This is a future-dated blog entry, posted the night before my launch on 24th May. It is an interview with my old friend Will Stockland, for Oxford's Romulus magazine.
THE FREEDOM OF THE OCEAN.
AN INTERVIEW WITH ROZ SAVAGE: ROWER, WRITER, AND MARINE ENVIRONMENTAL CAMPAIGNER.
Roz Savage left a successful career in the City of London as a management consultant to pursue her dream of rowing solo across the Atlantic. In 2005 she successfully completed the Trans-Atlantic Rowing Race and is now about to embark on being the first woman ever to row solo across the Pacific - a feat she is undertaking to raise awareness of marine environmental issues. Here she talks to Will Stockland, about her experiences and aspirations.
WS: Why did you decide to leave your previous life - was this in some way an act of personal liberation?
RS: Oh yes, definitely. I had a belief system which was very rigid and I believed that possessions would make me happy but that was suddenly to be completely undermined. My husband and I moved into this wonderful huge house and I had everything I had aspired to: money, a wonderful house, a husband, a flourishing career. But I realised quickly that even though I had all these wonderful things I was still the same person with all the same hang-ups - nothing had changed! I had to make a serious reassessment because I started to feel that I was simply not living the life I was meant to live. I sat down and wrote two obituaries: the life I wanted to be remembered for and the life I would be remembered for if I carried on in the way I was going. There was a terrifying difference. So I made the changes which meant leaving everything behind - house, husband, career. It felt like the most radical thing I had ever done in my life! I had stepped off the known world.
WS: You then went travelling in Peru for a while - why Peru?
RS: I wanted to step into an unknown environment where spontaneity was a necessity. Up to this point in my life I had been a compulsive planner and I had been going down a blinkered path. I knew that I had to become more intuitive and be open to gut-feel and serendipity. Peru was delicious open-plan process. I became immersed in the process rather than the end-product even though I kept the vague end-goal of writing up my experiences for others to share. In fact, I felt like I was a character in my own book - it was very exciting. I had little money and a lot of time and this gave me a hugely rich experience - this was a different model of wealth than the one I was accustomed to!
WS: But what prompted you to take on the Trans-Atlantic Rowing Race?
RS: Self-empowerment. I had been reliant on other people for so long - on things and forces outside myself. I knew I needed to change that and have a sense that I was creating my own life and achieving my own goals - this was the first step in doing this.
WS: Setting out into the open ocean is about as close to complete freedom as it gets in most people's minds, I imagine. Did you find this? Did you ever, in fact, feel trapped when you were in the middle of the ocean, alone?
RS: Excellent question! Someone texted me on my satellite phone mid-way through the race and it said: "Enjoy this time: You will never be this free". I was enraged by this - had this person any idea how it felt to be stuck in 23ft boat for 3 and a half months at the mercy of the impersonal ocean and weather?! So yes, one shouldn't get too geographical about freedom! Having said that, at night with the phosphorus-illumined ocean beneath me and the Milky Way above me - that was wonderful. Strangely, the most free I really felt was when my satellite phone broke for 24 days and nobody could contact me. Then I just became completely immersed in the process with no idea what I was rowing into because I had no weather reports - I was completely in the moment. It was blissful.
WS: You set off from San Francisco in May to be the first woman to row solo across the Pacific. Do you see this as an act of female liberation?
RS: It is more about facing personal challenges and using that as a platform to promote awareness of larger issues. When I was growing up there weren't really any female role models although Anita Roddick was emerging as one. I aim to use my activities as a platform for awareness of important issues and it's good to show that you don't need to be a square-jaw Arnie figure to get things done. Often physical limitations are really mental limitations - a serious amount is achievable with determination and gradual application.
WS: You are involved with a marine environmental charity, Blue Frontier Campaign, and are using your Pacific row to highlight ocean environmental issues - can you expand on this?
RS: Yes, that's right. Blue Frontier Campaign raise awareness of marine environmental issues and have helped me to plan my journey effectively in terms of publicising these issues. The first stage is from California to Hawaii which takes me through the Pacific Garbage Patch - a Texas-sized floating mass of cumulative rubbish that is getting into the food chain steadily. Then I go from Hawaii to Tuvalu, an island that is already being depopulated because of the increase in the level of the ocean - it will soon disappear. Then I row from Tuvalu to Australia and will be concentrating on raising awareness of the Great Barrier Reef and how changes in it show how much marine environmental damage has and is being done by us. The ocean shows us that we are facing such an environmental crisis that it may lead to extinction. Anybody who argues that the radical measures required to stop this process are too expensive should be aware that dead people are not very good for the economy!
