There she rows!

by Sam on January 4, 2010

And she’s off!

Around 10:45 GMT on January 3, 2010, Katie set off from Pier 2 at the Port of Dakar in Senegal. Just over a day into the voyage, Katie is doing better than anyone could have hoped, having safely rowed herself away from the coast and now making good progress into the heart of the Atlantic Ocean. Unsurprisingly, the first few days aboard “Liv” will be a bit of a traumatic learning curve, as Katie gets used to life on the ocean waves and, probably, vomiting over the edge of the boat!

Katie Spotz departs from the Port of Dakar, Senegal

So, in the meantime, I’ll do my best to fill you in on what went on in the final lead-up to Katie’s departure from Dakar. But don’t worry, I’m sure she’ll be along soon enough to give you the interesting stuff!

I arrived in Dakar on December 27 and, having forced my way through the hordes of people offering to help with me everything I could possibly have wanted, I spotted a smiling, relaxed Katie standing across the tarmac. I guess spending Christmas in 90-degree heat can do that to you! By this stage, she’d been out in Senegal for just over a week, enjoying the magnificent hospitality provided by the Rotary Club here.

However, despite the warm and pleasant surroundings, only one thing was really on her mind: when was the boat arriving?
Port of Dakar, Senegal
The last time Katie saw “Liv” was as she was loaded into a container before being shipped from Baltimore. It was originally hoped that the cargo ship would arrived in Dakar on December 18 but, as Katie will inevitably find out over the coming months, the Atlantic Ocean doesn’t care much for plans; in fact, it seems to revel in screwing them up as much as it possibly can!

From an ETA of December 18, the planned arrival was pushed back to around Christmas day. On December 21, there was further news: there had been a mid-Atlantic storm, and the boat was not expected to reach Dakar until December 30. Not exactly what Katie wanted to hear, but at least it gave her more time to relax and enjoy the sun before the real work started.

But the tension wasn’t yet over. Further storms kept on delaying the expected arrival of the container. First to 4AM on December 31, then 8AM, then 9AM… If customs wasn’t cleared by the end of December 31, we would have to wait until January 4 to free “Liv” from her box.

Fingernails were destroyed and corridors were paced but there was nothing we could do. Waiting was the order of the day.

The container holding "Liv" is unloaded

Eventually, the big moment arrived. Katie and I went down to the port to see the boat. Well, that’s not quite true. We went down to the port to see a load of big red containers, one of which we were led to believe contained “Liv”. There’s little more frustrating than standing a few feet away from the boat that you’re desperate to get your hands on, yet still separated by a box and a few signatures from the customs officers. It became abundantly clear that, in Senegal, things take time. A long time.

We’re now experts in hanging around!

As the day wore on, it was getting perilously close to 6PM, the time when everything would shut for the weekend. The shipping company, Grimaldi, were fantastic in making sure they were continuously pushing the authorities to get the boat cleared as quickly as possible. But would it be quick enough? Six o’clock came and went and we still had no idea if everything was going to be ok. Finally, the news came: everything was sorted and the paperwork was on its way down.

For a brief moment, Katie relaxed. Then she started worrying about the boat again.

Liv is unloaded from her container

Under the port floodlights and watched by a rabble of curious onlookers, the doors to the container were opened at 7.30PM and there she was, in all her glory; “Liv” had made it to Dakar in one piece. After checking things over and rolling the trailer out of the container, she was taken around to Pier 2 and lowered into the water.

“Lowered into the water” sounds so easy, don’t you think? Well, it turned out to be ludicrously terrifying, as we seemed to have selected the roughest night this port had ever seen to try to put the boat in. Normally, seeing a vulnerable 19-foot boat resting in mid-air, held up by a couple of nylon straps, is scary enough. But when “Liv” hit the water, it became immediately clear that we had to find a way of safely securing a little boat to a pier that is designed to hold a complete different kind of ship. With various people holding ropes front and back, a couple on the side of the pier ensuring that “Liv” wasn’t destroyed against the wall and several people shouting out various ideas here and there, there was a general sense of panic.Katie looks on as "Liv" is unloaded

Ropes were tied together to make them longer, additional tires and fenders were fetched from other areas of the port and, eventually, “Liv” was secure. At least we hoped she was.

Nobody got much sleep that night!

Luckily, we must have done something right because we turned up the next morning to find the boat happily in one piece, and on much quieter water than we’d had to deal with the night before. It was a huge relief. But there was no time to stand around congratulating ourselves; there was work to be done. Having received the weather forecast, it looked like January 3 would be a good day to leave, so we had just two days to make sure that everything on that boat was perfectly prepared to go and, most importantly, that Katie was ready.

"Liv" waits to depart across the Atlantic Ocean

The change in Katie, however, was really noticeable. The usual bouncy and talkative girl had been replaced by a very quiet and pretty serious one. What had started off as a distant dream many years ago was now just days away from becoming very real. As the day wore on, everything was checked, double-checked and triple-checked. Equipment was plugged in and we made sure that the AIS transponder was working correctly, which would allow other boats to see where she is and not run her over without even realising they’d done so. It was. Which was nice.

