Thursday, November 25, 1999

E-mail follows Kentuckian on Atlantic rowing attempt




BY LINDA STAHL
The Courier-Journal

        In Heidelberg, Germany, a woman named Tina sits in her office, looks out on a snowy landscape and e-mails Louisville rower Tori Murden: “Hope for you to reach Guadeloupe before Christmas. Would be the best present you would ever get.”

        That, like the hundreds of other e-mail messages posted on Ms. Murden's Internet Web site — some touching, some funny, some inspiring — show the global connections being made by the 36-year-old woman who is attempting to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean.If she makes it, she will be the first woman and first American to row solo across an ocean.

        The “Messages from Supporters” section of Ms. Murden's Web site (www.adept.net/americanpearl) covers more than 50 pages, representing about 85 percent of the messages that have been sent. Some are not posted because they are too personal.

        While concentrated in Kentucky and Indiana, Ms. Murden's followers are scattered around the globe, as illustrated by messages from an Irish rowing club, readers of a Russian magazine and a family in Oahu, Hawaii.

        Some of the e-mail messages are written by acquaintances of Ms. Murden. But most come from strangers who feel they've gotten to know her by following news accounts or reading her “Letters from the Edge.”

        They're drawn to Ms. Murden, whether it's to the reflective soul who writes both amusing and philosophical letters from her 23-foot boat, the American Pearl, or to the gutsy athlete who rows for 10 to 12 hours a day, weather permitting.

        (Ms. Murden left the Canary Islands in mid-September on her east-to-west trip. She hopes to arrive in Barbados in December. In 1998, she attempted a west-to-east trip but had to be rescued after her boat was battered by Hurricane Danielle.)

        A member of the Cork Rowing Club in Ireland wrote on the occasion of the club's 100th anniversary to express a “lot of respect” and urged her to enjoy the celebration when she lands.

        Alexander Poleschuk, who identified himself as an editor and former rower in the Arctic Ocean and Sea of Japan, reported that readers of a Russian magazine, Vokrugsveta (Around the World) are captivated by her “brave” voyage.

        In Oahu, Brian, Mary and Andrea Knapp are pulling for Ms. Murden. They wrote, “You will do it.”

        Ms. Murden hasn't gotten to see most of the e-mail because it would drain the limited power sources on her boat, but all of it will be waiting for her when she gets back.

        Many of the correspondents say they're tracking her journey because of links they have with something in her life: Rowing. Seamanship. Attending law or divinity school. (Ms. Murden has a master's degree in divinity from Harvard University and a law degree from the University of Louisville.) Some have been on a challenging adventure themselves, like the writer who described running 3,000 miles at high altitude along the Himalayas.

        Others are strictly armchair adventurers living Ms. Murden's experience vicariously. Some said they live in retirement communities or described themselves as “se niors” who are watching her progress along with friends.

        Bill Colvin, who signs his e-mails “#1 fan Okolona Bill,” has written often. Like many others, he recently sent encouraging words as Ms. Murden faced winds associated with Hurricane Lenny. “Remember, a lot of people are praying for you,” he wrote. “You may feel very insignificant. Just a tiny speck on a huge ball floating in space. But the world is all watching and waiting. To the world, you are as big as life.”

        John Sneed of Clarksville, Tenn., whose son is a missionary in another country, wrote to Ms. Murden: “He is in the middle of his own personal adventure, too. I can almost hear some of your thoughts in your solitude. I once read a quote that I will leave with you ... "A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what it was built for.' My best to you.”

        Louisville resident Eleanor Flagler Hardy, a Girl Scout leader for 10 years, wrote: “Every girl I know is following your story, and we all wish you well.”

        Carla G. McIntyre-Kirby, who described herself as a “dreamin' landlubber in Louisville,” wrote: “Logging on to your Web site and reading your entries has become as important a part of my daily morning ritual as my chocolate milk and the WHAS radio traffic report.”

        Kentucky writers often identify their community — Louisville, Okolona, Fern Creek, St. Matthews, Pewee Valley, La Grange, Jeffersontown, Prospect, Goshen, Hopkinsville, Lexington, Brownsville, Shelbyville and Campbellsville. Hoosiers root for Ms. Murden, too, writing from towns that include Clarksville, Jeffersonville, Floyds Knobs and Corydon.

        Maria Schulz of Floyds Knobs, who is recovering from a car accident, wrote that she draws inspiration from Ms. Murden's second attempt to row across the Atlantic: “I think that you had already conquered the Atlantic when you decided to try again after your devastating last attempt.”

        “P.P.” of Louisville, wrote: “I know you have read this a hundred times already but your journey has been such an inspiration to me. You see, I am rowing across my own Atlantic Ocean, called thyroid cancer. ... The weather, seas, injuries and uncertainty, insight, inspiration and loneliness you have experienced rowing have coincided similarly with what the last 12 weeks have brought me. ... I find it quite profound the way your journey is by choice, mine by complete accident.”

        Another writer, “Bob in La Grange” wrote: “I admire your courage and stamina to tackle such a huge task. I live in Kentucky now but used to live in North Carolina and have been following your adventure since your attempt from North Carolina.”

        (Last June, Ms. Murden launched her boat in Nags Head, N.C., when she made her west-east attempt.)

        Mary, 14, of Louisville, thinks Ms. Murden is raising Kentucky's public image. “Everybody here is proud of you. You don't ever hear much about Kentucky that's good. I am very glad that someone from here does something to be proud of. I am keeping you in my prayers.”

       



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