Solo but not alone – Sean McGowan’s epic story

first_imgEmail Atlantic Ocean rower Sean McGowan recalls his time at sea – Andrew Carey meets the man who spent 118 days crossing the AtlanticIT IS the job of every journalist to find the “hook” in a story – defined as the most interesting part of a tale or the piece of text that will capture the imagination of the reader and ultimately keep them interested in what you are writing about. The thing about Sean McGowan’s story is that everything is interesting. Sign up for the weekly Limerick Post newsletter Sign Up Words such as determination, pride and achievement are all associated with the mammoth task that Sean McGowan finally undertook at the beginning of this year. After four weeks of delays, Sean took Tess, the boat in which he would row into the history books with, and crossed the Atlantic Ocean. He did it alone and without the assistance of another soul, Tess did it under the guidance of her owner. “I had an Irish flag on the boat, my Shannon oars to row, but Limerick in my heart. This makes me very proud,” his words, not mine.After 118 days, one hour and 14 long minutes, Sean made history and rowed in to English Harbour in Antigua and into the hearts and minds of the many fans and well wishers from his native Limerick city.In a glowing tribute at a Mayoral reception held in the offices of Mayor Kevin Kiely,  Sean’s fellow Farranshone man honoured the achievement and noted that more people have stepped on the moon than rowed solo across the Atlantic Ocean. “A record breaking oarsman who must have been possessed to take on such a task and the show of sheer determination carried you on. You are proud of Limerick, but Limerick is very proud of you – very very proud”.Just days after he arrived home from his adventures, Sean was bestowed life membership at Shannon Rowing Club as his club acknowledged his achievement. It was the first of a city’s recognition for its latest and greatest hero. The Mayor, in his address to the gathered family and friends, said that Sean was befitting of other higher honours that the city could bestow, and that the council would be sure to discuss it in the coming weeks. But what of the man that rowed an ocean – an Irishman, a Limerickman and one of our own? What of the man that after five days was thrown from his boat by a rogue wave, endured technical failures that befell both man and boat including the failings of his watermaker, and as days 20, 21 and 22 rolled by with their storm fronts battering both man and machine? What of this man? There is a selfless determination that must be ingrained in any human to keep going while all around you is just as determined to fail. “I had a dream to row an Ocean, that’s what I wanted to do.”Sean said that the experience gave him something else that he didn’t really expect. “Walking through the streets people have been stopping me and congratulating me and I didn’t expect any of that, that’s overwhelming. This has made me very humble and when you are out there and face the elements and you think that they are going to beat you, a couple of times you think you are not going to get out of it and it makes you think quite a bit, it makes you think about your family and that makes you very humble. I got a call from the President’s office already and the Mayor has paid tribute to me with a reception. I’m really honoured by all of this”.Sean added that he has treasured and enjoyed his time at home and indeed, every moment with his wife and children since his return. “My journey didn’t end until I got to Cork Airport and I could finally get home to see my family”. With three days to go in his race to the finish, Sean told this reporter via satellite phone, that he was “fed up”. He had endured over one hundred days of rowing that had brought more hardship than many will ever endure and hit every personal hurdle along the way of his solo voyage. But something made him keep going. “There’s times you think about it {calling for assistance}, day five when I was thrown from the boat, the storms on days 20 and 21, but at the time you just take it on board and get on with business. You make sure you are OK and you continue on. Afterwards, you think about it but at the time you just have to keep going. I knew I was never going to give up. A couple of times I thought that this was really bad, but I was never going to give up”. As Sean stood on the pier under the towering structure of Shannon Boat Club, tanned, weather beaten with sun-bleached hair, but Limerick through and through, you could see in his eyes that he was never going to give up – not for one second.“I thought that if I could just get one more hour rowing, I’d be OK. I’d do that and if I thought about giving up again I’d say to do just one more hour. That went one for days and weeks”. Sean also said that reading the text messages of support that Lorraine would type out and send to the satellite phone were a source of huge inspiration. But it was the physical strain on body as well as mind that is most notable with the 42-year-old. Dropping close to 1/3 his body weight over the duration of his time at sea, Sean still had the “claw hand” evident as movement in both his hands was restricted to resemble that of a claw – slightly curled and closed. “I still have it but I’ve an appointment to have my hands looked at later in the week. I can’t scratch my ears or anything like that. Thankfully, everything else has come back. I’m no longer wobbling on my feet and I’m beginning to put on weight again”.With food a major concern for many of the rowers, one race participant accepted the assistance of the race organisers by getting an additional 30 days of rations for the end of his race, Sean is thankful of both taste and quantity of food available since his return to land.“Most of my time has been spent eating since I came back, I started out weighing 87 kilos and I finished the race weighing just 66,” with Sean’s wife Lorraine quipping, “I can’t keep him in food at the moment”. Back to Sean: “The taste sensation has been fantastic given the rations I have had, and food has been the one major pastime over the last few days”. He has no immediate plans to take on another challenge, but said that the next one is “going to take a bit of planning and something to think about”.That was man, but what of machine? Sean said that his boat would take a little longer to come home than he did. “Tess is being shipped back to Southampton and I will go and collect her in six weeks. I really want to take her to some of the schools that supported me through the Shout for Sean campaign as well as some of my old schools. And as for a resting place for Tess? “Tess will go for sale. Right now the credit union think that Tess has four wheels underneath her. So Tess is for sale as I better pay off that loan. Sean was quick to point out that the basis behind his row was to support the Soweto Connection – a Limerick based charity set up to assist development in South Africa. “We have raised over €20,000 from schools, a lot of individuals and one or two businesses and I think that is fantastic in the kind of climate that we are in. That money is going to go to build at least one compound in the township and allow the mums to come in and do a bit of work, earn a bit of money and their kids will get fed. They are the mums that can’t work as they have AIDS. It’s going to bring a huge benefit to those people and more importantly, it goes in once and no more money will be required after that.”Sean added that he will return to the water, but for now, “I’ll stick to running or maybe a bit on the bike.” Linkedin WhatsApp Twitter Facebookcenter_img Advertisement NewsLocal NewsSolo but not alone – Sean McGowan’s epic storyBy admin – May 13, 2010 1660 Print Previous articleLee still has a world title dreamNext articleLimerick FC denied chance to play Barcelona adminlast_img read more