Day 22 — A day in the life of an ocean rower

by Katie on January 24, 2010

I have become aware of all the schools following the row (which is fantastic!) and I have received lots of questions about my everyday life. So here we go, incorporating all your questions but before I go into all the details, I have a caveat or two:

  • One – my sense of time is completely off. I’m not even sure what time zone I am in now or what day of the week it is and my day unfolds mainly by how I feel more than a strict schedule
  • Two – for the most part, life is ridiculously boring. The most exciting thing that happened today was hearing another human voice over the VHF radio. Sorry to disappoint you but my days are not filled with fighting off pirates or riding on the back of whales or clenching to the walls of my cabin to ride out huge storms. It’s mainly just rowing along, slow and steady.

With that in mind, this is my life, sparing few details:

  • Wake up around sunrise and first check the GPS. Big smiles when I get “free miles” or pushed westward overnight by the winds and current
  • Sunset on the Atlantic

  • Breakfast time which is usually oatmeal, cereal with dried milk, rice or cous cous topped with dried fruit and nuts
  • Eat outside but first check for dead fish. Chuck any fish I find back into the sea where they belong
  • Start rowing until I am hungry again or want to change my iPod. Keep rowing until I hear a song so good that it would be rude not to stop and dance. I usually listen to music in the morning and audiobooks in the afternoon
  • Keep rowing and, if it’s too hot, take a dip in the water and wave to my fishy neighbors (while remaining connected to the boat with a safety line, of course)
  • If I’m especially tired, I’ll take a 15-20 minute powernap throughout the day
  • Keep rowing. Everyday is different but the waves have typically been 3-5ft and temperatures in the 80s
  • At midday I run the desalinator which converts the salt water into fresh water by reverse osmosis. This takes about twenty minutes to produce enough fresh water for a couple days
  • Row until sunset. On a typical day, I see a few fish and birds especially around sunset and, aside from the odd voice on my VHF radio, there is no sign of other human beings
  • Stop and have dinner, which is usually a carb-rich meal like pasta and a whey protein shake
  • Row for one more hour in the dark. I save some of my comedy audio stuff for night rowing
  • Once I am done rowing, I set the rudder and secure the oars for the night
  • Before I go to bed, I read a letter from home. Before I shipped the boat, my mom gave me 100 letters, one for every day of the trip, which usually brings me to smile, laugh, or, dare I admit, shed a tear
  • And then I check my emails and sometimes do a blog or write in my diary (in waterproof paper, might I add). I use the satellite phone for emails and calls. I have one ten-minute call a week, mainly to keep my sanity intact
  • Right before I sleep, I stuff pillows and dry bags with soft stuff (like my dry bag of clothes) around my bed and wedge myself in between. It helps keep me secure in a constantly moving boat. Sleep about 8hrs waking up several times to switch positions or let fresh air in

All I need to do now is repeat about fifty more times and I’m in Cayenne, right?

Even though I am thousands of miles away from most of my readers, now, at any given moment in the day, you can know exactly what I am doing. It’s far from glamorous but, for now, I embrace this strange and beautiful life at sea.


Keith Whelan January 24, 2010 at 1:26 pm

hey Katie,

you are doing brilliantly. glad all is well. you still seem together mentally so thats a positive. lol. just kidding. keep it going. you are making great progress.

all the best.


TheAsylum January 24, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Well, Katie? You’ve managed to make the mundane (as you’ve termed it) sound very cozy and satisfying indeed. It’s always so comforting to hear that you’re doing so well, and now we’ll feel even better knowing that you’ve brought along tangible comforts from home. Your mom is sooooo smart! Good thing you picked the right parents, eh? :)
Row, Katie – Row!
- Jim and Rachel Ockuly

doo312ood January 24, 2010 at 3:09 pm

katie,read all about your sailing on the ocean from the commentary you sent. it was very exciting and at times i felt i was with you in the boat. what a great feeling.keep the wonderful info coming . love doo and ellen

mikekostka January 24, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Katie, your blog makes me feel like I’m almost there. I can feel the warmth being I’m from snow Michigan I hope you have a safe trip.

