International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
The Electrical Worker Newspaper April 2020
(promised interview by ECHO newspaper "on line" Náchod – New York)
Milan Světlík – the first Czech to cross the Atlantic Ocean on a boat powered by oes!
After thirteen years of stayin the USA, the naturalized New Yorker Milan Světlík, originally from Nachod, East Bohemia, intends to overcome the Atlantic Ocean in June next year only with the help of muscle strength. If he succeeds, he will be the first Czech to enter the list, which began on behalf of John Fairfax, who successfully rowed through the Atlantic in 1969 (on the Canary Islands – Florida route, a journey length of 8,000 kilometers). It took him six months, and as the media noted, he struggled with sharks, stormy weather, and reached the brink of his own strength. It will be written in 2020 when Milan Světlík sets out to meet a similar adventure. About his preparations for the Atlantic journey, motivation, risks and dreams, this conversation...
Who inspired you to cross the Atlantic on a rowing boat?
From a young age, I like nature and sport. I was very interested in high-altitude hiking, devouring books about Reinhold Messner, longing to climb Mount Everest. In the US, I conquered colorado's highest mountain. It was a solo climb with bivouac at 20 degrees Celsius below zero. But back to the sea... I worked in the Gulf of Mexico as a diver for the oil industry. Diving is certainly not rowing. Once, however, I came across an interview online about long-distance rowing at sea. The information remained in my memory, it continued to develop. Soon I was looking at more data, details, possibilities...
Your ship is already special from view. What shipyards were created and what's the name of the ship?
My ship was built by the British firm Rannoch Adventure. I personally visited her workshop, spent several days at sea with the company owner. Everything was fine, including rowing techniques. The name of the ship is in English Czech Mate. It can be translated into our mother tongue as a Czech friend, a friend. Then there's the specific pronunciation in English, when you'll say it as "sach mat." But I wasn't interested in chess terminology. I wanted it to be reflected in the name of the ship, that I am originally from Bohemia. I'm very proud of our country.
How are you going to eat on the way?
I'll have food supplies on the boat for up to three months. It's going to be a dried diet that I'm going to mix with water. I'm not hunting fish during the trip. On the one hand, hunting and killing animals in general is not my cup of coffee. I treat nature with respect and I want to enjoy staying at sea without hunting. There's also a practical point of view. The boat doesn't offer too much free space where I could process the fish and kitchen edit where to wash the dishes... I also plan to row for 13 hours every day. I'm sure I won't want much of a job in cooking experiments.
The power source will, I suppose, be solar panels?
Yes, solar panels will be a source of electricity. In the cabin they will provide energy for navigation, walkie-talkie, light. I've got USB plugs in there so I can recharge my camera and camera.
And drinking water?
I'll produce drinking water on a boat, there's a special device that, using a small eletromotor, draws and filters water directly from the ocean. Drinking water is essential for survival. I will also have manual filtration in case the main system breaks down, which cannot be ruled out on a two-and-a-half-month voyage.
Will you be able to communicate from the ship in case of an emergency?
I will have provided a special service that will allow me to communicate via satellite. However, modern language will be limited data, which is intended primarily for emergencies. I'll be able to pass the emergency signal to the Coast Guard or the Navy via a classic walkie-talkie. However, given the route I'm going to follow, any assistance could not arrive until a few days from now. I'm going to try not to need any help.
Where will the start and where will the destination of your cruise be?
I'm going to leave New York, probably from Manhattan, I'm going to have to make a stop in New Jersey to make my performance identifiable as a journey from continent to continent. The reason is that Manhattan is an island and not a mainland. In Europe, however, my goal is islands in the south of England, which are already understood as a solid part of the continent. Specifically, it is the Isles of Scilly archipelago.
When people travel somewhere, they always deal with travel insurance... Can you even insure the Atlantic on the rower?
That's a good question... I had insurance, just a local at sea in New York. But when my insurance company found out I wanted to row across the ocean, my insurance canceled. I'm going to try to have special insurance on a transatlantic cruise. In case it doesn't work out, it certainly won't deter me from my intention.
