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My father's lying when he says he intends to survive his Pacific hell so we can be reunited

February 9 2003

By Sharon Churcher IN FLORIDA
and Caroline Graham IN LOS ANGELES
 
Thousands of miles out at sea, lone British rower Andrew Halsey was last night fighting a battle for survival against the elements.
The eccentric adventurer is running out of food and supplies, his satellite phone - his last link with the world-is about to be cut off as he drifts dangerously off course in the shark-infested waters of the Pacific Ocean.
After 2,300 miles and 75 days, the 45-year-old epileptic from London - attempting a record- breaking crossing from Peru to Australia - still has more than 8,000 miles to cover.

Yet, as the ocean swells menacingly around his flimsy 28ft x4ft glass-fiber boat, one thought gives him courage and inspiration.. his beautiful, but estranged, teenage daughter Brittany, who he longs to be reunited with.
Touchingly, he keeps a crumpled photo of the mischievous, green-eyed girl who he insists is the main motivation for this trip and who his boat, Brittany Rose, is named after. But just as his vessel is hugely wide of the mark, so, it seems, is Halsey's version of events.
The oarsman - brought back from the brink of death three years ago when The Mail on Sunday helped to organize an emergency air-and-sea rescue off the coast of Hawaii - has always claimed that his quest to cross the Pacific is his way of filling 'the gaping void' in his life after his ex-wife Kimberley left him.
Then, as now, he claimed the trip was a way of reaching out to his long-lost daughter, who now lives in America with her mother. But when we tracked them down in New Port Richey, a small town in Florida, they had a very different tale to tell.
Brittany, 18, and Kimberley say Halsey was an abusive, selfish man who would never have settled to family life and is making the trip solely for self-aggrandizement.
And Brittany revealed that when Halsey's supposed dream came true - and she flew to London in November to try to make up and stop him risking his life - he still refused to abandon his trip.
'I finally learned what he was up to when a friend woke me at 5am and said dad was in the papers because he'd been rescued from the Pacific but wasn't going to give up until he died.
'Last autumn my aunt bought me a ticket to England because it might be the last chance I'd have to see him".

From the age of eight, I've heard nothing from him. So despite his dramatic talk, I didn't think he could really have cared about me. He said he didn't know how to find us - but he has just to look in the phone book. He sent my mother two cheques for 90 dollars (55£) and that was the last penny she got in child support. We were so poor we lived in a shelter for two months.
'Before we ran away to America, Mum said Dad had been abusive. I went to London to give him a second chance. I thought he might call off this crazy trip and take the time to get to know me. He seemed excited to see me.
He cried when he met me off the plane and he cried each time he introduced me to another of his relatives.
'At first, we had a wonderful time. We went on long walks and l told him about my first boyfriend. He took me
shopping in Covent Garden, bought me a pair of shoes and said:" How is your mother? Still blonde and as cute as a button?'
'But two weeks after I arrived, he asked me to go to Heathrow to see him off. It seemed selfish and stupid. I told him, "It would be cool to do something this heroic if l wasn't in the picture. But you have a daughter who has only just met her father. Don't you think you should put this off?'
'He refused. He had me watch tapes of his previous rowing endeavours and showed me pictures of himself in the papers. He said he wanted to get a knighthood. I don't want to say anything to hurt him but is it my attention he cares about or the public attention and the challenge of proving that, despite his illness, he is superman?
'He says he planned to get my attention. I told him: "Well, you have my attention, Dad. Why are you trying to die?" Why do this when he finally had a chance to get to know me and make up for what he did to my mother?'
Today, Kimberley looks exhausted, a far cry from the 24-year-old beauty Halsey met in 1982. At the time, she had just moved to New Orleans to be a hairdresser to escape the drab factory town in Iowa where she grew up.
Halsey - 6ft 4in with bright green eyes - was a deck hand on a cargo ship and cut a striking figure in shirt, tie and blue suede shoes when they met.' I met him at a jazz bar in the French Quarter,' says Kimberley. 'He was so different - the only man there in a tie. 'He'd call me from out at sea and always brought me flowers. So I agreed to marry him, but on my wedding day I was in a state of shock - we didn't really know each other.
He'd often say he'd be famous one day and get knighted for his rowing endeavours. He had his first epileptic seizure on our first Christmas Day together, and it made him even more determined. When I got pregnant he took a construction job hundreds of miles away in Arizona. 'He said lifting bricks was getting him ready for his great voyages. Brittany was born on August 22, 1984, while he was in Arizona. He came back nine days later.
'I thought he might settle down if we moved to England. We went there when our daughter was about six months old and found a flat near his parents in Clacton, Essex. He got a building job, but he was more restless than ever and very short-tempered. Maybe it was his illness but at the time, I was afraid for my life. Mostly, it was verbal abuse but he also would shove me and lunge at me. He hid my passport and Brittany's and I felt like a prisoner. 'Finally, some people at the local church took me to the American Embassy so I could get new passports and gave me the money for two tickets to America. When he left for work one morning, I packed a suitcase, took the baby and left.'
She returned to America, filing for divorce two years later. Kimberley struggled to bring up her daughter by herself with no financial support. She only saw Halsey once more when he visited Kimberley in America on her birthday.

BRITTANY said: 'My mother thought maybe he finally was going to buckle down and have a relationship with me, but five days later he picked up and left again. I forgot I had a dad and got on with my life.'

Halsey, meanwhile, stayed in England and used insurance money from a building site accident in which he broke his ankle to build the boat that is Brittany's namesake. He finished it in 1996 and completed a 116-day crossing of the Atlantic the following year. But his desire for greater challenges - and the fame they would bring - culminated in his first attempt, in 1999, to become the first disabled oarsman to cross the Pacific. That mission ended after he ran out of food and water after 267 days at sea, and now his second attempt is in jeopardy. His phone is due to be cut off because he cannot pay the bill, and his support team is trying to put together a mission to take him more food.
Yet speaking to The Mail on Sunday via the satellite phone from Brittany Rose, Halsey insists that he will achieve his goal and stubbornly continues the story that he is doing this for the love of his daughter. He said: 'I had always loved the ocean. It was the one place I never felt alone. And I wanted to do something that would make my little girl proud of me as well as prove something to myself and others about how anyone can overcome handicaps and realize their dreams.
This time I am determined to succeed. I am doing it for Brittany, but I am also doing it for me. What keeps me going is the thought of seeing my smiling daughter's beautiful face when I reach Australia. I want her to be there. Not seeing your child grow up is the worst thing that can happen to a father. "I had no idea things were so bad at home, Kim took Brittany on the very day she took her first steps. I remember that as if it were yesterday" He went on: "The seas and winds have been terrible. I am keeping my spirits up but some days I've rowed for 16 hours, gone to sleep exhausted and woken back where I started, because of the currents. The most frightening episode was when just 20 ft away this blow of water came up. There were two killer whales within touching distance. They could have killed me in a flick of their tail. After what seemed like an eternity they dived down. The swell nearly capsized the boat.

I'm covered in bruises from the knocks against the side and I've had several seizures." But my greatest joy is my memories of the time I spent with Brittany in England. She is a very determined young woman and I think she got that from me. I'm sure, deep down, she understands I have to do this.' But last night her face pale and drawn from anxiety, Brittany said: 'I'm sorry. I don't understand it at all. What good will it do me if he dies?'

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