Rowing a small boat from Portugal to Guyana
By Norman Faria
July 7, 2002
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Dr. Hoff with his wife Diana after her arrival in Barbados in 2000 on the Star Atlantic 11.
THE 1960’s song by the Kingston Trio urges `Michael, row, row the boat ashore…’
The American folk group was probably referring to somebody out fishing, perhaps in a situation like a few metres out in a Guyanese river or at one of our popular resorts where you can rent rowboats.
They weren’t thinking about the man who will, within two months, cast off to undertake one of the longest, single-handed ocean voyages in a small rowboat.
The man is Norwegian medical doctor Dr. Stein Hoff who will be starting from Lisbon, Portugal on August 10 this year to row across the mighty Atlantic Ocean. His destination is the Georgetown docks right here in Guyana!
In an interview with the Chronicle, Dr. Hoff said he has been planning the historic trip for a long time. He is so confident, he will cover the 3 700 nautical miles (6850 kilometres) voyage safely and in good health that he tells you: “It will take exactly 110 days”.
This confidence stems from his wide-ranging experience in both ocean sailing and rowing boats coupled with, meticulous planning, including the installation and testing of the latest navigational and safety equipment.
The experience includes a round-the-world voyage with his family during 1977 to 1982 in a small (39 feet long) home built sailing boat. In 1997, he teamed up with fellow Norwegian Arvid Bentsen to row across the Atlantic from the Canary Islands (off the coast of Africa) to Barbados. That took 69 days. He was also the chief cook and bottle washer in the back up team when his daughter Elizabeth attempted the same trip in 1999. Unfortunately, her boat capsized and she was rescued after ten days at sea. The next year, Stein’s wife, Diana, completed the same trip in 113 days.
Dr. Hoff and his son on board the Red Admiral during a visit to Barbados.
Stein will be using the same boat Diana used. It was shipped back to Europe from Barbados after her arrival in the Eastern Caribbean island. The boat is 7.1 metres long, or the size of your average mini bus. It is made of 6-8 mm marine plywood glued with epoxy glue. It is called `Star Atlantic 11’. It has ballast in the bottom so that if it capsizes with the batches closed, it will self-right and not sink.
Among the modern electronic equipment on board is a telephone connected to a satellite. This will allow Stein to contact his home base on a daily basis - and also the Chronicle newspaper for whom he has agreed to contact on a regular basis so the Guyanese public can keep track of his progress in this commendable venture.
Because the boat is so small and weight is kept to a minimum, freeze fried food will be carried. There is a special water maker which makes fresh water from seawater. The special batteries will be charged from solar panels.
There are no sails or motors. It will be rowing all the way, although the wind and current coming from behind will be helpful. He will take a normal sleep, usually during the night, in the small cabin.
But why does he want to spend so much time alone?
Why do the row in the first place?
Stein told the Chronicle: “It is a personal challenge. The row will be the first done trans Atlantic and non-stop. It will be unsupported, a solo row and from continent to continent. I will be the first Norwegian and the second oldest to row an ocean alone.
“Secondly, I hope to inspire people to realise their dreams, regardless of age, and to inspire an active lifestyle. To my Guyanese friends, including your Foreign Minister Insanally and Tourism Minister Nadir, who are encouraging and supporting me all the way, I hope also the trip will be of some benefit to Guyana and continue to deepen the good relations between our two countries.”
Stein is 56 and was born in the Norwegian capital Oslo, but grew up in the small coastal town of Sandejord which is famous for shipping and whaling in the last century. He did his medical studies at the University of Glasgow where he met his future wife Diana who is Scottish. He is a specialist in internal medicine and has worked in hospitals in many countries including Barbados and New Zealand.
He firmly believes that rowing as a sport is very beneficial not only physically but also mentally. He and his family are long standing members of the Kristiansand Rowing Club in his country.
“I understand there is a tradition of rowing in Guyana and there was once a rowing club on the Demerara River. This is, of course, in addition to the traditional rowing of canoes by your indigenous peoples. I hope my trip will somehow encourage the revival of rowing in Guyana as a sport.”
The trip, whose main sponsor is `Pjizer:neuroscience’, will also be widely publicised in both the Norwegian and European media. It will put Guyana even further on the world tourist map. The Minister of Foreign Affairs Insanally has given the voyage his encouragement and support and Minister of Tourism Nadir will be keenly following the venture and planning a rousing welcome for Stein when he arrives here in December.
Stein visited Guyana High Commission in London last month. On board the vessel, he will be carrying small symbolic Guyanese and Norwegian products. Part of his boat also contains Guyanese wood.
Guyanese from all walks of life will undoubtedly hail this sterling attempt to conquer the mighty Atlantic Ocean in a way none has done before. We are also honoured that he has chosen Guyana as his landfall.
For those wishing to contact Stein through his website, they may do so through www.staratlantic.com. In the meantime, look out for the upcoming articles and photographs from this adventurous Norwegian about his ambitious and worth while voyage.