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Row 32 North Atlantic Challenge

Republished from How Far Would You Go

After a month on the Atlantic, we are now approaching halfway point on this journey. This trip has certainly held true to expectations — we have experienced the full remit of emotions, physical discomforts and ocean tomfoolery. It’s unbelievable to think a month has gone by and we have another 4-5 weeks to go. If we’ve learned anything so far, it’s to take the bad with the good, make humor out of chaos and keep your eye on the finish line.

So a quick update on recent developments:

Negative News: We have been rowing without our primary on-board navigation system since Christmas, including our location fixing/headings (GPS), autotiller and weather sensors (wind direction, speed, water temp, etc).

Positive News: We still have our handy compass and a Garmin running watch with GPS to lead us home. Comforting to know that this is still 1 billion times more technology than Columbus had when setting off across the Atlantic (and Neil Armstrong on his moon landing, for that matter).

Negative News: We encountered a surprise T-Storm last week losing a second oar to the Atlantic (splintered nicely through the blade).

Positive News: Despite the 12 hours of torrential downpour, 35 knot winds and very large swells, we managed to pick up 40+ miles using a duck, cover and steer tactic akin to driving down the highway blindfolded at 70 mph using the guard rails as guideposts.

Negative News: I am 0-4 in fishing attempts despite spotting these colorful little mahi-mahi fishsticks underneath the boat on multiple occasions.

Positive News: Despite the lack of fishing success, we have spotted a ton of sea life including whales, dolphin, sharks and even a sea turtle. There’s something truly surreal about a 60-foot whale pulling up within arms reach alongside your 24-foot boat.

Negative News: I managed to eat all of the peanut butter in the first three weeks of this trip (spoonfuls…honestly so good) much to Kurt’s disappointment.

Positive News: Kurt has discovered the Chocolate Outrage flavor Gu energy packs (tastes just like fudge) and has taken to devouring these with reckless abandon.

And lastly…

Negative News: Kurt and I have had little update on the happenings of outside world (i.e. no idea on where the stock market is or whether Trump made good on his campaign pledge to update the Lincoln room to include a vaulted gold coin high-dive spring board). We were notified however by TWO people that our beloved San Diego Chargers have decided to officially relocate to LA.

Positive News: We are now soliciting offers from other football teams to have us — two loyal and dedicated team fans — officially relocate our allegiances. We’ll even consider the CFL (sorry, no Jets).

Addendum to post:
Each day out here truly is a lesson in trials vs triumphs. Some we lose, mostly we break even (which oddly feels like losing) and on occasion a day comes where something happens that makes up for the past seven crappy days, something that you know you’ll take with you when you finally step off the boat.

About a week ago, I was rowing by myself on the graveyard shift at 3:30 a.m. The ocean was still, like glass, and quiet. No wind, no waves, just the sound of my oars sliding through the water. The sky was black, only the red-orange moon setting behind me offering solace to what otherwise would be a pitch black night. As the moon finally set below the horizon, complete darkness crept over and there I was, alone, tired and cold, trying to fight the urge to crawl into the cabin and go to sleep. Just then, thousands of stars began to shine, as if they had waited for the moon to go down before making themselves seen. Clear across the sky, the Milky Way ran; you can actually see the ‘milk.’ I put the oars down into the water and began to row again. As I lifted the blade, the water lit up around it, with neon blue bioluminescent color. Literally looks like something from another world. I could see it drip off the blade as I pushed it back to take another stroke. I then sit there for five minutes, soaking it in, thinking that this was a good night.

John Schwartz

32º North rows for The Samfund, a unique foundation that provides much-needed financial support for young adult cancer survivors. Please visit their Flipgive fundraising page to donate directly or to Shop & Support The Samfund.

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