Waving goodbye to his friends and family, Jack thought he knew every danger he would face while rowing alone from Portugal to Miami. The appearance of one sharp-toothed predator would prove otherwise...
Twenty-eight-year-old Jack Jarvis was not like his peers. When he set his mind to something, nothing would get in his way. A soldier from Southampton, England, the young man was ready to take on anything.
So when he announced to his friends and family that he would be taking a break from the army and setting sail across the Atlantic Ocean, they reckoned that if anyone could do it, it was Jack. "Mentally and physically, he's a cut above," his friend told WPBF 25 News.
Jack's goal was simple, really. He wanted to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean from Portugal to Miami and break a Guinness World Record by doing so. While a few had done so before him, he was looking to be the first person to go from mainland Europe to mainland North America completely unsupported.
The distance between the port in Lagos, Portugal, and Miami, Florida measured around 4500 nautical miles across the open ocean. After much research and thorough logistical preparations, Jack concluded that he could complete the task in ninety days. Now, it was time to prepare.
For Jack, it wasn't just about the broken records and athletic achievements; he had another motivational factor in play for achieving his goal. Knowing the challenge would impress people greatly, he knew he would be able to raise significant funds for charity. His chosen charity was Brainstrust.
This UK-based charity "believe in a world where people with a brain tumor and their loved ones are involved, resourced, confident and connected." They "provide personalized support and build resources that help people with a brain tumor and their loved ones live the life they want after diagnosis."
A Personal Connection
Brainstrust held a special place in Jack's heart because of his personal connection to the charity. In 2007, Jack's grandfather, John 'Budgie' Stratton, passed away after suffering from a brain tumor. Talking to The Mirror, he described the close bond they shared.
"I was very close with my grandad. My mum and dad split up when I was very young, only about three or four. So we lived with my grandma and my grandad for the first part of my life. He was the first male figure I knew. He was a really funny guy, really caring, an awesome bloke who was taken far too early."
Because he had first-hand experience of the negative impacts of brain cancer, Jack fully grasped the importance of the work that Brainstrust did. With this in mind, he believed it would push him to do whatever he needed to complete the challenge and raise the necessary money.
Moreover, with memories of his grandfather at the forefront of his mind, he knew he couldn't quit and let him down. "I will always think about my grandad - he battled a brain tumor for three years before he passed away. If he can do that, rowing across the Atlantic seems quite easy if you ask me," he told The Mirror.
Ready for Anything
Jack was not naive. He knew that he did not possess the necessary skills to travel across the sea alone. The most pressing fact was that he had very little rowing experience. He had a passion for the sport and had won some rowing competitions, but he had not clocked in enough hours to be able to row for ninety days straight.
The people around him were also concerned about this fact, questioning his abilities to make it. "People say, 'you've never rowed an ocean before. How do you expect to do it?'" he told The Daily Star in the days leading up to the row. While this was true, Jack believed his other life experiences had prepared him for anything.
"I may not have rowed an ocean before, but I've certainly tested my mental capacity and robustness, desire and determination in other environments, so it's definitely helped," he said to The Daily Star. Of course, by this, he was referring to his time in the army.
Having joined the Army at 16 and served with three Commando Brigades, his body had been trained to a high level from an early age. Furthermore, the missions he went on while on duty exposed him to nature's elements and taught him how to survive on the bare minimum.
Not His First Rodeo
In an effort to further back up his credibility, Jack gave examples of specific missions he believes set him up for the Atlantic Ocean expedition. "My commando course – the famous 30 miles over Dartmoor – that was definitely tough," he told The Daily Star.
"Deployments to Norway where if you're not properly prepared the weather conditions will kill you, you've got to be tough out there as well. And operating in the jungle is a very unforgiving environment, whether that be Caribbean jungle or in Brunei. I've tasted the delights of mother nature, we shall say."
The Preparation Begins
As confident as he was that he had what it took to make it across the Ocean, Jack understood that his body needed to be in the best shape of his life. So, he set out to create a grueling training program for himself. For the next two years, he would train his mind, body, and soul.
Six days a week, Jack set aside a minimum of two hours to train. "The training has been fun, don't get me wrong, it's been tough, mentally and physically, but nothing I haven't prepared for. I'm chipping away at the coal face," he laughed while talking to The Daily Star.
Expecting The Unexpected
Despite his intense physical training, Jack was aware of the issues that could arise where physical strength was an irrelevant component. "A lot of the things that really worry me are out of my control," he admitted to The Mirror in the days leading up to the departure date.
"Those sort of things are marlin strikes, where a marlin's bill pierces the bottom of the boat. That happened twice last season to two four-man team. But those things are out of my control, so why waste energy worrying about them?" Was there anything about the expedition that he truly feared?
His One Fear
Despite his confidence, he admitted that there was one part of the trip that did concern him. "At the moment, there's a rogue pod of Orcas off the south coast of Spain that are biting the rudders off small vessels. And shipping containers that have fallen off ships worry me," he told The Mirror.
