Rowing the Oceans

The first Atlantic crossing in a rowing boat was made in 1896 by two Norwegian fishermen, Gabriel Samuelson and Georg Harbo. A New York newspaper set the challenge and the two men took it up, rowing their open boat, ‘Fox’ from the Battery on Manhattan Island to Le Havre, France. They rowed 3,250 miles in 60 days and only stopped once at the Isles of Scilly to refresh their food and water supplies.

The second pair to row the Atlantic was Chay Blyth and John Ridgway who completed the crossing in 1966. They left the small fishing harbour Orleans on Cape Cod on 4th June in a 20 foot open dory, called, ‘English Rose III’ and arrived at Inishmore, Ireland 92 days later. Their crossing was a particularly stormy one and the pair were at risk from starvation until a Finnish freighter stopped to offer them fresh fruit, bread and other vital supplies.

‘The nearest whale came to about 15 yards away. I could see the moonlight glinting on its pig-like eyes. Chay and I sat there petrified. The two great mammals rose and fell,…suddenly they both “let off steam” and huge fountains of water shot into the air. We quaked, watching paralysed as the whales slithered below the surface…’

John Ridgway

John Fairfax was the first person to row solo across the Atlantic. He had made it his life’s ambition to become the first person to make the trip alone and with the help of brilliant boat designer, Uffa Fox, this ambition becamea reality. In 1969 Fairfax made the journey that lasted for 180 days in a boat that, if capsized, would take only two seconds to right again.

In 1971 Fairfax then teamed up with Sylvie Cook to embark on the first rowing crossing of the Pacific. Their journey began in San Francisco and they arrived at Haymen Island, off the coast of Australia, 361 days later. They had stopped at Ensanada (Mexico), Washington Island, Fanning Island and Onotoa (Gilbert Islands).