Callum’s Atlantic Rowing Challenge

A Whitehaven man is planning to make history as the first person to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean from continent to continent.

The Atlantic is huge , there’s not many of us who can imagine drifting on such a vast body of water. Nothing to see but a flat horizon stretching away in all directions.
Some would love the chance to cross it in the comfort of a luxury cruise liner, a smaller number would relish the freedom to sail it’s width in a yacht as they push themselves against the elements.  There’s not many, I’ll wager, who would enjoy the prospect of rowing across it, alone.

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Whitehaven based Callum McDonald is one of the few people in the world who consider themselves to be elite adventurers. For him, January can’t come soon enough – that’s when he plans to set off rowing from the Southern tip of Portugal – and according to his calculations, it will be up to four months before he rows into  Miami, his final port of call.

“I’ve tried to work it out and at 22 strokes per minute over 5000 miles, it’s going to be over two and a half million oar strokes,” said Callum.

It’s going to be anything but a luxury cruise because his boat is only 24 feet long and it’s going to weigh just over 850 kilos fully laden.


It’s not uncommon for people to row solo across the Atlantic but so far it’s only been achieved while starting from the Canary Islands and finishing in Barbados.

That’s not good enough for Callum who intends to row directly from Mainland Europe to America.  He’ll set off from Portugal and push in a southerly direction, about 100 miles or so above the Azores he’ll change to a more westerly course for the south of Puerto Rico and from there he’ll swing northwards, hitching a ride on the Gulf Stream to make his way to Miami.

He will have a support team but they will be back in Europe and the best they can do is keep him informed of the weather and offer moral support, the rest is up to Callum.

“The tides are favourable at that time of the year which is why I’ll set off when I do,” he continued. “Obviously it’s not a good idea to be passing through the Caribbean during hurricane season.”

That’s not to say that the weather couldn’t get rough sometimes, and the idea of huddling in a tiny cabin as his ship rides up and down the peaks and troughs of huge waves is terrifying, even for the most ardent adventurer.

Strangely enough though, it’s not the huge waves that cause the most problems according to Callum, it’s the smaller ones that crash into him as he rows, spilling across the tiny deck of his boat, causing havoc. However, his vessel is a precision piece of engineering and theoretically it’s self-righting, meaning that should it ever capsize, the air trapped in the cabins will provide the buoyancy that should keep it afloat.

And if that’s not enough of a trial, along the way, Callum will have to strap himself to his ship, jump overboard and dive underneath the hull to scrape it clear of barnacles that will create drag as he rows.

It’s a daunting prospect that will demand huge mental strength as well as physical. But for Callum it’s worth it. He’s of a strange breed, the kind who thrive on pushing themselves to their very limits, who relish the challenge and if he is lucky enough, he will be the very first person in the world to claim he’s achieved such a feat.



It’s not only personal satisfaction that pushes Callum though, as part of the expedition he’s also raising money for a fitting cause.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society are an organisation who work to protect marine life and who are focused on reducing marine plastic-waste. A topic which is very much on our minds as highlighted on Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II and is no doubt one of the huge issues of our generation.
Callum is hoping to raise at least ten thousand pounds and I’m sure you’ll all agree, an expedition of this magnitude probably deserves a whole lot more.

Lake District Coast Aquarium
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