Bainbridge teacher nears goal of rowing from San Diego to Honolulu

SEATTLE -- A Bainbridge Island school teacher is about a week away from being the first man to row and kite across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii.

Rory Wilson left San Diego 38 days ago, headed for Honolulu in a 21-foot boat. The high school math teacher is determined to become the first person to row and kite the distance.

"If you really want to do something, you ought to just really go for it," he said.

Wilson was well on his way -- about 350 miles from Hawaii -- when reached by phone on Friday.

"Getting close now," he said. "Fortunately no real scares, but it's been a great learning experience."

Shortly after he left San Diego, strong winds blew him directly south and almost right into the path of a tropical storm. But with some persistent rowing west and the help of a trade wind, he made his way toward Hawaii.

Wilson has only been able to use his kites for the past week and a half. Before that, he had to rely solely on his rowing.

His boat is a KROS, an acronym for kayak, row, ocean, solar. On board, he has a stash of food, a narrow seven-foot waterproof sleeping quarter with bullet-proof glass and a solar panel to charge his GPS and satellite phones. The boat also has a reverse-osmosis system, which allows him to safely drink ocean water.

"It's been a challenge physically," said Wilson. "I've been running burn rates about 6,000 calories a day."

These days, Wilson is a floating Buddhist. It is that mentality that makes him strong, says his brother Shane Wilson, who updates the sailor's daily progress on the KROS Facebook page.

"Even rowing -- purely rowing -- he's doing 70 plus miles a day. I couldn't be more pleased with it," said Shane Wilson.

Rory Wilson prepared for 100 days at sea, but he believes he'll finish the course in just 43 days, arriving in Honolulu on Nov. 1.

"I wouldn't want to do it week after week, after week for several more weeks," he said. "I'd be happy to go for a walk on the beach."

But the trickiest portion of the challenge still lies ahead of him. If he doesn't play the winds just right, he could miss Hawaii entirely.