Carbon fiber rowboat to cross the Pacific Ocean

In this unique carbon boat, Sonya Baumstein will attempt to become the first woman to row from Japan to California.

The idea of crossing the Pacific alone in a 23-foot carbon fiber-intensive rowing boat is daunting, to say the least. But even though the 6,000-mile journey from Choshi, Japan to San Francisco is arguably the hardest open ocean crossing in the world, Sonya Baumstein says she is more than ready for the challenge.  

“I’ve never done it, so there is nothing to be afraid of,” she said.

Baumstein worked with America's Cup naval architects Paul Bieker and Eric Jolley to help design the boat to fit the needs of this expedition. This unique one-off carbon boat design weighs 350 kg when loaded up and there is no motor or back-up sail option on board. The lightness of the boat is credited to using Divinycell core material for the hull. Carbon Craft (Tampa, FL, US) donated the mold and design and the boat was built and outfitted by SpinDrift Rowing (Port Townsend, WA, US).

Onboard the boat is 900 dehydrated meals, 180 drink supplements, an electric desalinator that produces 30L of water per hours, 60L of backup freshwater and 75 kg of scientific equipment. The cockpit gives her enough space to sit and row and the boat has enough room for her to lie down in the cabin to sleep.

Along the route, Baumstein will collect oceanographic data that will help scientists understand El Nino and climate change. The journey will take up to 180 days as Baumstein plans to row three hours on, three hours off. If she finishes, she’ll be the first woman to row across the Pacific Ocean as well as the first American. 

Current autonomous floats and other traditional research vessel collection methods can only collect accurate data between 5 and 100 feet of depth, which leaves out data for the upper-most surface level. Like the ocean floor, little is known about this highly reactive and temperamental portion of the ocean.

“The reason why this type of scientific data has never been collected is simple: the incredible cost associated with sending research vessels is prohibitive and the size of the vessels are far too big to collect accurate data at the surface level (or stay out for the duration I can). This is the advantage of my small boat and my unassisted green expedition,” Baumstein said.

In 2011, Baumstein rowed across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. After that, she kayaked from Washington State to Alaska. In 2013, she paddle-boarded across the Bering Strait.