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Row Your Boat Across the Pacific

Row Your Boat Across the Pacific

Imagine spending 336 days alone at sea in a 28-foot vessel that was purely designed for rowing. We are not talking about a traditional style boat – you know, the one with a galley and comfy cabin to bunk down in when the sails are set to hove to so that our bodies can rest, and where we can catch a little shut eye. This boat that I will introduce you to has no motor and no sails, but she does have some well-crafted oars.

Allow me to take you on a little journey into the recent accomplishment of Jacob Adoram. Jacob is the first person to row solo, unassisted and nonstop across the Pacific Ocean from Washington in the United States to our sandy shores in north Queensland almost a year later. He rowed a whopping 9,300 nautical miles!

When I first heard about Jacob’s achievement, I could not comprehend how this was even possible. How on earth could this man row the entire distance? That was one question I had of hundreds: What was he eating? Where was he getting fresh water? How could he store a year’s worth of food and water on a “kayak”? When did he sleep? How did he sleep? How did he manage the boat while he slept? You are possibly asking these and many more questions yourself and I hope this article inspires you to learn more about Jacob’s amazing journey.

Jacob is an intriguing man with the ability to motivate you without any intention to do so. I expected to meet a gregarious over-achiever; after all, he rose to the rank of Eagle Scout as a child, and later in life, served as a US Fighter Pilot in 170 combat missions. Instead, I met a Jacob who is a thoughtful man who sees himself as an average bloke, and who at times has felt a “deep dissatisfaction with life”. Rather than chasing his tail and living in the monotony, Jacob looks for a challenge where he can discover more about the world and himself. Rowing across the Pacific in a purpose-made kayak sounds like the perfect tonic.

Let’s have a closer look at Emerson, the vessel that made this journey with Jacob. Emerson is one of a kind, purpose-built for the Pacific Ocean crossing. Together with highly respected naval architect Eric Spoonberg, Jacob designed a vessel to hold up to varying conditions faced in an ocean crossing while keeping him comfortable and safe for a year alone at sea.

Weighing a modest 1,175kg unloaded, Emerson measures 28 feet length overall (LOA) and about 26 feet length on waterline (LWL), resembling a slimline life raft used in cargo ships. To keep her upright, she is made of carbon fibre with a foam core and has a 2’6” keel.

When testing Emerson’s ability to roll, the team at Schooner Creek Boatworks in Portland had many attempts trying to tip her over. Thankfully, this boat wanted nothing more than to stay upright.

Jacob estimated his trip would take about a year, so Emerson had to have storage built to hold a year’s worth of food, at the same time ensuring longevity of the ingredients as well as holding ballast. There is a forward cabin that was Jacob’s living area and an aft cabin used for storage. At the centre of Emerson was Jacob’s undercover rowing station. A well-protected rudder was designed to ensure it could not be damaged.

Emerson was equipped with enough solar panels to charge three deep-cycle marine batteries providing 585 watts of power in ideal conditions. This basically produced enough energy to operate a chart plotter and an autopilot 24/7, as well as to have fully charged handheld devices such as iPad, iPhone and VHF radio. Jacob had a reverse desalination pump called a Spectra Ventura 150 Deluxe Water Maker, which produced healthy 22 litres of fresh water per hour off the batteries.

Asked if there were any changes he would make to Emerson’s design, Jacob said she could be shorter by a couple of feet. He also said that the bubble top built into one of the cabins (allowing Jacob to stand up and gain a 360-degree view of the surrounding ocean) was not necessary. He discovered that it proved unsafe at times as Emerson was built for rowing, not standing.

Typically, with boating, it is not until we are into the journey that we discover leaks. It wasn’t until the trip began, that Emerson’s custom-made hatches would suffer this same fate with leaks affecting food and batteries. In a revised design, Jacob would also look for opportunities to decrease windage.

With a well-built boat able to hold its performance under Jacob’s rowing, what does one do to fill in time while spending almost a year alone at sea? Being in a rowboat, rowing does take up a fair chunk of the day. Jacob had a distance to cover and provisions to last 350 days, so he rowed as much as he could, generally 10 to 12 hours per day.

Although he was able to keep in touch with friends and family via onboard technology, Jacob was also content being by himself surrounded by a magnificent ocean full of wildlife. He was surprised at how many birds are so far away from land, all different shapes and sizes. The fearless seabirds, the boobies, would often drop in for a rest on Emerson before continuing on their migratory flight. There were whalefish, whales and huge sunfish swimming along beneath the boat. The most interesting of all were a herd of sharks that joined Jacob as he headed toward the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Over time, he watched them, wondering if they were patiently waiting for him to plop into the water.

On 8th June 2019, after a few rough days around the GBR, Jacob landed on Trinity Beach, north Queensland. Having spent 336 days at sea, his greatest challenge ashore was his inability to walk. Not to be overwhelmed by this distraction, Jacob greeted family, friends and complete strangers with the warmth of a humble adventurer that he is.

Jacob Adoram is an inspirational human being. We salute you!

To learn more visit www.jacobadoram.com.

 

By Tanya Rabe

 

(Published in the Oct-Dec 2019 edition)

 

 

 

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