“I’ve always looked out over the Pacific and wondered about our ocean neighbors, the cultures, the people, the land that share the Pacific together. What the ocean looks like in the middle, what it feels like. And now I know. I want to continue experiencing more of her secrets.” Roxy Darrow responded to Captain Ann Alberg when asked about her inspiration for being out on the water.
Roxy Darrow found herself while kayaking on the Potomac. Strange to think that a sailor’s soul would be found in the nation’s capital but not strange at all when the water we desire speaks to us. “After graduating from college and working for a time in Washington DC, I found myself dissatisfied, my soul was lost. One early summer evening I went kayaking on the Potomac River, a habit I’d developed to overcome the Monday blues. As I paddled and pondered life, a clear voice, my inner voice, my soul said to me, why don’t you sail to Japan? And I thought that’s a fine idea.” With so much as an idea, Roxy left her job and went back to California where she grew up sailing on her family’s Islander 36. After a couple of years of preparation, she was off to San Diego to join the Baja Ha Ha.
Roxy Darrow is “hitchhiking” across the Pacific on sailboats and we caught up with her in transit from Apataki to Rangiroa then Tahiti.
Explain Your Current Journey in the Pacific?
I trained with Captain Diane Berol on her 40-foot Pacific Seacraft for one and a half years to prepare for the Baja Ha Ha rally, with the intention to use that thorough training to continue on across the Pacific later. We left San Diego Bay in October 2018, cruised down Baja to Cabo then continued on into the sea of Cortez. I took care of Celtic Song in the slip in La Paz for a month, then continued with a different crew up into the sea of Cortez as far as Santa Rosalia. I flew to La Cruz and joined the crew on SV Rapture, a Caliber 40. We departed Puerto Vallarta on March 20 and arrived in the Marquesas islands on April 12, a 22-day passage. I changed boats a few times through the Marquesas and Tuamotus and now plan to sail with SV Zephyr from Tonga to Fiji and then to New Zealand.
Where have your travels taken you so far?
I started traveling alone when I was 15. I did a program called Experiment in International Living in Argentina, lived with a host family and forever caught the travel bug. In college, I took a semester off to work on organic small farms in rural Chile and explore Patagonia. I wound up sailing across the Beagle Channel from Ushuaia to Isla de Navarino to see the prow of Shackleton’s ship. I worked as a travel and food writer for 8 months in Istanbul and spent many summers on the Aegean Sea on big comfy sailboats called gulets. I’ve taken ferries through the western fjords in Norway, studied art and architecture in Barcelona, reconnected with my family roots in Budapest, learned the fresh ricotta ropes in Sicily, drove across the US two times and celebrated the riotous week before Christmas deep in the Oaxacan countryside.
What are the major challenges that women face when traveling in the fashion that you have selected?
Women are constantly aware of our physical safety, that is sometimes heightened when you travel alone. The usual everyday misogyny also occurs in other countries- catcalls, being talked down to, not being listened to, being asked first if you’re married before anything else. On boats, it is even more challenging because many times the perpetrator of the offense is your captain, the owner of your current home, and you may be far away from an escape, so that is difficult to navigate. My female captain mentor recommended I get all waterproof luggage in case I need to jump ship in a hurry. I took her advice and am glad I did.
Before this adventure what was your sailing background?
I grew up sailing on my parents 36’ Catalina Islander. We lived a few hours from San Diego, so every Friday after work since I was tiny, my parents packed up the car with at first me and my sister, then later my brother too, and we sailed all weekend. We took multi-week trips to the Channel Islands and Catalina Island. We had incredible adventures sliding down sand dunes, seeing albino seals in the painted cave and hearing the wind howl on San Miguel. My dad would read us the perfect storm at night before bed and put giant spider crabs on me as I was waking up. We all worked together to do the dishes, watch to make sure the flame didn’t go out on the stove, and that the stern anchor line is tied to the boat…whoops. I spent time on my grandpa’s 40’ avocado green Kettenberg. I attended CIMI (Catalina Island Marine Institute) summer camp from elementary school through middle school and took sailing lessons there. Then I didn’t really sail regularly until a few years ago when I moved back to San Diego. I started taking courses at the mission bay aquatic center, training with Diane Berol and working towards my goal to cross the Pacific. I also raced a handful of times with the B’Quest crew to learn foredeck/spinnaker handling.
What does sailing mean to you?
Sailing to me means family, it is my childhood, it is my wild core, it is the place I go to remember who I am and what I need to be happy. I feel connected with the earth, I feel her curves, moods, I sail right into her grooves. It is a way to travel at a speed that feels natural to me. Sailing is a gateway to see the magical other world called Ocean. Sailing provides challenges to break you down, strengthen you, draw you to kindred spirits and rarely seen places. Sailing means boats, which can be full of personality, beauty, craftsmanship, stories embedded into the cushions.
In a perfect world, how would sailing fit into your everyday life?
Ha! For the past eight months sailing has been my daily life. I don’t know what my future holds, but I hope to sail on from New Zealand to Japan, which means many days at sea. The Northwest Passage is also calling a bit. Perhaps eventually I will live on land, near the sea, and will sail when I feel like it, on a boat suited to that area.
What inspires you?
People who are living their fullest lives, expressing themselves creatively, unembarrassed to be who they are, who cultivate their own soul, who bring beauty to the world, who spark joy in you just from looking into their eyes. Those people inspire me. I also love plants, wild animals, alive beautiful beings that fill my heart when I see them thriving. Bioluminescence, whale calls underwater, the deep velvet sky full of stars and planets…
Roxy Darrow is on the ocean right now but you can find her at https://sparklecatadventures.com/.