Meet the Beedens: the Father-daughter team that rowed across the Atlantic

It took 91 days of big waves, leatherback turtles and, yes, even some emotions

Rowing across the Atlantic Ocean is a major undertaking for any athlete. Rowing across the Atlantic as a father-daughter team presents its own unique challenges piled atop the usual and already daunting massive waves, lack of fresh food, incredible headwinds requiring non-stop physical exertion and, of course, sleep deprivation.

But that didn’t stop the Beedens, who chronicled their Atlantic Row 2018 adventure online.

Father John is a lifelong runner and competed at the highest levels until his mid-30s. In 2011, when he was 49 years old, and just 15 months after major surgery, he rowed the Atlantic from the Canaries to Barbados in 53 days — the second quickest crossing on record at the time. In 2015, he travelled 14,000 km (not a typo!) from North America to Australia over a 209-day period of continuous rowing.

John’s daughter Libby, 20, has lived an active lifestyle and rowed in high school. She’d been around the planning and execution of two prior adventures and was inspired to create her own story.

The Beedens moved from England to Burlington, Ontario in 2003. John and his wife Cheryl have subsequently relocated to the Collingwood area.

There they were, in December 2018, shoving off from their starting point in Portugal, instead of the Canary Islands. Over the next few months, they would endure all manner of sea-worthy punishment before finally arriving at their destination, 91 days later, on March 1.

Get Out There decided to track down the Beedens and ask the same questions to father John and to daughter Libby, to get both perspectives on their incredible adventure, both the highs and the lows.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome during your adventure?

John: The conditions are always the toughest challenge, being in a boat where the only propulsion comes from a single human, you are frequently outmatched by the forces of nature. Finding a way through adverse winds, currents and swell is technically, physically and mentally challenging. In particular rowing into an adverse current, which we seemed to face more than normal on this crossing is particularly difficult. Our common tactic to counter these conditions was to row an hour on an hour off until we were free of the challenge, on occasions this was done in excess of 24 hours which led to more severe than normal sleep deprivation.

Libby: There were a few, but exhaustion was quite a significant challenge. During the most difficult of weather, we had the current going against us and very light winds, the only way to get out of the current is to row out of it. At times we had to row hour on hour of for two days. Not getting more than 45 minutes sleep and rowing into cement absolutely drained us. We’d come out of the cabin for our shift and wouldn’t be able to communicate because we’d sound drunk, be slurring our words and stumbling around. It’s also quite dangerous because you’d be rowing and next thing you know you’re waking up laid back on the bow cabins door. Involuntarily falling asleep, who knows, we could’ve stumbled over the side! Sometimes when we were getting dressed two minutes before our shift, we’d lay back to zip up the salopettes and fall asleep, the rower would always have to shout to wake the other up.

If you could change one decision you made in planning the trip what would it be?

Libby: To leave from the Canary Islands instead of Portugal, there’s a reason no one really leaves from Portugal! Also would’ve saved us a near 1,000 nautical miles.

John: One of our challenges was planning the journey while residing on two separate continents. In hindsight, if we had had many long family dinners and evenings discussing the project I think we would have left from the Canaries to the Caribbean instead of attempting a continent-to-continent crossing. While a valid ambition we should really have focussed on Libby’s first crossing.   

What one thing did you learn about your father/daughter that you didn’t know before the trip?

John: I learned that Libby has incredible strength. She was an equal partner in all aspects of the trip. She overcame incredible seasickness in the first week and never missed a session in that period. More impressively she completed the crossing while being very intimidated in the really big weather we faced. In a way, I believe she has achieved more on this crossing by overcoming these fears that I have on any of my journeys as I have never had to overcome those fears.

Libby: To be honest I didn’t have any revelations about Dad, although (he’ll hate I said this) for the first time I saw he was actually emotional. We’re from Yorkshire so he says he’s not emotional, but I now know that’s not true.

What is the biggest strength you found in yourself in doing this trip?

Libby: I found that I was pretty strong-willed and that I probably get that from Dad, too. I also found something I’ve never had before, patience!

John: You really need the ability to wash away the tough days and start fresh the following day. If you let previous frustrations build up you just end up in a downward spiral. I think my background as an athlete prepared me well for these challenges.

What was your favourite part of the adventure?

John: the answer to this is always the interaction with wildlife, on this journey we had visits from minke whales, dolphins, dorado, a large leatherback turtle and a brief visit from a yellowfin tuna. On one occasion a pair of Minke Whales circled the boat for a number of hours, on occasions swimming on their sides waving their pectoral fins at us.  

Libby: Definitely the wildlife. We had pods of dolphins and at many times whales following us. Our last day at sea we had a leatherback turtle follow us and he swam in the small slipstream of our boat. The turtle was huge and so beautiful, definitely made the end of the trip special.

And the least favourite?

Libby: The fact that we had no fresh food, no comfortable bed that doesn’t move, and no proper shower for ages. Another least favourite was the fact that you couldn’t get out of the sun during the hottest time of the day. Sometimes it felt hard to breathe just sitting there because it was so hot.

John: This is always being in big weather with big waves breaking over the boat or hitting the boat beam on forcing it sideways and trying to capsize us. It’s intimidating, violent, very uncomfortable and goes on for days at a time.

What would you recommend to others considering doing an adventure trip with another family member?

