To many the idea of rowing a boat across the Atlantic Ocean might seem terrifying, if not impossible.In June 2006, Jordan Hanssen and three college friends boarded a 29-foot rowboat in New York City and began rowing toward England. They were the only American team in the first North Atlantic Rowing Race.
Hanssen, the lead rower, describes their 72-day journey in his first book, “Rowing into the Son,” which novelist Clive Cussler has called “an epic of adventure and perseverance.”
Now 31, Hanssen spent four years on the crew team at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma where he earned a degree in history. He was trying out for the national team when he saw a poster advertising the new race. He convinced friends, Dylan LeValley, Greg Spooner, and Brad Vickers, to form a team with him.
“We had no idea what we were doing and we managed to convince people to help us,” Hanssen says.
He describes their boat as looking “like an old school rocket caricature had a baby with a Viking long ship.” It had a small cabin at each end. Two men were always rowing, cycling two hours on the oars and two hours off. This allowed for about 90 minutes of sleep because you had to wind up and down before and after each shift, Hanssen explains.
The trip’s harrowing experiences “come in two flavors,” he says.
Examples: Day five they hit a hurricane. Day 16 Hanssen learned he’d miscalculated the amount of food they would need.
“Between the four of us we lost about 135 pounds,” he says about the rationing that followed.
They barely dodged a massive freighter, encountered flying fish and sharks, and rode mountain-sized waves to win the race, beating the next team by about a week. Hanssen’s coming-of-age book is set against reflections on lessons from his late father and stepfather.
Hanssen lives in Seattle and his intrepid adventures continue and are documented on his website, oarnorthwest.com. He’s cycled across Australia and in January set off on a 3,569 nautical mile rowing expedition from Africa to Miami, Fla., sponsored by the Canadian Wildlife Federation. The trip ended in April north of Puerto Rico when the boat capsized and the team was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard. He’s planning a “PhD adventure,” a human-powered trip around the globe.
“This is what I feel driven to do,” Hanssen says. “If you feel compelled to do it, to not do it is not really living.”
What: Jordan Hanssen, author of “Rowing into the Son: Four Young Men Crossing the North Atlantic”
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: BookPeople of Moscow, 521 S. Main St., Moscow