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Tech at sea: All of the gear one rower hauled across an ocean

See the gadgets Tori Murden McClure took on her solo rowing trip across the Atlantic.

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Megan Wollerton
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1 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Tori Murden McClure was the first woman -- and the first American -- to row solo across the Atlantic. 

She completed the trip on December 3, 1999, after rowing 3,333 miles over 81 days. 2019 marks the 20-year anniversary of her solo row.

Now she's the president of Spaulding University in Louisville, Kentucky. She's pictured here with the same boat she used to cross the ocean two decades ago.

2 of 26 Courtesy of Spalding University

Tori's rowboat weighs 1,800 pounds and measures 23 feet long and six feet wide. She built it over several months with friends in Louisville.

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3 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Tori carried an emergency position-indicating radio beacon, commonly called an EPIRB, on her 23-foot boat. 

During an attempted trip across the Atlantic in 1998, she got caught in a series of hurricanes and other bad weather that damaged her boat and led to some injuries. 

She used the EPIRB to alert a rescue crew to her location and she was picked up by a nearby container ship called the Independent Spirit. She spent a total of 85 days alone at sea, but didn't reach the other coast. 

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4 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Some gadgets fared better than others. 

This Sony Mavica MVC-FD7 digital camera, which she took on her 1998 trip, is covered in rust after an unfortunate, extended submersion in salt water. 

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5 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

A Motorola Iridium satellite phone, plus a Stratos subscription service, made it possible to communicate with people back home. 

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6 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

This Magellan GSC–100 was for sending and receiving text messages. ORBCOMM provided the satellite service.

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7 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Sony cameras on both trips let her document life on the boat, record herself and capture footage of whales and other things she spotted along the way.

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8 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The Plastimo Contest 130 compass is designed for boats. The company still sells this model today, although it looks a little different

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9 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

A regular compass was an important navigation tool.

"I know I had to find Europe, but I didn't have to find particular channels, so I just had to keep rowing east," Tori says. 

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10 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

To pass the time, she used a couple of Sony Walkmans on her 1998 rowing trip to listen to books on tape, recorded lectures and music.

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11 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

She upgraded to CD players for her second rowing trip in 1999.  

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12 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

It would take her 40 minutes of math using a sextant for navigation during her first trip, but she'd get her location to within about 100 miles. "I didn't want to trust my life to anything that required batteries," Tori says. 

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13 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

A handheld  Garmin GPS 38 served as another navigation device. 

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14 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Panels attached to the boat powered Tori's desalination system, which turned salt water into fresh drinking water.

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15 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

She also carried this Mitsubishi laptop with her as another form of communication. She used it to write emails through the satellite phone. 

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16 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

She didn't use this yellow laptop as much as the other one, because the Mitsubishi model was "smaller and easier to handle."

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17 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

A Backpack Bantam drive played CDs with instructions for using and repairing the equipment on her boat.

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18 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Hard cases made by OtterBox held some of her equipment. She likes Pelican cases, too, even though they're "heavy and hard to open with wet hands."

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19 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Tori cooked her meals in this MSR (Mountain Safety Research) bowl.

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20 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Tasco binoculars on both trips were for watching for whales and dolphins and nearby ships.   

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21 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

A Uniden very high frequency (VHF) radio let her communicate with nearby ships after her other communications failed during her first trip. 

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22 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

A socket wrench was essential for making repairs on her boat.

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23 of 26 Courtesy of Spalding University

On Dec. 3, 1999, Tori reached her final destination in Guadaloupe, after rowing 3,333 miles over 81 days. 

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24 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Tori has taken this Patagonia jacket on many of her adventures. 

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25 of 26 Courtesy of Spalding University

Tori was also the first woman and the first American to ski to the South Pole. 

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26 of 26 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The patch on her fleece reads: "1988-89 South Pole Overland Expedition, Antarctica."

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