Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Those Moving Piles of Water Are Called Waves

And Other Helpful Hints for Rowing Your Boat Across the Ocean

You need a few things if you’re going to try to row a boat 6,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean. A decent boat. A light on your decent boat. A bit of fortitude. A clue.

Sonya Baumstein had none of these. But she went for it anyway.

Gotta love the enthusiasm.

"...and I've even got extra oars in case my arms get tired..."

 The Orange County Register had by far the best account of Sonya’s poorly-planned adventure on the high seas I've seen. In other words, it gave the most detail. And the details are so flipping funny it would be rude not to share them.

30-year-old Sonya wanted to be the first woman to row solo across the Pacific.

That takes some guts. So far so good. But we learn from the we-don’t-color-our-news OC Register that after departing on June 7th “she spent several days after her departure relatively close to shore as she waited for her sea sickness to subside.”


If Sonya was allergic to cats she would have wanted to become a lion tamer.

Now, when I think of rowing across the ocean – or across a river – I think of a rowboat. I suppose the thing Sonya was getting sick all over was technically a rowboat because she was rowing it, but the thing had more options than my car. Not that any of them helped.

To wit:

“Baumstein … had lost one of her two drogues, devices used as floating anchors and to keep the boat facing into waves...
The steering system on her 7-meter (23-foot) long custom-made carbon boat had failed…
Weather conditions also were making it difficult to spot many ships that her automated identification signal (ahem, her AIS) indicated were passing near her small boat.”

But even if her Green Machine was working, and even if she could keep her lunch down, it seems painfully obvious she wasn’t going to get very far.

“Wave forecasts showed a stretch of frequent and relatively high waves just ahead of Baumstein when she called for help.”

Yes, Sonya, this is the OCEAN. There are WAVES. Or did you think the whole surfing thing was a myth?

"What do you mean the whole ocean isn't flat?!"

But wait a minute. This was just a forecast. She hadn’t even hit any bad weather when she decided to crack open her Playskool Barbie Emergency Flare Kit. Why the quick trigger?

“At the time, she was approaching the limits of the Japanese Coast Guard’s normal range and decided with her team that it would be irresponsible to continue and potentially put rescuers’ lives at risk, the team said in a statement.”

(Sorry, I can’t type anything right now, I’m laughing too damn hard.)

Okay, so if there were NO WAVES in the forecast Sonya was just going to row real real fast across the 5,500 miles where there was no Japan Coast Guard or US Coast Guard?

Sonya. These are waves.

Sonya’s expedition support team – besides having no sense of irony – claim they don’t know what went wrong.

Seriously. Here’s their official statement:

“Sonya and some team members felt that things weren’t going right. While we couldn’t put our finger on it, something felt wrong.”

Couldn't put your...?! Here, team members, each of you give me a finger. Okay, great.

Now you, put yours on ‘bad boat’. You, you put yours on ‘we forgot the ocean had waves’. And you…yes, you. The one picking your nose. Put your finger...a different finger... on ‘can’t go anywhere without the Coast Guard’.

So come on guys, really. Why did you and Sonya give up?

“Our expedition experience has taught us that when that (vague, foggy, something’s wrong but what could it be, hey is that part of the boat over there in the water?) feeling doesn’t go away, you pay attention.”

"Expedition experience."

Now that’s funny.

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