An Update on Pacific Rower Jacob Adoram Hendrickson
Let’s take a pause from the crushing grind of coronavirus and talk about something else for a moment. Anything else. How about the guy who set a world record by rowing across the Pacific Ocean? By himself, nonstop, from the Washington coast to Australia. Remember him?
So what is Jacob Adoram Hendrickson doing now? I mean, what do you do after something like that? Seven thousand miles, 335 days at sea — 11 months of rowing — rationing food for the journey he thought might take eight months, all alone on the world’s largest ocean without a support boat, just a few noncommittal sea birds for company.
Well, first there was the hero’s welcome with television cameras, interviews, speeches and toasts after coming ashore at Trinity Beach near Jacob’s target of Cairns, Australia. The locals had gathered to wait and watch as word spread that the record-setting rower was, unbelievably, nearing the Queensland coastline.
On June 8, 2019, the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard escorted Jacob and his custom-built rowing vessel Emerson the last few miles to shore. He was cheered and welcomed by local citizens who waded into the pounding surf to help bring the 28-foot boat onto the beach near the Yorkeys Knob Boat Club in Queensland.
This amazing landfall was the first time Jacob and Emerson had touched sand since shoving off 11 months earlier from Neah Bay, Wash., on July 7, 2018. It was the culmination of years of planning and dogged perseverance for the Houston native, who is no stranger to pushing his limits. Hendrickson, a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, also once rode his bike across the United States.
He embarked on this latest, even more incredible journey, he says, for some needed long-term introspection about his life. He surely got that, plus a world record in the process. Jacob set a record for being the first person to row solo, non-stop and unassisted across the Pacific Ocean.
He set an additional record without meaning to: the longest Pacific row, when strong southerly winds pushed him a bit farther along the coastline than he had planned.
Friends, Family and Locals Gathered to See Jacob Come Ashore in Australia
So, once the cameras stopped rolling and the Queensland crowds trickled away, Jacob began his next challenge: re-entry into the startling din and demands of human society after 11 months of solitude at sea.
“I’m still pretty disoriented about getting integrated back into society after being back out there on my own,” he told Fox 26 News in Houston in an interview via Skype on June 27, 2019. “I have to figure out how to live with people again.”
A few weeks later on July 13, he posted a link to his final blog post of his monumental journey. He explained on his Facebook page that “It took a little while longer than expected to gain my bearings back on land.”
To ease this transition he lived in a yoga community in Australia for three months until his travel visa expired. Then another yoga community in Peru, then he flew to Jamaica for a wedding, then to Texas to see family.
This past January Jacob traveled to Portland, Ore., where he and Emerson were in the Portland Boat Show. They were featured with Schooner Creek Boat Works, which built the specially-made rowing vessel.
Yes, But What is Jacob Doing Now?
OK, finally getting back to what Jacob is doing now and what sparked this post in the first place. Jacob was in Gig Harbor a few weeks ago with a perfect hook for a follow-up blog. He was in town talking to folks at the Harbor History Museum to see about having Emerson on display there.
A great idea. After all, Gig Harbor was practically a jumping-off point for his journey with a visit here and a bon voyage party at The Club @ the Boatyard shortly before he embarked.
“I just talked to (museum Executive Director) Stephanie Lile and she had some ideas about it,” Jacob said in a phone interview. “She said there is no space for a permanent display now until construction is done, but maybe there’s a temporary spot for it. The Porpoise is on display out front, but maybe they could put Emerson on display out there for the summer.
“I’m just hoping to find a permanent home for the boat so people can see it,” said Jacob, adding that Emerson is currently housed at Schooner Boat Works.
“Putting this row together has shown me I can do anything, and I can set my life on whatever path I choose.” – Jacob Adoram Hendrickson
Shortly after we talked Jacob was starting his new job with MAG Aerospace, a provider of manned and unmanned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services, according to their website. He was first heading to Wichita, then El Paso for training on the Mod King Air 350 business plane. Then he’ll be going to northern Iraq to work under a military contract as a civilian — “just getting back in the game,” he says.
“It’s just a job I can do. It’s nice to have a job again,” he said.
In the meantime, does he think he’ll write a book? “Probably,” he answered.
“I’m still working on the overall message or direction of the book,” he said. “People aren’t interested in the technical part, such as ‘how did the water maker work,’ but more of the ‘how did you persevere with the hours of rowing, the loneliness, getting through those difficult times.'”
Yes, that is exactly what we mortals want to hear about, Jacob. Like, what was your frame of mind when by the time you got to Hawaii you were already two vital months behind schedule? And how did you get through the dread when you got hit by a tropical wave that ripped the spare oars off Emerson? Or the tropical cyclone with 50-knot winds in the Coral Sea that brought on water intrusion?
How did you not founder with crippling doubt and fear, the mortals want to know.
“Because,” he began his answer, “my attitude was well, my body still works, I have water, I can ration my food, I can keep going.”
And because you are someone pretty special, Jacob.
“Putting this row together has shown me I can do anything, and I can set my life on whatever path I choose,” he posted on Facebook a few days after arriving in Australia last June.