By George Miller
Late this morning, the Channel Islands Harbor Coast Guard towed in “Wave Dancer,” a solar/rower powered craft on a Trans-Pacific voyage from Monterrey, CA to Honolulu, Hawaii. The expedition’s sole skipper/rower, Heather Taylor, of Australia, aborted the mission after the craft’s solar power converter failed. She was in the process of doing the trip as a charity fundraiser: https://www.pacificgiantsrow.com/
U. S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Cooney informed us that The Long Beach-based Fast Response Cutter Benjamin Bottoms was on patrol when receiving notification on 6/3 at 1330 hrs of Ms. Taylor’s 6/3 1240 hrs sat phone distress call. They went and picked her up about 90 miles west of Point Conception at around 2330 hrs. They towed Wave Dancer closer to Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, where a local USCG Response Boat-Medium crew picked up and towed the craft to the Victoria Avenue launching ramp. There, another rowing family friend, “Deb”, awaited with a boat trailer and a ride to temporary lodging. Deb’s partner, a 60 year old paraplegic former US Marine, is also in process of a trans-oceanic rowing voyage to Hawaii, started from Marina del Rey. She knows the drill. 7-26-20 update: Unfortunately, Ms. Madesen was killed in an accident during the crossing, on June 22.
I asked Cooney why the Coast Guard responded instead of a commercial towboat. He replied that Taylor’s location was outside of standard towboat operating range and it was an emergency situation.
Your harbor reporter just happened to be kayaking back to Channel Islands Harbor from the south, when he saw the craft in tow behind a sleek, modern coast guard launch. He immediately recognized it as a boat designed for transoceanic rowing voyages.
When I came ashore to meet Ms. Taylor and take photos, she explained the situation. When I asked her if she was going to try again, she said she didn’t know. Deb (pictured below), who had never met Ms. Taylor previously, had been following her exploits via the Internet, quickly volunteered and showed up at the launching ramp to help.
A very fit, 5′ 6″, thin and wiry woman, Ms. Taylor was wet, cold and looked tired when I met her. It turns out that she had just accidentally dropped and lost her cell phone in the harbor’s murky waters and was unable to retrieve it- another way to round out a great day.
Taylor was born in Canada and now hails from Australia. She took up rowing after rugby injuries convinced her to switch sports.
From her web site: Off the water, Heather studied geological engineering at Queen’s University in Canada and then moved to New Zealand for postgraduate studies in natural disaster management. In 2012, she headed for Australia, her paternal homeland. Based in Perth, she works for the Western Australian state government in disaster management. When she is not working, she is studying physics and space science at the Royal Military College of Canada.
She said what motivated her to do this (besides getting a bit of exercise) was helping to fund her parents’ organization, Emmanuel International, which works to help the poor in multiple countries and also TEAR Australia.
Taylor said the 2100 mile trip (actual mileage would be higher, for a variety of reasons) was planned to take 90 days. She aborted the trip after ten days. Deb said that the Coast Guard picked Wave Dancer up about 80 miles out, so she had already gone hundreds of miles, although it doesn’t look like she was on a direct course when picked up. Other voyagers have been swept in different directions by winds and currents. Some prefer to head south first to avoid the northwest winds in the more northern reaches, increasing the trip mileage considerably.
She probably could have made it back to shore on her own, but with diminished equipment capabilities there was increased risk.
The watercraft “Wave Dancer”
Wave Dancer is a fiberglass boat designed along the line of an updated Atlantic lifeboat. It appears to be a self-righting design. The craft was built in Great Britain and homeported in Southhampton. Ms. Taylor acquired it second-hand.
It turned out that the craft also had auxiliary solar electric power to supplement the rowing, which Taylor said provides most of the propulsion. But more importantly, it also charges the electronics navigation and communications gear. Wave dancer is set up for a crew of two rowers, but she was doing the trip solo.
The craft is equipped with GPS, radio and phone communications, Internet and weather systems
I seemed as though Ms. Taylor wanted to move along, after such a stressful and disappointing last few days. She was ready to rock, but technology let her down. So, I cut my interview short and we agreed to speak later, which I have unable to arrange so far. If I hear back from her, we’ll add more to this article.
More info & Donate to Heather Taylor’s cause: https://www.pacificgiantsrow.com/
George Miller is Publisher/Co-Founder of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard.