SYDNEY — A British woman who survived fierce storms and a near-drowning on her journeys across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans set off from Australia on Wednesday for a rowing adventure across the Indian Ocean with a new worry on her mind: pirates.
Roz Savage rowed out of the port city of Fremantle, in western Australia, to begin a four-month trip in her 23-foot purple rowboat, Sedna, named after the Inuit goddess of the ocean. If she completes the 4,000-mile trip, Savage will be the first woman to row across three oceans, according to the Ocean Rowing Society, a London-based group that tracks such feats.
Despite her years of experience at sea, the 43-year-old environmentalist acknowledged that this trip — which takes her through an area known for pirate attacks — has her on edge. She axed her original plan to row to Mumbai, which would have taken her through a pirate-riddled region off the Somali coast, and is now keeping her exact route and final destination a secret for security reasons.
“It’s something that I think about in the wee hours of the night,” Savage told The Associated Press. “I’ve done everything I can to reduce the risk, so now I try and just tell myself that yeah, there’s nothing more I can do.”
Her pirate preparedness plan included seeking advice from shipping companies in the region and taking with her a good luck charm — “Woody,” a tiny toy pirate named for his little wooden peg leg.
Savage uses her long-distance rowing adventures to promote environmental causes and raise awareness of plastic debris polluting the ocean. She hopes to encourage people to use biodegradable trash bags and reusable grocery bags.
Savage has grappled with the dangers of the ocean before. In 2007, the U.S. Coast Guard rescued her after rough seas overturned her boat just 90 miles into her attempt to cross the Pacific. During another leg of the Pacific journey, she nearly drowned after she became separated from her boat while she was retrieving a hook that had fallen overboard. She successfully completed the 8,000-mile crossing last year after reaching Papua New Guinea.
Savage plans to row across the Indian Ocean without stopping on land for breaks. She generally rows 12 hours a day, in three-hour stints, resting for an hour in between shifts to eat. There is a tiny, enclosed cabin where she can stay dry and sleep, and there are two satellite phones on board that allow her to update her blog and stay in contact with her onshore team.
On board, she has a desalinator to make saltwater drinkable and keeps a six-month supply of fruit-and-nut bars and freeze-dried meals, along with a small pot in which she grows bean sprouts. Based on past experience, she expects to lose about 26 pounds during the trip, which she’s dubbed her “Eat-Pray-Row” adventure.
Despite the challenges ahead, Savage said the arduous journey is worth it.
“Sometimes we might feel like anything we do as an individual is a drop in the ocean — that it doesn’t make any difference,” she said. “But with my rowing, I’m demonstrating that a million tiny actions together really adds up to something significant. One oar stroke only gets me a few feet, but you add them all together and it makes a big difference.”