HFWYG Podcast: Episode 1
December 21, 2016
Post-Christmas Wish List
December 28, 2016

John and I apologize for the delay in getting our first full update to you from the water. As expected — and as reiterated to us by the racing committee — the first week was extremely challenging as we tore down our habits and recurring motions to adapt to boat life. At a flip of a switch, our daily life — from when we eat, to how we sleep, wash, talk, and, well, do other things — changed significantly.

The first day of the race feels like it was just yesterday and, at the same time, ages ago. After immense planning and waiting for 1.5 years, it was surreal to hear the flare’s boom and finally make our way, stroke-by-stroke, out of La Gomera’s marina towards the Americas. It was as an unforgettable moment made even better by the sight of our family clapping and cheering with tears in their eyes. It was also a relief to finally be on the water after all the chaos leading up to departure. While I personally don’t recall a ton of specifics from that day, these thoughts are what come to mind. I hope I said a proper goodbye to everyone, at least.

Right out of the gate, we were confronted with a bit of fair weather. Some serious winds at 30 knots compounded with 25-foot swells from a low-pressure system served as our baptism into proper ocean rowing. Nothing like jumping right in. We rowed as best as we could and were given our first test . . . the glorious test of seasickness. John got hit the hardest out of the two of us. It took away our appetite for much of the first five days, leaving us to survive on peanut butter and hi-chews (a meal my 5-year-old self would have been proud of). I regained my stomach and began building on a routine within the first three days; John followed a few days later.

As of now, we feel 100%, all things considered. Blisters and calluses have grown in number, but there is not much discomfort in the buttocks region just yet. Quite frankly, the rows aren’t too bad either. They are almost enjoyable, but the transitions can be daunting. I dread hearing John’s voice call “10 minutes til you’re up.” The verbal alarm clock, sans snooze button, signaling the changing of shifts.

Over these next few weeks, we will focus on making up some time. After shooting out at a pretty good speed, we started questioning our route and floundered a bit. We feel well on our way now, eating up mileage across the big blue and have been fortunate to experience some cool sightings. These include sharks, sea turtles, and a pod of dolphins playing around our boat which — fun fact — kind of resembles a dolphin itself. We’re keeping a hopeful eye out for whales, too, inviting them over with our best Dory impression. The one consistent visitor we do have is Sara, a small, black bird that has followed us all the way from La Gomera through the rough seas. Now, well into our first 500 miles, she’s a bright light that glides and circles above us each day.

The nights are also stunning albeit extremely dark. Bioluminescent waters stream past our oars, illuminating the paddle, the only part of the oar we can see. The lack of light also makes for intense and bright star shows that constantly awe us.

Already, we are into our third week on the sea and look forward to sending out another update soon. We’ll keep you posted on the little distance we need to make up against our direct “competitors” — Fresh Dental Challenge, the only other pair in the 12-boat field. Fear not to those cheering us on. John and I are like plaque — you can brush us off, but we will always be back the next day.

To our fellow rowers and friends, to those of you reading this and to our family, we hope you have a wonderful and happy holiday! We will be celebrating Christmas on our boat, thankful for this experience.

Kurt Schwartz

32º North rows for The Samfund, a unique foundation that provides much-needed financial support for young adult cancer survivors. Please visit their Flipgive fundraising page below to donate directly or to Shop & Support The Samfund.


  1. Joe Hoermann says:

    Thanks for the update. Thinking of you guys every day. Positive waves!!!! Love you two…. Onward and upward !!!

  2. Natalie Paek says:

    Wow! It’s wonderful to have updates. Glad you are both feeling better and getting into the swing of things. Nice that you have your little black bird checking up on you both:-). Mike and I send our best from NYC!!!!! RE: Christmas post, I’d send the Sopranos series, and many books on tape if I could!

  3. Juli & Dan Drayer says:

    John and Kurt,
    So glad to hear that you both got your “sea legs” and conqered the sea sickness. It’s absolutely fascinating following your journey via the blogs and your Moms updates too. Continued well wishes along your journey and Godspeed. Your next pursuit: write a book of your adventure! Happy New Year to you both….helluva way to ring it in and one you’ll never soon forget 🙂 Dan and Juli Drayer

  4. Carlos Torrescano says:

    Queridos John y Kurt!
    Que valor!!
    Todos los Torrescano con Ustedes!!!

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