Row, row, row your boat … and row, row, row some more
The Hamilton Spectator
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
You are turning 50, a milestone in anyone’s life. What do you do to mark the occasion?
Perhaps a big party with family and friends? Maybe a nice dinner, maybe even a trip?
How about a big boat ride? No, not on a ship but you’re getting closer. This is one cruise where you’ll be doing most of the work. Why? Because you are the only one on the boat.
Enter John Beeden. John is from Burlington where he lives with his wife and two teenage daughters. John is an avid runner and is the exhibition director of the Virgin London Marathon in the U.K. As you read this, John is floating in the Atlantic Ocean somewhere between the Canary Islands and Barbados, by himself.
Why? “Because he’s a nut,” his wife Cheryl said on CHML recently.
In the early 1990s, he and his wife witnessed two guys in an ocean rowboat while in Barbados. They thought that would be a great adventure.
One day in a pub, he and a friend decided to make it happen and row across the Atlantic. Once push came to shove, the friend backed out, citing family and work responsibilities. It’s no wonder: a crossing of the Atlantic in a 6.5-metre ocean rower isn’t something you can whip off in a weekend with little preparation.
So John decided he would do it solo. He wanted to show his two girls you can do anything if you put your mind to it. With age creeping up on him, and not running the times he once did in his youth, he was looking for another challenge.
Cheryl said he is a little “obsessive.”
“If he was a smoker he’d smoke 90 cigarettes a day. If he drank, he would consume gallons.” Thank goodness his bucket list is not quite that destructive.
His boat was specially built in the U.K., then transported to the Canary Islands where he started his 2,400-nautical-mile journey (approximately 3,000 imperial miles) on Nov. 25. The adventure will end in 50 to 90 days depending on the weather and currents, when he arrives at St. Charles, Barbados.
The boat has enough freeze-dried dehydrated food on board for the journey. John is trying to consume 6,000 calories a day to keep his energy up and be able to row for 12 hours — about 30 to 50 miles — a day.
He has no one following him in another boat. In fact his only support crew is his wife, at home in Burlington, and a friend who is using technology to keep John abreast of the currents and weather conditions.
For safety he is wearing a tracking device and the boat has GPS, radar, VHS radio and satellite phone — all powered by solar panels on the craft. You can follow his progress and make a donation for breast and prostate cancer research at soloatlanticrow.com.
Cheryl helped us set up a satellite phone interview with John about two weeks into his journey. It was amazing to talk to him in the middle of the Atlantic. The complete interview is on 900CHML.com.
He told us about 18-foot waves that looked like they would “swallow you up but once you master it, or it lets you ride it, it’s an absolutely incredible feeling.” He has seen ships, sailboats, some birds and even hung out with about 40 dolphins that were playing around the craft for 15 minutes. But for the most part he is all alone, day and night.
When asked what it was like being alone for so long in the middle of nowhere, he said, “It doesn’t feel like I’m alone. I get email every day with great messages people have sent. I feel more connected out here than I’ve ever felt before, which is strange.”
He has planned and trained for this endeavour for two years and when I asked if it was what he had expected, he said, “This is the craziest and most brilliant thing I have ever got myself into. It is everything I thought it would be but, it’s completely different.”
He would love to complete his journey and arrive in Barbados on Jan. 24, which is his 50th birthday.
All of a sudden, the NASCAR weekend I’m planning for my 50th seems a little inadequate.
The Scott Thompson Show airs weekdays noon to 3 p.m. on News/Talk 900 CHML. ScottThompsonTalk.com