December 14, 2008 in Nation/World

Just miles from goal, rower who crossed sea calls for tug

Weather did him in after nearly 11,000 miles
By KRISTEN GELINEAU Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Italian adventurer Alex Bellini receives a bottle of wine as he arrives at the Opera House today in Sydney, Australia.
(Full-size photo)

SYDNEY, Australia – An Italian adventurer who spent 10 months rowing more than 9,500 nautical miles (10,900 miles) across the Pacific was rescued a mere 65 nautical miles short of his goal – Australia – after rough weather sapped him of his final shreds of energy.

Alex Bellini, who began his voyage off Peru in February, contacted his wife Friday to say he was too exhausted to row his 25-foot boat any farther, despite being nearly in sight of the eastern Australian town of Laurieton.

Bellini’s wife contacted authorities, and an Australian tug boat towed the 30-year-old to shore. They reached Newcastle, 100 miles north of Sydney, Saturday morning.

Although looking weary and thin and sporting a bushy beard, Bellini grinned and appeared in high spirits as he was reunited with his tearful wife, Francesca.

“I’m feeling good. I’m exhausted,” Bellini said. “I need some time to relax.”

A strong wind had hampered his efforts to get closer to shore for days. By Friday, he said, his energy was gone. “For the next few days, the weather would have been even worse,” said Bellini, who has also rowed across the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. “It has been a grueling, grueling effort.”

Bellini said the journey was not about breaking records; he is not the first person to row solo across the Pacific and is not yet sure whether his trip is the longest solo journey. Instead, he said, the voyage was about testing his own limits. “The reasons of my trip was double. First of all was to cross the Pacific,” Bellini said. “But the other reason of my trip was making a trip inward. So it was discovering something of myself.”

Bellini used a satellite phone to keep in contact with those on land and survived on dried food and desalinated ocean water. He also used a small cooker to fry fish and to boil water for pasta. He found himself craving sweet foods – especially tiramisu and apple cake – and was looking forward to gorging on desserts.

The worst part of his journey was the loneliness and the longing he felt for his wife. But despite their 10 months apart, Bellini said it was as if no time had passed when they laid eyes on each other Saturday. The two plan to return to their home in Trieste, Italy, in about a week.

For now, Bellini has no immediate plans to return to the open ocean. “I miss my bed. I miss my home,” he said. “I need to go back and settle down.”

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