A South African couple intent on visiting New York City made the trip the hard way — rowing almost 6,700 miles over six months.
And to think it all started with an innocent request the woman made of her boyfriend for a holiday to New York.
“Of course, but we’re going to go my way,” came the reply of professional adventurer Riaan Manser, 40, who says he has completed three unparalleled world firsts: cycling the entire perimeter of the African continent, circumnavigating Madagascar by single kayak and circumnavigating Iceland with a partner by double kayak.
Somehow Vasti Geldenhuys, 36, a lawyer by trade, agreed to the outlandish offer.
The couple departed on their expedition, which they called TakeMe2NewYork, from Agadir, Morocco, on Dec. 30. They completed the journey last Friday, rowing their custom-built, 22-foot ocean rowboat, named Spirit of Madiba after Nelson Mandela, into New York’s 79th Street Boat Basin.
The boat was equipped with two plotters, which indicate the boat’s position on a nautical chart, a weather station, a water maker, a satellite phone (which failed early in the voyage) and a VHF radio. A solar-powered regulator supplied power to the technology on board. They carried an EPIRB and both of them wore a PLB.
“It hasn’t really sunk in what we have achieved. No one has done what we have done in this six-month journey. We are happy and proud of what we achieved. You have to push even when the going gets tough,” Manser told IOL News in their native country.
The couple are the first to row the Atlantic east to west, from mainland Africa to mainland North America, according to the Ocean Rowing Society.
The trip included stops in the Bahamas and Miami, but the couple said they had more than 133 days on the water with no support boat and 74 consecutive days with no land in sight.
Their most harrowing moment came when a large wave capsized the vessel, trapping Geldenhuys underneath for several terrifying moments. Manser grabbed a line and pulled himself back onto the boat and together they righted it.
Leaving Miami last month, the couple began what would be the last and most harrowing leg. Particularly challenging was rowing through the Gulf Stream, which has voluminous commercial ship traffic.
“We didn’t know what we had in store. It was a horrendously difficult leg. The weather was so tough,” Manser said.
“We’ve done a journey that no human beings have done,” Manser, who documented the trip on several mounted video cameras, told the New York Times upon their arrival. He said the journey took 1.8 million oar strokes, a figure that longtime girlfriend Geldenhuys quickly clarified.
“Each!” she said.
For all their hard work, the couple said they are already homesick for South Africa and planned to fly home after a week or two of sightseeing and multiple interviews with media outlets.
The adventure apparently confirmed their 14-year relationship — their next adventure may be marriage and starting a family.
“We’ve had enough of rowing for a while,” Manser said.