Take Me 2 New York (TM2NY – 21)on June 5, 2014
We have seen Miami in all its glory. From the open seas in our rowing boat to the plastic razz ma taz of the famous Ocean Drive in Miami South Beach. It has been a welcome rest. A welcome reflection on where we have come from and what we have achieved. But all along we still had the understanding deep inside that we are not done. New York City awaits us. 1900km away.
The weather has been manic since we have arrived. Winds have been blowing onshore nonstop and at above average speeds. We need an offshore wind to get us away from the danger of land. The day of our departure was decided by me, the team navigator, and for good reason. The wind was supposed to drop the evening before. The Entire morning was supposed to deliver easy access to the open ocean again. But I ignored the weather reports the morning of our departure. I ignored them not because of ego or arrogance. I ignored them because I felt guilty for all the support we had received. All these people we had told we were leaving and out of some sort of commitment process Vasti and I decided we had to leave. No matter what the sea or wind conditions. For the first time Vasti understood how emotional adventure decisions make insignificant the logic of ‘safety first’ decisions.
Well, it seemed ok for the first 3 hours of rowing. The police escort and support out of Miami Harbour helping our initial effort. We rowed with enthusiasm for another hour, directly out to sea. Gapping our way through sail boat and cargo ship traffic to make it into the initial part of the Gulf Stream. The water flow north that we believed would speed up everything we understood about ocean rowing.
We had a rude awakening as the sea and the thunderstorms above us became even more untenable. Again, as my responsibility for navigation and decisions were now needed, it was one of two options. Either aim for Fort Lauderdale or try aim for a small inter coastal inlet. The only two options to safety for the next 100 miles. I chose the latter, something I could only understand as a map entity. Never imagining in my wildest dreams what lay ahead for us.
We rowed at almost an entirely westerly course to make this inlet; an inlet that would be similar to what we would consider a river mouth. Waves breaking at the shallower areas of the mouth while the tides rushed in either direction. A dangerous cocktail for even the biggest and most powerful boat. Vasti and I realised we were in trouble very quickly. We had navigated to the southerly side of the mouths rocks and hoped this to aid our entry. It didn’t. Our little boat and the human power we were exerting were no match for the forces at play. I left my oars to try and steer the boat manually while Vasti had the tough task of rowing us. We tried, but failed to keep any direction. The swells swallowing us at every turn. We were panicking. The boat was going to sink. For sure. No way out of this washing machine of turmoil.
We screamed to passing Jet Ski show-offs and large boats heading to sea to help us. We needed a rescue. But no one came. We though could see the lifeguard station alongside this ‘river mouth’ coming to life with activity. People running to see what was going on. Some people screaming, telling us we were in serious danger. – As if we didn’t know. The skies above us were rumbling. Dark thick clouds had moved from the South and had lightning piercing towards earth on a regular basis. The thunder afterwards, rumbling in our bones. This scene Hollywood would not even be able to replicate.
We tried again to row up into the inlet mouth but got washed back. It was impossible for me to control the steering and to row. And this is where I made the decision. I was going to steer and Vasti would have all responsibility of rowing. First we tried to make it out of the breaking waves zone. The plan was then to turn the boat around and head back. This time in a small counter current right alongside the rocks. Very dangerous with breaking waves. We made it into this counter current, Vasti rowing for her life and me steering for probably the same reward.
Vasti though was not going to be able to maintain this pace as we began to be pushed around again. I could see the angst in her eyes as she strained through each stroke. We were relieved more than anything to hear the lifeguard tower announce on their PA system to us that they have sent somebody to help. We must ‘just hang in there’ the heavy American accent told us. We did not even have three seconds to exchange positions, Vasti and I. The current would have swirled the boat in even less I believe. Vasti had to guts it out and keep us and our boat moving. Or else this journey was at its end.
Keeping a very dramatic adrenalin filled story impossibly short, it was with a salvation to see the rescue craft approach us and eventually tie us to their tow rope for extraction. The captain making a wide turn around the area, in this mouth, we had been caught in. Later telling us his rescue craft is even at big risk there.
We were pulled into the Bill Bird marina in Haulover Park, thunder, lightning and tornadoes still over the city of Miami. The airport was in fact closed for a few hours after a tornado touched down just west of its runways. Very frightening indeed. But we are ok now. The hospitable marina master offering us free parking while we sit this unseasonal weather out.
New York awaits, yes, but now we will not rush what cannot he rushed. We will wait either for the weather to be ideal or until the fat lady has finished singing. Whichever comes first.
Follow us on our Facebook page: Take Me 2 New York and @TM2NY or @riaanmanser on Twitter. For live updates on position and progress visit http://my.yb.tl/TM2NY and www.riaanmanser.com to see the pics and updates we regularly make.
Riaan and Vasti have successfully become first in history to row from mainland Africa to New York, USA.