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Chestertown native rowing alone across Pacific for charity
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Chestertown native rowing alone across Pacific for charity

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A young man who grew up in Chestertown is now rowing through the Pacific Ocean alone to raise money for charity.

Tez Steinberg is one month into a three-month solo row to Hawaii from San Francisco.

Only seven people have reached Hawaii on a solo row across the Pacific. None of them succeeded on their first try. He’s hoping to be the first.

The row is called the United World Challenge. It’s a project by United World Colleges alumni to inspire a more courageous world and raise scholarships for students to attend United World Colleges. (Steinberg graduated from UWC of the Adriatic in Italy.) To donate, go to https://unitedworldchallenge.org/.

He’s less than 800 miles into the 2,500 mile journey, but it’s getting easier now that he has crossed the Cali Current. To get across it he took only a couple hours off at a time, rowing day and night, so he didn’t get pushed too far backward while sleeping.

“I have never guessed in my life that I would spend a month trying to make a single right turn, but here we are. The good news is, the further west I get, the easier the turn becomes,” he wrote in his blog on July 27. “I’ve recently started getting little waves that don’t come at me direct from the side like most others, but come from a NW or N angle, hitting the back corner of my boat, and give me a nudge forward. I can’t express how exciting it is each time I meet such a wave. After muscling my way slowly west the past 3 1/2 weeks, I can’t wait to have following seas helping me along.”

He’s also teaching science lessons on board and gathering samples for lab tests later on the plastic in the ocean and air.

“To better understand how plastic breaks down and travels, I’m gathering data for a study with researcher Dimitri Deheyn, PhD, at Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Each day I place double/sticky tape on my instrument arch to capture microfiber samples from the air. Dimitri’s lab will analyze the samples after the row. We are both curious: Do plastics in the ocean become airborne through sea spray and wave action? I am nowhere near the center of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — that’s west of me — but I‘ve noticed a startling increase in trash already,” he wrote.

So far, his trip has raised $13,180.55. His goal by the end is $75,000.

While the money is important, he said inspiring courageous actions is just as important.

“The greatest danger we face is not climate change, pollution, or any external threat — it’s the perception that our challenges are too daunting to solve. The world needs inspiration, a reason to believe more in ourselves and the opportunity for a better tomorrow. That’s why I launched the United World Challenge,” he said.

He has certainly found daunting problems. In less than three weeks, his rowing seat broke — he took it apart and spent a day rebuilding it, and then hours the next day to improve upon that repair.

More recently, he had 11 minutes to avoid a collision with a fuel tanker ship.

“My AIS alarm sounded, and I saw the ship on the horizon. My Garmin warned me that the ship and I would collide in just 11 minutes. So I got on my VHF radio, contacted the bridge of this vessel, and explained the situation: I am in a rowboat under human power alone. I’m unable to maneuver out of your way. Please alter your course to provide sufficient berth,” he wrote in his blog.

“And then I heard it: A human voice! A stranger’s voice! He assured me he was turning starboard and would pass with plenty of room. Neither of us said anything more, and I watched with amazement as this huge ship turned on a dime in the distance. And then just moments later charged safely by me, a half mile away. It was comforting to speak with someone, someone I’ve never met, who agreed to do something upon my request, for the good of us both. And this brief interaction made me think back on all the ways we rely on each other all the time.”

He spent the rest of that day’s row thinking about the nature of truth.

“What’s more, as the ship passed, I couldn’t help but admire its strength and engineering and see beauty in this steel behemoth. A tanker carrying fossil fuels. Is this a thing of beauty? Well, from the perspective of living aboard a cramped 23-foot rowboat with a broken rowing seat, the idea of a floating kitchen, proper bunks, real bathroom, all the amenities of modern life — yes, that’s a thing of beauty,” he wrote. “And seeing beauty in a fuel tanker, well, that gets me back to the truth, and asking myself which truths are fixed, and which ones change based on your perspective.”

You can reach Kathleen Moore at 742-3247 or kmoore@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @ByKathleenMoore or at her blog on www.poststar.com.

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