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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Rowing From Japan To U.S.

I read the newspaper headline and went - that's nuts. Plus, I wondered what the hell she does for a living that enables her to take such time to do this, and wonder why I can't even take a fricking day off without the whole world wondering 'why'.

Why is Sonya Baumstein, 30, attempting to row - starting on May 18, 2015 - from Choshi, Japan to San Francisco, USA - 5,700 nautical miles (10,556.4 kilometers) - alone and without a support vessel?

Because she likes the challenge.

I like challenges too, but dammit, she doesn't have a sail or a motor... just the strength of her shoulders and back to propel her for the next four to six months.

Yup... four to six months... Why the disparity in time? She wisely admits that the ocean won't be smooth sailing every day. And, depending on the weather and health, she says she'll be rowing between 14-16 hours a day. Every day.

I've done the rowing machine at the gym (okay, years ago when I was in far, far, far better shape than I am in now), and even doing that for 10 minutes - granted at an elevated rate of motion than what she is doing now - I still couldn't lift my arms for 10 minutes afterwards.

It's a very tough haul... and her effort impresses the hell out of me - which is why I am writing about it.


If you Google pictures of Sonya, she doesn't look as though she's in the best of shape... not possessing lean muscle, but is instead thick in the midsection with a roll or two of fat... and I wonder - how the hell is she going to do this.

Actually... Sonya will be burning around 10,000 calories a day - so having the extra weight atop her muscles isn't a bad thing, because she will lose most of it by the time she's done!

She's rowing a 24-foot (7.315-meter), 5'-10 (1.778 meter) wide,  770-lb (350-kilogram) kevlar carbon craft (when empty) across the Pacific Ocean. Keep in mind that if you were to fly from Japan to to San Francisco, it would take you 9 hours and five minutes...

I went to Sonya's www.expeditionpacific.com/ website... and she notes the boat is 23-feet long (not 24), which is 7.01040 meters.

For your reference, a nautical mile is different from a regular road mile.

1 Nautical mile = 1.15078 Mile.

She's called the boat Icha, which is a Japanese phrase meaning "when we meet, we're family" - aww.

You know the rowing across choppy waters is difficult enough in concept, but since she doesn't have any support crew in another boat following behind, she has to carry all her own provisions, including over 2,000 lbs (907 kilograms) of food (1,200 lbs (544 kg) of freeze-dried food, 180 high-carbohydrate drinks and lots of olive oil to drink - all to help her retain body weight), a satellite phone, spare clothes, three bags of medication, and six oars, because you can always lose one over the side or have one break when you whack a shark on the nose...

She also has an electric water maker to desalinate seawater to drink. If you look at the images of the boat, you will notice photo electric cells - solar panels - all over it, so if I was there with her, I could watch TV while she rowed. 

While I said Sonya is rowing alone, she's also performing with others - doing some science stuff for NASA and its Earth and Space Research program, aka Aquarius. For NASA, and for us, she's collecting water temperature information, salinity levels and data regarding ocean currents... which the space boys and girls will use to compare against data they collected from previous satellite scanning.

For the record, should Sonya Baumstein be successful in her trek, she will be the first WOMAN to do so.

Back in 1991, France's Gerard d'Aboville did it in 134 days. Fellow Frenchman Emmanuel Coindre did it in 129 days in 2005.

According to Wikipedia, British rower Sarah Outen did cross the Pacific rowing from Japan to Alaska on September 23, 2013, after 150 days and 3,750 miles at sea. But not only was her route shorter, she may not have actually completed the journey strictly via rowing as she got to within a half mile of the rough coastline of Adak Island of the Aleutian Islands chain and had to be towed through the channel between Adak and Kagalaska Island. Her journey was to to have originally taken her to Canada, but nasty currents and bad weather forced a change in destinations.

Choshi, Japan is the easternmost city in the Tokyo area. situated in Chiba-ken.

Rowing from Japan to San Francisco might be a far longer trek for Sonya Baumstein, but she's betting, and I'm hoping, it will be a smoother one, though she still expects to encounter rough waters with waves of over 40 feet (12.192 meters), 50+ knots per hour (57.539 miles per hour or 92.6 kilometers per hour) winds.. and even wakes from larger ships and possibly even what she calls 'extreme wildlife', which makes me think of sharks.

Kanpai, Sonya!
Andrew Joseph
Cheers to Matthew for the heads up... we'll see if we can remember to check in on her in four months time. 

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