Aren't you afraid of the risks of meeting big animals? Am I referring to sharks or killer whales?
I'm not afraid of such meetings, but I'm looking forward to them. I have experience of diving with sharks and I know people aren't on their normal diet. Also, the North Atlantic, where I will row, is not, given the water temperature and the amount of nutrients contained in the water, such a fishnet area as the Central Atlantic or the Pacific.
Is your journey just a sporting feat or does it have any deeper appeal?
The whole journey has a deeper meaning to me. It's not just a sheer sporting feat. That's a complicated question... First of all, I would like to remind people to bring nature closer. I am part of nature and the entire ecosystem of the planet that created the conditions for life, including the life of man. Then I'd like to motivate people to pursue their goals and dreams. Whether in the form of extraordinary sports performance or even in ordinary, everyday life. In my opinion, it is important that we give our lives a goal, fill them with story and inspiration. Our lives are often conveyed in some virtual reality, in social media. Then we simply forget that life is a gift that we have received so that every single life can be exceptional and original.
What was the main impulse for you?
New York is a huge big city. I work here as an electrical designer for a local company. I participate in large orders for the city of New York and the state such as bridges, wastewater treatment plants of metro stations, etc. Life has become a routine for me. I found out that I basically just go to work, from work... Over and over again. Once, twice a year, I go out on vacation, otherwise I basically only live for weekends. I realized I was getting old and I didn't have time for myself. I don't have time to stop, think... For me, the whole journey will be crucial, especially on the mental level. I'd like to look deep into her. How am I going to respond to the physical load for such a long time, what will I think about on the way? I want to record all thoughts and experiences in detail during the trip. I wonder if the road will change me in any way. If so, which direction will move me in my life.
How are you preparing for the trip?
I try to train at sea every weekend on a boat. I always use a full two days. I'll spend the night on a boat near the statue of liberty. I usually row for 14 hours. It's challenging, but at least I'm getting an idea of the burden that awaits me. I'm familiar with the ship. I study navigation, currents, i mating the ship to my liking. At home, I train on a rowing trainer at least four times a week for up to 3 hours. Of course, work and duties matter, sometimes I like to be able to do just one training class. Now, with the advent of winter, I'm only reliant on home training. I'm on a strict diet, I don't drink alcohol. I'm trying to be as ready for the trip.
The Atlantic crossing project certainly has an important side of material, financial?
Financially, it's very challenging. My family and friends think I've gone completely crazy. I had a mortgage on the apartment for next year. Instead, I invested all the savings plus a bank loan in the Atlantic crossing project. I reckon the whole project is going to cost me at least $100,000. In addition to investing in the project, I try to raise funds through fundraising, I approached some sponsorship companies. I believe I can get some more support. I've got six months to do it. Money is very important in the implementation of this project, that is true.
Will stars or technology navigate?
I'll navigate using a small computer. I'll use gps. My ship is cloaded into a system that will allow it to be real-time identifiable to other vessels. Anyone who wants to follow my path can do so on the www.milanrows.com website
What about the sea current factor?
I don't know how much I'll be able to use the sea flow. But I will certainly try to take advantage of the good weather factor. That's why I want to start in June to avoid the storm season. All the way, I will monitor the weather forecast and adjust the individual stages according to it. When the really bad weather comes, there's nothing better to do on a boat of this type and size than hiding in the cabin and waiting for the storm to pass.
If the storm is strong, can it endanger the ship?
I reckon that my ship will overturn at least 20 times throughout the journey, don't be afraid, that's what counts. The ship is built to return to the right position after the rollover. It's up to me not to get hurt in the cabin when I roll over. I'm based on a similar crossing that took off from Canada. It was 1,200 miles shorter than my plan, in 38 days this ship overturned a total of 14 times.
Thank you for the interview
Mirek Brát (photo: archive of Milan Světlík)