Epic journey at sea adventure to remember

Wayne and Cindy Robertson drink to a successful ocean crossing. With them is daughter Willow.

Imagine spending 92 days on a 6.8-metre vessel with no propulsion, crossing a broad expanse of ocean at the mercy of wind, weather, and currents, with only one other person and boat traffic for company.

Wayne Robertson, of Bergvliet, and Braam Malherbe, of Signal Hill, made international headlines recently when they completed the most southerly row across the Atlantic. It was a voyage of 8 100km from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro and neither of them had rowed before (“Swells delay race,” Bulletin January 5).

Rewind to January 1 when motivational speaker and adventurer Braam planned to set off from the Shimmy Beach Club at the V&A Waterfront with Clyde Barendse to promote an app, Do One Thing (DOT), which encourages people to live sustainably and do one thing a day for the planet.

Braam had been planning the trip for four years, but Wayne, whose involvement in the challenge at that stage amounted to giving meteorological advice, cautioned that a New Year’s Day departure would only bring disaster because of a storm offshore. “You will die or lose the boat,” he told Braam and Clyde.

So the challenge was put on hold and then Clyde withdrew, so Braam asked Wayne to join him. A yacht builder and qualified skipper, Wayne has crossed the oceans many times as a yachtsman and master skipper but this was his first time rowing.

Guy Biscoe of Observatory provided three days paddle technique training at Zeekoevlei.

The duo eventually set out in their boat, Mhondoro, on February 7.

For much of their voyage, they rowed alternate two-hour shifts. The highlight of their day was sunset when they cooked, a two-man affair, what with burning gas and boiling water.

They would plan their strategy and role play what to do in a crisis, and they had plenty of chances to put those plans into action: Wayne says they had 27 near-death experiences, all at night, due to boat traffic.

The second biggest problem was sleep deprivation followed by 48 days of no sun to power their solar panels, which they relied on to make drinking water and charge equipment.

“We had to manage the power daily, making water was our top priority besides all the other electronic devices on the boat,” says Wayne. He recalled one storm that overturned the boat.

“We could hear waves coming, millions of litres of water. It was like swatting a fly. We were submerged for five minutes just looking at water, disorientated, wind and waves pounding the boat,” he said.

In this storm, they lost one of their seats.

“They also had problems with their hi-tech satellite phone system. Their rudder was also damaged and the navigation system, but they managed to repair some of the equipment.

“Arriving in Brazil on May 9 was phenomenal. We made international headlines and felt like rock stars,” says Wayne.

What next? Wayne says he believes in the DOT ethos and wants to teach, passing on his passion for the environment.

The app has not reached the expected one million users and Braam plans to re-launch it and to have one billion people using DOT around the world when he circumnavigates the globe along the Tropic of Capricorn.

For more information about his plans, you can visit www.dot