"They come along and won't be on your AIS [ship tracking system,] which then whack your boat, and that'd be you - your boat would be written off." In light of these incidents, the Spanish Government declared that the area was an official no-go zone. Frighteningly for Jack, this was part of his route.
3rd December 2021: the big departure date had arrived. Surrounded by his friends and family, Jack stepped onto the boat that would be his home for the next few months. He smiled proudly as he looked at the name engraved on the side of the boat - 'budgie' after his beloved grandfather.
Of course, his family was concerned about his safety, but they kept it in for the send-off. "When I told my mum, she said, 'You're trying to give me an 'f-ing' heart attack.' I said, 'I plan to make it, mum, don't worry.' My parents have been worried, but on top of that, they've been a great support," he told The Daily Star.
Stripped Down to the Basics
As one would expect, living on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean doesn't exactly scream a life of luxury. Of course, this is dependent on the boat size and its facilities. So, what did Jack have on board the Budgie? In terms of entertainment, he had his phone for audiobooks and music.
As for the necessities, he kept things very basic. "A £24 bucket from the chandlery is what I'll be going on, that'll be my throne!" he told The Mirror before take-off. "I'm using just a bucket of seawater, do my business and chuck it over the side; no creature comforts, certainly no bidet on board."
A "Disciplined" Diet
Being out in the middle of the ocean means no land and, of course, no grocery stores. So the question on everyone's mind is what Jack did for food for 90+ days at sea? He had some biscuit packets and instant coffee sachets, but he would need nutritious food to sustain him on the strenuous journey.
According to the BBC, his diet mainly consisted of freeze-dried meals and snacks. At the halfway point, he told GB News, he had begun to ration his chocolate digestives biscuit supply, realizing he otherwise wouldn't have enough to get him through to the end. "I've had to be really disciplined!"
Life at Sea
Life at sea may sound relaxing, but it is far from so. An insight into an average day for Jack while on the Atlantic reveals that he would awake at 5 a.m. every day and begin a gruelling day of physically intense tasks. Jack told The Mirror he would do cycles of three hours of rowing followed by one hour off until midnight.
"Even in time off, it’s not just time to sleep - the boat needs maintaining," he told The Mirror. "Like making sure the bottom is free of barnacles, so you go quicker. You’ve got to cook all your food and use your desalination pump to make the salt water into drinking water." Exhausting stuff.
The Halfway Point
To mark the occasion of rowing halfway across his chosen destination, Jack spoke to GB News from his satellite phone. "Morale and my mental state are high! Even though we've had setbacks, and it looks like it will take a little bit longer, I knew it would be tough, hence why no one has done it before!"
Jack also pre-recorded a video message for the news channel. "Day 49, week 7 update! The rowing has been tough, but it's been tough for 7 weeks!" he revealed. "I am currently over 1,000 nautical miles from any land, which means I am closer to the International Space Station than land," he told the BBC.
A Special Message
But the biggest surprise of all came when famous English footballer David Beckham recorded a good luck video for Jarvis. "Hey, Jack, it's David Beckham here. So I've heard all about your epic row, and I wanted to wish you luck as you reach this halfway point," he said to the camera.
"What you are doing is truly inspirational, and I wish you all the best as you attempt to break this world record. Good luck!" Upon receiving this message, Jack was "absolutely buzzing," later posting it to his personal YouTube channel titled "the one and only David Beckham."
Lurking Beneath the Waters
As mentioned, Jack had feared having to enter the no-go zone. There was no telling what those killer whales would do to his small boat. For this reason, when Jack realized he had passed through the area unscathed and was over 100 miles away from Portugal, he was incredibly relieved.
Unfortunately, this sense of relief would soon prove to be slightly premature. He may have successfully passed through the killer whale-infested waters, but there were other dangerous creatures lurking ahead. They even possessed some of the same features as the Orca...
"Like a Jaws Moment"
Sure enough, as he continued rowing through the Atlantic Ocean, Jack noticed a fin sticking out slightly beyond the water. Confident the violent killer whales were behind him, he stuck around to get a good look and investigate further. That was when he made a chilling discovery: it was a shark.
Speaking to The Daily Star, he recounted the events. "I saw some incredible wildlife, a shark. It was a white tip oceanic shark," he said. "I was rowing along, and I saw this fin in the water; it was almost like a Jaws moment, you know you see it stalking the boat, it was really exciting."
An Unexpected Move
While most of us would begin to panic and row away from the terrifying creature, Jack went for a different approach. Incredibly excited about the encounter, he decided to stick around and explore further. He knew he'd want to recount this story to his family and friends, so he needed proof...
In a moment's decision, he stuck his hand inside the water, gripping onto his GoPro camera as he did so. "It was stalking the boat," he told The Daily Star, "I was able to get some good pictures of it." Of course, when he showed off the footage, everyone thought he was "mental."
