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Sonya Baumstein, an athlete from Orlando, Florida, waited for weeks to set out in her custom-designed rowboat from Choshi, a port east of Tokyo, headed for San Francisco. With a few last-minute adjustments to her supplies and a brief call to her parents, she rowed out of the marina on Sunday, a tiny sliver on the glittering horizon, hoping to finish the 6,000-mile journey by late September and become the first woman to row solo across the Pacific. Only three other rowboats have made the journey, and no woman has ever done it alone.

Having already rowed the Atlantic to the Caribbean, the 29-year-old has a pretty clear idea of what all those weeks at sea will be like.  The best part of being on the ocean for weeks at a time, Baumstein said, is the stars. The worst? Being wet, all the time.  With relatively clear skies, she may get the peaceful, starry night she was hoping for. ‘It’s very cool to see wildlife, but to watch the passing of the stars, because I row all night if it’s good weather. To see the complete Milky Way,’ she said. It’s the paradox of modern-day adventuring that with new, extra-lightweight materials, solar panels and high-tech telecommunications, explorers and other extreme athletes can skate ever closer to survival’s edge, under skeins of stars most of us rarely see.

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