The Weekend Read – Stop Drifting, Start Rowing by Roz Savage

This is Roz Savage’s second book and is sub-titled – “One Woman’s Search for Happiness and Meaning Alone on the Pacific”.

Stop Drifting, Start Rowing continues the story of adventurer, environmentalist and ocean rower Roz Savage’s traverse of the world’s oceans. Starting with the, at times, terrifying account of her abortive departure from California it never loses pace as she shares her triumphs and near disasters with the reader. Her story takes us from the Golden Gate bridge to Hawai’i then on to Tarawa and finally to the completion of her goal to become the first woman to row solo across the Pacific by making landfall on Papua New Guinea.

But this is far more than an account of a rower, rowing. Roz is not only crossing the oceans “because it is there” but also and more importantly to raise awareness of environmental issues.

ROZ BK LAUNCHHer description of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch an area “around twice the size of Texas consisting of 3.5million tonnes of rubbish” and of the amount of, and damage caused by, plastic pollution will make even the most cynical user of disposable products think twice.  Plastic in the oceans not only floats on the surface, approximately two thirds sinks to the bottom where it interferes with the natural gaseous exchange between the ocean bed and the water. 80% of this plastic pollution comes from the land. The plastic is degraded by sunlight thus making smaller and smaller pieces which are eaten by small fish and other creatures at the bottom of the food chain so that the toxins released are concentrated as the chain goes higher. She tells the story of the mahi mahi fish that had been caught by one of the sailors of Junk, a boat made from 15,000 empty plastic bottles, that was so full of plastic that the toxins and hormone inhibitors released will have made the fish dangerous to eat. Plastic is not inert, it will damage us when it finally reaches us as creatures at the apex of the food chain.

Her account of her conversations with the President of Kiribati both in his country’s capital, Tarawa, and during the ill stared Copenhagen conference left me with a lingering sense of sadness and potential loss. The islands that make up Kiribati are nearly all less than 3 metres above sea level. As the oceans rise over the next decades, the inhabitants will by necessity become migrants and have to move to wherever they are able. They will become a lost nation. Take a look at this short video from the World Bank.

The other element of this book making it a great read and continuing from her first book, Rowing The Atlantic, is her discussion of her philosophy of life and how she came to reject commercialism and our longing for “stuff”. All good stuff for a coach.

One of the heart-warming aspects of her tale is the generosity shown to her by people throughout the world. It boosts your optimism about human nature. From the straightforward offers of accommodation and food through the donations of cash (ocean rowing is not in the same league as the Americas Cup but is costly to organise) and sponsorship by manufacturers Roz is eloquent in her acknowledgement of her “Rozlings”.

In recent months Roz has been appointed a Member of the British Empire for her work on behalf of environmental issues – well deserved.

This book will repay your attention – enjoy.

Available from Amazon here

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