Thursday, August 14, 2008

JUNK/Roz recount: like two snails chasing each other

A wonderful recount from JUNK of the other night's historic mid-Pacific encounter. Here Roz has the boys in a savage headlock....

Those two hours 600 miles from land, the highlight of our trip, an encounter with tremendous joy and gratitude, were spent with Roz Savage aboard JUNK. Her boat, Brocade, saddled up next to JUNK at 6pm on August 12th, after three days of communicating our whereabouts back and forth. “We’re like two snails chasing each other,” Roz said, regarding our respective methods of movement. JUNK only sails. Roz is rowing across the Pacific Ocean.

Joel and I listened to the VHF radio to her tender British voice, wondering, “Do you think she looks more like Princess Diana or the Queen?” Joel spotted her first a mile off the bow. Within 200 feet of each other we threw out the sea anchor and dropped the sail. The first attempt to toss her a line failed, so I swam out to her with the end of the line and a handshake. She looked like Guinevere in pigtails with the forearms of Popeye.

Aboard JUNK we gave her the grand tour of patched pontoons, broken masts and worn lashings. Bobbing next to her streamlined, carbon-fiber, competitive rowboat with waterproof hatches, JUNK appears to have well earned its name. We knew our time would be short, and that we hadn’t seen other human beings for 2 ½ months, therefore we intuitively cut through the small talk and had real conversations, equally enjoying the company, if nothing else.

Roz was in need of water. Both of her watermakers malfunctioned. We were in need of food, having resorted to peanut butter for the bulk of our nutrition. We had two watermakers, and plenty of water in buckets. Roz had food, and plenty of it. Before climbing aboard JUNK, she hurled three bags of food over to us, and three empty containers. We had been making water all morning, so we quickly gave her a full stock to keep her going. We peeked in the bags she gave us, as if Joel and I were children on Halloween. “What did you get Joel?” I asked. “Larabars and Teriyaki chicken,” he said. “I got turkey jerky,” I replied, thinking that I can now refrain from eating the fish jerky still hanging outside. There’s an underlying joy, not in the prospect of full meals, but in giving, the reciprocal altruism that is deeply human.

Read the full account here:

Joel jumped in the water after a school of Mahi Mahi that had been following us all day. I asked Roz, “So what do you do to keep your mind active?” She knew exactly what I was talking about. I described that in my experience thus far, there have been moments of ecstatic joy and bottom of the barrel sadness, blooming randomly in a wide, open field of boredom. She responded, “I can focus on rowing, or anticipate the next tea break, and then there’s audio tapes. But it’s different from when I rowed the Atlantic…” This isn’t Roz’s first long distance rowing expedition. “…there were more doubts and more to think and worry about. For example, when my watermaker broke this time, I simply said, ‘oh well.’” Here blue eyes are loaded with experience and the patience that comes with it. You get to a point where you can choose to worry or not worry about things, because worry simply doesn’t change anything outside your head. I looked overboard to see Joel struggling toward the raft.

“Hana pa’a!” he yelled. A three-foot Mahi Mahi thrashed as I heaved it on deck. A quick cut above the eyes and it’s still. Joel climbed out of the water, and turned on the stove. I handed him the first filet, the muscle still twitching. In minutes we’re enjoying curried fish, a gift from the sea. We promised Roz a fish, and Joel came through. I could see Joel was content, as I was, having the opportunity to give to someone else. Roz appeared to feel the same way.

We’re all here to raise awareness about the issue of plastic marine debris. Just before Joel nabbed dinner, I retrieved a small sieve towed behind JUNK. I unscrewed the cod end to show Roz the contents of our research trawl. “Many people think it’s an island of plastic trash out here, but it’s worse.” I showed Roz the particulate fragments of plastic collected along with a few jellyfish, halobates and zooplankton. “If it were an island, it could be mined. The reality is that it’s a thin soup, with millions of tons of plastic, the size of peas and smaller, distributed around the world. There’s no techno-fix, only a cultural one.” This sample is for Roz to use in her efforts to show the public what’s happening to our oceans.

But are there deeper reasons other than the issue of plastic marine debris for exposing one’s life to the intolerances of the sea? Perhaps it’s the 360-degree view of stars to the horizon, or the identity we gather from our adventures, like feathers in our cap, or it’s the novelty of unanticipated consequences of just being truly present in the world. I don’t know, perhaps all of the above. The sun is beginning to set behind a bank of clouds. The last rays are an unspoken cue that it’s time to part ways. We take a few photos together, and Roz autographs our cabin with a marker, “No doubt, you’re the coolest guys I’ve met in the last three months. Thanks for a great dinner. Bon Voyage. ROZ.” We watch her drift away, and the silhouette of her oars in the air as she begins rowing another 600 miles to Hawaii.


Jeanne Gallagher said...

Hi guys.....I was finally able to leave Roz a greeting a few minutes ago. wouldn't work yesterday. I wished her well and God Speed. Your lives are all so deeply enhanced. I'm sure your friendship will grow each year. Got to talk to Anna for a minute this AM. Good to hear her voice. Won't be long now. Wish I could be there to see your smiling brown faces, but you know my heart will be there. See you when you come back to us.

Blessings to you both.


Jennifer said...

Thanks you wonderful, awesome guys for helping Roz out with her water supplies. And I'm so happy she was able to help you out with your food situation so you are eating something more than peanut butter! I've been following Roz's endeavors to row the Pacific for over a year, and now I'm glad to see that there are follow adventurers like yourselves who share her passion to rally the world to save the Oceans. Good luck to the JUNK MALES! And thanks again for your effort to meet up with Roz Savage!

April Jarocka said...

Just want to wish you guys all the best in your endeavours to raise awareness. I am sure you could have built something the size of a battleship out of junk - sadly there's enough out there. I only see what's washed up on our shores here in Ireland but I am sure it's horrendous to see it floating aimlessly out there. May God keep you both safe!
April Jarocka

Anonymous said...

As I just told Roz, what you guys experienced in the middle of the Pacific was a 'Celestine Prophecy' moment. (Check out the book, by James Redfield). There is no such thing as a coincidence. When you are at one with the world, really tuned in to yourself and your environment, things happen in a serendipitous way. Your joint encounter the other night was exactly that- an unlikely meeting, in a most unusual way, where you each had many needs fulfilled. God is good. God Bless you in your adventure, in your commitment to raise awareness for our oceans. May you have a continuing safe journey to Hawaii-
Fair winds and followoing seas, God speed to you.

Guinea Pig said...

Thanks for doing this! I googled forever to understand what EXACTLY was out there in the Pacific. Now I know. I've given up water bottles except for emergency preparedness purposes. I'm struggling to give up plastic bags (I keep forgetting the re-usables at the house!!!) I'm trying hard to stay away from any plastic that I won't use for over a year. First steps. Many more changes to come.

Thanks thanks thanks again.

I'll spread the word!

Anonymous said...

I did not know about you guys until Roz had talked about her meet up with you. I guess I have another boat to follow across the ocean. I am so glad that you were able to have meet up with Roz, and give her the water she needed.

Sarah said...

I've been following Roz's blog since she started the Atlantic rowing race & came across your blog from her site.

It is amazing that you managed to meet up in the middle of the pacific - just goes to show the world is smaller than it seems lol.

I just wanted to say I think you're doing a fantastic job & I've added you to my blog list so will be following the rest of your journey.

Keep up the fantastic work!!

r said...

Simply amazing that the two of you could communicate and meet up in the middle of nowhere. Man builds on efforts of those that went before and hopefully your contribution will be a better understanding of how we effect our environment.

iheartguts said...