Sonya Baumstein Hopes To Be First Woman To Row Solo Across Pacific

Sonya Baumstein plans to become the first woman to row solo across the Pacific Ocean. Only three other boats have made the solo crossing, and all were rowed by men. Sonya left the Japanese port of Choshi on June 7, taking the first strokes of an arduous 6,000 mile journey to California. Baumstein expects to arrive in San Francisco some time in September.

“I worked three years of my life for this… It’s 6,000 miles. It’s going to get bad at times. I just keep my eyes on the prize.”

Sonya is an experienced solo adventurer with several ocean rowing voyages under her belt. In January, 2012, Baumstein and three others (all men) rowed from the Canary Islands to Barbados on a mid-Atlantic journey. Sonya has also solo cycled the 1,800 miles from Mexico to Seattle, kayaked alone from Washington state to Alaska, and crossed the Bering Strait solo on a stand-up paddle-board.

Baumstein is well-prepared for the Pacific rowboat crossing, but not under any illusions about the difficulty of the task she’s undertaken. Sonya will be rowing 14-16 hour days, weather permitting, and will have to break her sleep regularly to check her location.

Her on-shore support crew will send crucial information via satellite phone and GPS about weather trouble heading her way so that she can secure everything and take refuge in the row boat’s tiny cabin. The team hope to be able to keep Sonya updated 24 hours in advance.

There are no accompanying support boats because it would cost too much, and Baumstein’s green row boat doesn’t have a motor or a sail.

It’s a challenging test, but incredibly rewarding. Sonya talked to the New York Times about the best and worst in a trip like this. Being wet “all the time” is the worst thing. Sonya doesn’t mind the wetness as much as you’d think, because the opportunity to see wildlife up close, and to have a stunning view of the stars, more than makes up for it.

“It’s very cool to see wildlife, but to watch the passing of the stars, because I row all night if it’s good weather. To see the complete Milky Way,” she said.

Baumstein’s journey is also contributing to science. Her rowboat is specially equipped to “take samples and measure water conditions to help understand climate change and other phenomena.”

Andrew Cull is the founder of Remote Medical International, a company that specializes in medical training and equipment for hard-to-reach places. He told the New York Times that Sonya has what it takes.

“What’s gotten her across oceans and to this point is sheer drive and willpower,” said Cull.

Sonya learned about willpower the hard way. Her solo efforts are particularly important to her after a serious car accident during her university rowing years put her out of commission. Now, she’s more determined than ever.

“It feels like I’m living to my fullest ability,” says Sonya.

[Image via the Guardian]