600 miles in, Bryce Carlson confident he'll finish his North Atlantic row

His goal of rowing solo to Europe feels achievable, Carlson said, but he's preparing for Tropical Storm Chris.

American adventurer set off solo from Quidi Vidi on June 27 with a goal of rowing to Europe

Bryce Carlson in his 20-foot rowboat on Day 6 of his solo journey across the North Atlantic. Carlson set off from Quidi Vidi on June 27. (Instagram/@brycerows)

Two weeks after heading out from a wharf at Quidi Vidi in St. John's, Bryce Carlson has made it roughly 600 miles across the Atlantic Ocean. 

The American adventurer, who's making the journey in a 20-foot boat, already has a few good stories to tell.

He's seen dolphins and glowing plankton, he's capsized more than once, and he spends hours every day rowing. But about a third of the way into his journey, Carlson said he's feeling confident.

"I think my resolve has never been stronger," he told CBC Radio's On The Go Wednesday, speaking from the middle of the North Atlantic via satellite phone.

Every day a little bit different

Just about every day on the water is a little bit different, Carlson said, but things have now taken on a bit of a routine.

He wakes without an alarm at about 6 a.m. or 7 a.m., makes breakfast, puts on some "feel good" music, then starts rowing.

Carlson said he continues for about six hours, then takes a longer break to eat lunch and pump water, gets a bit more rowing in before dark, then spends a bit of time relaxing and replying to emails before he calls it a night.

American rower Bryce Carlson glides out of Quidi Vidi into the North Atlantic June 27, headed for Europe. (Provided by Harry Sheppard)

Sleep is admittedly a bit tough, given the rocking of the waves and the noise inside the boat — even when it's relatively calm on the water it's fairly loud in the cabin, he said. But as with everything with this trip, he's adjusting and learning as he goes.

Carlson wasn't a stranger to water when he began this journey, having grown up on the shores of Lake Michigan.

"I've always been fascinated with big open bodies of water," he told CBC before he set out across the Atlantic. 

He's also familiar with rowing, having spent about 20 years in the sport — first as a college competitive rower and then as a coach — and he's participated in ultra-endurance competitions for the past decade.

This challenge struck him as a way to combine those three passions into one adventure.

"It just stirred my soul a little bit, and the more I read about it the more excited I got," he told CBC in June.

But he didn't have much experience with open-ocean rowing, which he admits made him nervous before he set out.

"The further I get into the trip and the more those unknowns become known, I think my confidence grows every day," Carlson said.

Highs and lows on the water

There have been low points, he said 

"I've capsized a couple of times now, and the boat has rolled like 90 degrees maybe a half dozen times."

The first time the boat rolled felt pretty serious, he said, mostly because he had an air vent open at the time.

"That's pretty scary, when you look at the one hatch to the outside world and you see most of that underwater, and water starting to come into the boat."

American rower Bryce Carlson's journey across the Atlantic can be tracked in real time on his website. (www.brycerows.com)

But his boat is designed to right itself quickly when it rolls, which it did. Now he's careful to keep that vent closed when rolling is a risk. 

There is some concern as Tropical Storm Chris travels further northeast, but posts on his Facebook page indicate that he's spoken with experts and has a plan to tackle the rough weather that should come along with the storm. 

"I'm comforted in knowing by the time this gorilla gets to me, it will be weakened, downgraded, and only slightly bigger than weather I've made it through a few times already," Carlson wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday.

It's also tough when something breaks, Carlson said, because he has to figure out how he'll get along without it — but so far he has managed.

He's got plenty of food, and a method to make ocean water drinkable. He has seen surprisingly few marine mammals, and no fish, but he gets visits from plenty of birds and the occasional dolphin. 

And there are high points, like the night he stayed up rowing a bit later than usual, watching the glow of biolumenescent plankton as he dipped his oar in the ocean waters.

"Every time my oars hit the water, plankton would light up," Carlson said.

"It was a neat experience."

All told, Carlson said he expects to finish his journey in 50 or 60 days, though he doesn't have a set schedule or an end date he's pushing toward.

"My primary goal is to have an adventure, share that adventure with the world, and come home safely."

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from On The Go

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