Local Circumnavigator Rows for Oahu

The first leg of the voyage was marred by contrary seas and contrary bureaucracy.


Wauna resident Erden Eruç, 60, is due to make landfall early in September after rowing from California to Hawaii in his attempt to row, pedal and climb around the world. At press time, he was approximately 600 nautical miles east northeast of the Hawaiian Islands. He plans to land at Waikiki on Oahu, weather permitting.

Eruç launched his custom-built sea-going, self-righting, solar-powered, 25-foot, 1,500-pound rowboat June 22 from Crescent City, Calif., with the help of friends and family and someone Eruç only called “Dan from Vaughn,” who drove down to help see him off with some hardboiled eggs.

Eruç is in the same boat he used to cross four oceans in his first circumnavigation in 2012 after 41,196 miles by rowboat, sea kayak, foot and bicycle, while climbing three of the world’s six highest mountains on three different continents along the way.

It was the first solo circumnavigation under human power and earned Eruç 15 Guinness World Records. (See “Wauna Man Goes Solo Around the World — Again,” KP News, April 2021.)

But Eruç has unfinished business out there.

Part of his first circumnavigation included plans to climb six of the seven tallest mountains on the globe, excluding Antarctica, to honor his legendary mountaineer friend Göran Kropp, who died in an accident during a climb with Eruç in 2002.

“I bypassed Everest and Elbrus for lack of funds,” he said in April. “The international financial crisis in 2008 did not help and we already had a six-figure budget, so I went straight across (the Indian Ocean from Australia) to Africa.”

This time out, Eruç intended a nonstop row across the Pacific to Hong Kong but was unable to get a visa to enter China before launching because of Covid restrictions, necessitating a stop in Hawaii to try again.

“He already has a visa for Vietnam as backup,” said his wife, Nancy Board.

After arriving in Asia, Eruç plans to bicycle to Tibet and summit Mount Everest. He will then bike across the deserts and mountains of Xinjiang Province to Kyrgyzstan and around the Caspian Sea through Kazakhstan to Georgia to climb Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Russia and Europe. From there he will pedal across Europe to the southwest corner of Portugal. 

He then plans to get back in his boat and row across the Atlantic to Brazil, then bike and hike his way to the Andes in Argentina to climb Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in South America. From there he will head back north, biking and kayaking his way up the west coast of the continents back to Crescent City.

“Erden always has a bit of a map sketched out in his head, but one of the things I’ve learned when he’s on expeditions is things change,” Board said. “Anything he might have projected out a year or more from now, it’s just going to be so hard to tell.

“It probably is hard for anybody to understand, but the expeditioners I know that do the sort of things he does are the same way,” she said “There’s always an expedition they haven’t done, an adventure they haven’t finished, a mountain they haven’t climbed. Things like that just kind of linger or hover over them and they say, ‘Well, it hasn’t been done and I think I can do it.’ ”

Eruç is rowing as an ambassador for the Ocean Recovery Alliance to educate students around the world on the need to reduce plastic pollution. He can communicate directly with classrooms from his boat by satellite phone and through his weekly blog posts.

His boat also flies flag No. 97 from the historic Explorers Club because Eruç is towing a hydrophone across the Pacific, when conditions permit, to record the deep sea calls of rare beaked whales to chart their numbers and habitat for NOAA.

The voyage did not start well. Unseasonal northwest winds pushed Eruç south for weeks, keeping him too close to the coast to take advantage of cross ocean currents or trade winds.

“I had to stay on the oars to not lose any (westward progress) I had gained,” he wrote early on in his blog. “I covered 13.4 miles overnight rowing with two-hour naps, then 45-minute naps before the conditions allowed me to retire at 4 a.m.

“On July 1, my starboard cabin was slammed repeatedly by fast-moving waves that ride over the gentler swell. It made me think how many more of these the boat could take. … When near the top of the wave, the rowboat gets a shove in the direction that it is leaning, then items in the cabin start sliding to the lee side. That includes the rower trying to sleep. It’s why I tie myself to four anchors when inside the cabin while in storm conditions.”

“There’s so much he enjoys about being out there but those first three weeks it was touch and go,” Board said. “He was 18 hours on the oars at a time. Do you have any idea what that means? These storms have been relentless — we’re up to the letter ‘M’ (for Tropical Storm Marty) — they haven’t caught him by surprise because he has incredible forecasting support from shore, but they’ve been a little more forceful, a little closer than anticipated, and it’s been a tougher ride out there.”

Things started to improve 400 miles off Point Conception, Calif.

“I received a refreshing 36-hour spell of east-northeast wind that set the seas in my favor,” he wrote in his blog. “In addition, the wind came down from 20 knots to low teens, which reduced the swells. In fact, last night my rowboat traveled 22.5 NM in the right direction while I slept.”

Things have calmed down for Board as well.

“It’s like a tornado comes through the house while he’s preparing for an expedition and then once he’s gone, I take time to get everything back in order,” she said. “I’ve got plenty of work and lots of things to focus on.”

Board is a clinical services manager for the Washington State Employee Assistance Program, supervising counseling services, and runs her own global nonprofit organization, Global Women for Well-Being.

Eruç celebrated his 60th birthday in July, approximately 1,750 miles east of Waikiki.

“Years of challenging my mind to push myself physically has taught me that the human body is adaptable to endure great hardships,” he wrote. “When directed well on the path to a self-imposed challenge, a yardstick against which I may choose to measure myself, those hardships translate to accomplishments. When I set myself a goal so majestic as a circumnavigation by human power, 15 Guinness world records had to happen along the way. I had to become that person, grow into the one who could set those records.”
He set a 16th record on day nine of this voyage, adding to his then career total of 937 days of ocean rowing. More records will be set as he continues.

Eruç took a break that evening for a few hours with a bottle of cognac friends gave him at the launch. “I will splash the first capful into the sea for all those who are still out there, who never returned to their loved ones,” he wrote.

Follow Erden Eruç at www.erdeneruc.com/tracking. Learn more about Global Well-Being for Women at www.gw4w.org.