Riaan Manser and Vasti Geldenhuys have been rowing from Morocco to New York, where they are due to arrive on Friday.
Riaan Manser and Vasti Geldenhuys have been rowing from Morocco to New York, where they are due to arrive on Friday.

Africa to US rowing voyage nears end

By Murray Williams Time of article published Jun 20, 2014

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Cape Town - The message was short. And yes, sweet.

It read: “Landed on Staten Island. One month at sea from Miami. We’re tired, it’s been long. We’ve almost done it. Friday we do last 25km across finish line at Statue of Liberty. New York City coming out in full force.”

Anyone reading a fat dose of relief into those words would understand immediately when told they were the those of Cape Town adventurer Riaan Manser on Thursday night – and that he and his fiancée, Vasti Geldenhuys, have very nearly rowed a boat from Morocco to New York, where they are to arrive on Friday.

“It all started with a seemingly innocent request for a holiday to New York, but never in her wildest dreams did Vasti think it would take 10 765km of ocean rowing to get her there,” Manser’s support team reported from Cape Town on Thursday.

Their incredible ocean journey became known as “TakeMe2NY”.

Manser’s support team were in sporadic contact with the couple as they made their way up the East Coast of the US on Thursday night, and reported: “Vasti, a lawyer by trade, has always been the support structure for Riaan as he rose to prominence by completing three unparalleled world firsts: cycling the entire perimeter of the African continent, circumnavigation of Madagascar by single kayak, and Iceland with a handicapped partner by double kayak.”

After 14 years of this, Geldenhuys is now poised to earn “world-firsts” of her own – the first African woman to row across any ocean on the planet, and with Riaan, the first woman to row from mainland Africa to mainland North America.

The pair set out from Agadir in Morocco on December 30.

“With no support boat, no ablution facilities, no luxury. Just Riaan, Vasti, their combined determination and a 7m rowing boat with their supplies,” Manser’s team said.

“Early in the expedition they were struck by the misfortune of capsizing in 7m seas and amazingly while rowing more than 1 800km from the nearest land. What was more unfortunate is that their satellite phone antenna was damaged beyond repair. This meant no internet to obtain essential weather forecasts.

“This journey has tested their resolve like no other, mentally and physically. From blistered hands, rowers claw and blistered backsides to a case of severe food poisoning from a revengeful dorado. It has been nothing short of torturous for 133 days out at sea.

“Despite all of this, Manser’s separation from the boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean was the closest the pair came to real-life tragedy.

“The 1.5m box of living space they had to share (was not) big enough when arguments arose and fatigue and emotions boiled over. One thing that brought some sanity was the abundance of sea life, from dolphins and 30-foot (9m) whales swimming alongside their boat to large sharks that swam up to their hands while (they were) trying to film underwater.”

Manser has always said: “There’s an ocean between saying and doing.”

When the couple row past the Statue of Liberty on Friday night, South African time, they will have proved his words’ truth.

Cape Argus

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