In my business, and by “business” I mean the ocean, nothing is waterproof.


Your gear may start off being really, really water-resistant or water tight, but if your expectation is waterPROOF, you will be sorely disappointed.  In my opinion, disappointment is the pits.

Sonya Baumstein. Ocean-rower, Paddler and Backcountry Lover.
Ocean-rower Sonya Baumstein.

I’ll make this analogy: Water in a small boat on an ocean is like sand at the beach.  You can go for a short 10-minute walk on the beach and still inexplicably end up with sand in every crevice of your clothing and body. Water gets everywhere. That can be a problem. Both fresh and salt water wear on the durable water repellency (DWR) of waterproof gear. Salt water is the worst; it eats GORE-TEX for breakfast.

When I rowed the Atlantic, our crew started out with waterproof rain jackets and gear. Once on the water, our gear de-waterproofed within two weeks.  We would see unavoidable rain in the distance and have to decide whether or not to take off all of our clothes and stash them in the cabin to have something dry to wear later. A cold and uncomfortable reality check. Outerwear is clothing and is very affected by the elements. Intense and harsh conditions (i.e salt water, humidity, rough handling, intense sun and rain), dirt, body oils, and time will wear out almost everything.

The expedition across the Atlantic Ocean from the Canary Islands to Barbados took 57 days and our gear was definitely not prepared.

My upcoming solo row,, from Japan to San Francisco will likely take between 140 and 180 days to complete.  I am working on getting everything I have water prepared. From storing my dehydrated pre-vacuum-sealed foods in larger vac-sealed bags to triple checking hatches and dry bags.  For clothing, I am packing quick-drying Adidas layers, wool base layers, and proper foul weather off-shore jackets and overalls – which are made of heavy duty GORE-TEX.

Sonya's 56 days to-do list
With 56 days to-go, Sonya has a lot to do.

Do I think any of it will stay water resistant? Nope. It’s just reality. However, I have a game plan. I’ll use Nikwax to prepare and protect the gear that will accompany me on my expedition.

  1. Hardshells: During my row, freshwater will be limited. I’ll only be able to wash my outwear and foulies a few times. In order to make my things water resistant again; I will use Nikwax to re-up the DWR. I’ll use Tech Wash to clean off the grime and rid each item of nasty GORE-TEX-eating salt, then apply TX.Direct Spray-On to restore the water repellency.
  2. Sleeping Bag: The both cold weather and humid conditions inside my tiny cabin will necessitate me bringing a down sleeping bag.  I will use Down Wash and Down Proof to ensure my bag is clean and ready to keep me warm and dry. Once at sea, I will be very careful with its placement within my cabin.
  3. Base layers: I will get one new set of clothes (bottoms, top, sports bra, etc) per month. It’s my present to myself. By the end of the expedition all of my layers will be quite ripe. Apologies to anyone who meets me at the dock in San Francisco! Prior to departing, I’m washing them all with BaseWash. This will enhance each garment’s breathable and wicking powers. To renew them at sea, I will use BaseWash as necessary and as freshwater supplies allow.
  4. Wool layers: I’m packing a lot of technical wool clothing, because wool stays warm when wet. No cotton for this gal! All of it is getting a cycle of Wool Wash before leaving and when possible at sea to keep each piece performing optimally.

Summary and ProTip

Be realistic. Be water-prepared on all of your upcoming journeys from sea to shining sea.

By Sonya Baumstein

In late April/Early May 2015, Sonya will be leaving the coast of Japan heading for San Francisco over 6,000 nm away across the Pacific Ocean and 3 degrees of latitude North. Historically, only 3 other boats have successfully crossed over to North America – two solo Frenchmen (1991, 2003) and one pair of British men (2009). More recently, Sarah Outen was the first woman to attempt this crossing in 2012 (rescue) and 2013 (landed in the Aleutians).  Sonya is attempting to be the first woman to successfully complete the entire route and, by the time she takes her first stroke from Japan, will have already invested 3 years of her life in this goal.

Follow Sonya during her preparations and while at sea on,  Facebook, and on Twitter!

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