Charlie is a crew member of an international rowing team, which was scheduled to leave Agadir, Morocco on January 8, 2011 on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. The final destination is Barbados, a distance of 3165 miles. The goal is to beat the world record of 33 days for the crossing.
The craft has been dubbed “Big Blue,” a custom made catamaran designed to contain a crew of 16 members, mostly elite athletes in their field. The living quarters are basically a roofed area in the middle of the boat containing bunks, food supplies, a desalinater for water and a rudimentary toilet. To say the living quarters are spartan would be a huge understatement.
So, why is a 63 year-old writer mixing it up with experienced athletes who are looking to break a world rowing record? When Wilkins first heard about the event one year ago at his home in Thunder Bay, he thought it would make an interesting story so he wrote to the organizers to express his interest in participating. He received a polite letter of rejection some weeks later.
Digging in his heels, Wilkins wrote back and included a copy of one of his recent books, “Walk to New York,” a story of his 2200 kilometer walking trek from Thunder Bay to New York. The organizers suddenly had a change of heart, and decided that anyone at his age, who could complete such a feat and write about it, was a worthy choice.
For the better part of a year Wilkins has been on a stringent conditioning and nutritional program to prepare for the event. Daily workouts on a rowing machine, changes in diet and nutrition and general health and fitness activities have taken over his life. He was warned that an extreme event such as this would weaken his immune system and consume muscle mass, so he should be prepared to lose one pound for every day he rows on the Atlantic.
Readers can listen to Wilkins explain his training regime and his reasons for getting involved on a video clip at http://vimeo.com/17157360
Of course, the tipping point for Wilkins to get the nod to participate is that he will be documenting each day of the month long adventure with the intent to write a book when he returns to Canada. However, he is quick to remind his audience that there is much to overcome before people will be able to sit comfortably in their chairs and read all about it. Adverse weather systems, illness, mechanical failures, fatigue, exposure, and hunger are just some of the challenges that the crew of Big Blue will face along the way.
To follow the trans-Atlantic row, log on to www.bigbluerow.com and monitor the crew’s progress over the next month.
The last time Wilkins was in Cornwall, he was signing copies of “CC 200- A Memoir of Voices” at the CCVS Reunion in 2006. Let’s hope the next time he returns, it will be to sign a book about the adventure of a lifetime on ‘Big Blue.’