WS: You do a lot of inspirational writing and lecturing. Do your experiences of personal freedom have any influence on this?
RS: I have to be careful here. Different people have different ideas of personal freedom, but I do try to get across that not living up to your full potential as a human being will create problems for that person - being trapped by fear, being scared to dream, or change, or being scared of what other people think of you - this is not living up to your full potential. If you take baby steps out of these fear traps you can achieve a lot. My book is called One Stroke at a Time - if you take too big a leap out of your comfort zone you will scare yourself stupid but gentle steps one by one can go a very long way. Very occasionally, you may have to make a big leap but you should prepare gradually and carefully for that.
WS: So what is your definition of freedom and how do we balance security and freedom in our lives?
RS: I was attached to security - money, a home, a husband. But homes burn down and husbands go bankrupt - suddenly it's all gone, security shattered. Security is in fact greater when you realise how little you need. I am secure in the knowledge that I have the mental and spiritual tools to cope - that is real security. It's a sense of freedom that comes from an inner confidence that I never used to have - it's empowering. From an environmental perspective too, the quest for financial security and over-production and consumption is limiting our freedom. If we damage the environment through excessive industrial activity then we will all become sick - sickness is very limiting!
WS: The founder of Wolfson College, Sir Isaiah Berlin, said: "Total liberty of the wolves is death to the lambs". How do you interpret that in the light of your experiences and work?
RS: Well, yes. We need a different paradigm of business - less short-termism and shareholder prioritisation. Governments must step in and influence commercial activities more. But also we, as individuals, must do more by being mindful of what we buy into. A lot of people feel helpless in the face of the environmental problems but I want to say to them that every single action they take makes a difference and the cumulative effect of billions of individual actions is, of course, huge. Aldous Huxley said: "The only corner of the universe that we can be sure of changing is ourselves". We can control what we do and we are already making a difference to the environment so we need to take responsibility for that and decide whether we want that difference to be good or bad. We should act as if we are powerful because we all are.
Roz Savage's book One Stroke at a Time will be published in the US in Autumn 2009 by Simon & Schuster. To keep informed of her activities, events, and publications please see her website: www.rozsavage.com.
I continue to inch my way slowly west, while the wind is blowing me
south. Today the wind and waves have increased, making for uncomfortable
rowing conditions, with occasional big "drenchers" crashing in over the
I have to confess that I have had little patience for the ocean and its
tricks today. I'm feeling a little downcast over the demise of my
watermaker. While the ocean does its best to encrust me with salt, it
depresses me slightly to consider the prospect of another couple of
months without a sponge bath. After a hard day's rowing it feels so good
to have fresh water and zingy shower gel on my skin. But I have to
conserve all the fresh water I have for drinking. I have a large supply
of wet wipes, but they just don't have that Fresh Factor.
Right now the happiest news that anybody could give me would be that
they can resupply me with fresh water in about 2 weeks time. If you, or
anybody you know, is planning to sail, say, from San Diego to Hawaii
over the next couple of months, please do get in touch.
Roz's position Tuesday night: 31 04 197N 124 47 058W
23 Jun 2008, The Brocade
Bad news today. I cannot get the watermaker to work.
It ran well on Friday, then sputtered to a halt after a minute or so on both Saturday and Sunday, and today again gave up the attempt after a short and feeble effort.
I spent a couple of hours alternating phone calls to Darren at Spectra Watermakers, and head down in the watermaker hatch. I was trying to find signs of corrosion resulting from its dunking a couple of weeks ago, when the hatch flooded, but all the wiring looked fine as far as I could see.
There is one more option still to try - the corrosion may be in the switch panel in the cabin, which also got rather damp during the rough weather - and I will investigate that tomorrow.
But for now it's looking as if water is going to be in short supply for the rest of my voyage. I used the manual watermaker for a few minutes today, just to test it out. It is hard work, and yields water by the drop, rather than by the pint, let alone the gallon. It will keep me alive when my water reserves run out in a couple of weeks.
Surprisingly, I am not too despondent now I have got used to the idea. It was becoming very wearing on the nerves, wondering each day if the watermaker was going to work or not. If it is really dead, it is almost a relief to know for sure how things are, rather than living with perpetual hope and frequent disappointment.
But the manual watermaker really is not a great option. So if you hear of any leisure craft heading out from San Diego bound for Hawaii, who might be able to resupply a thirsty rower, let me know.
[photo: me with my waterbottle - every drop now will be precious!]
Rowing hard (when not head down in watemaker hatch), trying to put as many miles between me and 124 degrees west as I can. Conditions are rough, and I'm having to row across the swells which is uncomfortable, jarring, and results in frequent soakings, but hopefully will prove worthwhile in the end.
