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British woman gears up to row across Pacific

19 april 2012, 11:51
Briton Sarah Outen. ©AFP
Briton Sarah Outen. ©AFP
Briton Sarah Outen is no stranger to adventure, but when she rows out from a small port in Japan this week she will be on her own -- all the way until she reaches Canada, AFP reports.

Outen's solo voyage across the Pacific, in a rowboat packed with the latest gadgetry, is probably the most challenging leg in her ambitious project to circle the globe by boat and bike.

"The distance is really huge," the 26-year-old adventurer, who became the first woman to row solo across the Indian Ocean in 2009.

Outen left Britain on April 1 last year on a 30-month expedition under the title London2London: Via the World, which saw her kayak to Europe, cycle across Eurasia then get back in her kayak to Japan.

When she sets out from Choshi, east of Tokyo, she will be taking with her everything she needs for the next six or seven months -- food, power generating equipment, a satellite phone, navigation computers and a desalinator to make drinking water from the sea.

There will be just one thing missing from the boat: a driving force.

"I am the engine," Outen said, flexing the muscular thighs and shoulders that will propel the 22-foot (6.75-metre) Gulliver and its two cabins all the way across the world's largest ocean.

At the end of the 4,500 nautical mile journey, and as Vancouver's trees shed their leaves, she'll get back on her bike, bound for North America's east coast.

From there it's just a matter of rowing the width of the northern Atlantic.

"I love adventure, I love challenges," she told AFP in Yokosuka, southwest of Tokyo, where she has been staying with friends as she shapes up for the journey.

"Three years ago I crossed the Indian Ocean... it took me four months to row from Australia to Mauritius.

"Whilst I was doing that I thought I would like to set myself an even bigger challenge; I want to journey across land and sea in one big expedition."

Outen said she was motivated to go on the solo crossing of the Indian Ocean, her first major adventure, after her father's death six years ago.

She wanted to "turn that into something positive" and dedicated her expedition to a charity for sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that afflicted her father for a long time.

Her current adventure is helping four causes: campaigns to fight breast cancer and motor neurone disease, the Jubilee Sailing Trust, which helps people with physical difficulties enjoy sailing, and the WaterAid anti-poverty charity.

While she is quietly confident she will make it, Outen acknowledges large-scale adventuring is not all plain sailing.

During the Indian Ocean voyage her boat was capsized three times by huge waves that finally dumped her a coral reef, which was "not a good place to land a boat," she said.

"I remember waiting on the reef for someone to come and help me, and I thought 'I cannot do that again. That was too scary'," she said.

But it did not take too long for the bad memories to fade and the good parts of the adventure to come to the fore.

"I particularly enjoyed the wild life -- whales, dolphins, albatrosses: huge birds making visits to my boat. And the stars -- just incredible," she said. "That feeling of being immersed in the wild was extraordinary, it was magical."

Outen said one of the main aims of her voyage is to inspire others -- particularly children -- to their own adventure, and she likes telling groups of youngsters about the three marriage proposals she politely declined from men she met while biking through the wilds of Kazakhstan and Russia.

"I told them I was married to the bike," she said.

"I really enjoy using those stories and experiences to share with others so that they can enjoy the adventures, too.

"You don't need to prepare for a big adventure. You can just go and learn on the way," she said. "It's all about attitude."

Attitude is something a trans-oceanic adventurer like Outen has in spades, but just in case her courage fails and things start to get the better of her, she need only look to the motto on the side of her boat.

"Keep calm and carry on," it reads.

Sarah Outen's website, including a blog detailing her adventure, can be found at www.sarahouten.com

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