Nicolioli January 24, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Hey Katie!
Thanks for the blog. I am always excited when I check Katie headquarters and see new updates! While it may be mundane it definitely is not forgettable nor does it take away the crazy excitement and awe that I constantly feel towards what you are doing! silence really does sound golden right now in this busy noise filled world! Be safe,sincerely,Nicole

Barry Young January 24, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Katie, Thanks for taking the time to write. I have a 26 yr old daughter who just finished 2 years in Belize in Peace Corp and you do so remind me of her. I hope your adventure is peaceful and safe.

Rick Barkley January 24, 2010 at 4:56 pm

River, ocean, paddle, row; it can get a little run-on. For your sake, I hope the guy from Salamanca doesn’t come by. You don’t need THAT excitement! :-)
Sometimes, it helps to think about the people going to work, or at work, to appreciate where you are. Carry on!

lamazelady January 24, 2010 at 5:13 pm

You are only alone in the physical sense. We are here with you in spirit. Keep dancing!

olbrscience January 24, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Did you feel any effects from the earthquake that destroyed Haiti?

Ed Weisheimer January 24, 2010 at 6:53 pm

I,too, greatly appreciate you taking time to write. You are a good writer,and sharing your experiences through the the Internet is brilliant. I am telling other people about you and your website. I will be following you. I am also interested in learning about the water issues that interest you. I have do do more reading of your backgroud. I live in Cleveland, on Lake Erie and I know some of the many issues concerning Erie and the other Great Lakes. I appreciate you investing yourself to educate and create wider awareness of water issues. All the best to you

Toni Chanakas January 24, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Way to go Katie. I applaud your efforts. I am not sure I can endure all that alone time with all your “fish” neighbors. You are doing such a great thing to create awareness for “water.”

Keep strong.

Toni From Cleveland, OHIO

Deb O January 24, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Hi Katie,
Since you are losing track of the days I just wanted to remind you that today is January 24th, so don’t forget about your Mom. I really admire your courage and determination and pray for you every day that you will have a safe voyage. Your updates are very inspiring.

ycartsnhoj January 24, 2010 at 8:12 pm

i have been reading your posts to the children at my daycare and they love every one keep up the great job

bykrdad2 January 24, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Hi Katie,
You get big smiles when you get “free miles” overnight and those of us checking your website get big smiles when there’s a new update about your remarkable journey. Very cool. Keep rowing, keep writing, and keep smiling. You’re doing GREAT!

By the way, your zen rowing insights are further proof age is not a prerequisite for wisdom.

Mulleeboyz January 24, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Thanks for that post Kate, we love to hear from you – helps us to know you are safe and doing so well. Very soon this will all be a memory! Don’t wish it away (Ok maybe the dead fish parts). Keep rowing and get home to us soon – we really do miss you like crazy!
Uncle Pat, Aunt Sheli, and the boys

PhillipSanford January 24, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Hi Katie!
I LOVE LOVE LOVE your most recent Blog! You are such a incredible person. I have given the link to the conference I am setting up. I still want you to consider coming to the conference and sharing your story… and if you are willing, come tell the story to the students next fall.

You are such a bright spirit in the midst of the insanity of my life. A lesson you are teaching is how we all need to simply get up and row until we are no longer able. Laugh, cry, and row some more.

Sherry Tague January 24, 2010 at 10:25 pm

You are doing wonderful and just wanted to let you know I talked to the uncles yesterday and called your mom to wish her a happy b day today, all is well at home and we cannot wait to see your smile at the end of the solitude and calm. Your days sound very wonderful and I love them. God speed sweetie, many prayers your way.

seventy8 January 24, 2010 at 10:33 pm

You go girl! I’m keeping you in my prayers:) Peace. Eric.

larryrek1 January 25, 2010 at 12:18 am

Enjoy reading your blogs Katie. We at L & M Marine are following your progress. Good Luck with your journey or should I say voyage.
Larry Sr.

