My daughter is home from college for winter break, and the other night we sat down to watch Losing Sight of Shore, a documentary that followed a team of women taking on the challenge of rowing across the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco, California to Cairns, Australia—no small feat. In fact, it took four years from the initial idea to the completion of the actual journey, years filled with excitement, anticipation, and heartbreak during which these women were pushed beyond their limits as individuals, teammates, and friends.
The boat itself was a bright pink 29’ long and 7’ wide vessel named Doris. Made primarily of kevlar, glass, and a foam core, the boat contained two rowing positions and a front and back cabin. The team of brave women aptly named themselves the Coxless Crew. While only four women were on the boat at any given time, there were six women on the team: Laura Penhaul, Emma Mitchell, Natalia Cohen, Isabel Burnham (1st leg), Lizanne Van Vuuren (2nd leg), and Meg Dyos (3rd leg). Some team members had never rowed before. They endured both physical and psychological training before embarking on the journey, which they anticipated would take 155 days. They were a bit optimistic in their prediction. It actually took them 257 days to row 8,446 miles.
The vision of the Coxless Crew Challenge was to “generate awareness of women who face extreme adversity and to raise funds to support their journey towards long-term health and wellbeing” (coxlesscrew.com). They chose two main charities to support, Walking with the Wounded and Breast Cancer Care, both of which focus on the desire “to inspire people to seize their opportunities, make their own choices and face their life challenges” (coxlesscrew.com).
This documentary, created by Sarah Moshman, an Emmy award winning filmmaker and founder of The Empowerment Project: Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things, is both powerful and transformative. At the end of the film, Natalia states, “We all have our Pacific to cross” (coxlesscrew.com). When the credits finally rolled, I sat silently with tears streaming down my face. Yes, we all face our own Pacific–life obstacles that drive us to our knees and make us want to give up the fight and simply be done with it. I have faced more than a few Pacific crossings in my life—a decade long battle with an eating disorder, preeclampsia during pregnancy and the birth of my premature twins, the end of a twenty year partnership, a rare inner ear condition that required brain surgery—all battles that nearly broke me.
Just when I thought that certainly the worst was behind me, that maybe I could regain some sense of normalcy, I have been thrown for another loop and find myself facing an even tougher fight. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I want to give up, give in and call it done. I really do. Yet I watched these women endure setback after setback—burned out batteries that caused them to have to turn around and return only 17 days into their journey, horrific storms, challenging health issues, intense physical and emotional pain, separation from family and friends, lack of food—and each time they wanted to give up they dug deeper than they thought possible and persevered, learning more about the essence of their souls down to the very core of their beings.
I have certainly lost sight of shore, and am being tossed about in the vast emptiness, not knowing exactly what lies beyond the next wave. I just hope I can dig down deep enough to find the strength to work through it or, if needed, accept it. In the meantime, I am sitting in the discomfort that is the present moment, experiencing it for what it is—a part of my journey.
SPIRIT – strength, perseverance, integrity, resilience, inspiration, trust: “We are all riding our own waves of adversity and our journeys will help us get a better insight into who we are and how we find that strength of human spirit to keep us moving forwards” (coxlesscrew.com).
Images courtesy of Pixabay and YouTube.