Ninety-four days and about 90 percent through his one-man rowing adventure from Miami to New York City, Lewis Colam made a one-night pit stop in Cape May County on June 5.
The 24-year-old resident of Plymouth, England, docked his 15-foot open-decked rowboat in Cape May at about 7 p.m. and spent the night with 25-year-old Dan McCann, of Sea Isle City.
The next morning he headed back to the waters of Cape May to pick up his boat and row onward to New York City. He expected to reach his target of New York City on June 12, finishing at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on the Hudson River after 101 straight and solo days on the water.
The rowboat was his bed, closet and food cupboard for most of the trip. It held a bag of clothing, some nonperishable food and water, a life preserver, a cell phone and a real-time GPS, so people could track his progress and whereabouts via his website, iamfinechal
lenge.org/wp/. He also posted pictures and a daily audio diary onto his website.
Colam's reason for rowing was to raise awareness and funding for Alzheimer's disease, with his proceeds going to the International Alzheimer's Research Foundation. His ex-girlfriend's grandmother had Alzheimer's, and he's rowing in her honor.
"I've just never seen a disease that affects someone's mind like that," Colam said.
He chose to row in America, he said, because America is the land of opportunity.
"People here are so receptive to challenges, to living one's dreams, to donating to charity," Colam said.
Standing at the Cape May docking point on the evening of June 5, waiting on Colam's arrival, was McCann. McCann said he had never met Colam before but has been tracking his journey via the website and said he understood the impact of strangers' support on such a journey.
In summer of 2009, McCann, a former SIC lifeguard and a 2009 graduate of St. Joseph's University, where he was a member of its crew team, and four of his friends - James O'Donoghue, Ryan Meyer, John Lose and Larry Maher - rowed 1,500 miles from Boca Raton, Fla., to Sea Isle City to raise money for autism through an event called Rock The Boat For Autism. They raised about $30,000, which they dispersed to autism organizations.
Meyer, Lose and Maher are former Wildwood lifeguards and O'Donoghue rowed with McCann in college.
McCann said the midway supporters in the towns they stopped in boosted their moral and gave them the motivation to keep going. So he was paying it forward with Colam.
During the Cape May stop, Colam said he was sensing the end is nearing. "It's so much in sight," and his rowboat was also starting to fall apart. "Bit by bit the whole thing is going to pieces," he said. But he had no doubt that neither he nor the boat will give up.
"To be honest, I'm just so proud of it because it's gone so far with me," Colam said.
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