“Liv” was ready. The Atlantic was ready. Katie was ready. Well, as ready as she’d ever be."Liv" sits in the water ready to depart

We woke up early on January 3 and Katie was barely saying a word. After a bit of a wash and some breakfast, we made our way down to the port. This was it. Final checks and preparations were made, and the time had come to depart. Following some emotional goodbyes and last-minute words of wisdom, the ropes were untied, the oars put in place and the first strokes taken as Katie paddled away from the pier, knowing that she wouldn’t touch land again for several months. I can’t speak for Katie, but it’s safe to say that my sunglasses preserved a bit of dignity.

We all watched as she made her way out through the port entrance and into the Atlantic, interrupted briefly by a pilot boat and then the Guardia Civil, who were just making she sure she wasn’t trying to flee the country!

And, just like that, she was gone.

Katie Spotz and "Liv" disappear into the distance

Thankfully, that’s not the last we’ll hear from her until she reaches Cayenne. In due course, Katie will be writing blogs and tweeting from her satellite phone (she’s already sent a couple yesterday). She also has a tracking beacon on the boat, which is currently transmitting her position hourly – a map will be placed on this website very soon.

I think that’s probably about the right time for me to shut up for now. I’ll leave it to Katie to tell the story from here. Keep an eye on this site and on Twitter to see how she’s getting on.

Most importantly, I hope you enjoy following her journey as much as I will!


rasylum January 4, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Thank you so much for keeping us updated on how things transpired, Sam. Katie is a very popular girl here at home, and I think I can speak for everyone for miles around me when I say we’re relieved you were there to help. Cheers!

dessie118 January 4, 2010 at 2:09 pm

hi katie,

I love you please dont get hurt.

I love you,

bmccall17 January 4, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Sam, Thank you for the recap. I have been thinking of Katie’s voyage with great intensity since you tweeted her departure. Your story is exactly what the doctor called for to fill my mind with clear thoughts and worldly wisdom.
I am looking forward to tracking the progress and reading from Katie out in the big blue!

Katie, I am looking forward to your insight and stories as we enter a new Decade!!! My daughters are AMAZED!! They keep asking me if I am telling them the truth about you… Its an inspiration to us all.

Mulleeboyz January 4, 2010 at 2:43 pm

We love you Katie.

The Mullee boys!

svallabha January 4, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Thank you Sam for your update. I was anxious in the morning when I didnot hear about Katie for 10 Hours. I will be closely follow the Journey of Katie and wish her best of Luck.

svallabha January 4, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Thank you Sam for your update. I wish best of Luck for Katie.

Sarah January 4, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Great effort Sam, Great effort Katie.

Here’s wishing an exciting, wonderful experience on the ocean – calm in all the right places and with wind in all the right directions.

Salty best


Jack January 4, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Sam, thanks for the wonderful account of the past few days. It’s very much appreciated!

Row, Katie, row!

Betty January 4, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Thanks Sam–you’d make a great writer if you decide to turn this story into a novel or movie!!! We’ll keep watching and keep Katie in our prayers. You are a great friend to be there and help her get started and we all appreicate you!

auntkath27 January 4, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Awesome job! We love you :)

Thanks so much for taking such good care of “our Katie”!

Rick January 4, 2010 at 5:25 pm

I’m here; I’m watching; I’m praying; I’m rooting!

Bob 157 January 4, 2010 at 5:48 pm

I’ll be following your trip from Eastlake, Oh. Wishing you the best for a safe and satisfying journey.

ycartsnhoj January 4, 2010 at 6:22 pm

making great progress katie way to go good luck tracey johns

StewySteve January 4, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Nothing takes the bite out of a 20 degree day like the reading of your adventures in sunny Dakar. Good luck and God speed.

Steve Fried January 4, 2010 at 9:32 pm

THANKS SOOO MUCH SAM!!!! What a grand account of the start of her journey! I also live in Mentor & will be following and praying for her goal to be reached! She’s lucky to have such great support & can’t wait for Katie to get her sea legs and keep us up to date. GOD BLESS!!!!

bbaabala January 4, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Wowza, you are providing winter entertainment to my brother in Wisconsin and me in Iowa. We’re both sailors and understand your draw to the water.
We will both also be supporting row for water and honor you in your effort to bring this reality to the world. I hope every single person who finds adventure and entertainment (in these winter months)
by following your trip will also contribute to row for life. We all deserve a clean drink of water.

Thank you
Barb aka bblu

Wayne Lindstrom January 4, 2010 at 11:33 pm

All of us at Crossroads are behind Katie and some of our kids will soon be doing another fundraiser for her. She inspires us all!

34woj34 January 4, 2010 at 11:53 pm

Thanks for the great updates Sam!
That was fun reading about all of the adventures and worrying leading up to the Journey. Almost makes it seem like the hard part is over……although I know that’s not true!
Good luck Katie from Jim O!

rwkallock January 4, 2010 at 11:56 pm

Sam, Great job with this first update! As an ocean rower yourself you have a unique perspective. We all appreciate your commentary and look forward to your regular and colorful updates. Dakar Rotarians thanks for your great hospitality to Katie!

