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Tajha Chappellet-Lanier here, thinking about the unusual places we reporters end up in the course of doing our jobs. For me, on the morning of May 26, that place was out in the Monterey Bay, rowing a specialty ocean row boat bound for Hawaii. 

Close readers of this newsletter might recall that, in early May, I stayed up way past my bedtime to attend the midnight launch of Heather Taylor, a young woman attempting a crossing, solo and unsupported, from Monterey to Hawaii (after 28 days of rough weather, Taylor decided to end her journey and head back toward land, likely landing near Cabo San Lucas in Mexico; Cyril Derreumaux, who also began a solo journey on May 31 from Sausalito, had to be rescued by the Coast Guard 70 miles off Santa Cruz over the weekend). On the catamaran that accompanied Taylor during her first mile that night I met Darren Clawson, one of a team of four British men who’d just arrived in Monterey to undertake the same journey (in his case, with three more people). They’d be setting out in a few weeks, he told me. Keep me posted, I said.

An invitation out on the boat was more than I’d bargained for, but there was no way I’d say no. And that is how I ended up clambering around the small but efficient space, learning about the various navigation and safety tools. After I’d tested out both cabins (cozy!) we all got on board and rowed carefully out of the Monterey Harbor. 

Along the way, I learned some of the backstory of this journey. The team is raising money for two British charities that support children and adults with severe disabilities. For Clawson (team founder) this is deeply personal—his son, Hadley, lives at a specialist center called St. Elizabeth’s because he has epilepsy requiring 24/7 care. Needing to find a mission in the midst of medical uncertainty, Clawson decided he would find a way to raise money for the institutions supporting his son and family. You can support their causes here.

Rowing an ocean is not the first feat-for-charity that Clawson decided to undertake. No, that honor goes to a 225-kilometer ultramarathon in the jungle of Brazil. But having done that, Clawson told me, he needed to do more and continue raising money.

So, joined by Aaron Worbey, Simon Evans and (in a last-minute trade out because the original fourth member is injured) Josh Tills, an ambitious Pacific crossing it is. The group even hopes that by rowing 24 hours a day (two row, two rest) they’ll be able to beat the current world record for such an endeavor—39 days. Only Evans has any particular background in rowing, which strikes me as unusual. Then again, when you’re sitting on a small boat that will make a 2,500-mile journey under human power alone…it’s hard to tell what’s unusual.

Once we made it out onto the Bay, Tills gave up his rowing seat to let me take a turn. “Josh, you’re off the team!” Clawson joked, as I struggled to imitate the graceful sweep of the oars that the others have mastered. (Shoutout to Evans for really holding it down while I made my attempt). Soon we circled back into the harbor, past the lounging seals, to the dock and dry land.

The Endurance Limits team began their odessey on May 31 at midnight. You can see where they are right now via the live tracker on their website. At least that’s what I, landlocked once again, will be doing for the next month.

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