TheAsylum January 25, 2010 at 12:37 am

Katie, I don’t claim to be a proper scientist, but according to my (suspect) expert calculations, I must wonder that the many pounds of reward chocolate aboard your boat were not reduced to a giant glob of goo before you even lost sight of land. Are the dolphins and flying fish and sea turtles all carrying around little coolers full of chocolate for you? Pleeeeease tell me you’re not reduced to eating some sort of freeze-dried newt eyeballs that you’ve convinced yourself tastes just like chocolate?? I’m just sayin’ ……

TheAsylum January 25, 2010 at 12:52 am

‘Cause if that’s the case? Then I promise I will NEVER row across the ocean! Hmph.

lyeager January 25, 2010 at 4:54 am

Terrific summary…this paints a picture in our minds and thus we feel closer to your task and your cause. Next expand your view to include stars, planes, ships, mirages…we want to know what you look at with your eyes and your mind!

AlanP January 25, 2010 at 11:50 am

Hi Katie,
So glad to hear things are going nice and steady. I just love checking your blogs and twitters. Makes me feel like we’re all out there with you. : >

I was wondering if you have some special sun block or are just using a lot of regular old suntan lotion. Must be tough under the sun so many hours every day. Maybe you just wear a really big hat…lol!

May your waters be smooth, the sun be mild and the winds and currents continue to move you closer to home!

Hugs and prayers from Nashville TN.

Alan, Sam, Claire and Melanie

Ray Jeske January 25, 2010 at 2:03 pm


You’re still a crazy lady, but we so admire you. Your recent blog was super entertaining–we read it in its entirety over the air on ESPN 990 (Massillon/Canton). Be safe. We’re praying for you. And keep us posted, it’s really inspiring.

All the best,

Ray Jeske
ESPN 990

elli January 25, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Katie – I had lunch with some young friends (a little bit older than you) on Saturday and I was telling them all about you. They asked so many questions and have so much admiration for you and they too, are now following your blogs. You are such an inspiration to people! Keep on keeping on – I’m so proud of you! In our office you have become “our rowing girl”! elli

Andrew Samtoy January 25, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Thanks for the updates! You’re doing great – keep it up!!!

Jen Norder January 25, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Thanks for keeping us updated on you and your travels! My 9 year old daughter wants us to look you up every night so that she knows where you are. This will be a good entry for her to read. Keep up the good work! There are a lot of us praying for you and your safety. :)

servinfire January 25, 2010 at 10:14 pm

this pretty brave of you to do. keep up th good work though. And by the way, you said that in the middle of the night you come up for fresh air, does that mean your sleeping underwater

Mulleeboyz January 25, 2010 at 10:59 pm

i love katie connor

Carol January 26, 2010 at 2:49 am

Loved the summary of your day and when I read it to my 1st graders today, they were surprised at all the things that you are doing in a day. They laughed when I told them about the dead fish in your shoes and were worried when I told them you spotted shark fins, but they liked it when you said that maybe they came to hear your music. They told me to tell you to stay out of the water!! Do you think the specks that you see at night are some kind of fish that are swimming near the surface?? Keep staying strong – you sound very grounded in your abilities. I am SO pulling for you to complete your adventure and there is not a doubt in my mind that you WILL do it. God speed.

ripponit January 26, 2010 at 4:36 am

Found this on the internet: Bioluminescent Dinoflagellates-Bioluminescence is the light produced by a chemical reaction that occurs in an organism. It occurs at all depths in the ocean, but is most commonly observed at the surface. Bioluminescence is the only source of light in the deep ocean where sunlight does not penetrate. Amazingly, about ninety percent of the organisms that live in the ocean have the capability to produce light.

