Philip B. Petersen Collection - Rosie Swale-Pope
The Philip B. Petersen
Lady Mariner Rosie Swale
Radio amateur Rosie Swale, VJ4RS, a mother of two, wanted to be the first woman to sail alone in a small boat from England across the Atlantic to America. She also wanted to publicize the plight of cancer victims and to help raise funds for the Royal Marsden Hospital in London. Her girlfriend had recently succumbed to cancer.
She left Pembrooke, Wales on the 13th of July, 1983, in her small 17-foot sailboat that was equipped with a small amateur radio set that was powered by a windmill generator. She sailed by way of the Azores and Caribbean Islands. Radio Amateurs Art Carstensen, K2BSJ, Walter Emerich, W2ELM, and Peter Fiore, K2VIP, on Staten Island as well as many other radio amateurs kept daily radio contacts with Rosie, plotting her course positions each day.
Rosie said, "At about 100 miles north of Puerto Rico, the wind stopped and I was becalmed for a week and was slowly running out of food and water. Thoughts of dying of starvation were hard to keep from thinking about." Finally, the winds came. Rosie nearly lost her life several times when she was swept overboard. She encountered many storms; the most severe was off the coast of the Carolinas when she had to lash herself to the deck of the boat. "The windmill generator was damaged and soon the storage battery died and I was completely without power to operate the amateur radio set and navigation lights," she said. Without navigation lights she had to stay awake during the nights to avoid being hit by other ships. Even in broad daylight, she narrowly avoided disaster when a large ship barely missed her as she frantically tried to get out of its way.
With her radio set not working, the radio amateurs alerted the Coast Guard who notified other ships, but about a week later Art Carstensen, K2BSJ, saw her small boat off the Jersey coast and notified a number of radio amateurs who gave her a warm welcome upon arrival in Staten Island, New York, after completing her record-breaking 4,800 mile voyage in 70 days.
Rosie Swale, VJ4RS, attained her two goals. She became the first woman to sail alone in a small boat across the Atlantic Ocean and, as a result of her voyage, she raised funds to help get a CAT scan for a London hospital.
January 10, 1990
** Broadcasts recordings preserved and presented here by Mr. Robert Buss and Mr. Bernie Ricciardi, Phil's friends and fellow Marconi Chapter 138 QCWA members **
Page updated January 12, 2004 page created June 11, 2001