On June 14, 1998, I pushed off under quiet gray skies from Nags Head, N.C, in the American Pearl, a 23 foot long boat made of plywood and fiberglass. I planned to row 3,637 miles across the North Atlantic to France. I was alone. There were no chase vessels. No one planned to drop food or equipment to me along the way. The physical goal was easy to explain: I was attempting to do something no American and no woman had ever done - to row solo across an ocean.