It is kind of the obvious question isn’t it? I’ll be the first to admit that this is not really an activity most people would sign up for. In fact if you had told me 2 years ago that I was going to sign up to do this I probably would have told you you were crazy. Why would I want to do that? It doesn’t really sound like a pleasure cruise.
Well for me there were three ingredients to the decision to row the Pacific and when those three ingredients were mixed together it was the perfect storm. The storm had been developing over a number of years as anyone who knows me would attest to but when that final ingredient entered the mix it was a done deal. I was going to row an ocean.
- Ingredient number 1: Having a passion for something which just gets stronger and stronger.
- It’s going to come as no surprise to anyone that the passion I have is for birds and their conservation in the wild. Over the years I have slowly increased my interest in avian conservation related issues and projects. Combine this with a bit of a bookworm personality and I have read a lot about birds in their natural habitats and issues they face. And while it started out as a general interest the desire to help these birds just got stronger and stronger. So much so that in early 2011 I left a very nice paying full time job so I could “do the bird thing”. I just could not do what I wanted to do for these animals and be on someone else’s schedule. If you have ever seen the movie The Big Year and noticed the expression on Jack Black’s boss’s face when he is told that Jack has to go because the birds are arriving then you know the look on my old boss’s face when I calmly explained to him that the birds were more important to me than the security of a full time job.
- Ingredient number 2: That feeling that you are just not doing enough.
- So for the last 9 years as this passion was developing I was looking for the most effective way I could spend money I had to devote to avian conservation. I am just like everyone else and have a limited supply of money so I wanted to do as much as I could with the funds I had so I started sponsoring speakers for conferences. My theory here was that if I can cover the costs of getting a really good speaker to the conference then information could be shared with many people – hence increasing awareness and educating at the same time. I also wanted to start getting more of an international perspective in the mix so the speakers I sponsored I flew from around the world. What I found was that not only were conference attendees exposed to new information, but the speakers themselves were able to develop new contacts and relationships which would benefit their programs and the birds. To this day I still do this each and every year.
- Aside from sponsoring speakers I have also held fundraisers for different projects over the last few years. Some were in collaboration with other groups, others were my own but whatever it always benefited the birds. I have had wildlife biologists donning a pair of wings to help raise funds and I have dragged a 6ft plastic Christmas tree with hand carved bird ornaments around the country to raise funds for projects. The ornaments even went to Toronto with me to be sold to benefit the birds.
- Throughout all this though I still felt that I was not doing enough. There had to be something more I could do – but what? So for at least the last year and a half I have been walking around constantly looking for “something” and thinking about what I could do that would really make a meaningful difference to the birds. The desire to do something but not knowing what it was was actually painful at times.
- Ingredient number 3: The Mesa Arts Center and Roz Savage.
- It goes without saying that I love nature and I am more than happy to go out to find out more when the opportunity presents itself. So on February 8, 2012 I head out to the Mesa Arts Center in Mesa, Arizona to see the third installment of the National Geographic Live speaker series. Tonight’s program is called Solo Across the Oceans and is being presented by an eco-adventurer by the name of Roz Savage. Now Roz has rowed every ocean there is and her passion is raising awareness about trash floating around in the oceans. So there I am at the Nat Geo event listening to this lady and I am enjoying the presentation but by no means am I thinking that I need to row an ocean myself. But at the end of her presentation she mentions that she is part of a company called New Ocean Wave and they are organizing the very first Pacific Rowing Race for 2014. She also mentioned that you do not necessarily have to be an existing ocean rower to be able to do this. Oh dear – the seed had been planted. If this could be done to raise awareness about trash floating around in the ocean why could you not do it to raise funds and awareness for avian conservation? I had been hit by the perfect storm.
It did take a few weeks after the Nat Geo event for me to actually register my interest for the Pacific Rowing Race and of course during those few weeks I had done quite a bit of research and even spoken to a few ocean rowers. I had confirmed with the race organizers that I could indeed do the race and raise funds for avian conservation at the same time. I had also done a lot of thinking about how I would like the project to work and what I would need to do in order to do all this. It was not going to be an easy task but I think it is totally achievable.
So that is the story how I decided I was going to row a row boat from California to Hawaii - passion + need to do more + Roz Savage = Mary is going to row an ocean.
Feel free to ask questions or comment. It is my intent with these blogs to keep everyone up to date on what is going on with the project. I really want this to be something which everyone can experience so I will be posting happenings regularly. And please share blogs and videos related to this project all you can. The more people who know and follow this the greater the impact for the birds.