She yearns to make a record, to prove to the world that she can accomplish this incredible feat. And after 10 straight hours of rowing on a foggy day in October, Ditton is just eight kilometers from her goal. She pushes on until she can row no more, and throws her sea anchor out to catch a wink of sleep. “I had rocks to my left and rocks to my right,” she says. “I was in the middle of two of the Farallon Islands. I wasn’t just near the Devil’s Teeth … I was in the mouth.”
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Ditton settles down to sleep, jostled gently by the rolling gray waves. The smell of bird poop and salt is inescapable; acrid in her nose. Tomorrow, she’ll do it all again, surging on relentlessly, like the sea.
Growing up, Ditton never dreamed of becoming an ocean rower, or even a sailor. In fact, every summer, her parents forced her and her brother to spend months on their six-meter sailboat. They’d shove off from Britain and sail all the way to Italy on a boat two feet smaller than Ditton’s current rowboat.
“By 14, I swore I’d never set foot in another sailboat again,” says Ditton. She became a long-distance swimmer during those summer months so she could get away from the boat and onto land. “I became a navigator so we could get to our destination faster. I could swim, row and navigate by the age of eight, so I could find out ways to get off the boat.”