British sailor to become first female solo rower to cross North Pacific

Story highlights

  • Sarah Outen is aiming to become the first woman to row solo across the North Pacific Ocean
  • The British adventurer hopes to complete the 4,500 nautical mile journey in six months
  • Outen is undertaking the challenge as part of a larger voyage that will see her circumnavigate the globe
Rowing across the North Pacific Ocean may hardly seem comparable to achieving success in the humdrum daily grind of an office desk job.
For British adventure explorer Sarah Outen however, the gratification of completing a task of great importance to the self, is the same no matter the context or environment.
"It's so satisfying if you accomplish something that's a challenge to you," said the 26-year-old who last week set off on her quest to become the first woman to row the North Pacific solo.
"Whether you're in the water, or in an office, that's universal," she adds.
Outen is undertaking the 4,500 nautical mile challenge from the east coast of Japan to the west coast of Canada, as part of a larger voyage that will see her circumnavigate the globe without the aid of any mechanical engines.
She started in London in April 2011 and has so far made it 11,000 miles to Japan, biking and kayaking through Europe, Russia and China along the way.
Sarah Outen's round the world route
The epic journey will eventually see Outen return to London and after navigating the North Pacific, she plans to traverse North America by bike.
A further solo ocean crossing -- this time the Atlantic Ocean -- will follow before she paddles back to her port of origin in the UK capital.
"I love the challenge," says Outen of the gargantuan adventure that will take her fully two and a half years to complete.
"I rowed across the Indian Ocean in 2009 and it was then that I thought up this journey (the London to London trip). I just wanted more time at sea and I wanted to experience that same human-powered pace across landscape," she adds.
So far, Outen highlights some of the characters she has met along the way as inspiration in her darkest and most challenging moments.
One man she met in a petrol station in eastern China was so inspired by her story that he bought a bike and joined her on the spot, accompanying her 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) across the country to Beijing and becoming a friend for life in the process.
"It was a special experience for both of us," Outen says of meeting her Chinese traveling companion, Gao, "but really it was just wonderful to hear people's stories on the road and to learn a little bit about their lives and dreams."
As she prepares for her latest adventure, Outen is well aware that this leg of the challenge is one that she will have no choice but to face on her own.
A custom-made seven meter long row boat -- aptly named Gulliver -- will help her breach the vast ocean expanse between Choshi, Japan, and her next port of call Vancouver, Canada.
Only a small solar cell on the vessel's exterior will provide power for a satellite radio and a camera that will keep Outen in touch with the outside world.
"There's no engines, no motors, no nothing on here. I'm the engine," she says excitedly of what will be her floating home for at least the next six months.
Her friends and family have scrawled messages of support on the vessel's interior which will, no doubt, offer comfort during what is sure to be an emotionally and psychologically grueling journey.
Outen has prepared methodically for these challenges, but she says the most difficult aspect has been getting ready for the physical demands of the trip.
She has trained hard to build up her core strength and stamina as well as bracing herself for potential hazards along the way such as boat capsizes, shark attacks and extreme weather events like hurricanes.
But the myriad dangers inherent in the task before her are not enough to dilute Outen's enduring sense of wanderlust and determination.
"I love that feeling of not quite knowing if you're going to make it through a certain scenario," she says.
"If the worst happens, at least I died trying. I think the worst thing in life is to end it with regrets or not having tried something," she adds.
If all goes to plan, Outen aims to complete her Pacific crossing in a little over six months.
She will then take a break for around six weeks before setting out across North America and onwards towards the finishing line on the banks of the River Thames in London.
For now however, talk of returning to the UK and the completion of the full 20,000 mile odyssey seems a long way off.
"Its a year and a half more until I finish this journey at least so really there's still quite a way to go yet," she says.