CHATHAM >> Back in 2007, James Caple was captivated by a story about Roz Savage's attempt to row across the Pacific Ocean after she had successfully rowed from the Canary Islands to Antigua.
Caple realized he and Savage had a similar background. A management consultant and project manager providing information and software to financial institutions, Savage was also a college and club rower with a penchant for adventure.
Caple is a software engineer who also rowed in college, completed an Ironman triathlon and the Marine Corps Marathon, but really wanted to test his mettle on a solo trans-Atlantic row.
"I was just smitten with the idea at that point and I thought, 'If she could do it, why not me?"' he said.
Caple bought a gunning dory from a builder on Cape Cod. He brought it back to his home in Alexandria, Virginia, and attempted a long-distance row to Tangier Island in Chesapeake Bay, but everything went wrong. A second attempt, this time rowing with a friend, was not only successful but enjoyable.
"It occurred to me I'm probably best with a partner," Caple said, standing beside his girlfriend and rowing partner, Cindy Way, at the Ryders Cove boat ramp Wednesday afternoon.
Way and Caple are preparing to leave next week on what they hope will be the first successful west-to-east Trans-Atlantic row by a mixed pair.
Way, 41, who works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Maryland, also has a competitive streak. She caught the rowing bug at Tabor Academy in Marion and has been a competitive horse rider, run in sprint triathlons, and rowed for the Alexandria Community Rowing club, where she met Caple. In the 2016 Mid-Atlantic Erg Sprints, both rowed in a grueling 26.2 mile race, with Way taking the gold in the women's division and Caple, 47, who once trained for a spot on the U.S. national rowing team, winning bronze in the men's division.
The couple has been preparing for their first ocean crossing for nearly a year.
"He told me about the sport of ocean racing, which I didn't even know existed, and I thought it was the most amazing thing in the world," Way said. "I love the ocean, everything about it, and what better way to mesh everything, the beauty of nature, the sport of rowing, than to go across the ocean and really live."
Both have taken a leave of absence from their jobs. They used savings and credit cards for the $85,000 to $100,000 needed to finance the voyage, including $50,000 for a 24-foot-long vessel specifically made for long distance rowing that has been used in three successful Atlantic crossings. It has an enclosed section for storage in the bow and one for sleeping and refuge in storms in the stern. It's equipped with satellite communications and map plotting, as well as a desalination unit to produce fresh water. A New Hampshire company will supply them with vital weather forecasts and hopefully route them around the bad stuff.
"It's got good pedigree," Caple said about the vessel.
Although neither has any open ocean experience, they sought the advice of experts like the boat builder, Justin Adkin, and Savage, who is serving as their adviser and mentor on the trip. They spoke with the two British pairs of male rowers who successfully completed trans-Atlantic rows, leaving from New Jersey last summer.
"I think we have the book knowledge, we just need the real experience," Caple said.
Way had some concern for the size of the seas and the ferocity of the open ocean.
"I think it will be a lot bigger than we expect," Way said. "But the boat is made for this. It's made to cross the ocean, so I think the boat will keep us safe."
Way said they've packed food for 110 days, 20 more than they hope they'll need. Consultants told them Caple would need around 12,000 calories a day, four times what he is consuming on land, and Way would need about 7,000.
The pair are contemplating a departure on May 24 when they feel they might have the five-to-eight-day weather window with calm seas and a following wind to get them safely away from shore.
Both their families are part of their support team, but that doesn't mean they don't have concerns about what can be a hard, life-changing and potentially life-threatening experience.
"It was a long transition to have them come to acceptance," Way said about her family. "They have been incredibly supportive, financially, emotionally, physically."