Disabled rower crossing Pacific

On July 15, Englishman Andrew Halsey set out from SanDiego, Calif., bound for Sydney, Australia, aboard his 28-foot custom-built ocean rowboat named Brittany Rose. Despite suffering from epilepsy (for which Halsey wears a chest harness to keep him from falling overboard during a seizure), he is driven to accomplish this nonstop, 7,500-mile passage, solo and unassisted. If Halsey succeeds, he will be the first person to ever accomplish this feat.

Halsey knows well the perils of such an epic undertaking. In 1997 he survived severe malnutrition and dehydration to become the first physically handicapped rower to solo the Atlanticor any ocean, for that matter. Through his rowing accomplishments Halsey hopes to send a message to others who suffer from epilepsy or other disabilities: handicaps do not have to prevent those afflicted by them from pursuing their dreams.

His ’97 Atlantic crossing, which Halsey thought would take up to 80 days, ended up taking 119 days. Not having planned for such a long voyage, Halsey eventually ran out of food and drinking water; he barely survived the last couple weeks by eating what fish he was able to catch. He reportedly drank his own urine, believing this would promote hydration, despite the fact that medical experts believe drinking urine is actually harmful.

With the help of sponsorship for his current Pacific crossing, Halsey was able to outfit the Brittany Rose with some equipment that he could not afford for his Atlantic crossing, including three watermakers, an EPIRB, VHF radio, a laptop, and the Argos satellite tracking system. He also packed some good fishing lures.

Laden with supplies to last a year, Halsey can row just more than two miles per hour. On a good day, Halsey can get in eight to 12 hours of rowing. He fills out the rest of his typical day with other necessary tasks of navigating, food preparation, fishing, making water, and napping. In good weather, he can expect to log about 45 miles per day. As Halsey suggested before he left, “During the times when weather does not cooperate and the wind, waves, and current push the boat the wrong way, you can row all day just to hold your place.” Halsey estimates the voyage could take a year.

Late summer and early fall mean storm season in the tropics, and this year was an especially bad season. Having made excellent time his first five weeks out of San Diego (making 1,500 miles en route to Sydney), by late August Halsey began to get hammered by one tropical depression after another. In early September Halsey spent four straight days hunkered down below in the tiny cabin as Typhoon Greg swept the Brittany Rose hundreds of miles off course. In this storm Halsey was banged up, suffering a severe ligament injury that immobilized his left knee.

Although Halsey had covered nearly 3,000 miles by the beginning of November, harsh weather and strong current swept him toward Mexico; he was only 400 miles closer to Sydney than when he left three and a half months before.

By Ocean Navigator