Alone

The Man Who Braved the Vast Pacific- and Won
by Gerard d\’Aboville

In 1991, this Frenchman d\’Aboville rowed across the Pacific Ocean solo. From Japan to the American coast (his original goal was San Francisco but he landed in the small town of Ilwaco, Washington). It\’s quite an adventure story. Not the most gripping reading- although he describes his preparations, difficulties, encounters with sea life (few and far between), the overpowering emptiness of the ocean, its mood and weather, what it felt like to be so small tossed on the waves- it still did not compare to the fantastic storytelling that was Kon-Tiki, for example. The biggest question when I read this book was- why? why undertake such an arduous, dangerous exploit? D\’Aboville states that a decade earlier, he rowed across the Atlantic- he often compared the two journeys- the Atlantic was calmer, warmer, much more populated with fish and sea traffic, and yet two other men who were attempting to row across at the same time he did, failed to make it. It turns out he just felt compelled to push himself to his limits, to prove he could do it. It definitely sounded like an ordeal. The cold, the wet, the tedious diet (mostly dehydrated meals), the loneliness (even for this is a man who prefers his own company more often than not). He kept accurate notes on his experience, took myriad photographs to document it- even in the midst of a storm or the turmoil that occured when his boat capsized. Which it did many times. It was a twenty-six foot rowboat with storage space fore and cramped sleeping compartment aft under the decks. It was specially designed just for this trip, had an ingenious water-pumping device to allow d\’Aboville to right the boat when it capsized (with him trapped inside), solar panels for limited electricity to power his telex, and a radio among other things. The journey across the ocean took him 134 days. Several times he was passed by ships which invited him on board, and he refused- always determined to finish the crossing by himself.

When I first picked up this book on a whim, I thought from the cover image it was about a man who accidentally was adrift to survive the ocean- shipwrecked or something. Not at all- a deliberately planned venture of bravery and stamina. It\’s funny that one of the amazon listings for this book has a misleading subtitle: The True Story of the Man Who Fought the Sharks, Waves, and Weather of the Pacific and Won. There were no sharks!

It would be nice to read about his first venture crossing the Atlantic, but I couldn\’t find any evidence that he\’d written a book about that.

Rating: 3/5        167 pages, 1992

6 Responses

  1. Yeah, no kidding. He saw a whale once, dolphins a few times, a tiny crab on a buoy, a few stowaway insects. ONE fish that landed on his deck (and became lunch). No other animals at all, much less sharks!

  2. We tend to hear a lot about people rowing across the Atlantic, generally for charity. I've not heard of people trying to row across the Pacific though. How crazy is that? Pity it wasn't a bit more interesting.

  3. Probably not as many row across the Pacific because it sounds a lot more difficult- rougher seas, colder weather, fewer ships passing that could rescue someone in trouble…

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