Ocean Rowing Roundup for March

Since our last roundup, only one rower is still on the water. One team is gearing up to restart after a quick pitstop, and all other rowers have completed their expeditions.

Oar Blimey: George Nelson and Russell Davies (UK) landed in Antigua on March 7. Having set off on Dec. 1, the duo were on the water for just over three months. The journey took them longer than they expected. Poor conditions slowed them dramatically.

In the end, they slightly changed their route to land in Antigua, rather than on St. Martin. This cut 130km from their journey. It meant they could land three days earlier, which gave them more wiggle room with their food rations.

Over the last few weeks, salt water has drenched them a little too often.

“We’re taking regular soakings from rogue waves, which…also introduces a significant new problem in our challenge…chuffing chafing in the nether regions! We can’t quite decide what’s worse, our shorts rubbing against us like sandpaper or the physical pain of sitting on the rowing seat. But we’re closing in on land and we ain’t stopping,” the pair wrote.

The wind has also been tricky, constantly changing in strength and direction. This made it hard to predict what distances the pair would cover each day and when they would land.

No solo record for Blakely

Linda Blakely: Linda Blakely (UK) finished her Atlantic row in 54 days, nine hours, and 25 minutes. She set off from Gran Canaria on Jan. 20 and paddled east to west across the Atlantic, finally landing in Port St. Charles, Barbados.

Blakely had hoped to become the fastest woman to solo cross the Atlantic but she never challenged the record and missed the mark by two weeks. In the first few weeks, she capsized twice, lost her spare oar, and ended up almost stationary because there was no wind.

Salt in her socks cut her so badly that she ended up rowing with her feet in plastic bags to try to protect them from the saltwater.

At the beginning of March, her AIS alarm started blaring. A huge tanker was headed straight for her. The ship hadn’t seen the little rowing boat on its AIS. A few frantic radio calls later, the ship changed course. Despite the scary moment, it was a highlight for Blakely. It was the first time she had spoken to someone relatively close to her in over six weeks.

During the last week, she rowed through kilometers of sargassum algae floating on the water. Then a strong current pushed her way off course as she headed for northern Barbados to land. Close to the finish line but at a low ebb, Blakely was cheered on by family and friends from two boats. They had been waiting for her on shore watching the tracker and took to the ocean to support her for the last few kilometers.

With the wind pushing Blakely too far from the marina, she eventually landed on the beach instead.

Falterman heads to Panama

Ellen Falterman: Ellen Falterman (U.S.) restarted her “Ellen Magellan” expedition in February. She is trying to become the first person to complete a circumnavigation entirely by rowing.

In 2022, she rowed from East Texas to South Florida. Now she is making her way to Panama.

Ellen Falterman on her boat.

Planning. Photo: Ellen Falterman


The next section will take her to the Bahamas, something Falterman is quite nervous about. To ease her mind, she has gone into planning mode, something she used to do as a pilot. She has everything written up and mapped out for her Gulf Stream crossing.

“If anyone is critical of my paper charts, yes, they were more expensive than I wanted but the comfort they bring me is priceless. I do have Navionics and Chartplotter [apps], but all that can fail. Besides, I’m just a paper map nerd, always have been,” Falterman wrote on social media.

She is currently in the Everglades waiting for a good weather window to start across the Gulf Stream. “[I’m] looking for a 36-hour window of winds from the SW-W, or calm,” she said.

Piotr Pawelec: Pawelec (Poland) completed his row from Portugal to Guadeloupe on March 1. He split this journey into two legs. The first leg started on Nov. 6 and took him to Gran Canaria. Here he made a three-week pitstop to rest, restock, and make small repairs to his boat.

On Dec. 13, he restarted and continued to Guadeloupe.

Piotr Pawelec finishes his Atlantic row.

Piotr Pawelec finishes his Atlantic row. Photo: Piotr Pawelec


Continuing a trend throughout his journey, Pawelec shared very little information. “I did it! After 79 days of the cruise, I went to Martinica,” he wrote in a brief comment on social media.

Around the world by boat and bike

Louis Margot: Margot (Switzerland) is currently in Martinique. He landed here on Feb. 28 and will rest for a few weeks before continuing to Costa Rica. Portugal to Costa Rica forms part of a much larger journey. He is hoping to row and cycle his way around the globe.

This is his first rowing leg. He has stopped in Gran Canaria and is now enjoying his second pause in Martinique. His family met him on the island and he is making the most of having a bed after finding the heat of his boat’s cabin almost unbearable.

Louis Margot lands in Martinique.

Louis Margot lands in Martinique. Photo: Louis Margot


Global Solo Challenge

Cole Brauer: This month, Brauer became the first American woman to solo race a sailboat around the world. At 29, she was the youngest skipper and the only woman in this year’s Global Solo Challenge.

On March 7, after four and a half months at sea, Brauer finished in second place and set a new world speed record for a Class 40 circumnavigation.

The race begins and ends in A Coruna, Spain. During the race, competitors navigate their way around the three great capes. The race has a pursuit start, and Brauer set off with six other boats on Oct. 29. She led to the equator, overtaking earlier starters. By the final week, eight of the original 16 sailors had dropped out and she was over a week ahead of her closest rival.

The journey was not without problems. At one point, her autopilot broke, and approaching Cape Horn, she was thrown across the boat and thought she had cracked her ribs.

As well as a record, Brauer amassed 500,000 social media followers during the row. She showed the human side of sailing and the ins and outs of her daily life on the boat.

“The race was for me. It was this amazing experience that I got to have, so I feel like the celebration at the finish is almost for everyone else who was involved with this,” she told Sail-World at the end of the race.

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca McPhee is a freelance writer for ExplorersWeb.

Rebecca has been writing about open water sports, adventure travel, and marine science for three years. Prior to that, Rebecca worked as an Editorial Assistant at Taylor and Francis, and a Wildlife Officer for ORCA.

Based in the UK Rebecca is a science teacher and volunteers for a number of marine charities. She enjoys open water swimming, hiking, diving, and traveling.