MarineTraffic Blog

An incredible journey for a great cause

One of the most enjoyable aspects of working at MarineTraffic is receiving the hundreds of emails and messages from satisfied customers each week, telling us about how they use our service.

It gives the entire team great pleasure to know that our hard work is helping people around the world. So you can imagine how excited we were when we recently received an email from Wayne Robertson of South Africa, explaining how he had used MarineTraffic while crossing the Atlantic Ocean, from Cape Town to Rio De Janeiro, in a rowboat.

Wayne and his partner Braam Malherbe achieved an epic world first  by rowing approximately 8,100kms from South Africa to Brazil.

The pair rowed in a small, custom-built vessel, the Mhondoro, spending 92 days at sea before eventually arriving at their destination on 9 May 2017.

The two men hope their incredible journey will help raise awareness for important environmental issues that plague our planet.

“I believe that we as human beings on this planet have a purpose and a responsibility to learn from our past mistakes and to take responsibility for our current way of thinking if we want to survive as a species into the future. Our past way of thinking does not serve (most of) us any longer and we have to collectively begin to think differently and make changes to our habits about the way that we live,” Wayne told MarineTraffic in an interview last week.

He said his goal for this challenge was to inspire as many people around the world as possible to stand up and take note of the environmental challenges that we currently face, to get people thinking and questioning sustainability. “And to make people aware that they can all make a difference by doing just one thing every day. Collectively we can and will make a big difference, said Wayne, referring to the DOT (Do One Thing) Challenge, which he and his partner launched with their journey, which covered approximately 8100km and more than 2 million strokes.

Wayne Robertson
Wayne Robertson

Wayne says the biggest challenge the duo faced was sleep deprivation and shipping traffic. “We had many near collisions with large commercial vessels at night, because we did not have enough power to run our AIS and navigation lights after dark. This meant that we had to row and keep visual watches every half hour all through the night every night and still try to sleep in-between. This was very challenging.”

The pair also experienced 48 days of cloudy overcast skies, which meant they could not get their solar panels to charge their batteries sufficiently to run their water maker. “The water maker consumed the most power and yet was the most essential device on board. We did have a manual water maker pump, but it took 1 hour to make just two litres of drinking water. So while one of us was rowing, the other had to make water by hand and miss out on sleeping. Our hand held water pump broke when we were 1200Nm from Brazil and we had just 4.5 litres of water left to drink. We went onto an emergency water ration plan and had to conserve as much energy as possible and not run any electronic equipment at all for up four days at a time just to get enough charge in the batteries so that we could run the water maker. We nearly died.”

All this while battling storms with very difficult sea conditions, and having their vessel rolled and capsized many times at night. “Capsizing in such a small vessel is extremely violent and we had to brace ourselves down below to avoid head injury when being hit by waves. One night we were held down for approximately 5 minutes by pounding 7 meter waves. We took on a lot of water through a breather vent which made all our clothing and bedding wet. The boat was not very comfortable after that.”

Wayne Robertson
Wayne Robertson

The vessel the team used is a 6.8 metre purpose designed and constructed two man ocean rowing boat, built by Rannoch United Kingdom. It is built exclusively for ocean racing with very little comfort below. “The boat weighed 860kg and was relatively easy to row once we got moving. We rowed one man at a time for two hours on and two hours off 24 hours a day seven days a week. We would stop at mid-day every day for our main meal and to discuss progress, navigate etc. Our average rowing boat speed was between 1.5kn and 2.5kn, but we did make in excess of 60 Nm in a day if we had wind behind us.”

Part of the daily planning for Wayne and his partner included gathering information via AIS. “MarineTraffic information was crucial to our safety at all times. With our weather router Marius Kruger in Cape Town, Troy Bethel in Florida and Murillo Novaes in Rio, we were able to get up to date information on shipping traffic in our area and were able to anticipate potentially hazardous situations long before they happened. MarineTraffic was extremely useful to us and we would recommend that every seafarer register and log into the website,” Wayne revealed.

He said although being extremely fatigued by the end of the arduous journey, he was also elated that they had made the crossing safely and would definitely do it again. “We set a number of new world records. This was the most southern row ever undertaken. It was the longest 4400Nm. It was also the first time anyone has rowed a boat unassisted across the south Atlantic from Cape Town to Rio Brazil.”

Most importantly though, Wayne hopes the journey will inspire others to take on similar challenges that will help raise awareness of crucial earth issues.

MarineTraffic congratulates Wayne and Braam on their amazing effort.

Katerina Ignatiou
Marketing Assistant @MarineTraffic