Two British women in their 20s were attempting to row across the Atlantic Ocean, but instead landed in Bécancour, Que. after being rescued by a freighter 1,000 kilometres from their tropical destination.

After three months at sea, university students Hannah Lawton and Lauren Morton set foot on land early Sunday morning for the first time — but not where they had planned.

“Ten days ago we were in like 30 C, 35 C, and then we're like in -10 C, so it's crazy,” said Lauren Morton from Bécancour, Que., which is on the south side of the Saint Lawrence River, just opposite Trois-Rivières.

Morton and Lawton set off on a rowing challenge in honour of a friend who died of cervical cancer.

Their goal was to row from the Canary Islands, off the western coast of Africa, to Antigua in the West Indies — that’s 4,828 kilometres on the open ocean, with just four oars and no outside help.

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The crew of this Belgian cargo ship rescued the two British university students. (Radio-Canada)

“We had problem after problem with our boat.  We had a fire on board, one of our batteries blew up.  Our rudder came off which was the final straw, which meant we had to pack in,” said Lawton.

44 days adrift

The two spent 44 days drifting before being plucked from the sea by the crew of Belgian cargo ship Lowlands Opal.

“We were treated like royalty, really. Whatever we wanted to eat literally was brought to us all the time. We sat and watched movies, which compared to what we were like on our rowing boat, we had no entertainment, no luxuries, no food. So yeah, it was amazing … and the captain was really nice,” said Morton laughing.

The ship's captain, Sanjay Jolly said he’s an admirer, and he loved having them on board until the Lowlands Opal docked in Bécancour.

“Having these two beautiful ladies set off on an unbelievable task. If you ask me, it's crazy because I wouldn't even cross the river in a canoe.  This is beautiful,” said Jolly.

“It's all been a bit of a weird adventure.  The row seems so distant now, and it feels like we've been on this ship for a long time,” said Lawton.

The women will now spend a few days in Montreal before flying home.