July 17, 2014

In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, where the water can be 10,000 feet deep and the waves proportionally enormous, a 22-foot long rowboat equipped with a small cabin and fishing rods, is manned by Riaan Manser and girlfriend Vasti Geldenhuys. A waves comes, flipping the boat with Vasti strapped in, and throwing Riaan into the sea. The vessel somehow rights itself as the tide turns it over in a full 360.

Riaan and Vasti manage to complete over one million strokes, which took them from mainland Africa to New York City. This is real life; no script involved. Their journey lasted just over four months, with 133 days at sea. As Manser proclaims, no two humans have done it before.

The intrepid couple from Cape Town, South Africa, insists they would never recommend people try what they have done. They survived being thrown and rolled in the boat, close calls with big ships, and of course pushing through being alone except for each other for nearly 80 consecutive days (a battle for even the strongest of couples).

But as harrowing as some of their experiences were, they found the beauty of the open ocean was unparalleled. They even had dolphin and whale companions swimming alongside them for hours at a time. And as for their relationship, Riaan notes “It shook out any cobwebs,” leaving few doubts about whether they will get married.

The couple were welcomed upon their recent tear-filled arrival in the city: NYC & Company showed them to a Mets game, Chicago on Broadway (and met the cast), and walked the Brooklyn Bridge. They stayed at the Marriott Marquis, gratis, since the owner is a South African who took a liking to their story.

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Their boat, “the Spirit of Madiba” named after the late South African leader, was kept at the 79th Street Boat Basin while they enjoyed their time in New York. They did not; however, row it all the way back.

Though they are in good spirits, “We’ve had enough of the ocean,” says Geldenhuys.
 Their voyage certainly says something about the human spirit; such a far-fetched idea became a reality and an unprecedented achievement for the couple and for people everywhere. 

For more about their journey, visit their Facebook page.

Megan Soll is an editorial digital intern at Travel + Leisure. 

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