AlanP January 5, 2010 at 1:26 am

Wonderful updates Sam. Thanks.

Katie, hi. Hope you’re not feeling to sick.
If you get bored you can always sing
“row row row your boat…ha ha”.
Praying for you.
God Speed

bbaabala January 5, 2010 at 1:19 pm

I was wondering if Katie would like to do some accupressure to help with any sea sickness.

If so it’s a simple meridian point to find. The only thing is she would need to stop rowing for a moment to do it.

To locate the points in your wrists, you place the first two fingers of one hand perpendicular across the wrist of the other hand, beginning at the base of the wrist and lying up the arm.

Then you take them away and place a finger directly in the middle of wear your two fingers were. In other words you are looking for the very center point, from top to bottom and left to right.

If you use your thumb and press in between the small bones with a bit of pressure you will know when you have the spot because you will feel a slight discomfort or the chi. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, chi is the life force energy in our body.

Massage this spot in a circular motion or simply hold the pressure for some time to experience relief from nausea.

If you have any interest in other accupressure points for muscle aches, fatigue, headache, etc. I will be happy to pass them on.

Hope the waters are cooperating and that you’re meditation practice is serving you well.


Aunt Sherry January 5, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Katie, checking on you about every fifteen minutes and offering up another prayer, you are doing a wonderful thing and I am soooo proud of you, and Sam I feel like we are friends, thanks for the wonderful updates, feel like I am there with her. God Bless!

N5719R January 5, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Any way we can get Katie’s map always on Google earth like the early twitter. Much more impressive to see the whole ocean against Katie’s progress. Clarifies the incredible feat she is undertaking.

a friend from Chagrin Valley Rotary

Sam January 5, 2010 at 4:20 pm

The map of Katie’s progress will be up on this site, under “Where’s Katie”, hopefully by the end of the day, so you’ll all be able to check up where she is at any time of the day or night!


mandyhockenberry January 5, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Keep up the great work Katie! You are doing an awesome job!


juju January 5, 2010 at 10:59 pm

katie my sons and I are looking forward to seeing you reach your goal. what a great gift of life you have— thank you sam for keeping us informed on her departure
from kansas the critter boys

Bobby January 6, 2010 at 12:53 am


Glad to hear that you are doing well! I must say I am pretty impressed that you pulled this off the way you did and that you are well on your way. Keep it up! I will be looking forward to your Arrival

your cousin,


PRuse January 6, 2010 at 2:08 am

Rowing, rowing over the ocean blue….you go Katie girl…thanks Sam for your story…the world is your oyster, your row, your path, your protector Katie. Happy bright new year, Peggy (and Half Moon Bay Yacht Club Womensailing)

AJ Petersen January 6, 2010 at 2:23 am

Hey Katie — It’s cousin AJ & Karyn here. Glad to see that you are getting along well. AJ wants you to know that he is totally inspired by this journey and is talking you up to EVEYRONE in his class. Needless to say, he is riding high on your coat tails.

Lots of Love from here to there. Take care and know we are thinking of you and tracking you!!

lamazelady January 6, 2010 at 3:34 am

You are doing it!!!! Hello from Ohio, Chardon 3 feet of snow, will be waiting for your safe return.

SIMCAD January 6, 2010 at 5:03 am

Katie all the best. Thank you for the arm chair adventure I am enjoying, here in frigid Green Bay WI.

ciscokid January 6, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Katie, I am praying for you. I am from Mentor on the Lake and I am very impressed with your courage and dedication to your cause. We need more peoople like you.

john kirk gray January 6, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Aboard the 23rd Voyage of the SS President Monroe of the Robert Dollar staemship line
1928 -1929 Out of San Francisco bound for Singapore, passenger Lewis A.Graycollected the Printed DAILY MENU and NEWS Between Port of San Francisco and Port of Honolulu,
Which Provided the Dinner guests with the SHIPS PROGRESS
XXX miles travelled from Departure
YY miles travelled today
MILES remsinibng to HONOLULU. ZZZZ miles

LATiTUDE at Noon Today


MILES rowed since depsrture fromDAKAR____________________
Miles rowed today ___________________
Miles To row to Cayenne___________________
GPS Lstitude at Noon today ____
GPS longitude At Noon today______
Air temp Hi 90 LO ???_
Sea surfasce Temp(70 degree sea surface is
GOD FORBID a Tropival storm or Cyclonic Hurricane on Katie…Pray
Michael cannot row the LIV ashore this trip…

CosmosHuman January 6, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Lisa from Mentor here. Wow! Have a safe trip. You are a most brave person to accomplish this fete.

Harriman January 8, 2010 at 4:33 am

Katie, Best wishes from North Carolina! We are following your progress closely. Sam, thanks for the updates.

mike January 10, 2010 at 6:05 am

row row row your boat.gently down the stream merrily,merrily.merrily. life is but a dream. good luck

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