Adventurers of the Year Update: Roz Savage Reflects on Rowing Her Third Ocean

By Samantha Cook; photograph courtesy Roz Savage

Last year, Roz Savage, 43, was named one of National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year for rowing solo across both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Impressive enough as that was, Savage wasn't ready to retire her oars. On October 4th of this year, she completed her goal to row the Indian Ocean.

Adventure: Why go for a third ocean?
Roz Savage: Seven years ago I set out to row the world’s “Big Three” oceans—the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian. After having spent 11 years of my adult life working in an office, I had woken up to the fact that I was doing a job I didn’t like to buy stuff I didn’t need. Around that same time I had an environmental epiphany, realizing that if we carry on treating the Earth as we do now, we are going to face a very bleak future. So I decided to take a new life course, rowing across oceans and using my adventures as a way to raise consciousness and inspire action on environmental issues.

A: What route did you take for this row?
R.S.: Originally I was going to row from Australia to India, but due to the rapid escalation in pirate activity in the Indian Ocean—including the murder of four Americans at the start of this year—it seems wise to change my plans. I set out from Fremantle in Western Australia, and, after brief stops in Geraldton and the Abrolhos Islands to address equipment issues, I then rowed nonstop 4,000 miles to Mauritius.

A: How did you prepare yourself? Did you have a special training regimen?
R.S.: My training regimen was nothing out of the ordinary—a half- to one-and-a-half hour session each day consisting of a cardio workout and weight training. It is what I would do regardless of my rowing voyages. There is plenty of time to get fit once I am out on the ocean! Ocean rowers call it “wait training.”

A: It took you 154 days to row the Indian Ocean. Were there any unexpected difficulties along the way?
R.S.: The row was a bit longer than I had expected and was my longest row to date. I had enough food on board, but by the end I was down to my least favorite things. A lot of brown food. After having already rowed two oceans, I wouldn’t say that any of the many challenges were unexpected—just the usual things: equipment failures due because of saltwater corrosion; oar breakages due to rough conditions; occasional capsizes in high seas; and, of course, the occasional frustration of being pushed backwards by winds and currents—but such is the lot of the ocean rower.

A: What was the most rewarding part of this expedition? The most challenging?
R.S.: Throughout my voyages I have blogged every day on my website, and my readers have always been amazingly supportive and encouraging. But this year it was better than ever. I had dubbed this crossing “Eat-Pray-Row” and wanted to take my environmental messages to a more spiritual level, so I started a new tradition of “Philosophy Fridays” on the blog. In these posts I tried to articulate some of the big issues that I think about on the ocean. We got some very lively debates going on in the blog comments, giving me—and hopefully all my readers—a lot of food for thought. I found that incredibly rewarding.

The aspect I found the most challenging was the constant issues with the electrical system due to a rusty component in a solar panel regulator. I get nervous about working with electricity, but I really had no choice. I needed power to drive my watermaker—and electricians are few and far between in the middle of the ocean. It was a source of quiet pride to me that I managed to nurse the system along and keep it running until the end of the voyage.

A: What’s your personal environmental philosophy?
R.S.: I used to be a very materialistic person myself, but it didn’t work for me. I’m trying to present an alternative. My life is driven by a sense of purpose, a sense of self worth, and leaving the world a better place. A lot of problems issue from a search for happiness. Everybody wants to be happy, but unfortunately it’s often the result of what you own rather then who you are.

A: What's next?  
R.S.: Although I am now hanging up my oars in favor of land-based activities, I plan to continue using adventure as a way to promote a conscious and sustainable lifestyle. In 2012 I’ll be tying off the loose ends of the rowing chapter of my life by finishing the book and making a film. Then in 2013 I‘ll be back with a new adventure, details to be announced in due course. Whatever happens next, I know it’s going to be exciting!


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