SouthAfrica.info (Johannesburg)

9 May 2014

South Africa: From Africa to America - By Rowing Boat

South African adventurer Riaan Manser has accomplished some spectacular feats in his life. On Wednesday - the day of South Africa's fifth democratic elections - he added another amazing accomplishment as he and girlfriend Vesti Geldenhuys became the first people to row from Africa to North America.

They reached Miami on the eastern seaboard of the United States, but after finally putting their feet on North American land after an epic five-month journey, they still have one final trip to make to New York.

'I just really wanted to see New York'

"I just really wanted to see New York," Geldenhuys, a lawyer, told CBS News of her motivation for taking on the challenge with Manser.

Their trip began from Agadir, Morocco in December 2013, and three weeks later they reached the Canary Islands. From there, they spent two-and-a-half months at sea before reaching the Bahamas. After that, it was on to Miami.

The couple's arrival in Miami was not without incident. They were met by the US Coast Guard, who at first thought they were a refugee boat out of Cuba. Then the news helicopters arrived.

'Nearly a million strokes'

"Nearly a million strokes we took to get over here," Manser said.

To keep their energy up, they ate mostly high-calory, freeze-dried foods. When they wanted fresh food, there was only one way to acquire it: fishing in the ocean.

They used a small, high-tech rowboat, which was equipped with two plotters to indicate the boat's position on a nautical chart, a weather station and VHF radio. A solar power regulator supplied power to the on-board technology, while a salt water converter turned salt water into drinking water.

In case of emergency, they also carried personal locator beacons (PLB) and an emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB).

Despite the precautions, the danger and challenges were immense. They had no support crew and no rescue crew.

Capsized

On 20 February, the pair suffered an experience that could have cost them their lives when their rowboat capsized after it was hit by a 15-foot wave, trapping Geldenhuys underneath, while Manser was thrown clear.

Manser described the incident as a "wake-up call".

"You have to be willing to give everything, and that even includes your life," he told CBS without batting an eye.

Previous endurance feats

Manser's previous endurance feats include circumnavigating Africa on a Bicycle (between September 2003 and November 2006); circumnavigating Madagascar by kayak (between August 2008 and July 2009); and paddling around Iceland in a double sea-kayak with Dan Skinstad, who has mild cerebral palsy, in five months in 2011.

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