Angela Madsen vs. the Pacific Ocean

By Angela Madsen, Paralympian and Guinness World Record Holder for Rowing

I am often asked, "Aren't you afraid" and "Do you have fears about whether you will be able to make such a journey?" YOU BET! I have fears and doubts every time I set out to row an ocean. The prospect of rowing for months by myself the more than 2,300 miles from Santa Cruz, California to Hawaii was certainly no different. Paul with President Obama

Fear and doubt is a big part of what motivates me to try, and is normal. It helps drive me to succeed and makes me train and prepare to accomplish what most people consider impossible. I fear failure, but am not afraid to do extremely difficult things. I'll make a 110% effort for a chance at either succeeding or failing while being scared s**tless the entire time.

Angela Madsen leaving port.Most people consider what I do crazy. I get it. The concept of one person experiencing the harsh life at sea for so much time is difficult for people to grasp, let alone when that person is a paraplegic with rods in her back. The voyage to Hawaii would be my first solo row which would make it the most difficult physical and mental challenge since my hospitalization and surgeries.

Though I did not reach my destination this time, I haven't failed. This is just a speed bump and there will be a restart. Here is the story…

On the evening of June 9, 2013, I made my way out of the Santa Cruz Channel on my boat, Spirit of Orlando, at 5:45 pm with only mild onshore NW winds and a relatively flat sea. I was escorted out to the 1 mile buoy by the Harbor Patrol and the Coast Guard.
Angela Madsen at sea.  Dolphin in the distance.> 
                    <p>When  experts describe the wind, they use the direction it is blowing from, so NW  winds flow SE. The NOAA weather channel on my VHF radio described this new low  pressure system of Gale-Force 2 wind and issued small craft advisories. As  promised the NW winds had reached 25 knots with 33-39 knot gusts. The seas were  at about 15 feet with an additional 4-5 foot wind swell so sets topped off  about 20-25 feet. I remained on sea anchor all day and another night and  continued to experience challenges in the following days </p> 
                    <p>Hoping  for a change in the weather, I turned on the VHF and listened to the new  forecasts of Gale-Force 4 winds for my location and heavy seas. Twice as big  and bad as what I had been battling for the previous five days for the next  five days. This meant that I would not be able to row on to Hawaii or to make  it safely back to California due to the extreme weather that was coming my way.  Staying on the boat would jeopardize me and anyone who may have to be involved  in a last minute rescue. I called the Coast Guard to apprise them of my  situation and ask for their recommendation, and then we coordinated rescue from  that point forward. I was at sea from 5:45 pm on June 9 until 3:45 am on June  17, when <em>Spirit of Orlando</em> was left adrift. I rowed a total of 172  miles. My boat was recovered by a long range fishing boat named Old Glory off  of San Diego. I remain on standby to try again in May/June of 2014. </p> 
                    <p><em>Follow my  adventures online and view pictures, video and blogs of past and present  projects at </em><a href=The seas and winds remained calm through the night and the sky was clear enough to see many stars. I rowed all through the night making about 26 miles and rowed through the morning. The winds were increasing so I put out my parachute anchor at 1 pm to take a two hour nap. Some playful sea lions had collapsed my para anchor and were playing ball with the buoy. They saw me come out of the cabin and stopped first looking at each other, then at me and then at each other again like mischievous children. I retrieved my para anchor and continued rowing increasing my distance from land and making the most miles west I would see the entire row.

The weather changed to Gale-Force 2 winds and, when it became un-rowable, I reset the parachute anchor. I thought about the day's events and all of the marine life I had seen in just one day of rowing. It began with the sea lions and a killer whale charging toward my boat a short time later, followed by many dolphins. Then as I was rowing, a blue whale and her calf surfaced right beside my boat. Not too long after that, I was charged by more killer whales. My previous encounters with them did not diminish the fear I felt watching them get closer. The interesting-looking jellyfish I saw floating by made me think of Diane Nyad, who swims oceans and has encounters with jellyfish. To top it all off, I was also visited by many sharks. or on Facebook.

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