Rowing solo across the world’s biggest ocean is not on everyone’s To Do list but for Kellyville’s Michelle Lee it’s happening right now.
Michelle left Ensenada, Mexico this week to spend the 12 months rowing across the Pacific to Sydney. She was given a huge send off by family and friends and locals as she headed out of the harbour at 1am (6pm Australian time) on Monday, 8th August … three days after her 50th birthday.
The epic journey will cover 14,000km and take approximately 360 days, rowing 14 hours a day and has been planned for over two years.
She is rowing Australian Maid, the 7.7m long and 2m wide boat she built and successfully rowed 5000km across the Atlantic. Michelle completed the journey in 68 days, 12 hours and 49 minutes, leaving La Gomera, Spain on 12th December and arriving in Antigua, in the Caribbean on 18th February 2019.
She is the first Australian woman ever to row the Atlantic solo. Before leaving she told the Hills to Hawkesbury Community News that “If you think you can, you will.”
Her book about that trip, called SOLO, is due to be published in October based on her daily diary covering the highs and lows of the 14-hour day spent rowing, the fatigue, the 10-plus metre waves, sharks, storms, barnacles, blisters, salt sores, sleep deprivation and the loneliness. She lost 14kg on the journey.
Michelle had always sought adventure. She left 12 years in corporate banking and forged a new path as a massage therapist while challenging herself and trekked the 100km Kokoda trail. It was after reading a book called Rowing the Atlantic by Roz Savage that she thought about tackling a solo row. “
(The book is) about the ability to triumph over adversity,” said Michelle. “I could not stop thinking about the book and I thought I will not have peace until I get this out of my system”.
A non-rower at the time, she spent two years learning a new skill and took on the challenge of breaking the World Record for rowing one million metres on a Concept 2 rowing machine in 2017 to see if she could row for hours at a time. She now holds the world record after shaving 11 hours off the previous record held by a German Olympic rower.
In 2019 Michelle was awarded The Australian Geographic’s Adventurer of the year following her successful solo crossing of the Atlantic. She then started thinking about crossing the world’s largest ocean, The Pacific.
In the lead up to the Great Pacific Challenge her boat RV Australian Maid was moored at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney before it was shipped to Mexico.
Michelle thanked the people of Mexico for their warmth and for embracing her and her family and friends saying Monday’s send off was “amazing”.
The huge send off from the quay at Ensenada included a mariachi band and an ocean swimming group that swam behind her with brightly coloured lights on Monday (8th August 2022).
After the first five hours she posted: “I have had a lovely row.. It is very overcast. .. Thank you for the escort. All is good on board. I have been eating bananas , drinking water and eating biscuits. …. I am finally here and doing it. It feels a bit unreal.
“This first month I have got to stay super solid and very focussed.” Her mantra has always been: “Don’t die wondering.”
You can pre-order her book which is due out in October at Wilkinson Publishing at www.wilkinsonpublishing.com.au/product/solo/[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]