Transatlantic ocean rower halfway between Cape Town and Rio

Winona Griggs

Halfway Across the Atlantic: A Journey of a Transatlantic Ocean Rower

I’m currently halfway between Cape Town and Rio, rowing across the vast and unpredictable Atlantic Ocean. The waves rise and fall, as if they have a mind of their own. It’s a journey that requires incredible physical and mental strength, and it’s filled with challenges and triumphs.

As I row further into this vast expanse of water, I can’t help but marvel at the sheer magnitude of the ocean. The horizon stretches out endlessly, and the waves crash against my small boat, reminding me of the power and beauty of nature. It’s a humbling experience, being so small in such a vast and untamed environment.

Rowing across the Atlantic is no small feat. It requires careful planning and preparation. I have to consider the weather conditions, the currents, and the potential for storms. Every decision I make can have a significant impact on the success of my journey.

But amidst the challenges, there are also moments of incredible serenity. The stillness of the early morning, as the sun rises over the horizon, is a sight that words cannot fully capture. It’s just me, my boat, and the endless expanse of ocean. In those moments, I feel a profound sense of peace and solitude.

Rowing across the Atlantic is not just a physical endeavor; it’s also a mental and emotional one. There are times when doubt creeps in, when the journey seems never-ending. But I remind myself of why I chose to embark on this adventure – the sense of accomplishment, the opportunity to push myself beyond my limits, and the chance to connect with something greater than myself.

Every day is a new challenge, a new opportunity for growth and self-discovery. I’ve learned to trust my instincts, to listen to the rhythm of the ocean, and to find joy in the smallest of victories. Rowing across the Atlantic has taught me resilience, patience, and the importance of embracing the unknown.

As I continue on this incredible journey, I can’t help but feel a deep sense of gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunity to witness the raw beauty of the ocean, gratitude for the support and encouragement of my loved ones, and gratitude for the strength and determination that has brought me this far.

Rowing across the Atlantic is not a journey for the faint of heart. It’s a test of endurance, both physical and mental. But it’s also a journey of self-discovery, of pushing beyond our perceived limits, and finding strength in the face of adversity. It’s a journey that will forever shape me and inspire others to chase their own dreams.

Transatlantic ocean rower halfway between Cape Town and Rio

Wow, I can’t believe it! I’m halfway there! I’m Zirk Botha, and I’m on an incredible adventure. I’m rowing across the Atlantic Ocean from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro. It’s a mind-boggling journey, covering a distance of 7,000 kilometers or 3,800 nautical miles. And guess what? I’ve reached the halfway point on January 22, 2021.

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Transatlantic ocean rower halfway between Cape Town and Rio

I’m the first person to attempt this incredible journey, rowing all alone with no safety boat to support me. And let me tell you, I’m setting some amazing records with my pace!

“Guess what? On Friday, January 22, I crossed the halfway mark in my boat Ratel. Can you believe it? This is a huge milestone worth celebrating! So, I invite you to join me in honoring this momentous occasion as soon as you can. I’m going to ‘Splice the Main Brace!’ as they say in the navy when they have a celebratory drink.”

Now, let me explain the route I’m following. It’s called the Great Circle Route. But here’s the cool part – it’s not a direct path from Cape Town to Rio. I actually started by heading out of Cape Town in a North West direction to take advantage of the South Easterly wind. Then, I turned West and now I’m cruising at a latitude of 17oS. At this halfway point, I have the trade winds behind me as I make my way across the Atlantic towards the Brazilian coast. Once I reach the coast, I’ll head South again towards Rio, which is at 23oS.

When I set sail from the Brazilian coast, I have to make sure to head to the north of Rio so that the wind can push me towards Cabo Frio, where the old Rio de Janeiro yacht club is located – that’s where I’ll be finishing my journey.

Reaching the halfway point of this amazing challenge feels like a remarkable achievement, especially because I am two weeks ahead of schedule,” Botha expressed. “I initially thought it would take me 90 days to complete this trip, but if the conditions remain favorable, I might reach Rio even sooner than that.

Even though I still have around 1900 nautical miles or 3500 km to cover, I won’t be slowing down at all,” he added.

Transatlantic ocean rower halfway between Cape Town and Rio

Caption: Check out Zirk Botha in the middle of his rowing journey from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro – photo provided by Trackamap

Brought to you by juwi Renewable Energies, I’m halfway through my expedition to raise awareness about the environment and the significance of sustainable development for our world’s future. I’m using #Row2Rio2020 to shine a light on how fossil fuels and thoughtless consumerism are impacting the Earth, which our children and the generations that come after will call home. Embracing renewable energies is crucial for creating a sustainable tomorrow.

‘Throughout my entire journey, I have to rely solely on myself for everything. This gives me a unique opportunity to showcase the power of renewable energy. I use solar panels and solar-charged batteries to provide electricity for my watermaker (desalinator), auto-pilot, safety equipment, radio, and satellite communications equipment,’ Botha explained.

