The Soaring Spirit – Roz Savage

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You know, maybe a few times in one’s life come opportunities to feel a closeness to amazing human accomplishment – to meet, to observe, to appreciate people who magnificently overshadow the puny imaginations of the rest of us. Today I had that privilege. Today I met a woman in an improbable vessel in the placid calm of a mirrored indigo sea with flying fish swarming about. It was magical. I met Roz Savage.

I’f you’ve been living in a cave, you may not know about Roz. First, imagine getting into a rowboat. Now imagine rowing across the Atlantic Ocean.  Now imagine rowing around the world! Got that? Around the World!

You might want to take break from my drivel to visit her web site at Roz Savage, Ocean Rower.  In fact, I insist. I seldom insist.

I’ve been following Roz for some time. I admit to being an adventurer groupie. Roz is The Rock Star of adventurers. I clearly remember being mesmerised by the grainy images of Commander Neil Armstrong hopping off the ladder to land flat-footed on the moon. I never had the privilege of meeting Commander Armstrong. But, today I met Roz Savage. I just can’t stop saying it. I met Roz Savage.

Don’t mistake my comparison for hyperbole. Landing on the moon is a huge accomplishment. It was backed by a huge government with a huge budget and a huge national interest in making it happen. We can’t compare apples to oranges here, but both are sweet fruit.

What interests me here is the motivation. Roz’s tag line, Rowing towards a greener future,  says a lot about what drives her. I’ll say more about that later. First, let me take you with me as I relive this morning’s experience.

Here is the GPS chart from Faded Glory.  Last night, as if in a dream, I had the insane notion that I might be able to go out and find Roz to welcome her to Madang. I do a lot of goofy things, This is by no means the goofiest. I loaded up plenty of fuel and took off with three cameras, binoculars and a small bag containing some munchies and beer:

You can see my path out from Madang as the wobbly line from town to the lower left corner of the image. After nearly two hours I began to consider that she may have made better time that expected and I thought about turning back toward Madang to look for her. I saw a flash in the distance, but, through my binoculars, I could see that it was a sailfish jumping. A banana boat came along, heading to Madang. I waved them down and felt a little silly asking them if they had seen a woman in a big rowboat. They gave me a puzzled look. However, they did say that they had seen something  “over that way” in the distance. I started heading “over that way”.

Shortly thereafter I saw a black dot on the horizon. I thought, “This is crazy. It can’t be her.” I kept going and soon I could make out with my binoculars that it was, indeed. I gave a little more throttle to Faded Glory  and approached within another five minutes.

I introduced myself and we chatted for a few minutes. Roz allowed me to tag along until she was able to calculate whether she could make Madang before nightfall. If I let Faded Glory  drift after taking her out of gear I could get her down to about 2 knots. The numbers weren’t good. It looked to me as if Roz could, at best, arrive in Madang between 19:00 and 21:00. I nearly burst my buttons when she told me that those were also her numbers.

Not wishing to arrive during the night, Roz finalised her decision to ease off and arrive near the entrance to Madang Harbour at Dallmann Passage at about daybreak. This would allow her to enter the harbour passing the iconic Coastwatchers Monument at a time convenient for her welcoming party. This demeanor of consideration simply stuns me. I would be steaming to port as quickly as possible.

Speaking of welcomers, Sir Peter Barter made a splash near Roz yesterday when he dropped a care package with the obligatory beers and victuals from his helicopter. Sir Peter is hosting Roz and taking care of all of her needs for her visit here in Madang. I think that most people don’t realise what a big deal that is. It’s not just handing over the key to a hotel room. It is an enormous job and Sir Peter has the wherewithal to get it done. Roz is blessed to have such a trustworthy supporter here in Paradise.

As I made final arrangements for photography in the morning and passed over to Roz the little offering of goodies, I did not want to leave. I can’t explain that. Finally, I waved off and forced myself to shove the throttle forward and not look back. Suddenly, I felt that “old man thing” when unexpected tears blurred my vision. In my mind was the whisper, “May the wind be at your back, Roz.”

Roz had the composure, good humour and grace of a young woman out for a row on a glassy pond on a Sunday afternoon. I suppose that one must possess those qualities to do what she does. The heart of a lion and the soaring spirit of an eagle are also necessary attributes.

Earlier I said that I would mention more about what drives Roz. She says it best. I take the liberty of quoting directly from the page on her web site Roz and the Environment:

A lot of people don’t believe they can do anything to make a difference.

We can’t make other people do what’s right. But we can ensure that each of us as an individual does what’s right. Do your bit and encourage your friends, relatives and colleagues to do theirs.

You might think that your effort is just a drop in the ocean. But a drop spreads ripples.

I believe that our every word, every action, has consequences and effects far beyond what we will ever know. So I try to be mindful of the consequences of my actions, knowing that somewhere, somehow, they will have an effect.

If I throw this plastic bag into the river, might it end up in the sea, in the stomach of an albatross, inflicting a slow and painful death?

If I don’t recycle this glass bottle, then maybe not the next one, nor the one after that, over the course of my lifetime how many of my bottles will end up in landfill instead of being reused? Is that pile of bottles something I would want in MY backyard?

On the other hand, if I do the right thing – for example, if I ask for a paper bag in the store instead of a plastic one or, better still, take my own re-useable bag – might someone else notice my choice and decide to do the same?

If I take my reusable mug to the coffee shop instead of using a paper, plastic or styrofoam cup, how many disposable cups will I save in a year, in five years, in my life?

If I walk or cycle instead of driving to work – or even just park a mile short and walk the rest of the way – might I inspire my colleagues to do the same? How much gas money will I save in a year?

I found that when I started living in a more environmentally conscious way, it felt good. It made me feel like a better person. Give it a try and see if it works for you.

Words to live by. Seriously – if we don’t live by such principles, we may not live at all.

Oh, by the way. Roz is a DIVER!  Whoopee!

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7 Responses to “The Soaring Spirit – Roz Savage”

  1. Walt Says:

    Great story, MadDog! I see Roz mentions the ‘encounter’ in her blog as well. The whole thing’s pretty inspiring … thanks!

  2. Rose - Madang Says:

    Thanks Jan for the good deed, if I had my own boat I will do the same thing that you did, as every night I pray that Roz is safe out there in the open ocean.

    I was part of the group that welcomed her this morning 8am PNG time and it was like welcoming a women that we all had known for a long time we cheered her in and all the mothers standing next to me all had tears of joy…Job well done….HOOORAY

  3. Rick Abreu Says:

    I really love this effort coming from a truly great woman in a fantastic Roz Savage package so I appreciate your caring and sharing piece MadDog…excellent article
    Roz is the real deal for sure…no doubt

  4. MadDog Says:

    My pleaseure, Walt. Some days it DOES pay to get out of bed!

  5. MadDog Says:

    Rose, I think there were a lot of tears flowing this morning. The folks out in the boats around me were quite emotional. What a wonderful day for Madang. I was a little worried when I was nearly capsized by SOMEBODY’s helicopter. Never mind, we have to take risks to get our adventures.

    Thanks for reading, Rose. Stay tuned. I’ll have more of Roz.

  6. MadDog Says:

    Thanks, so much, Rick. She is, as you say, The Real Deal. She puts her life on the line every day to bring us an important message. I just hope that some of us start paying attention. Thanks for reading Rick. There will be more of Roz.

  7. Steve Bennett Says:

    Fantastic stuff! MadDog, I have been living in a cave and your mate Rich Jones sent me the link to Roz’s blog today. Great reading thanks!