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92 Days at Sea: Wayne Robertson

Guy McDonald chats with Wayne Robertson who spent 92 days at sea in a ‘tiny’ row boat
Monday 6 April: 07:10 >>>>

Some of the parallels we experienced between a 21 day lockdown at home compared to a 92 day lockdown in the middle of the ocean

Wayne Robertson joined Braam Malherbe for the DOT Challenge which was to raise awareness about the challenges we face as a species on this planet, climate change, habitat destruction, ocean bio mass depletion etc

  • We rowed across the South Atlantic, non stop and unassisted for 92 days (7 Feb to 10 May 2017)
  • Set three world records in the process. Longest unassisted row 8100km, most southern row and 1st time rowed from Cape Town to Rio De Janeiro Brazil.
  • The boat a specifically designed purpose built vessel from Rannoch Adventure UK
  • The boat is totally dependent on solar power
  • It is extremely cramped. The cabin is the size of a small dog kennel. It takes one and a half paces to get from one end to the other on deck.
  • We rowed continuously 24/7 in two hour shifts (2 on and 2 off)
  • Sleeping was not possible, only in 10 to 15 min intervals from extreme exhaustion and sleep deprivation.
  • We had no less than 27 near death collisions from passing ships.
  • We ran out of water 1200nm from brazil and nearly died again.
  • Navigated by hand and by the stars at night.
  • I lost 12.5kg
  • We ate a high calorie dehydrated food only.
  • We swam every day mostly un-tethered to clean the hull.
  • We had no toilet paper (none)
  • We had no toilet
  • No fridge or cold drinks
  • We had to make our own water by hand

Did we ever feel isolated or alone ? No.
We knew that we were totally isolated from other people, but we never felt alone. As time went on I felt an ever deepening connection to everything around me, especially the people and animals we love, the sea water, and all the life (and lack of) in it in the ocean.

I had some amazing experiences diving with wild pelagic fish who used our hull to hide under and ambush other fish.

We also developed strong relationships with two other fish (Raymond and Spot) who we fed by hand every day for about 5 weeks . They became our pets.

Although we were isolated and often cramped inside the cabin during storms, we were never bored or had nothing to do. There was always something to tackle.

We had a daily routine with the highlight set at noon every day. This was the time when we both stopped rowing and marked our position on the paper chart. Our positions were calculated every 24 hours and used to calculate possible ETA to Brazil while taking into account all weather, wind and sea state conditions. Very exciting. Not so exciting when we got blown backwards for days.

We set goals every day and divided the day up into simple segments between rowing shifts. Tasks that would normally be quick and simple at home or on a larger vessel took a serious amount of planning, co ordination and teamwork between us.

Cooking and preparing meals with a gas burner between your legs in rough seas is not easy. And in the pitch dark is even more challenging. One would have to hold the gas burner while the other held the cooking container and poured boiling water. The challenge was not to set fire to the boat and or not spill boiling water on your ‘nads’ 🙂

Injury was not an option. There was no medical support other than first aid.

Just like now, medical staff and facilities take priority of sick people.


Spending time in isolation like we are doing now should be seen as a time for people to pause and think and rethink our past and our futures.

  • Learn to appreciate the small things in life.
  • We have learned that we are all one, and share the same fears and basic needs.
  • We have learned that we are responsible for our own and others futures
  • We have learned that humanity is more important than personal assets
  • We have learned that collectively we can enter stormy territory and allow the experience to help us grow as human beings.
  • We have learned that we are not separate from nature. We are part of it and we live on the only planet that can sustain us. There is no Planet B

We know that the old normal is not going to be like the new normal.

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