Zimbabwe, Zambia

Kariba & Middle Zambezi

Facebook  Pinterest  Twitter

The inaugural Kariba Moon Row

The inaugural Kariba Moon Row

The inaugural Kariba Moon Row

A strong joint UK/Zambian team, sponsored by Parmigiani, took three rowing boats and covered the 250km length of Lake Kariba in August. The team rowed continuously through the day and night, supported by a house boat from Lake Kariba Inns, a landing craft and two tender boats.


The team rowed by the light of a ‘supermoon’, undertaking the challenge to raise money for Conservation Lower Zambezi and Village Water, two charities focusing on wildlife conservation and the need for fresh water in rural villages. The team successfully completed the challenge in 34 ½ hours.


The ‘Moon Row’ began at sunrise at the mouth of the Zambezi River as it opens out into Lake Kariba. A large crocodile was seen at the start point so the crews waited for it to pass before being given a formal start with the dropping of the Moon Row Flag. 


The row started well with the boats getting speed up to 11.5km/h by 09.00, and the Katanda hill gap was passed an hour ahead of schedule at 10.00; however the joy was shortlived. As the boats pulled through the gap, they were hit with a strong headwind and big waves; speed rapidly dropped off and by midday the boats were only doing 2.4km/h as they rowed into a 20km/h wind.


The combination of wind and waves caused the auto-bailers to fail, and crews had to stop rowing every 8-10 minutes to desperately bail out water to stop the boats from sinking.


To everyone’s relief conditions improved as the temperature started to drop, and by 16.00 the boat speed had picked up to 9.5km/h as the crews passed Binga on the Zimbabwe side of the lake. As the crew rowed past Chete Island at 20.30 they maintained a speed of 8km/h, lit by a bright and mystical full moon. For a while conditions improved, but they worsened again around midnight. 


The team was extremely tired, but morale was maintained by an almost constant supply of good and hot food on board the house boat. By 03.30 very heavy conditions reduced the boat speed to 4.8km/h, and the boats were again filling with water. It was difficult to see the safety lights on the life jackets of the rowers, and each team member was soaking wet. 


As dawn rose, conditions improved briefly and by 09.00 the team passed Nkotankota. By 12.30 the boat speed had risen to 16km/h in the final 40km push to the finish at Siavonga, now followed by a flotilla of press, families and supporters. The crews surged into the bay at Siavonga where a finish line had been created and crowds lining the banks cheered as the sun set on the exhausted rowers for the second time. The Moon Row was over, but an international competition had just been born.


The Parmigiani team were:

Rachael Beaumont

Anastasia Chitty (the youngest British woman to row across the lake aged 22)

Tim Cook

Louise Cook (the first midwife to row across the lake)

Jamie Cook

Robbie Cook (the youngest Brit to row across the lake age 17)

Nick Middleton

IzaNalondwa (the first Zambian woman to row across the lake)

KalungaNgosa (the youngest Zambian to row across the lake aged 16)

Hamish Roots

Wonga Silondwa

The Reverend James Stephenson (the first vicar to row across the lake)

Dermod Sweeney (the oldest person to row across the lake aged 67)

Alex Woods (the first doctor to row across the lake)

More from this issue:

Zambezi Traveller (September 2014)