French woman will try to row across
the Atlantic for a second time
Anne Quéméré, a native of France, will
try to row across the Atlantic for a second time.
AM EDT on Monday, April 19, 2004
Special to the Journal
Anne Quemere, who says
she's spent half her life on the ocean, tests her 24-foot boat
off the coast of France earlier this year.
Rowing across the Atlantic
Ocean, alone and unassisted, doesn't require courage, says Anne
Quéméré. "I was born in May, and my mother took me on a boat in
July," she says. "I've spent half my life on the ocean. It's my
normality. If someone asked me to climb Mount Everest, that would
require courage. I don't know anything about mountains."
Born in Brittany, France, 37
years ago, Quéméré lived in the United States for 10 years and
worked as a city guide in New York and New Orleans. She was in Rhode
Island last week preparing for her second crossing of the Atlantic,
this time from west to east. If she is successful, she will be the
first woman to row across the ocean in both directions.
Last year, she rowed east to
west from the Canary Islands to Guadeloupe in 56 days, shattering
the women's record by a month.
Quéméré's new 24-foot boat is
being shipped to Rhode Island, where it will be provisioned for her
next crossing attempt -- 2,700 miles, from Cape Cod to Brittany in
less than 90 days -- scheduled to start in late May or early June,
depending on weather conditions.
"The northern route is
definitely more risky than the previous one," Quéméré says. "Even
though the dominant winds in the north are usually western winds,
they are far from blowing with the same regularity as the trade
winds [in the south]. Adding to this is a series of depressions
sweeping this part of the ocean, or even worse, the anticyclone that
brings with it an eastern wind."
Marc McGinisty, the architect
of Quéméré's previous boat, designed the new one to be built of red
cedar and epoxy. Unsinkable and self-righting with a water-ballast
system for rough seas, it is painted bright red. It was built in
Yves Tanguy's shipyard in Brittany.
The 24-footer has a 5 1/4-foot
beam and contains several water-tight compartments with a clear dome
so Quéméré can look outside without leaving her living quarters,
which are so tight she cannot sit up straight. The only time she can
sit up is when she is rowing, sometimes for as long as 18 hours a
"You are at the oars for that
long," she says, "but you're only rowing efficiently for six, seven,
or eight hours."
On her best day rowing from
east to west, she gained 70 nautical miles. The new boat has an
ergonomically designed sliding seat for rowing.
"The most discouraging days
are when you have been rowing for 18 hours and you sleep for an
hour," she said. "When you wake, you look at your [navigation
equipment] and you realize that that you are where you were
yesterday, or worse, where you were the day before."
One day, on the east-to-west
passage, she rowed 40 miles forward, and drifted 22 miles backward.
"In 2 hours, I lost what I had
done in 10 hours," she says. For her voyage to France this summer,
Quéméré is trying several new American-made sea anchors to limit,
but not eliminate, drift.
Her safety equipment includes
a device to warn a ship's radar of her presence, a hand-held VHF
radio, and an Argos Beacon to track her position by orbiting
satellites. The system can also activate an alarm to guide rescuers,
if necessary. Quéméré navigates with a Global Positioning Satellite
(GPS) receiver. She plans to communicate with her shore team and
family every day over a satellite telephone.
She will carry about 175
pounds of food, most of it dehydrated to conserve weight, and she
plans to eat five times a day:
Breakfast at daybreak (20 percent of the daily ration)
with cereals or Dutch toasts.
Lunch around 1 p.m. (30 percent of the daily ration) with
dehydrated canned meals accompanied by carbohydrates.
Late afternoon snack (15 percent of the daily ration) with
cereals bars or biscuits.
Dinner at sunset (20 percent of the daily ration) with
dehydrated canned meals accompanied by carbohydrates.
Pre-night snack (15 percent of the daily ration) with
dried fruits and nuts or cereals bars.
She also plans to carry
chocolates for treats.
During her east-to-west
passage, Quéméré lost 30 pounds. To prepare for her next crossing,
she has gained extra weight. It looks to be all muscle.
"This adventure is really a
mental challenge, more than a physical one," Quéméré says.
Nonetheless, her goal is to
row 40 to 45 miles a day, so she has been training since last
"I started with three hours of
daily training mainly based on aerobic sessions of medium intensity
over a long period," she says. "In January, I added sessions
dedicated to strengthening those muscles used specifically in
rowing: dorsal, lumbar, abdominal, shoulder and thigh muscles. . . .
I intend to end up with five-hour daily training during the weeks
Quéméré says she's "more
practical than spiritual" and makes no special preparations for the
psychological demands of her adventures. However, she does ask her
family and shore crew, "If you feel that I'm becoming crazy, please
tell me." And she carries a digital camera for an unusual use: to
determine whether she's hallucinating at sea.
"I remember the day a shark
came to my boat and it was trying to bite the skeg," she says. "I
said to myself, that cannot be, so I took my camera and took a
picture. Later, I reviewed the picture and realized that it was
real. Whenever I see something strange, I take a picture. One time,
at sunrise, I saw a man walking toward me, so I got the camera and
took a picture. There was no man.
"Another time, I said
something to my sister on the satellite phone, and she said to me,
'Anne, you just told me that three times,' so I said, 'OK, I'm going
to have something to eat, get a little rest, and I'll call you
When she and her sister were
girls, Quéméré said, "I was the tomboy. Fearless. I'm not fearless
anymore. . . .
"Sometimes when you're on the
ocean and the conditions are bad, you fear that it's going to be
over, the game will be over pretty soon. It's not a good feeling.
You think about the people you love," said Quéméré, who has a
"On the ocean," she says,
"emotions are stronger because you're lonely, as lonely as you can
To follow Anne Quéméré's
adventure, go to www.le-