2006 Sheppard Ocean Fours North Atlantic Rowing Race

It all started with a poster advertising a rowing race across the ocean on a boat house wall.  It seemed like a challenge they just might be able to bite off.  Eighteen Months later the four young men who became OAR Northwest became the only American entrant against 3 British teams taking 29ft rowboats 3200 nautical miles across the North Atlantic.  In the first five days the four of them were stampeded by thousands of dolphins and weathered hurricane force winds.  On day sixteen they realized a miscalculation with their food supply and began a 55-day ordeal of hunger—this would be there greatest challenge.  Tempers flared and yet teamwork prevailed.  The team won the race and gained a Guinness World Record.   Recognition was fine indeed, but the greatest rewards would come as they processed the knowledge of what it takes to get from point A to point B.

2008 Olympic Peninsula Circumnavigation

“With the right boat you could turn the Olympic Peninsula into and island!” These words from the navigator that had helped them cross the North Atlantic inspired the OAR Northwest team downsized their boat and began an Odyssey that never took them more than 100 miles from home.   In there open dory they explored Washington States Olympic Peninsula.   Each day provided a new challenge as the crew lived by the tides confronting cantankerous elephant seals, ten foot pacific ocean swells, near stranding in beaches and swamps and managed to keep the hull of the rowboat wet for all but a two mile portage on railroad tracks for the nearly 400 mile journey.   Tom and Huck couldn’t have had a better adventure and seeds were sewn for future trips as the team realized how much adventure was to be had in the waterway close to home.

2012 Canadian Wildlife Federation Salish Sea expedition, Vancouver Island Circumnavigation

The desire to see the ocean by rowboat was strong.  But what would be the reason to take them out to sea again?  Over the years the lessons of what they had learned began to take shape and the realization that with the right tools they could create a journey that could teach.  With new team mates and a partnership with the Canadian Wildlife Federation OAR Northwest rebuilt their boat as a data collecting and education machine testing water samples and there bodies as they braved 650 nautical miles around the wild and woolly Vancouver Island visiting schools one day and getting lost in fog the next.   At the end they realized that this idea was powerful and began to plan for their second ocean crossing.

2013 Canadian Wildlife Federation Africa to the Americas Expedition

Building on the success of the Vancouver Island circumnavigation the team made their way to Senegal to prepare for their longest journey yet, over 3600 nautical miles from Dakar on the very western tip of Africa to Miami.   Science and education through on board data collection and a developing day to day story of swimming with whales, flying squid and rainbows appearing at midnight.  Over 70,000 students reached with the help of the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF).  With 600 nautical miles to go the boat capsized from two rogue waves in the middle of a shift change.  Training and preparation kicked in and the Plan B they hoped never to use came into effect.  The United States Coast Guard organized a rescue and in 36 hours the crew was safe on shore with their families in Puerto Rico.  In the next ten days with CWF’s support they mounted a successful recovery of the boat saving the boat, science data, footage and the organization.

2014 Adventure: Mississippi River

By now OAR Northwest team had completely transition to accomplishing scientific and education adventures.  Examining what it would take to do this well came the realization that trips were needed that could be repeated in the same place year after year to create an adventure that maximized its educational and scientific impact.   Building on the idea that some of the best adventures were close to home the team turned its sights on the Mississippi River.  Starting at the headwaters in Lake Itasca and finishing in the Gulf of Mexico over 85 days later.  They saw a mighty river start as a pristine stream grow into a mighty river with much power and much asked of it.  The crew collected the longest water sample transect of any river yet taken and visited over 2200 students along the way.   As the river grew so did their appreciation of what a powerful learning tool this could be if it could indeed be repeated.

2015 Adventure: Columbia River

In order to create sustainable educational and scientific adventures the OAR Northwest team realized that new and more diverse backgrounds and faces were going to have to join the crew in order to keep the adventures fresh and authentic.  For the first time two women joined the crew.   Funding and people power meant the crew had to stay closer to home and ended up exploring the Columbia River, the other major waterway in OAR Northwest’s home state of Washington.  As the crew followed the river from forests to coulees and steep sided valleys and widened to the sea the project broadened the teams horizons to what could be done and how a sustainable set of adventures could be built.

2016 Adventure: Mississippi River

Taking what they had learned in 2015 OAR Northwest partnered with the University of Puget Sound to create a class on adventure.   This course teaches everything from the history of the waterways we explore to the nuts and bolts of getting down them and reaching students.  This year a team of eight student adventure educators split into a boat team and a shore team will explore the Mississippi River with fresh eyes and a new adventure, but one that builds on the relationships created in 2014.  This year the team hopes to reach over 4000 students, continue another year of the river samples and Google street view the river.