By Vanesa Brashier, firstname.lastname@example.org
A Tarkington woman is setting off on the trip of a lifetime on Saturday, Sept. 3, when she begins the first leg of a round-the-world sea voyage on a 22-foot-long ocean rowboat.
At 27 years of age, Ellen Falterman has already completed five expeditions by bike, paddle and oars, the most recent being a four-month, 2,700-mile rowing trip that began in Kansas City, Mo., and ended at the Trinity River Bridge in Moss Hill, Texas.
“I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life,” said Ellen, who works as a professional pilot when she isn’t on the water. “The only thing that scares me more than doing it is not doing it. I found my reason for being on this earth.”
Her circumnavigation of the earth will begin at a place that holds meaning for the Falterman family. It was on the banks of the Trinity River near the Moss Hill bridge where her oldest brother, Patrick, lost his life in a tragic place crash in September 2016. Using her trusted canoe “Edna,” named for her late paternal grandmother, Ellen will pass the crash site on her way to Anahuac Bay, Texas, where she will meet up with her parents and board “Evelyn Mae,” a Rannoch Adventures ocean rowboat named for her maternal grandmother.
Falterman says she chose to start in the Trinity River instead of the bay because it is symbolic.
“I will need to get me back to the river again before starting this journey,” she said.
For the past two years, Falterman has worked two jobs – as a pilot and caregiver – to save up for the trip. It will take her approximately five years to accomplish her feat, assuming all goes as planned.
“You could probably walk around the earth faster. Everything I will be doing depends on the water and the weather. I row about 2.5 knots per hour. On flat water, I can go about 20 miles a day, or I could move 20 miles forward and wake up to find the wind and water have carried me 20 miles backward or 40 miles forward,” she said.
After reaching Anahuac Bay, Falterman will row to the intercoastal waterway and make her way to the Florida Keys. From there, she plans to head southeast to Panama, hopefully passing through the Panama Canal. She plans to then head west to the French Polynesia islands and on to the northern coast of Australia. Once she reaches the Indian Ocean, she hopes to go through the Suez Canal and avoid taking a longer route off the southern coast of Africa.
“There are a lot of pirates off the coast of Somalia. That’s a rough route,” she said.
If she can get through the Suez Canal, she will end up in the Mediterranean Sea before reaching the Atlantic Ocean and heading home.
“I will need a place to shelter from the cyclone seasons. I will be in Panama for a few months,” she said.
When asked if she is setting a record, Falterman said she is unaware of anyone actually completing this particular voyage in a rowboat.
“Any time you think, ‘Why has this never been done before?’, you should think, ‘If not me, then who? Why not me?’ There are two sides to that coin,” she said. “There are probably reasons why no one has done this before but this is my path. I just feel so right about it. The doubts are overshadowed by the light of the golden thread I am on.”
The Rannoch Adventures ocean rowboat is 22 feet long and just over 4 feet at the beam. It is outfitted with GPS and all the navigation devices and equipment used by sailboats, minus the sail. It has two compartments – one for sleeping and seeking refuge from the elements, and one for storing gear, drinking water, food and supplies.
“The aft cabin is pretty spacious. I even have radar equipment for collision alerts. If I am sleeping near a shipping lane, a really loud alarm will go off and I can send a message to the ship that I am there,” she said.
Falterman says she did not just buy a boat from Rannoch Adventure; she got the company’s full support.
“Charlie Pitcher, the founder of the company, wants to come help me get set up once I reach Florida. They have become my ocean-rowing family,” she said.
A going-away part will be held on Friday. For Falterman, it will be an opportunity to spend more time with her parents and her new fiancé, who asked for her hand in marriage just two weeks ago.
“The engagement is a whole other element that was added to this trip. Now, it’s a love story. It’s not just my reckless adventure. I feel like it’s the one thing that was missing for me. Now I have something more to come home to,” she said.
The couple met in the likeliest place for Falterman – a river.
“We met on the Missouri River. He is a carpenter who used to build boats. He came down to Texas and did a lot of really good work on the boat for me,” she said. “The prize after this trip will be our wedding.”
Falterman will be sharing news of her voyage on her blog, Ellen Magellan Expeditions, https://www.ellenmagellanexpeditions.com/. To follow her journey, click on the link on her home page and enter your email address. Subscribers will receive a biweekly update by email.