23 August 2016. Almost a year to the day since Riaan Manser proposed to Vasti Geldenhuys, the newlyweds have arrived in Honolulu. With its balmy climate, gorgeous beaches and exotic food, Hawaii is a popular honeymoon destination. But the adventurous South Africans have not stepped off a plane. That would be far too banal. Oh, no, after departing Monterey Bay in California on 15 July, they’ve been powering their ocean rowing boat “Honeymoon” across the mid Pacific - a distance of 4500km that took 39 days. In so doing they broke the record for the fastest row in history for that particular crossing (the Mid-Pacific East to West between Monterey Bay and Honolulu - smashing the previous record which had been held by four men) and became the first South Africans to row any of the Pacific routes.
Riaan and Vasti are no strangers to adventure. Only last year they entered the record books when they became the first people to row from mainland Africa to the North American mainland. Vasti had rather foolishly asked her beloved to “take me to New York” so, not content with just an Atlantic crossing they then continued their epic 10,765km journey up the east coast to the Big Apple. Riaan is not one for the simple approach.
"We wanted to something different for our honeymoon, something adventurous, and with Riaan being an explorer, I’m in for the ride!" said Vasti before setting out. I suspect she might have been having second thoughts by Day 2 when the boat capsized throwing Riaan against a fire extinguisher. Blood pouring from the resultant head wound he managed to right the boat, but his post that night was telling. “This ain’t no honeymoon,” he blogged.
Following their progress was unsettling. Fear was a constant companion. The risk of being “run over” by a hurricane was a one of the surprise concerns: that July the north Pacific experienced the greatest number of tropical storms in history! And compounding that they had technical problems with their autopilot and sea-to-sea communications: not a good situation when you’re aboard a tiny boat in the path of an approaching container ship.
“The Pacific is much more unforgiving than the Atlantic,” admitted Riaan when I asked him how this crossing compared with Take Me 2NY. “Also the amount of plastic waste in the Pacific is horrendous.”
By the time they reached half-way the couple vowed they’d never row an ocean again. But after four weeks the sun came out and their spirits rose. “I’ve fallen in love with this suffering in a way, almost enjoying of the pain and discomfort that this very lonely and long time on a little rowing boat brings with it,” Riaan wrote. “Though Vasti still believes that there are better ways of getting to your honeymoon destination!”
Even now, after a three-week vacation in Hawaii, the couple won’t be drawn on the question of what’s next? “I’d still advise couples not to follow the norm; to set their own standard of what constitutes a honeymoon,” Riaan insists. “But we’re married now, we need to start our family so we have somebody to tell our stories of adventure to one day.”
Mmm. I have my doubts that Riaan and Vasti will be giving up their intrepid lifestyles. Watch this space.