Fight or Flight
What was he thinking? Did he have some sort of death wish? Recalling the events to The Daily Star, Jack attempted to explain the rationale behind his controversial decision to stick his hand in the water and not row away as fast as he possibly could.
"I thought as long as I could keep an eye on him and not let him out of my sight, I felt pretty safe because I figured if he got any closer than I'd like, I'd just get my hand out of the water," he told them. But what would happen next would prove to be even more surprising...
A Mutual Fright
Based on the horrifying attacks we've seen in the Jaws movies, we were under the impression that Great White Sharks never back down from a fight. However, in the case of Jack's sharp-toothed friend, he did not seem to be as aggressive as his Hollywood friends.
In fact, according to Jack, the shark was as surprised to see him as he was. "It hung around for about five to 10 minutes and then shot off. It's probably not often a shark sees an ocean rowing boat, so it was as surprised to see me as I was to see it," he told The Daily Star.
“It Hit My Boat”
Relieved the encounter was behind him, Jack continued to row across the Atlantic Ocean, hoping the rest of the journey would be smooth. However, he was soon hit by another bump in the road - metaphorically and physically. He jumped when a strange force rocked his boat.
"I didn't know what it was when it was underwater," Jack told The Daily Star. "It hit my boat, and the boat basically rocked, and I was like, that's not a wave. You get used to knowing what it feels like to go over a wave, and this was different." So what was it this time?
Another Wildlife Interaction
Yet again, another sea creature had come to say hello to the mysterious man on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. This time, Jack looked below and saw "the grey sort of marlin outline." "I started GoPro-ing, and it was when I looked at the footage I was like 'wow, a marlin,'" he recalled to The Daily Star.
Again, rather than fear the unknown outcome, Jack was grateful for the once-in-a-lifetime experience. "I was really happy to catch that on video because not many people see them. It was strange because obviously, it bumped into the boat, and I was like, 'what is that?' it was a sensation."
The Final Hurdle
Setting his mind back on the waters ahead, Jack refocused his efforts on the finishing line. However, the final 36 hours would prove to be more difficult than anything he had tackled so far - pushing him to the absolute limit. "There was a current from south to north, and the wind was very aggressive," he told Lad Bible.
"It was so intense," he told GB News. "The weather, the currents around the straits of Florida were so strong I can't describe. I missed my first landing point and was blown ten miles off the coast. I couldn't get into the inland. I had to row another 30 miles up to Saint Lucie."
An Emotional Return
Not one to give up without a fight, Jack persevered. And after 111 days at sea, he rowed his last few feet into the South Florida port. In the distance, he could see his friends and family excitedly waving as he traveled toward them. "It was relief and joy to see everyone. A whole host of emotions!"
In an interview with GB News, Jack described the momentous welcome he received. "All my friends and family were there. My mum and my dad were crying. My best friend as well was there in floods of tears. It was awesome to see!" It was truly a sight to be seen.
He had done the unimaginable. Doing what no person before him had dared to do, he had successfully achieved his goal of rowing across the Atlantic Ocean from Portugal to Miami. Overcoming every obstacle that came his way, he never backed down from fulfilling his dreams.
Not only had he completed his personal goal, but he had officially beaten a Guinness World Record as the first person to row the 4500 nautical miles between Portugal and Miami. In recognition of this, he would be rewarded $63,000 in prize money. But first, there was something more important than money on his mind...
Back to Reality
After 111 days of living on frozen meals, one can only imagine the food he dreamed of during those long days and nights alone at sea. Just moments after stepping back onto dry land, everyone wanted to know what he had chosen to eat for his first real meal in a while.
Rather than opting for a Michelin-star restaurant, Jack went for fast food. "My first meal was a burger and chips, which was incredible, and then I washed it down with two chocolate milkshakes, a bottle of Corona, and a can of Coke, so a bit weird combination drinks-wise, but it tasted amazing."
Reflecting On The Journey
After his stomach had been refilled and he had enjoyed a good night's sleep in a real bed, it was time for Jack to reflect on the incredible journey he had been on. "I'm on cloud nine right now. With the right mindset, anything and everything is possible," he told the BBC.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself, especially in those last 36 hours," he told GB News. "To have achieved what I set out to do is amazing, and it makes all those hard days at sea missing family and friends worthwhile. My grandfather would be incredibly proud of my achievements, as are the rest of my family."
Now that this incredible mission has been achieved and Jack is back on dry land, will he be settling back into a more traditional lifestyle? Definitively not! Within months of returning, he has already set his next goal. This time? It's a six-day hike, climbing Italy's highest mountain, Gran Paradiso.
"On the 25th of September, I'll be starting my first ultra marathon, 250km race through the Atacama desert. Looking forward to sharing my training and the journey with you all. It's gonna be tough, but I'm looking forward to sharing it with you guys!" he wrote to his Instagram followers.