, but mostly I try and eat

  • much more unprocessed foods.

  • So I grow my own beansprouts.

  • I eat fruits and nut bars,

  • a lot of nuts.

  • And generally arrive about 30 pounds lighter

  • at the other end.

  • Question number two: How do you sleep?

  • With my eyes shut. Ha-ha.

  • I suppose what you mean is:

  • What happens to the boat while I'm sleeping?

  • Well, I plan my route so that I'm drifting

  • with the winds and the currents while I'm sleeping.

  • On a good night, I think my best ever was 11 miles

  • in the right direction.

  • Worst ever, 13 miles in the wrong direction.

  • That's a bad day at the office.

  • What do I wear?

  • Mostly, a baseball cap,

  • rowing gloves and a smile -- or a frown,

  • depending on whether I went backwards overnight --

  • and lots of sun lotion.

  • Do I have a chase boat?

  • No I don't. I'm totally self-supporting out there.

  • I don't see anybody for the whole time

  • that I'm at sea, generally.

  • And finally: Am I crazy?

  • Well, I leave that one up to you to judge.

  • So, how do you top rowing across the Atlantic?

  • Well, naturally, you decide to row across the Pacific.

  • Well, I thought the Atlantic was big,

  • but the Pacific is really, really big.

  • I think we tend to do it a little bit of a disservice in our usual maps.

  • I don't know for sure that the Brits

  • invented this particular view of the world, but I suspect we might have done so:

  • we are right in the middle,

  • and we've cut the Pacific in half

  • and flung it to the far corners of the world.

  • Whereas if you look in Google Earth,

  • this is how the Pacific looks.

  • It pretty much covers half the planet.

  • You can just see a little bit of North America up here

  • and a sliver of Australia down there.

  • It is really big --

  • 65 million square miles --

  • and to row in a straight line across it

  • would be about 8,000 miles.

  • Unfortunately, ocean rowboats

  • very rarely go in a straight line.

  • By the time I get to Australia,

  • if I get to Australia,

  • I will have rowed probably nine or 10,000 miles in all.

  • So, because nobody in their straight mind would row

  • straight past Hawaii without dropping in,

  • I decided to cut this very big undertaking

  • into three segments.

  • The first attempt didn't go so well.

  • In 2007, I did a rather involuntary capsize drill

  • three times in 24 hours.

  • A bit like being in a washing machine.

  • Boat got a bit dinged up,

  • so did I.

  • I blogged about it. Unfortunately, somebody

  • with a bit of a hero complex decided that

  • this damsel was in distress and needed saving.

  • The first I knew about this was when the Coast Guard plane turned up overhead.

  • I tried to tell them to go away.

  • We had a bit of a battle of wills.

  • I lost and got airlifted.

  • Awful, really awful.

  • It was one of the worst feelings of my life,

  • as I was lifted up on that winch line into the helicopter

  • and looked down at my trusty little boat

  • rolling around in the 20 foot waves

  • and wondering if I would ever see her again.

  • So I had to launch a very expensive

  • salvage operation

  • and then wait another nine months

  • before I could get back out onto the ocean again.

  • But what do you do?

  • Fall down nine times, get up 10.

  • So, the following year, I set out

  • and, fortunately, this time made it safely across to Hawaii.

  • But it was not without misadventure.

  • My watermaker broke,

  • only the most important piece of kit that I have on the boat.

  • Powered by my solar panels,

  • it sucks in saltwater

  • and turns it into freshwater.

  • But it doesn't react very well to being immersed in ocean,

  • which is what happened to it.

  • Fortunately, help was at hand.

  • There was another unusual boat out there

  • at the same time, doing as I was doing,

  • bringing awareness to the North Pacific Garbage Patch,

  • that area in the North Pacific about twice the size of Texas,

  • with an estimated 3.5 million

  • tons of trash in it,

  • circulating at the center of

  • that North Pacific Gyre.

  • So, to make the point, these guys

  • had actually built their boat out of plastic trash,

  • 15,000 empty water bottles

  • latched together into two pontoons.

  • They were going very slowly.

  • Partly, they'd had a bit of a delay.

  • They'd had to pull in at Catalina Island shortly after they left Long Beach

  • because the lids of all the water bottles were coming undone,

  • and they were starting to sink.