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About the boat

Typically, ocean rowing boats are constructed using marine plywood or fiberglass and epoxy molds. However, Ratel stands out from the crowd with its unique design by Phil Morrison. It is crafted using closed-cell foam combined with fiberglass and epoxy resin.

Transatlantic ocean rower halfway between Cape Town and Rio

When I first saw the unique design of this product, I was amazed. The honeycomb construction principles that it incorporates not only make it incredibly strong but also surprisingly lightweight.

Let me tell you a little story. Before I started installing the hatches and equipment, I used to be able to lift and turn Ratel all by myself, with just one end on the cradle. That’s because, even with all the equipment, spare parts, and food loaded, she weighs a maximum of 550 kilograms. And considering her length of 6.5 meters and beam of 1.62 meters, she’s truly super light!”

Hey there! Let me tell you about how I power my systems. I’ve got two 12V batteries hooked up together, giving me a total capacity of 200aH. These batteries are perfect for charging with solar panels, so I went with Solbian flexible solar panels. They’re popular on yachts and boats, so I knew they would be reliable.

These panels can generate a peak capacity of 276 watts at 46 volts. However, because I’ve positioned them at different angles to catch the sun at different times of the day, they usually deliver about half of that maximum power. Even on cloudy days, they still do a great job and manage to charge my batteries all the way by sunset.

It’s amazing how well these panels work, considering that they’re flexible and can be positioned in different ways. This flexibility allows me to optimize their performance and maximize the amount of energy I can capture from the sun. I can always count on them to keep my batteries powered up and ready to go!

‘Onboard Ratel, I have a special machine called a desalinator that provides me with freshwater. It’s called the Eco-Systems Splash, and it can create 16 liters of freshwater every hour. It runs on 12 volts and needs a 16 amp power supply. In addition to the desalinator, I have another really important piece of equipment: my VHF radio. It’s not just any VHF radio though – it has a GPS, AIS, and DSC feature. The AIS lets me know if there are any ships nearby, so I can stay safe on the water. And the DSC allows me to send messages to those ships, kind of like sending an SMS. Plus, I can make regular calls to other ships on standard maritime channels.

When I first started building Ratel, I thought it would take about 9 months to finish everything. But with all the delays caused by COVID, it ended up taking a whole year.

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Guess what? I was incredibly lucky because all the parts and components that make up Ratel were sponsored! Can you believe it? I got a 4-person compact NovaMarine life raft, a life vest, an EPIRB, and even parachute anchors! It’s hard to give you a detailed breakdown of the cost for each item, but let me tell you, the project budget is close to R500,000.

  • Thanks to Juwi Renewable Energies, I got the financial support I needed for some crucial equipment like solar panels, a water maker, and VHF and satellite communications equipment.
  • Now, NovaMarine really came through for me by providing all my safety gear. They gave me a liferaft, a life vest, and an EPIRB. They even gave me the data for my satellite communications. How awesome is that?
  • A big shout-out to Aerontec for providing me with closed-cell foam and some much-needed guidance. They really helped me out!
  • And let’s not forget Saertex, who supplied the fibreglass, and Bulwark, who provided the epoxy. I couldn’t have done it without them!
  • Last but not least, a big thank you to Genesis for supplying me with high-density nutritional products. Gotta keep my energy up!
  • I use Nutritional Products for my food needs, they have a great range from muesli to chocolates.
  • To ensure my safety at sea, Fleetmon helps by tracking my position using satellite technology.
  • For weather updates and monitoring, I rely on Stormgeo’s software and access to weather data.
  • If I ever need more food while on my journey, Bondi Blu’s UV protective Eyewear and Tuckers Tackle fishing gear are on hand.
  • Ratel, my boat, is beautifully decorated thanks to the talented Boock Signwriters. I also have docking facilities provided by the Simon’s Town Marina Company and Falsebay Yacht Club.
  • For those moments when I crave comfort, Dirkie Condensed milk is an essential addition to my beloved cup of filter coffee.

In my opinion, it’s incredible to see how the #Row2rio2020 project was made possible by the support of these companies. They truly rose to the challenge and provided the vital help needed for this endeavor.

But let’s not forget about the Shore Support Team. Without them, none of this would be possible. I talk to them every day, and I must say, they are a fantastic group. The team consists of a Team Manager, Rowing Technical Advisor, Weather Man, Weather Router, Weather Analyst, and a Media Manager. Each of them plays a crucial role in the project.

About Zirk Botha

Let me tell you a bit about myself. I have a background in maritime and adventure activities. I spent 17 years as a Naval Combat Officer in the South African Navy, where I also became a qualified Combat Diver. During my time in the Navy, I even crossed the Atlantic three times. In addition, I am a certified 200T Yacht Captain (Master of Yachts) and have done extensive sailing.

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