GEORGETOWN, Guyana — A 22-year-old American rower completed a solo journey across the Atlantic Ocean on Sunday, touching a pier in the coffee-brown waters of Guyana to claim a record as the youngest person to accomplish the feat.
Katie Spotz, who spent more than two months alone at sea, hugged her father and brother as 200 people cheered her arrival in this South American capital.
“The hardest part was just the solo part,” Spotz said, saying she struggled with boredom and had trouble sleeping inside the cramped, 19-foot row boat.
The athlete from Mentor, Ohio, set out from Dakar, Senegal, on Jan. 3 and endured rough seas during the 2,817-mile crossing. She traveled without any support boat aside from a Coast Guard vessel that escorted her to Guyana’s coast.
She rowed to raise money and awareness for the Blue Planet Run Foundation, a nonprofit whose goal is to bring clean drinking water to the estimated 1 billion people worldwide who lack it.
“The records are just a bonus for Katie. Rowing the Atlantic and raising funds for clean water are the things she really cares about,” said her coach Sam Williams.
The record for the youngest rower to cross an ocean solo was set Oliver Hicks, a British man who was 23 when he rowed from New Jersey to England in 2005, according to Kenneth Crutchlow, the London-based executive director of the Ocean Rowing Society. He said his group will have to certify Spotz’s journey but she appears to have broken the record.
Spotz rowed for as many as 10 hours a day with breaks for naps, navigation and boat maintenance. At night, she would drift aboard the specially designed ocean row boat, which had equipment including solar panels for power, a satellite phone and a laptop computer.
She had little fresh food aside from sprouts grown aboard the boat.
“I would cook three dehydrated meals a day on a little stove,” she said as she devoured a melon at the dock in Georgetown. “At night I would update my Facebook and e-mails. There is not much else to do on a row boat.”
Some of the most harrowing moments came near the voyage’s end. As she approached the continental shelf, waves crashed over the boat and Spotz worried it would capsize. On Saturday, she had to use a fire extinguisher after a piece of tracking equipment caught fire.
In 2008, Spotz swam the length of Pennsylvania’s 325-mile Allegheny River, and she has cycled across the United States.
Her family was extremely relived to see her make it through the latest adventure.
“The first thing I did was call my wife in Ohio to tell her she landed safe and sound,” said Dan Spotz, her father.