I have just read all the lovely messages and comments that Mum has sent through to me. They have really cheered me up. Thank you!
I am really sorry but I don't have the energy right now to respond to them individually - tonight I am feeling rather worn out after an emotionally fraying day..
So for tonight just a very quick hello to some people I know - Trish Caldwell, Minette, Chris Martin, Joni and the boys, Derrick and Elizabeth Pitard, and Kristina Ensminger.
And to everyone else - thank you for all the positive vibes. They really help. I know I am not alone.
Position from Roz Monday night: 31 35 15N, 124 31 99W
23 Jun 2008, The Brocade
My Pacific row is a project of the Blue Frontier Campaign, a US-based nonprofit that focuses on supporting grassroots (aka seaweed) efforts to preserve the oceans, and organizes forums to build consensus and collaboration amongst other organizations involved in marine conservation.
Today I am honoured to feature a special guest blog written by David Helvarg, the President and Founder of the Blue Frontier Campaign, and author of 50 Ways to Save the Ocean. Informative, eye-opening and constructive - I highly recommend this blog. Enjoy! And act.
THE ROZ CHALLENGE
Five years ago I was going through some hard times, as were our living oceans. I'm better, they are not.
A recent study in the journal Science found that 40 percent of the oceans are heavily impacted by human activities while only 4 percent are in a pristine state. Another study found 90 percent of large ocean fish, including sharks, big tuna and billfish have been killed off since 1950. A FEMA report predicts one out of four U.S. houses built within 500 feet of the shore will be destroyed by rising seas in the next 45 years.
The best available science tells us more than half the world's tropical coral reefs will die as a result of fossil-fuel driven climate change that has already taken place.
And now President Bush and Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain are pushing to reopen long-protected offshore waters to new oil drilling. Shortsighted government policies such as these only worsen the effects of marine disasters linked to industrial overfishing, pollution, coastal sprawl and climate change. The most frustrating thing is we know what the solutions are; we just haven't summoned the personal and political will to implement them-at least not yet.
People often ask me what they can do about such seemingly overwhelming challenges as the collapse of marine wildlife or fossil-fuel fired climate change, especially when they're already so busy with work, raising families and other obligations. My response is that you're already doing something. We all impact the seas around us by the things we do every day as consumers and citizens. The challenge is to be aware of what you're doing and then make the right choices. What I found in writing the Blue Frontier Campaign book '50 Ways to Save the Ocean,' is that in doing what's right for our ocean planet we usually end up doing good for ourselves, for our health, our pocketbook and our sense of self-worth.
Which brings me to what I call the Roz Savage Challenge. I met Roz through another Seaweed (marine grassroots) activist, Margo Pellegrino,
a New Jersey wife and mother who decided to paddle an outrigger from Miami to Maine last year to raise money and awareness on behalf of
seaweed activist groups like Surfrider (eco-surfers) offering bottom up solutions to coastal and marine problems. Margo's now about to paddle from New Jersey to Washington DC in support of a U.S. Ocean Act to assure the ecological integrity of our public seas. After she introduced me to Roz who had already rowed solo across the Atlantic and
planned to become the first woman to row solo across the Pacific to raise awareness of plastic pollution and other threats to our blue planet, Blue Frontier offered to make Roz's Voyage a project of our non-profit campaign.
Riding alongside her under the Golden Gate Bridge last month with Paul from SF Bay Adventures, her rowboat outlined by the lights of the city and escorted by a curious sea lion, I was overwhelmed by the scale of the challenge she'd set herself, set herself again I should say. Last year's disappointment had only steeled her to try again with more ballast and gumption. Our rigid hull inflatable turned back by the Point Diablo Lighthouse while Roz rowed on towards the sharky waters of the Farallone islands twenty seven miles away and Hawaii twenty four hundred miles beyond them, the first leg of her Pacific voyage.
So here's the challenge! If Roz can row an ocean to protect the diversity of life on our blue marble planet can't each of us do something in our own lives?
Can we give up drinking water from plastic bottles for example that end up polluting the sea, costing us a fortune and using up fossil fuels in both their production and transport? Why don't we instead work to assure safe and healthy drinking water from our taps? New York City has some of the best drinking water in the world, the champagne of tap water, in part because it chose to invest in protecting its rural Catskill Mountains watershed and reservoirs from unneeded development and pollution. Solutions are all around us!
Can we drive less and walk/bike more, use public transportation where it exists and fight for it where it ought to? Let's keep our money out of the pockets of oil companies like Exxon-Mobil that continue to deny the catastrophic threat global warming poses to our oceans and to us all.
