Take Me 2 New Yorkon April 14, 2014
If you were asking and I was being brutally honest with you a year ago, I would have told you I think rowing across oceans is the most boring idea ever. How wrong I have been thus far and especially this last week. Vasti and I have no nerves left. We’ve used them up before halfway!
Swimming has been a special treat, apart from the exotic location we swim in of course, it is a welcome cooling down when the midday heat rises above 30 degrees. I for one have regularly just jumped overboard between rowing sessions, with not too much concern that something like being separated from the boat and drifting off in opposite directions? Yip, never thought it could happen. Our boat can drift at 1.5 to 2 knots which equates to a manageable 3.5km an hour. A speed I can easily swim at.
This Tuesday lunchtime we decided we both were going to swim. Of course after the other for safety reasons. Vasti swam first and had a great time. We filmed her jumping in and hanging alongside the boat in bright blue Atlantic waters. I eagerly followed her and entered the water with a brave backflip off the side of the boat. I was a ball of energy; swimming alongside the boat while Vasti filmed me. We incidentally had put on three cameras that day to film the swim. We want everyone to see how unbelievably beautiful it is. I asked Vasti for the one Go Pro so I could film her sitting on the boat, St Tropez super yacht style. I slowly drifted away, alongside the boat, Vasti continually shouting ” don’t go too far, Riaan! Don’t go too far!”
I answered her with slight irritation, as if insulted she believed I could let anything go wrong. I knew what I was doing. Just let me be. Sjoe, how quickly things happen. I had now drifted behind the boat, to get the back part of her clearly on film. I was meters away when I decided that I should not take a chance. I rolled the small rope of the camera around my wrist and placed the GoPro firmly in my right hand palm. I began freestyle sprinting towards the back of the boat, with slight difficult but still managing good speed. I could at every breath take to the grab ropes near the right rear end of the boat, but also see that the boat at times accelerated with each passing wave. I lunged once, and missed the ropes. I tried harder this next attempt. But again, my finger slipped as they grabbed at the ropes. I couldn’t swim with the camera in my hand. I could hear Vasti’s loud screaming for me to try harder. Not to stop. But I now was swallowing water on every breath take. And, as you can see in the footage of the one side camera, a bit panicked. I stopped to take stock, and get a breath in as well, think about throwing the camera towards the boat. But I’ve drifted off even quicker now. Vasti screaming at me to try swim again. But I couldn’t.
The boat drifted to twenty meters away from me before we had any plan in place. Remember, we are in a rowing boat, it has no engines to quickly start and use for rescues! Vasti cleverly turned the rudder sharply to combat while I realised the fishing line trawling behind the boat was somewhere in m vicinity. I t was my last chance. Without thinking I stuck the camera into my underpants; yes it was still rolling; and grabbed to my left underneath the water. I found the line. Fortunately a meter or two ahead of the dangerous Rapala. I was not going to let go. I was sure this equipment can catch 100kg fish.
Keeping a very dramatic long story short, Vasti managed with the slowing down of the boat and the reeling me in with the fishing line, to probably save my life. In the three cameras footage we scanned over, Vasti and I both agree we have no idea how lucky we were. It shows the reality of quickly things can go wrong. I just laugh at how demonstrative Vasti can get when she is scolding me, but I know I did wrong and admitted never be so frivolous in open seas ever again.
Now I knew the one story would take up all this space we have. In Short, the week also gave us whales and dolphins. Not just drifting by us unaware of our existence but rather whales and dolphins that followed our boat, swam alongside us, circled us and even swam underneath us. We got plenty of the underwater footage as well.
While still in the Canary Islands we marked a halfway mark for our journey. A point that doesn’t represent halfway between Morocco and New York but rather middle of the Atlantic Ocean we will cross without seeing any land. We reached that this week. We have completed over 4400km of rowing and still have 2600km to go before we see land again. Incidentally the famous Bahamas archipelago.
We look forward to seeing the winners of the TAKE ME TO NEW YORK competition end of April underneath the Statue of Liberty. What it special picture. Thanks to everyone that has entered.
Riaan and Vasti are attempting to be the first in history to row from mainland Africa to New York, USA.