Retired rugby player Damian Browne of Galway, Ireland, became the first person to row from New York City to Ireland after his boat made a treacherous arrival on the coast of County Galway in the early morning hours of Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, Irish broadcaster RTE reported.
Browne left New York City on June 14 in his Cushlamachree, a 20-foot ocean rowing boat that was custom-built for this journey.
The term “Cushlamachree” means “darling” or “sweetheart” in Irish, according to Merriam-Webster.
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This is the second time Browne has rowed across the Atlantic, although it was the first time he went east.
In 2018, he rowed from San Sebastian, Spain, to the Caribbean island of Antigua. In another adventure, Browne also climbed Mount Everest last year, according to Browne’s personal website.
Browne’s boat made a treacherous arrival on the coast of County Galway in the early morning hours of Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. (iStock)
Browne was joined at first by his friend Fergus Farrell; but Farrell suffered a medical emergency just 13 days into the planned 65-day voyage at sea. He had to be evacuated from the craft, said RTE.
This left Browne completely alone for the remaining 98 days that he was out at sea.
He documented the journey on his Instagram and Twitter accounts.
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The two friends decided to embark on the journey, which they called “Project Empower 2022,” in order to “give kids and adults alike a real image [and] a touchable action to emulate and inspire them to dream big in whatever avenue of life they decide to pursue,” according to the Project Empower 22 website.
The pair is fundraising for Ability West, Galway Simon Community, MADRA and the NRH Foundation — all charities — according to the website.
Their websites indicate that Ability West is a charity that aims to help those with intellectual disabilities; the Galway Simon Community supports vulnerable populations in West Ireland; MADRA is a dog rescue in County Galway; and the NRH Foundation supports Ireland’s National Rehabilitation Hospital.
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A donation link on the Project Empower 2022 website shows that the pair have raised about $68,000 since June 2022.
Browne was completely alone for a total of 98 days at sea; he documented the journey on his Instagram and Twitter accounts. (iStock)
The choice of charities was personal for Browne and Farrell.
Farrell suffered a spinal cord injury in 2018 and was initially paralyzed from the waist down, said Project Empower’s website.
A year after he was injured, Farrell walked 128 miles (206 kilometers) from his home in County Galway to the National Rehabilitation Hospital.
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Browne had planned on rowing into Galway Docks at the conclusion of his journey, but Mother Nature had other — and nearly deadly — plans.
“Unfortunately I ended up on some rocks in Furbo on the north shore of Galway Bay at around 1 a.m. — it was a very tense and stressful night,” he told the Irish Examiner, a daily publication.
Sharp winds forced his boat off course and into rocks, endangering his life and damaging the boat.
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“The boat was hit with the wash from a heavy wave, it turned itself and the wave flipped me over and broke one of my oars,” Browne added.
After crawling out of the Cushlamachree and finding refuge on a large rock, he contacted a member of his land support team, which then called emergency services.
State police officers from three different nearby municipalities came to his swift aid, said the Examiner.
Shown is Mount Everest. Browne climbed to the top of it last year — in another outdoor adventure of his. (Getty Images)
Browne detailed the mental and physical challenges associated with his 5,000 kilometer (3,106.86 miles) trek across the Atlantic to RTE.
“The North Atlantic is very changeable, and every change I seemed to get was negative,” he said, explaining that a 15-minute rest could undo hours of work due to the intense winds.
“For months it ended up like that,” he said. “If it wasn’t counter currents, it was headwinds on the second half.”
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Browne said that he had so many adverse conditions, “it was just a fight basically the whole way along.”
Despite the last-second setback, Browne expressed gratitude for the support of his community. He said he had “accomplished what I wanted to, and I’m safe and I’m uninjured, and I have had an incredible reception,” The Irish Times reported.
Shown here is the New Jersey shore. “The North Atlantic is very changeable, and every change I seemed to get was negative,” said Browne. (iStock)
“I’m a little bit taken back by it,” he said after arriving at the Galway docks, the Times noted.
“Up to three days ago I hadn’t seen a person in 98 days and I had a bit of trepidation about this moment, because of the overwhelming nature of seeing so many people, having been isolated from people for so long — and it is just great to be welcomed home by so many,” Browne also said.
“I want to thank everyone who has come out to meet me and I want to also thank all the people who supported me online.”
“I want to thank everyone who has come out to meet me and I want to also thank all the people who supported me online, all the messages of support along the way, when I was at my deepest and darkest moments of despair, of which there were plenty,” he continued.
“All I had to do was put on the phone and know there [were] these people connected to me and I didn’t feel so lonely,” he added.
“All I can say, from the bottom of my heart, is ‘thank you.'”
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His friend Farrell was at the Galway docks for Browne’s reception.
He, too, was thankful that his friend was safe.
“I’m just relieved that Damo is home, as I had left him alone out in the middle of the ocean,” he said to the Times.