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Things to Love about Rowing an Ocean

Alastair Humphreys, a 2012 National Geographic’s Adventurer, shares his ocean rowing journey across the Atlantic.

Ocean Rowing boat

Rowing 3,000 nautical miles across the Atlantic Ocean is a difficult thing to do. Sea sickness, sleep deprivation, lack of privacy, storms, a leak or two and the gnawing feeling of being far, far from land in a very small boat… Despite the difficulties, however, this was one of the best adventures of my life.

Here are some photos to try to share the experience.


The single most important thing on any expedition is laughter. The Atlantic Ocean rang out with the sound of four boys laughing loudly every day.

ocean rowing


ocean rowing

My favourite time was rowing into the dawn. To be on a tiny boat, just 8 metres long, with just three friends and nothing around us for up to 1500 miles in every direction, was a special feeling.

ocean rowing

How far could I dare myself to swim from the boat one thousand miles from land and 4,000 metres above the ocean floor…?

ocean rowing


We saw dolphins, whales, birds, marlin, jellyfish and much more. My favourites, however, were the flying fish who bombarded our boat each night!

Ocean Rowing

Delicious fresh fish to supplement our diet!

Ocean fishing


Early evening, calm seas and not a care in the world – these are the good times.

Atlantic Rowing

Ocean rower

Atlantic Rowing


Much as I savoured the extraordinary isolation, it was also very rewarding to be able to share our story with the outside world. We blogged daily and phoned schools across the world.

ocean rowing

As a keen writer and blogger, I made sure to write a regular diary at sea. It was not easy as we rocked and rolled in the tiny little cabin.

ocean rowing journal


Before the journey I was busy, stressed, fretting about all sorts of things. And then I was out at sea and could do nothing about all those things back home. The funny thing is, however, that they didn’t really seem that important anymore.

Atlantic Ocean Row


Simple, happy times far from the real world.

Ocean Rowing

Night Time

The nights were difficult. Sleep deprivation made it hard to stay awake. Large waves were more frightening when you could not see them coming. And rainstorms lashed us most nights as we approached the Caribbean. The rewards, however, were wonderful shooting stars, bright moonlight and an awesome sense of isolation.

ocean rowing

Terrible photo; magical experience

Ocean Rowing


Unfortunately I was a bit busy during the storms to take photographs, but we spent a lot of time rowing through fierce rainstorms. As a pale Brit, I personally preferred the rain to the midday sun!

Ocean Rowing


Weeks and weeks away from the nearest store, we were stuck with the food we had on board. Much of it was disgusting, dehydrated food. Chocolate, however, tastes good wherever you are!

Atlantic Ocean Rowing

Here is what 60 days’ of food looks like for four hungry boys. Much of it was bought cheap on eBay. It tasted horrible!

Ocean Rowing

Every 100 miles we were allowed one slice of salami and one olive to celebrate!

Ocean Rowing

Looking Back

I would be lying if I said that rowing the ocean was a bundle of fun. But I am so proud and grateful to have done it.

Arriving in Barbados we moored our battered, smelly little boat alongside this super-yacht. They may have had more money, but I’d vouch that we had the sweeter memories.

Ocean Rowing

I also think I enjoyed my first proper breakfast (sorry, make that FOUR breakfasts) a lot more than the millionaire on his super yacht.

Ocean Rowing

There was not a lot of privacy on board. It was nice to have a private shower again!

Ocean Rowing

And, at long last, the first beer on dry land. I don’t think it requires an explanation…

Ocean Rowing

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