Angela Madsen’s Boat Washes Up on Pacific Island

The boat of U.S. ocean rower Angela Madsen has washed up in the Marshall Islands, 16 months after her fatal attempt to row alone from California to Hawaii.

Her custom-made boat, RowofLife, turned up on the east-facing shore of Mili Atoll at the end of October. Benjamin Chutaro, from nearby Majuro, was visiting his home island of Mili when he heard about the boat. He provided images and an account of the find.

Image: AFP


Cameras gone

“Unfortunately, [people] from the island ransacked a lot of the equipment,” he said. “I did find the EPIRB with her NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] identification number.”

Chutaro also noted that though he identified five GoPro mounts on the boat, “I was not able to locate any [camera],” he said. “Hopefully none of the footage was erased.”

Madsen had been at sea for 60 days and covered 2,000km of her 4,000km journey when she died. The Paralympian checked in with her wife on June 21, 2020, and mentioned that she needed to go into the water to make a few repairs to the boat.

Madsen’s last post said, “Tomorrow is a swim day. I have to re-shackle my bow anchor bridle in case there is a big storm. It came undone some time ago. I’ve been using the stern.”

She never made it back on board.

The cargo ship Polynesia found her body the following day. Madsen was still tethered to her boat. Though they recovered her body, they were unable to collect the boat. It drifted around the Pacific for over a year.

Row of Life has been found on Mali atoll. Photo: Benjamin Chutaro


A veteran rower

Madsen had hoped to bag a trifecta of records on the row: first paraplegic, oldest woman, and first openly gay rower to cross the Pacific alone.

Madsen was a seasoned athlete. After a failed spinal surgery left her paralyzed in 1993, she competed in multiple sports at the highest level. The U.S marine veteran held six Guinness world records for her rowing. She crossed the Atlantic Ocean twice — once in a pair and once with a crew of 16. She rowed the Indian Ocean with a crew of 8, circumnavigated the UK with three other women, and crossed the Pacific Ocean as a pair. Outside of this, she competed in rowing, shot put, and javelin at the Paralympics.

Angela Madsen before starting her final row. Photo: Angela Madsen