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Katie Spotz, 22, is attempting to become the youngest person to complete solo row across the Atlantic Ocean

February 8, 2010 | 10:39 am

Katie Spotz as she prepares for a solo row of the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to South America. If she is successful, she will become the youngest to do so.

Katie Spotz has been rowing for 37 straight days. Not on a rowing machine in air-conditioned comfort, but across a large expanse of sea since mid-December.

Spotz, 22, is attempting to row 2,500 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, from Senegal in West Africa to French Guiana in South America. If successful, she will become the youngest person to solo row across the Atlantic Ocean.

"Most people think I am crazy and my family is not an exception," Spotz said in a pre-departure interview posted on her website. "Their main concern is my safety, but after becoming aware of the many safety precautions I will take, I think they are warming up quite nicely to the whole idea. Regardless, I can understand how it would not be easy to be my mother in this situation!"

Spotz is rapidly closing in on the halfway mark and has rowed more than 1,000 nautical miles, putting in 10 hours of rowing and 10,000 strokes daily.

Just thinking about her adventurous endeavor is awe-inspiring. Nothing but ocean in every direction you look; total darkness at night save for the moon and stars and the few navigational lights on board; blisters, rashes and aches and pains in areas never imagined; no fresh foods or cold drinks -- there is no refrigeration on board; and the only hot food available is dehydrated -- made by pouring hot water heated on a small gas-powered stove into a pouch.

Spotz, of Mentor, Ohio, is doing this not just to challenge herself, but to raise funds and awareness for the Blue Planet Run Foundation, a charitable organization that funds safe drinking water projects for billions of people around the world in need.

Her fundraising target is $50,000, of which $46,147.02 had been raised as of Monday morning.

"Every $30 I raise provides a lifetime of safe drinking water to another person. The positive effect does not stop there. It helps kids stay in school, allows women to start businesses, and keeps people out of hospitals," Spotz said.

"Liv," her 400-pound, 19-foot specialized ocean rowing boat, is equipped with a global positioning system, satellite phone, water-maker and emergency beacons. It also has storage cabins fore and aft.

The vessel has enough shelter for one and can hold several months of provisions. Hatches line the deck that provide storage for 70 to 100 days' worth of food and gear. Freshwater tanks are used for ballast and can also be used as an emergency water supply. Solar panels mounted to the boat power all electronics,  including a desalinator, a satellite phone, a VHF radio for short-range communication with other vessels, and a radar enhancer to indicate and amplify her position on other ship's radar screens.

Spotz also took a laptop computer plus a waterproof camera and camcorder, and is keeping fans, friends and family updated on her progress and adventures along the way via web posts on her blog.

Spotz is no newcomer to endurance sports. In 2006, she completed a 3,300-mile bicycle ride across America for the American Lung Assn.; in 2007, she ran a 62-mile ultra-marathon in Australia. And last year, Spotz not only completed a 150-mile run in the Colorado and Mojave deserts but also became the first person to swim the entire length of the 352-mile Allegheny River, to increase awareness of the need for safe drinking water.

Outposts salutes Spotz and her amazing venture, and will keep readers updated on her progress.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Katie Spotz prepares for a solo row of the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to South America. If she is successful, she will become the youngest person to do so. Credit: Lucian Bartosik

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