John: I think it was a great thing to do. It did bring its own challenges and I think you treat and feel differently to if you have a non-related crew.

Libby: I would recommend moving out, stay at home and not do it. Being in these sorts of situations causes a lot of strain and I think that unless you’ve been going on adventures (that are longer than a few months) together since you were a kid, just save the trouble and stay at home.



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G Adventures' World Tourism Day Event Recap

Toronto-based travel company, G Adventures celebrated World Tourism Day 2016 at District 28 with a party fit for world travelers and, gave an exciting sneak preview of what travel enthusiasts can look forward to in 2017. World Tourism Day is a United Nations established event aimed at raising awareness of responsible, sustainable and accessible tourism, and is held every year on September 27. Here's a highlight of what G Adventures' had in store for the wanderlust crowd: This room was described to me "like being on the runway going somewhere new..." the giant room-sized wrap-around screen featured footage from different locations, exotic imagery and scenic landscapes for a stimulating immersive experience. Another room offered a more personal immersive experience with VR headsets, giving viewers a chance to experience India in 360 degrees. The hallway to these rooms were lined with vibrant artwork highlighting some of the G Adventure destinations. Oh, the food and the drinks! Each of the rooms had their own food or drink station to ensure the travelers were well nourished with some of the yummiest cross-cultural snacks like the jerk-shrimp shown here and the pulled pork with slices of pork belly (which was gobbled up before a shot could be taken).  <<pic>> The "takeaway" of the night was a friendship bracelet from the most epic wall of friendship bracelets I've ever seen! <<pics>> And the part everyone was waiting for...Founder of G Adventures, Bruce Poon Tip, gave a presentation on the positive impacts of tourism in improving local communities, and highlighted some of their Planeterra Foundation projects such as:
  • Oodles Of Noodles – a partnership with STREETS International, a hospitality-training program that works with at-risk youth in in Hoi An, Vietnam.
  • Café Chloe – a project with local, Aboriginal-owned tour operator Ingan Tours in transforming a local train station into a training centre for youth in Tully, North Queensland, Austrailia.
  • Belize Bikes With Purpose – working with the first community high school in Caye Caulker, Belize, in developing a student-led bicycle tour which significantly raised student enrolment in the schools.
For more information about Planeterra’s projects, visit The big announcement of the night was G Adventures’ newest partnership with Jane Goodall! Yes, THE Dr. Jane Goodall, primate expert and animal welfare advocate! “Travel opens one’s eyes to the glorious diversity of cultures and wildlife in different parts of the world. And hopefully the traveler will return with an understanding of the urgent needs to protect our beautiful planet, before it is too late.” You can watch her full message here Jane also formally gave her support to the G Adventures Animal Welfare Policy which ensures the protection of all animals in all of the 650 trips they offer. “It’s an honour to work with Dr. Jane Goodall, but more importantly to continue her legacy by helping raise awareness of her work with our travellers.”  In 2017, G Adventures will offer the Jane Goodall Collection of wildlife-focused tours, which also aligns with UN’s Year of Sustainable Tourism. G Adventures will also be offering Travel Better, a 30-minute online training course developed with Sustainable Travel International by giving tips to travellers on how to travel the world in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner. Tips cover the initial trip planning and preparation stage, to onsite travel and even how to continue making positive impact upon returning home.  Upon completion of the course, participants not only get a certificate to show for their commitment to sustainable and responsible travel, but will get access to Sustainable Travel International’s Travel Better Club perks! And for those who want to know their new travel package offerings in 2017:
  • Experience Borneo (part of the Jane Goodall Collection) – In Sungai Kinabatangan travellers will take a river safari in search of wildlife and visit the nearby oxbow lake with a professional guide to seek out proboscis monkeys, pygmy elephants, macaques, and gibbons. In Sepilok they will enjoy an afternoon visit to the orangutan rehabilitation centre. There’s also the opportunity to travel to Libaran Island by boat to have a guided tour of the island's turtle hatchery and learn about the turtle conservation program.
  • Cambodian Water Festival & Longboat Race (for all you paddlers out there!) – Held in Siem Reap, Cambodia, guests will not only attend the festival but will get the chance to join a longboat crew and take part in the race itself!
  • Serengeti Half Marathon Experience (for all you marathoners out there!) – Not just a destination race, but one where you might get to see the Big Five as well!
  • Jamaican Reggae Sumfest Experience
  • La Tomatina Festival in Buñol, Spain
  My favourite part of the G Adventures event was that it was packed full of international in Chief Experience Officers, the enthusiastic people who are from the different countries that lead the G Adventures tours! <<pic>> Big thanks to: Marina from Thailand who warmly greeted me and gave me a grand tour of the place when I arrived earlier that evening! <<pic>> Deybi from Peru who talked to me about all the different activities in Peru… <<pic>> And what I took as a sign from the travel gods was meeting Jose from The Galapagos as I've been thinking of planning a trip out there soon! (Jose, if you're reading this, thank you for putting up with my excessive gushing over the wildlife in the Galapagos and for answering all my questions about the cute lizards and seals and oh dear, it's happening again...I will visit you soon Galapagos!) If the travel bug didn't get you yet, it'll definitely get you at this event! Thanks G Adventures for the fun evening filled with endless travel inspiration!