Harry and Judy January 26, 2010 at 4:55 am

Hey Katie,
Your day sounds pretty ordinary but what you are doing is spectacular. Thanks for sharing that you are safely attached to your boat when you go swimming. We feel better.
See ya, Harry

WaterIsLifeDavid January 26, 2010 at 6:45 am

Hello Katie!
Wow, have to admit, reading about your days at sea has made my eyes a little watery… you are amazing! So glad to read that everything is going well. I keep thinking of you, sending positive energy your way. Thank you for your bravery, determination, and positive outlook :-)
Water is life!
(we met during the Blue Planet Run 24 hour run)

Steve Fried January 26, 2010 at 1:53 pm

What a GREAT adventure to read about Katie, please keep them coming as time permits. Has there been any BAD weather day’s yet with STRONG wind & BIG waves? I’m hoping the answer is (& STAYS) NO!
GOD’S SPEED to you!

barb w January 27, 2010 at 1:13 am

I find your mission so exciting! You have to be strong in more ways than one to do what you are doing…Your cause is a greatly needed on all around the county… safe! keep those updates coming!

Teri January 27, 2010 at 1:32 am

Hi Katie, We are following you at All Saints School (Fr. Tom John’s is our pastor.) You are an inspiration to us and we pray for your safe journey. Everyday the kids go to the computer to see how far you have gone and what pictures you have posted. They LOVED the Mini-Wilson! God speed!

Steve Fried January 27, 2010 at 4:37 am

there are many things in ocean that have a lumen-essence when disturbed, I see it when I do night dives & turn off my light & wave my hand fast. It’s VERY cool!
Steve from Mentor

rloeb January 27, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Katie Spotz, you’re my hero. You remind me that the world does not have a set path for me and that I can do whatever I want if I have the courage. Hey, question: do you ever get to go swimming outside your boat? Or is it too dangerous (sharks, losing your boat, etc.)? I think you should write a book about this experience. You could call it “Into the Blue” (like “Into the Wild” or “Into Thin Air”) but hopefully with a happier ending. Anyway, just wanted to let you know, that when I think of you my little landbound life of classes and running around seems petty in comparison to what you’re doing, and one of these days I’ll row off into the sunset with you.
Say hi to all the fishies for me!

Susan Denis January 28, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Hi Katie,
I heard you interview on NPR & have been following you since you left. I teach health in Sag Harbor, NY to 7th & 10th graders & I share your travels & courage with them. I asked some of my students to ponder what makes someone so adventurous? Many of my students say they would never take on something so challenging. Row Strong and all best wishes on your journey!

Steve Fried January 30, 2010 at 3:07 am

Bioluminescence is a form of luminescence, or “cold light” emission; less than 20% of the light generates thermal radiation. It should not be confused with fluorescence, phosphorescence or refraction of light.
Didn’t want to make it too long but this is what your seeing in the ocean at night. I’m sure your boat is helping by causing a desturbence in the ocean.

Ninety percent of deep-sea marine life are estimated to produce bioluminescence in one form or another. Most marine light-emission belongs in the blue and green light spectrum, the wavelengths that can transmit through the seawater most easily. However, certain loose-jawed fish emit red and infrared light and the genus Tomopteris emits yellow bioluminescence.

wishing you continued fair sky’s & gentle seas!

Steve Fried from Mentor

gillrunner January 31, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Hi Katie,
I live in North OLmsted and met you at the crew meet my son had last year in the flats. I was just so awed by your bravery. I saw an article about your journey again and have been meaning to check your website. I sharted your story with my neices who are 6 and 8 needless to say they were riveted also. I will follow you more closly and I would like you to know I am praying for your safety and for your parents and family as well. Asa parent of kids your age I am sure it is unsettling to know your child is in the middle of the ocean by herself. You will learn things on this journey that most people don’t learn in a lifetime. Have fun and definitley keep dancing.

Anthony Rodriguez February 1, 2010 at 2:37 am

Katie, you are one fantastic lady. You must possess a special gene that allows you to face and tackle such an enormous challenge…I bow to you.

Pleae tell me, what is your plan, if faced with an approaching storm?

Keep up your fantastic effort and god protect you.
Tony R.

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