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John Beeden poses with a Christmas card on board his boat a day before completing his solo trip from North America to Australia. (John Beeden)
John Beeden poses with a Christmas card on board his boat a day before completing his solo trip from North America to Australia. (John Beeden)

Burlington’s John Beeden becomes first to row solo across Pacific Ocean Add to ...

John Beeden, a self-described “Scrawny Old Yorkshireman” from Burlington, Ont., has become the first person to row solo across the Pacific Ocean, arriving in the eastern Australian city of Cairns after 209 days alone at sea.

Mr. Beeden, 53, left San Francisco in June expecting to take up to 180 days for the 11,300-kilometre journey.

He arrived, according to a posting, at 10 a.m. local time after rowing all night on two hours’ sleep.

He told a news site that each day on the water presented him with “some massive challenge.” He said the crossing was “10, 15, 100 times harder than I thought it would be,” adding that the record he set was of less interest to him than the challenge of making it across the ocean.

According to a statement on his website, Mr. Beeden described the “stunning backdrop” of Cairns tropical mountainous rain forest as he arrived on Sunday to “an emotional reunion” with his wife, Cheryl, and two daughters “trying to fight back the tears.” They greeted him in a boat in the waters around the city.

“We [spent] 20 minutes in the beautiful bay chatting in what I think is the most relaxed state I’ve been in for the last 209 days,” he wrote, recalling how his family brought him food.

“Everyone seems to think I need to eat for some reason.”

Mr. Beeden navigated his boat among a “small flotilla” of crafts, waving his Tilley hat as a sign of appreciation to people whistling and cheering.

He added, “I didn’t want to either make a monkey of myself or crash into a million-dollar boat.”

Mr. Beeden succeeded, turning into a marina and making his way to his berth.

“And the trip was complete.” He wrote later of plans to have a shower “and a rest” and then a good night’s sleep. “It will be great to not have to get up and row for 15 hours,” he wrote in a blog posting.

Mr. Beeden previously rowed across the Atlantic ocean over 53 days in 2011 and 2012 in a boat built by the Britain-based team that built the vessel for his Pacific trip – six metres long and 159 centimetres across its beam. The 2,500-pound vessel was a mix of closed-cell foam, kevlar and fibreglass with two reinforced bulkheads.

The boat had several watertight compartments to store food. It also had electronics, navigation and communications equipment, as well as a “water maker” and satellite phone, satellite e-mail and VHF radio.

But the boat’s propulsion was all Mr. Beeden as he navigated south of Hawaii, toward and past the South Sea Islands, by the Coral Sea and past the Great Barrier Reef en route to Cairns.

Recalling his last night at sea, Mr. Beeden wrote of a “flat, calm, humid” sea with a current pulling him southeast.

“It would have been nice to have drifted towards Cairns and had a couple of miles less to do but like the rest of the 209 days, nothing was going to go easy.”

As for why Mr. Beeden has taken on these challenges, he writes on his website about wanting to have “something worthwhile on your headstone” and teaching his kids that there are no insurmountable challenges and that he wanted to go down swinging as he ages.

He also writes of breaking free of the “mundane routine of paying the mortgage” and points to just wanting to feel alive and controlling his destiny.

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Follow on Twitter: @ianabailey

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