SYDNEY — A British environmentalist has become the first woman to row alone across the Pacific Ocean, receiving a rock star welcome in Papua New Guinea after finishing a nearly 8,000-mile (13,000-kilometer) journey.
Thousands turned out to welcome Roz Savage, 42, as she rowed her 23-foot (7-meter) boat named Brocade toward Madang on Friday. Several people paddled canoes alongside her as she cruised into the harbor, where well-wishers adorned her with colorful leis.
"Once on dry land I must have shaken about 1,000 hands, everybody wanting to touch me and congratulate me. It was phenomenal," she wrote on her blog. "I feel like I have 5,000 new friends."
Savage's trip was meant to raise awareness about climate change and plastic debris polluting the ocean. She wants people to use biodegradable trash bags and reusable grocery bags.
She estimates she made 2.5 million oar strokes during her 250-day trip, which was broken up into three different legs. She set off from San Francisco on May 25, 2008, and rowed 2,900 miles (4,640 kilometers) over 99 days to Hawaii. On May 22, 2009, she left Hawaii and rowed 3,158 miles (5,053 kilometers) — or an estimated one million oar strokes — before reaching the tiny South Pacific nation of Kiribati in September. She left Kiribati on April 19.
Savage said she officially finished the row late Thursday night but wasn't allowed to dock immediately because she had to clear customs the next morning. Instead, she spent the first night post-adventure on another boat — albeit a fancier one than the vessel that has carried her across the ocean.
"I walked into my cabin and felt like I'd died and gone to heaven," she wrote. "After a very long, hot and exhausting day, it was sheer luxury to have a hot shower and then sink gratefully into bed — quite possibly the most comfortable bed that I have ever slept in."
Her rowboat was equipped with a satellite phone and a desalination machine, allowing her to convert saltwater into drinkable water. She ate dried fruit, nuts, some freeze-dried meals and grew her own bean sprouts on board in a small pot.
With just 10 miles (16 kilometers) to go, she wrote on her Twitter account: "a cargo ship just stopped by to see if i needed help. no, i do this for fun!"
Savage previously crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 103 days.
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