The Atlantic Ocean can toss the largest cruise ships like toy boats. The idea of setting out alone to cross it in a rowboat sounds like madness, but that is what explorers do. They challenge themselves and us by taking on the impossible.
Victoria (Tori) Murden McClure was 36 years old when she set out from the Canary Islands in The Pearl, a 23-foot boat. She had tried in 1998 to row across the Atlantic. That year hurricanes ended her dream. She was not about to give up. The next year, in December 1999, she tried again.
From the Canary Islands to Guadaloupe was a passage of 4,767 kilometres. In her rest hours she kept a log of her travels. Her account is full of the ordinary details of an extraordinary journey. On September 27th she wrote that her water-maker was not working properly. “I REALLY smell”, she wrote. After she repaired it and could once again bathe and wash her few clothes, she wrote of the wonder and richness of her journey “beyond the wealth of nations”.
She described capsizing, losing communications, experiencing wrenching loneliness, all the while trying to stay positive. Whales crossed her path. Flying fish landed in her boat. Storms tossed her about. She kept rowing, grateful for GPS, a satellite phone, a short-wave radio, good books, and solar panels to power her laptop and other equipment.
By the time she reached Guadeloupe on December 3, 1999, Tori McClure had been rowing solo for 81 days. Persistence made her the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean, building on two earlier firsts: first woman to climb to the summit of Antarctica’s Lewis Nunatuk in 1988 and first woman to ski to the geographic South Pole in 1989.
Add academic accomplishments and a string of sports awards to Tori Murden McClure’s resume, and you have a picture of a woman who has constantly tested herself. She is an inspiration.