Ocean Rowing Roundup for September

Since our last roundup, five crews have been battling their way across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Three of them hope to finish this month.

Pacific Ocean

Solo Row to Hawaii

Carlo Facchino has been at sea since July 5. Over the last 72 days, he has rowed from San Francisco to Hilo, Hawaii. He will reach land in the next few hours. 

Carlo Facchino completes his row today. Photo: SoloOceanRower


During the first half of the row, he faced regular storms and poor weather and broke his water maker. The second half has been a vast improvement. In mid-August, he escaped from the northwesterly current that was slowing him down and began riding the westerlies.

“I can tell because the resistance goes from molasses to butter,” he said. “My oars glide right through.”

A few days later, the currents and trade winds aligned to help him move in the right direction. This was a huge relief since rowing against the wind was not only slow but put a lot of strain on his back. 

The later sections of his row brought some problems. He developed a number of sores from sitting on the seat too long, an occupational hazard of rowing. It forced him to adjust his daily routine since rowing for four hours at a time was too painful. He cut some foam from his mattress as a seat pad.

The second issue is the lack of water. The water maker is generating less than expected so showering and washing clothes are a rare luxury.

Carlo Facchino sits in the small cabin of his boat

Carlo Facchino in the cabin that has been his home for 72 days. Photo: SoloOceanRower


This is  Facchino’s third ocean row. In 2016, he was in the Great Pacific Race as part of a foursome. One of his teammates at the time was Cyril Derremaux, who is currently kayaking across the Pacific (see below). The four broke the speed record for crossing the mid-Pacific.

Then in 2017, he took part in the Polar Row from Svalbard to Jan Mayen. His team set a record for the northernmost latitude ever reached by a rowing boat — 79º55’50″N. (Kayakers have been further north, and Will Steger once tried unsuccessfully to drag/paddle a canoe to the North Pole.)

Solo Kayak to Hawaii

Cyril Derremaux is kayaking from California to Hawaii. If he completes the journey, he will be the second person to do so. The first was Ed Gillet, whose 1987 journey was the inspiration for Derremaux. 

At the end of last month, Derremaux changed his endpoint. He was initially going to land in Waikiki but has now decided to finish in Hilo, which is a little closer. He calculated that with rationing, he had 29 days worth of food left and it was going to take 35 to reach Waikiki. Landing in Hilo should allow him to reach Hawaii before he runs out of food. 

Cyril Derremaux holds up a '46' made out of string as he celebrate his birthday on his ocean row.

Cyril Derremaux turns 46 on the Atlantic Ocean. Photo: CyrilDerreumauxAdventure


The last 94 days have taken a toll on his body and he has lost a lot of weight. His biggest challenges at the moment are the intense heat and the waves, which strike his craft constantly.

His water maker also broke on day 46. Since then, he has spent almost an hour and a half a day generating fresh water manually. Like Facchino, he has enough to drink, but limited water for washing himself and his clothes to remove the salt. 

Tom’s Pacific Journey

Tom Robinson is rowing from Lima, Peru to Australia in his handmade boat. He started on July 2 and the Ocean Rowing Society estimates that he will finish in February 2023.

He has not updated for months, but hIs tracker shows that he has covered 4,700km since setting off. He is splitting his journey into four stages: Lima to Tahiti, Tahiti to the Cook Islands, the Cook Islands to Tonga, and Tonga to Brisbane. Robinson is currently in the middle of stage one, by far the longest stage.

If he completes the row, he will become the youngest person to row alone across the Pacific.

Michelle’s Great Pacific Row

Michelle Lee is rowing solo from Ensenada, Mexico to Sydney, Australia. She started on August 8 and spent the few first weeks struggling through headwinds and difficult currents. She commented, “I’m making very slow progress. But progress nonetheless.”

Michelle Lee coming over the crest of a wave in the TWAC 2019

Michelle Lee on another row in 2019. Photo: Michelle Lee


At one point, the weather was so bad that she was contacting her meteorologist/navigation adviser every four hours to reassess how best to tackle the next few hours. Conditions are improving slightly now, but the first few weeks threw many contrary currents and wind directions at her.

In 2019, Lee completed the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in 68 days and became the first Australian woman to row any ocean solo.

Atlantic Ocean

Project Empower

Damien Browne is currently the only person rowing across the Atlantic. The Irishman is trying to row from New York to Ireland. The journey initially began as a pair, but when his partner left in June because of a medical issue, Browne made the difficult decision to continue alone. 

In the first section of his journey, he faced several storms that pushed him off course while he was adjusting to rowing solo. Though this did improve for a while, he once again finds himself battling the weather and sea state. Last week, during one rough patch, he covered less than two kilometres in three hours. To stop himself from drifting too much, he has spent days with his para-anchor deployed while hunkering in the cabin.

His main concern at the moment is hurricanes. The remainder of his journey will take place during hurricane season. NOAA has estimated that there will be 14 to 20 named storms this season, of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes. The first one, Hurricane Danielle, has already formed. It should pass Browne to the north with a sufficient margin but is still causing 40-knot winds and huge swells. 

Damien Browne pictured battling incredibly choppy water

Damien Browne in some of the consistently bad weather he has endured since leaving New York. Photo: projectempower2022/Facebook


Browne hopes to reach Galway by the end of September. So far, he has covered 5,400km in 82 days. He has a further 800km before landfall. 

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.