Luverne grad holding her own in trans-Atlantic challenge; two-person rowing team ahead of pace
As of Monday, Luverne High School graduate Caitlin Miller has rowed more than 1,100 miles across the Atlantic Ocean.
Miller of Hardwick is competing in the “Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge,” a 90-day, 3,000-mile journey from the Island of LaGomera (one of Spain’s Canary Islands just off the coast of Africa) to English Harbor, Antiqua.
She and her rowing partner, George Pagano of Media, Pennsylvania, began rowing on Dec. 20, 2015, a week later than expected due to poor weather conditions.
Their team name is “Cranial Quest” in honor of their fundraising efforts for treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurological disease that claimed the life of Pagano’s grandfather in 2003.
Monday marked the 22nd consecutive day of their journey.
Out of 26 boats competing, their boat, “Washington’s Crossing,” was in 17th place.
Miller is a 2010 LHS graduate and recently earned her degree in environmental restoration at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, where she was a member of the rowing team with Pagano.
Last spring teammates voted her and Pagano oarswoman and oarsman of the year respectively.
Almost a year ago, Pagano asked Miller to row across the Atlantic Ocean.
“When George first told me about the Atlantic Challenge, my first thought was that he had lost all his marbles,” Caitlin wrote on the pair’s website, thecranialquest.com. “My second thought was ‘Do people actually row the ocean?’”
The daughter of Alex and Karen Miller grew up in rural Hardwick, which is not located near any large bodies of water.
The Millers have received regular text messages from Caitlin and one phone call on the weekend of Jan. 2-3 since her departure.
“She sounds in good spirits,” Karen Miller said. “Other than some sore muscles, they are doing really well.”
Other teams have clashed with sharks and suffered severe seasickness and dehydration. Two rowers had to be airlifted to safety.
Caitlin and Pagano say they have adjusted well to living on the ocean.
According to Facebook posts at “The Cranial Quest: Rowing for a Change,” the pair are up to eating three to four meals a day while consuming 3,000 calories of snacks to reach their 5,000+ calorie goal for the day.
Their main foods are dehydrated mac and cheese and mashed potatoes. The pouches are heated up in a small pot. An automatic on-board water desalinator takes water from the ocean and purifies it for drinking.
Sleep deprivation caused the pair to adjust their around-the-clock rowing schedule from two to three hours as the other sleeps.
“It’s amazing how a good playlist makes three hours of rowing fly by” was Saturday’s Facebook message. “Who do you think sings louder, Cait or George? Video evidence will be provided.”
If all continues to go well, Miller and Pagano are scheduled to reach their destination in the first week of February, well ahead of the maximum 90-day finish.
They could be in contention of breaking the world record for a mixed-pair rowing team to cross the Atlantic. That record stands at a little more than 60 days.
Their progress, however, could be headed toward the rowers Monday night.
A message on the Facebook site read, “No major issues. No water in the cabin. Very good at keeping the doors shut even when it’s incredibly hot.”
Temperatures have ranged from 70 to 75 degrees during the pair’s journey, Karen said.
She joked that she keeps any homesickness at bay with reminders of home temperatures in the single digits.
To track the duo’s progress and to support their cause, visit thecranialquest.com.