Friday, 23 October 2015
Xtremely Queer : Looping the World - Part 2
Part 2 of Sarah Outen’s London2London Xtreme expedition to loop the world by human power sees disappointment and excitement in the Pacific Ocean.
Sarah arrived on the Pacific coast of Russia in late 2011 and the journey from there, down the coast of Japan and across to North America, would be on the water.
With her kayaking partner Justine Curgenven, Sarah starting paddling down from the north of Sakhalin Island towards Japan. Even though the long journey so far had been filled with excitement Sarah was disappointed about one thing. Through the whole of her journey since entering Russia she was ever cautious of cycling through the country and coming face to face with a bear. The only evidence of bears she actually came across were paw prints in the ground. To her excitement and delight she and Justine encountered a bear on the very last day out of Russian territory on Sakhalin. The bear was on the shore and oblivious to the kayakers, and they paddled as close as they dared to get a good view of the creature.
Sarah wrote “To have a small window into the world of such a beautiful and formidable creature was wonderful and as I paddled quietly away I felt like the luckiest person on the planet!”
A thousand miles of paddling finally brought Sarah and Justine to the Japanese port of Choshi. By now it was approaching winter and Sarah had spent most of the year in the saddle or on the water. She remained in Japan and spent her time preparing, physically and mentally, for the next, most gruelling, leg.
During her stay in Japan Sarah volunteered for the Ishinomaki earthquake relief team. An earthquake and tsunami had struck the coast of Japan in March 2011, just a few weeks before she set off from London. Sarah recalls the experience as being one of the most profound things she has ever done.
By the beginning of May 2012 Sarah was set for her solo Pacific row. It would be the most arduous section of her mission to loop the world. The start was delayed by 2 weeks due to bad weather conditions in the Pacific.
In bright sunshine Sarah finally set off in her boat “Gulliver” on 13th May 2012. She rowed continuously for 18 hours in order to reach the Kuroshio current, a current which would help to carry her across the north Pacific. Unfortunately, many strong winds pushed her back towards Japan several times. At one point her boat capsized before she had strapped herself into her cabin and she was “shaken but not stirred”, she wrote on her blog.
There were many good days of rowing where the weather was favourable. It also enabled her to see all those magnificent sea creatures that very few people get to see – dolphins, whales, and even squid and sharks.
All was going well and Sarah was happy with the progress. On 6th June 2012, 500 nautical miles out from Japan the tropical storm Mawar began to edge towards her. Sarah hoped that it would pass nearby and not disrupt her too much. But the waves rose and the winds blew and Gulliver capsized several times. There was no other choice for Sarah but to call for an emergency rescue.
An expedition like this always has a dedicated support team ready to leap into action and in no time Sarah’s land-based team had a Japanese coast guard rescue team on its way. Sarah was rescued safely and taken back to Japan, but poor Gulliver, her trusty boat, could not be saved and was abandoned (it’s still bobbing about somewhere on the Pacific).
Sarah was dehydrated and bruised and spent time in hospital before flying back to Rutland in England to recuperate properly and assess the situation with her team, not to mention catch up with family and friends.
She was determined to continue with her expedition but she was now without a boat. Fortunately the builder of Gulliver had another, virtually identical boat which she could have. The loop around the world was back on, and a relaunch was planned for Spring 2013.
Eleven months after the dramatic rescue Sarah was back in Choshi, Japan, in her new called “Happy Socks” (after the colourful socks her mother knitted for her) for her second attempt to be the first women to row across the Pacific Ocean.
The row began on 27th April 2013. Again, adverse weather conditions caused a rethink in August half way across. The progress was slow and it looked like it would take much longer than the 6 months planned to reach Vancouver, Canada. A new plan was devised. Sarah would divert north towards the Aleutian Islands of southern Alaska. From there she would kayak from one island to the next as far as the coastal port of Homer.
Having had the disappointment of having no choice but to abandon her previous trans-pacific row Sarah reached an all-time high during this part of her expedition. On 1st July 2013, still alone in her little boat “Happy Socks” in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, she proposed to her girlfriend, Lucy, via satellite phone. Lucy said YES! There were more than “Happy Socks” on the Pacific that day!
Four months after Lucy waved Sarah off from Choshi in Japan, Sarah reached the remote Adak Island in the Aleutians to finish the last leg and begin the next in her loop around the world.