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French woman hopes to show you can row home again
CHATHAM - Anne Quemere is waiting for the rain to stop so she can say goodbye to dry land.

June 2 2004

MICHAEL REA
CONTRIBUTING WRITER
 

Once the weather turns, she will set out from Stage Harbor with the hopes of staying on the water for three months and 3,000 miles.

Quemere, an experienced sailor and avid adventurer, will pilot her 22-foot rowboat across the Atlantic from Cape Cod to Brittany, France, her hometown.

It is the second trans-Atlantic journey for the 38-year-old French woman, who rowed from Spain to the West Indian island of Guadeloupe in 56 days last year. If successful, she will be the first woman to row the North Atlantic in both directions.

"I do it for the adventure," Quemere said. "The first crossing was a test for me and I really want to experience again the emotions I felt during my first voyage. If I set a record, fine, but records aren't that important to me."

Chatham is a popular launching site for trans-Atlantic rowers, with a dozen attempting the treacherous crossing since the 1960s - four succeeded and one died. Neland Belic, a Chicago cardiologist, was lost at sea about 230 miles from Ireland in 2000.

This week also could see ocean rower Jean Lukes launch from Chatham. Lukes has made three unsuccessful attempts to cross the Atlantic from Cape Cod.

 

 

Anne Quemere plans to row this custom-made boat from Chatham to Brittany, France. The trans-Atlantic crossing would be the French woman's second if she is successful in making the 3,000-mile trip.
(Staff photo by VINCENT DEWITT)

Return to the sea

Just days after completing her first east-to-west trans-Atlantic voyage, Quemere set about preparing for her west-to-east attempt.
Over the past year, she's spent three hours each day exercising, readying her body for her upcoming challenge, and planning her expedition.

She also decided to build a new rowboat for this crossing, one that will be faster and more seaworthy.

Quemere grew up in Brittany, a rugged coastal region in northwest France. She credits her father for her early involvement with both sailing and rowing, and for instilling in her a love of the sea. She looks forward to reuniting with her family and friends in France.

"Rowing to my hometown is a special motivation for me. It makes me that much more determined," Quemere said.

Still, she fully understands the risks she'll face this time around.

"The northern route will be tougher and more dangerous. The Gulf Stream can be unpredictable and storms are usually more severe and longer lasting than they are in warmer waters," Quemere said.

Rough seas ahead


Quemere has good reason to respect the North Atlantic. Just three weeks into her first shore-to-shore crossing, she encountered one particularly strong tropical storm, which kicked up rough seas.
Her knuckles turned white from clenching the oars, concerned her vessel would roll. It didn't, but the storm lasted 48 hours and she remembers "holding on through every minute."

"There's really nothing you can do to avoid an oncoming storm," Quemere said. "I just prayed that the boat was strong enough to see me through."

Given the combined dangers of ocean rowing, including potential storms, dehydration, and exposure, among untold others, it's hard to comprehend why anyone would want to attempt such a challenge once, much less twice.

"Anne has always been determined," explained her father, Ronan, who traveled to the Cape to witness his daughter's departure.

An experienced sailor, the elder Quemere knows what it takes to be a solid mariner and believes his daughter has those traits.

When Quemere asked her father to help her with this challenge, he didn't hesitate. From the start, he has helped with the planning, logistics, and overseeing construction of the new rowboat.

But does he worry about his daughter's upcoming challenge?

"Yes, of course, but Anne is an experienced sailor and we trust this boat more than the last one," Ronan Quemere said. "Anne's already proved she can do this and I believe in her."

Tough way to lose 30 pounds

Quemere predicts this crossing will take her about three months, perhaps longer depending on weather.
And despite packing almost twice as much food as her first crossing, she still expects to lose about 30 pounds over the course of her voyage (she lost 20 pounds during her first crossing). Fully laden with food, water, and all requisite gear, her boat, Le Connetable, will weigh roughly 1,300 pounds.

After leaving Stage Harbor, Quemere will head for the Gulf Stream. She will row in staggered shifts, balancing time at the oars with cooking, eating, and navigating by way of a global positioning system. She'll sleep in hour-long shifts inside a sealed cabin that's just big enough for her to lie down.

"The boat will drift when I rest, so I will try to manage these breaks accordingly," Quemere said.

In addition to her GPS, she will have an array of safety and communication equipment onboard, including an Argos Beacon - which will report her position by satellite and, in an emergency, emit a distress signal - a desalinator to change sea water into fresh water, and an Iridium satellite phone.

Several marine lights have also been installed to announce her position to approaching vessels.

Quemere's only contact during her 2003 voyage was with an Italian supertanker that drew a little too-close-for-comfort. According to Quemere, she quickly grabbed her VHF radio and excitedly reported her position, telling one confused Italian crewman that she was in a small rowboat.

"Do you need to be rescued," he asked.

"No, I'm rowing across the ocean," she replied.

"You're doing what?" he asked in disbelief.

So how will she adjust to being alone at sea again?

"Rowing solo is tough, but you learn to adapt. The body gets used to it. I don't worry about bills or outside stresses. My focus is on reaching Brittany."

Quemere has another motivation, reuniting with her 6-year-old daughter Elyna. Quemere realizes the risk she's undertaking and pauses when asked about the worth of her journey.

"If she (Elyna) asked me to stop, I would. I understand that this is a risk, but life is a risk, too. I feel she would be more proud of her mother for having tried."

Quemere expects this to be her last trans-Atlantic attempt. Afterward, she may do a speaking tour, but has no intentions of writing a book.

"I would write a book if I had something to say, but right now I just feel like I'm a regular person, a person who is determined and who loves to row."

 


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