Can we eat more organic and vegetarian food to reduce the runoff of nutrient heavy synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and animal wastes into
our coastal waters? This is also a healthier and tastier choice.
We can do these things and many more. If Roz can row oceans to challenge herself and spread the word on the state of our seas we ought to all try and be ocean heroes in our own lives. Who knows, working together we just might turn the tide and inspire a solution-oriented seaweed revolution. We'll see you on the other side.
Fair winds and safe rowing Roz
President & Founder
Blue Frontier Campaign
Picture: Roz with David Helvarg, San Francisco, 2007
Today I crossed the line of longitude at 124 degrees west - for the fifth time. I've been out and back, out and back, and now out again. It would be really nice if this is the last time.
The watermaker again refused to work beyond a few short-lived gurgles. I am experimenting with diverting power from all solar panels to a single
battery to try and summon up enough "oomph" to keep it going for longer. Will try again tomorrow.
Hi to Paul (looking down at me from a plane) and Nicole (looking across at me from LA) - can you see me waving?!
Guten Tag to Matze Bley of Germany. Leider kann ich kein Deutsch. Vielen dank. Auf Weidersehen (Pet).
John Pullin - no noticeable effect from the land any more. The wind seems to do whatever it pleases, at whatever time of day!
Tom and the guys at the outdoor store - thank you! I shall row all the harder to get to Hawaii so I can open my box of goodies.
Thanks Martin for the suggestions on the sea anchor and anchor bridle. Didn't quite get it from your description, but we'll talk it over sometime when I'm back on dry land.
Hi also to Kathy, Pippa (life after rowing? Yes, I have a plan, but not ready to divulge just yet!), Rod (I love sashimi! But no fishing until I am in the "happy zone" of tailwinds), Ryan, Alexandria and Audrey,
Sophie and Jeanne and schoolmates (the coolest and bluest!), Star Siegfried.
Steve in Colorado, training for a marathon - sounds like the training is coming along well. You keep dreaming about your marathon, and I'll keep
dreaming about Hawaii.
And a special hello to my cousin Diane - a much better endurance athlete than I am. An interesting excerpt from her email here, about a local half marathon: "I surprised my self by taking 3rd lady and 1st vet 45. Interestingly all the top places were taken by veteran ladies and you had to go down to 14th before finding a lady that was not a vet. So fear not - reaching the grand age of 40. In endurance events it means life has only just begun." Hear, hear!!
PS from Rita:
Position for Roz last night: 31 58 533N, 124 14 385W.
Marine Track has sent later updates.
21 Jun 2008, The Brocade
Four weeks out here already. Time flies when you're having fun, hey?!
If I'd written that after my first month on the Atlantic, it would have had a distinct whiff of sarcasm. The first month of the Atlantic Rowing Race was one of the most stressful, terrifying and depressing I had ever experienced. I was on a huge emotional rollercoaster, over-reacting to every change in circumstances and weather.
But it WAS a useful learning experience.
As the saying goes, experience is one of those things you get just after you needed it - so rather than let that intense learning experience go to waste, I decided to row another ocean. The best way to find out whether I'd actually absorbed the lessons learned two years ago was to put myself in an equally challenging situation and see how I coped with it. Could I face the Pacific with greater equanimity than I managed on the Atlantic?
And so far, so good. Although this voyage has had its share of fear and frustration - with high winds, big waves, a swamped watermaker and a temperamental sea anchor to contend with - it actually hasn't been bad at all, and I've spent most of the time feeling cheerful, positive and determined. I've adapted quickly to life back on the ocean, and generally accept it for what it is - with all its discomforts, inconveniences, trials and tribulations.
Ideally, I would learn to be happy anywhere. My happiness would be inside me, independent of circumstances, so I could be equally happy in a jail as in the most beautiful place in the world. Happiness, surely, is seeing the perfection in everything.
OK, so in the last 4 weeks I haven't actually got very far, but as Zen Dog reminds me, It's not the destination, it's the glory of the ride.
The watermaker didn't work today. Its feed pump revved apathetically for a couple of minutes, and then stopped. I'll try it again tomorrow and see if it's in a better mood. This approach may not be rational, but it has worked before.
Otherwise, a fine day's rowing. I've clawed back some vital miles westwards, and it's been a gorgeous day - blue skies, fluffy white clouds, sunlight glinting off the ocean - perfect.
I'm sorry - I'm really too tired and sleepy to write individual acknowledgements of all the lovely messages that have been coming in - but I have read all the ones that my mother sent through, and I really appreciate all the love, support, sympathy, encouragement and helpful hints that have been coming through. You are all wonderful people.
Position Sunday morning: 32 20 574N 123 56 733W