t all started with a seemingly innocent request for a holiday to New York, but never in her wildest dreams did Vasti Geldenhuys think it would take 10,765 kilometres of ocean rowing to get her there.

Vasti, a lawyer by trade, has always been the support structure of South Africa’s pioneering explorer, Riaan Manser who rose to prominence by completing three unparalleled world firsts; cycling the entire perimeter of the African continent, circumnavigation of Madagascar by single kayak and Iceland with partner Dan Skinstad by double kayak.

Riaan always vowed that he would never expose Vasti to the dangers of his world, but on 30 December 2013 they bravely took on the waters of the Atlantic Ocean with no support boat in sight. Alone and unaided, they endured a 172 day expedition from Agadir, Morocco and arrived in New York City, USA on 20 June 2014.

Along the way they stopped over at Canaries Islands, landed in Bahamas 1 km away from where Christopher Columbus landed in 1492 and visited Miami before taking on the treacherous row up the East coast of North America. This was an incredible world-first row from the African Continent to North America .This row also marked Vasti as the first woman from the African Continent to row across any ocean.

The couple, who met in Cape Town in 1999, put their fourteen year relationship on the line. Enduring giant 25 foot waves in wild storms to being entirely capsized in the middle of the Atlantic. On one of these days Manser was dramatically separated from the boat & almost lost at sea. The physical hardships had their bodies, hands, arms, bums & legs in permanent agony. No support boat, no ablution facilities, no luxury. Just Riaan, Vasti, their combined determination and a seven meter ocean rowing boat with their supplies.

The boat was equipped with two plotters, that indicated the boat’s position on a nautical chart, a weather station and a VHF Radio. A solar power regulator supplied power to the technology on board and a salt water converter supplied drinking water. This same watermaker stopped working several times throughout the journey and finally gave in on the last stretch up the East Coast of North America where they had to ask the Krasnadar Oil Tanker to supply them with water for the remainder of their journey.

While burning huge amounts of calories every day, Riaan & Vasti had to replenish their energy with high calorie freeze dried food. When they had a break they also ensured they had a fresh catch of the day which included Dorado’s, Yellow Fin Tuna and the odd 300 kg shark taking the lures behind the boat.

The two most vital pieces of equipment, was the personal locator beacons (PLB) and emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) which they were fortunate enough to pack away unused after their journey.

If you happen to see Riaan & Vasti at a speaking event, ask them about all the buckets on the boat and what they were for.

Look at the finished journey’s route map on Yellowbrick.

To be kept up to date with the next big expedition, follow RM Adventure on Facebook and @RMadventure on Twitter.


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