Libby and John Beeden just rowed themselves into the history books. This father daughter duo set off on November 30th 2018 from Portimao, Portugal and have rowed over 3,755 nautical miles across the Atlantic Ocean on their epic journey to Antigua Yacht Club in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua, where they arrived Friday March 1st. Thus becoming the first father daughter Ocean Rowing Team to row east to west from mainland Europe to Antigua. Upon completion of their row, Libby is one of only a handful of women 20 and under who have rowed an ocean and she is believed to be the youngest women in a pairs crew to row the Atlantic.
The journey took 91 days and 4 hours to complete.
The team set off from Portugal in their 6.2m long pure ocean rowing boat, Socks II. Socks II is a true ocean rowing boat, not built to take advantage of the wind, no auto pilot or dagger boards, making every mile rowed hard earned by the crew.
Initially they planned to row from Portugal to Miami, however within weeks of being at sea, for technical reasons (mainly weather delay’s) the team decided that it would be better for them to row from Portugal to Antigua, taking the more traditional Atlantic Ocean rowing route from the Canary Islands to Antigua. John being a seasoned vet at ocean rowing felt that maybe he had been a little over ambitious with their plan to row continent to continent for Libby’s first ocean row.
Their determination to succeed and not give up had been tested to the limits. The pair was pushed to the extreme, they suffered from the extreme weather conditions, a few near capsizes, Libby from severe sea sickness, sleep deprivation, blisters and aching muscles and joints along with a few other minor medical conditions, however they finished the row in good health and good spirits.
Libby and John often found themselves on the edge of their abilities pushing the boundaries, taking small comfort each day knowing that they were 1 day closer to the finish line.
Upon arrival, the pair were relieved to step onto terra firma. First stop was the showers followed by a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs and fresh fruit from Sea Breeze Cafe at the Antigua Yacht Club Marina where they were warmly welcomed.
The team rowed 24 hours a day as often as they could when it was safe to do so, taking shifts which varied from 1 – 3 hours in length, however when conditions were not safe to row, the team would take refuge in their small cramped cabin and allow the boat to either run its course or be held on para anchor.
Libby and John blogged daily and when you read their blogs, you have to wonder why one would ever choose to undertake such an adventure, let alone do it more then once as John has previously rowed the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean. John seems to be in his happy place while out at sea, enjoys the challenge and loves to surf the waves when the conditions allow. Libby was a rower in high school and having seen her dad row previous oceans was keen to give it a go. She undertook the necessary safety at sea and navigational courses needed and trained for months to get her self in the best possible physical shape before setting off. Her first ten days or so, despite being plagued with extreme sea sickness, she never missed a shift, despite struggling to sit upright at times. She was comfortable and not afraid. After a near capsize, Libby struggled with her fear when sea conditions (winds, currents, swells) were big. As they rowed south from Portugal past the Canary Islands before heading west, the temptation was to pull into a safe haven and abandon the journey. It was at this time the team decided that they would be better to change their final destination from Miami to Antigua.
Mother Nature was cruel and continuously delivered severe conditions which prevented them from making the progress they so desired or deserved. In one of John’s blog, he wrote, “I’m tired, frustrated and as close to broken as I have ever been. Hopefully some sleep will rekindle my appetite for the fray”.
To some, this may not sound like an inviting adventure, the hard work, the salt sores, rowing non stop, sleep deprivation and the fear, however they had some unbelievable moments on the boat. Besides the father daughter bonding and the bad dad jokes, they had some of the most amazing wildlife encounters only one would ever experience by rowing an ocean.
Early on in their journey, Libby said “During my first 3 hour shift last night, the dolphins were playing around the boat the entire time. I loved It but I was mega distracted and got a bit off course. I noticed that with about half an hour to go and got back on track enough that dad wouldn’t notice. Probably the best part of this trip so far”.
Periodically, you have to go overboard and clean the barnacles from the bottom of the boat. John was the chosen one while Libby was on lookout duty. He tied himself to the boat and hopped into the water. He confirmed that the school of small fish beneath the boat had grown to a couple of hundred. He spent quite a while in the water cleaning the starboard side, hauled up and started again on the port side. About half way through Libby shouted Whale, John shot out of the water and not 20 feet from the boat was a whale breaching and Libby confirmed that there may have been three.
Dorado were seen feeding by the boat and seem to be attacking the “men o war” that floated past every now and again and on another occasion, the Dorado were head butting the boat.
It is common for Ocean Rowers to see flying fish, however John and Libby witness a squadron of flying fish, about 30 or so all skimmed by in formation, pretty impressive sighting and on the same day they had a fly by visit from a small pod of dolphins, while John was rowing he got a glimpse, however Libby was in the cabin and said she heard their chatter as they approached, very cool.
It is these moments that remind them whey they chose to take on such a gruelling adventure grinding away daily 24/7.
John was born in Sheffield, England and has lived in Australia, Germany, Bermuda and is currently residing in The Blue Mountains, Ontario with his wife Cheryl. In 2011, at the age of 49 years old, 15 months after having open heart surgery to repair a heart defect, John rowed the Atlantic from the Canaries to Barbados. The journey took him 53 days and was the second quickest crossing on the record at the time. While the Atlantic was rewarding in many ways, it didn’t provide the level of challenge he was looking for. While the crossing was hard work on a daily basis, John felt the mid Atlantic crossing was not challenging enough. Bitten by the ocean rowing bug, within weeks, John was searching for a new challenge. At 53, John left San Francisco and after rowing 14,000km, a third of the world’s circumference, he arrived in Australia becoming the first person to row solo, non stop, continent to continent, from North America to Australia, an incredible 209 day, physical and mental journey, a story of personal struggle and accomplishment. Upon arriving in Australia, John said, never again until his daughter Libby expressed an interest in rowing an Ocean, something he couldn’t resist! John will be celebrating his 57th birthday at sea.
Libby was born in Sheffield and moved to Canada with the family in 2003. She lived in Burlington, Ontario until she finished high school and then relocated back to London, England to continue her education. At, 20 years old, Libby has led an active life. She is a committed runner and swimmer and throughout high school, Libby was part of the Hillfield Strathallan College rowing team. Having been around the planning and execution for both of John’s previous rows, Libby was inspired to take on an adventure herself. She feels this will be an invaluable experience and was an opportunity to difficult to pass up.
Libby and John took the time every day to write a daily blog. Their individual blogs in essence formed a diary for themselves, however it allowed followers to feel like they to were rowing the ocean right along side them. John’s previous ocean rowing blogs had a way of bringing the armchair ocean rower along for the ride and inspired so many with his grit and determination to succeed. This time around both blogs had a similar effect and Libby’s blogs seem to have captured the heart of so many with her courage to take on such an adventure at such a young age.
To read more about their journey or to read their blogs visit their website: atlanticrow.co.uk