Roz Savage Departs Australia For … (Destination Secret)
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the ill-advised risks private boats take by venturing into pirate-heavy parts of the Indian Ocean. Every new killing and hostage-taking puts more people at risk, and not for reasons of national security or economic necessity. It’s a big world … why not stay out of “the most dangerous waters on the planet,” unless sailing them is absolutely necessary?
A quick response came from my friend Roz Savage, who is about to set off by 21-foot rowboat to cross a section of … the Indian Ocean. This is the fourth leg—out of five—of a seven-year adventure that will take Savage around the globe solo and self-propelled.
“The pirates are ranging up to 1,300 miles from the Somali coast, which covers a large swath of the Indian Ocean, but by no means all of it,” she wrote. “About 75 percent of the Indian Ocean is as yet untouched by piracy. I am all in favour of mitigating the risks involved in adventuring, but we need to get the right balance between sensible caution and over-reaction. These opportunistic pirates are already causing enough trouble. Let’s not give them more power than they merit.”
Fair point. But when Savage departs from Freemantle, Australia, Tuesday, April 12, her destination will be kept hush-hush, out of respect for the pirates.
Initially, her goal was to cross the entirety of the Indian Ocean, east to west, landing somewhere along the coast of Africa. To avoid ramped-up pirate activity, the end-point was switched to Mumbai. Now, she won’t say where she’s intending to make port. Unlike previous rows, global satellite tracking will not be posting daily locations at her website.
Here’s what she wrote to me a week ago: “I had an interesting meeting with the Australian maritime authorities yesterday. A pirate attack was reported further out into the Indian Ocean, closer to their territory, just a day or so ago. So you are quite right to urge caution.
“I just hope that NOT having a big white sail advertising my presence will stand me in good stead….”
To date, the former management consultant has covered about 11,000 miles of ocean by oar, crossing the Atlantic in 2005-2006 in 103 days, then across the Pacific in two stints (San Francisco to Hawaii in 99 days and Hawaii to Kiribati in 104 days) Once successful across part of the Indian Ocean, the final leg—New York City to London—is scheduled for 2012.
Some highlights from recent Q&As with Roz as she prepared her boat, the Sedna, in Freemantle:
What fuels you when you’re all alone out on a big ocean with just your boat and oars?
I can’t lie—I find it very challenging being out on the ocean. It’s not my natural habitat. It has its moments of beauty—the stars, the sea creatures, the sunrises and sunsets, and of course the moments of accomplishment—but generally it’s uncomfortable at best, and terrifying at worst.
But the ocean has been an incredible teacher. I’ve discovered resources within myself I never would have known existed if I hadn’t taken this leap of faith.
What is the single strongest lesson the open ocean offers an individual soul?
I am all too aware that I get no special privileges just because I am a human. Out there, I am just another animal, and subject to the laws of nature.
When I was rowing my first ocean, the Atlantic, I kept wondering why it was being so mean to me. I was (I thought) a good person doing the right thing for the right reasons. So why was it making my life so difficult? That year, 2005, was officially the worst year ever for weather in the Atlantic, including Hurricane Katrina. In the rough conditions, all four of my oars broke, I got tendinitis in my shoulders, and the 103 days of the crossing were mostly uncomfortable, and sometimes downright dangerous.
Ultimately, I learned not to take it personally. Nature does not make moral judgments—on me individually or on all of us collectively. Our continued existence as a species does not depend on whether we “deserve” to survive in a moral sense, but rather a practical, scientific sense. Given what we have done to our only planet, is human life sustainable in the long term? Time will tell, but big brains and opposing thumbs won’t help us much if we have poisoned our ecosphere beyond what our bodies can adapt to.
(For the rest of my dispatch go to takepart.com)