Rowing Across the Atlantic Ocean

No Motor, No Sails

Atlantic Crossing by Rowboat

53 days, 3,000 miles, Nov 2002 - Jan 2003

Ray & Jenny Jardine

Atlantic Crossing by Rowboat

Training for six months on a rowing machine.
See Also: Atlantic Caper, a 48 min DVD video. Our daily updates

A 23-foot ocean rowboat - no sails, no motor, just two pairs of oars. Solar panels to power a watermaker. A 90-day supply of food. A husband and wife team with a desire for adventure and an intense determination to succeed.


Jenny and I rowed across the Atlantic Ocean. The 3,000 mile crossing, from La Gomera to Barbados, took us 53 days.

Our crossing took place during November and December of 2002


San Sebastian bay, on La Gomera, was where Christopher Columbus set out to discover the New World.

Sept 6, 1492, Columbus departs Gomera (Canary Islands) after repair and refit.

Route mini-history:

August 3, 1492, the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria sail out of the port of Palos, Spain.

Sept 6, 1492, Columbus departs Gomera (Canary Islands) after repair and refit.

Oct 12, 1492, New world sighted. Scholars believe it was Watling's Island, in the Bahamas.

* * *

Off the northwest coast of Africa lie the Canary Islands. Five hundred and eleven years ago, Christopher Columbus began his Atlantic crossing from the Canaries. He took advantage of the trade winds and favorable currents that carried his ships to the Caribbean. The Canaries would be the start of our Atlantic crossing too. Like Columbus, we would use the trade winds and currents to our advantage. Unlike Columbus, we had a GPS Navigator on board.

Departure Day: November 7, 2002. Ahead of us was nearly 3,000 miles of open ocean. Our goal was the island of Barbados in the southern Caribbean. By rowboat, this crossing could take anywhere from 50 to 100 days. It all depended on the weather, the design and efficiency of the rowboat, and our determination.

We punched in our first waypoint: 20 North, 30 West. The GPS gave us the big picture: 994 miles on a heading of 242. As the days passed, we closed in on this waypoint, and sometime in the wee hours of November 26 we reached it. From here we would head more west, with the trade winds directly on our stern. But it was still another 2,000 miles to Barbados.

As faithful as the stars and planets in the heavens above, our GPS never failed to give us our current position, speed and range, to let us know when we were getting off course and how much we needed to correct. It plotted our track. It told us GMT. It even beeped an alarm to let the person rowing know that his hour stint at the oars was ended and that it was time to wake up the other person.

The sun rose on Christmas Day and the GPS told us the good news: Range - 354 miles. At 60 miles per day, we would be in Barbados to celebrate the New Year. The days passed quickly. On Day 53, December 30, 2002, we sighted land. Barbados, dead ahead.

The GPS Navigator was accurate and reliable; it took all the guesswork and uncertainty out of our rowing adventure. It simplified life on board for us. Navigating was no longer a chore.

Would we do it again? Are we going to row across the Pacific next? A definite maybe.

* * *


Caper had a small aft cabin for sleeping, and a forepeak for storage. Solar panels charged our one small battery that ran our watermaker, GPS, cabin and nav lights, and charged the batteries on our satellite phone and mini disk player. We had an EPIRB, a GPIRB, a handheld GPS backup, a life raft, and a series drogue sea anchor on board. We used the drogue on one occasion and it worked beautifully. We were glad we had it onboard.

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