No sail, no motor, just a strong woman and her arms, for 6,000 nautical miles from Japan to San Francisco. Sonya Baumstein is a 28-year-old Florida native who is preparing to row her way from Choshi, Japan to San Francisco, California, in a rowboat. She will embark any day now, as soon as the weather gives her a clear path. Oh yeah, and she’s doing it alone, without a support vessel, because she “likes the challenge.”
This isn’t the first challenge Baumstein has taken on. According to CNN, in 2012, she biked from Mexico to San Francisco and in 2013 she traveled the Bering Strait on a stand-up paddleboard. In 2011, she and three male rowers rowed from Spain to Barbados.
Baumstein likes almost any extreme adventure but rowing holds a special place for her. She’s been rowing since high school and due to her extreme fitness regiment, she was able to recover from being hit by a car in college. Although the accident ruined her rowing career at the University of Wisconsin because of the three years she had to spend in rehab from surgeries, she also says that her higher level of physical fitness likely helped her recover faster than many people. “The level of fitness I was in, and my ability to stay at that fitness level and push myself there all the time, I attribute to that time on my high school rowing team,” she told CNN.
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She will row a 770-pound, 24 foot boat named “Icha” across the ocean. “Icha” is a shortened phrase that means “when we meet we are family” in Japanese. On the boat, Baumstein is carrying over a ton of food, a spare parts kit, three bags of medications, and six oars. These will also serve as a safety line should she go overboard. She’s also got internet access, albeit limited, and is posting updates from her journey on her Twitter account.
In addition to the personal challenge, Baumstein is working with NASA’s Earth and Space Research program “Aquarius.” She will be using technology provided by Sontek YSI and Liquid Robotics, Baumstein will be “collecting information on water temperatures, salinity levels and currents as she rows. Scientists will compare that data to satellite data already being recorded,” according to CNN. The boat, the journey and the speed at which they will travel, Baumstein said, is ideal for gathering this type of data.
Baumstein would not be the first person to make this crossing. In 1991, Gerard d’Aboville made the journey in 134 days and in 2005 Emmanuel Coindre made the crossing five days faster. Sarah Outen was the first woman to attempt the journey but did not succeed, getting dragged off course by a tropical storm and strong currents. Baumstein said it would be nice to be the first woman to complete the crossing and to help out by being a citizen scientist.
Images by Sonya Baumstein