SAN JUAN COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – A team of New Mexico first responders has finished a boat race across the Atlantic Ocean. Team Guardian crossed the finish line in Antigua last week and say they’re happy to be back on land.      

“The feeling when we stepped off on land after, you know, 51 or 52 days was amazing, a little wobbly,” explained Captain Mark Pfetzer. 

Team Guardian said their journey across the Atlantic Ocean was difficult but memorable. The crew of former and current first responders from San Juan County was part of the “Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge.”

Captain Mark Pfetzer and Lieutenant Jarrod Slindee are the founders of “Guardian Initiatives”, a nonprofit raising mental health awareness for first responders. Along with retired Sergeant Mike Hogue, they rowed more than 3,000 miles from the U.K. to Antigua in the Caribbean. 

“You know, there’s the sleep deprivation and mental exhaustion that was obviously a challenge, but there’s nothing really you can do other than just keep rowing,” said Lieutenant Slindee. 

Slindee said each team member only slept about two hours at a time because someone always had to be rowing. Slindee claimed he lost 27 pounds on the 52-day trip. Mark and Mike each lost about 20 pounds. Team Guardian said they faced torrential downpours and strong winds throughout the journey. 

“There were many times we said, “why are we doing this?” and I even threw it out there verbally multiple times, like who’s idea was this and I remembered it was mine,” said Captain Pfetzer. 

The group said, despite the challenges, they wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world. However, Pfetzer said he’s got only one regret. 

“I had about seven bags of dehydrated green chili from the Fresh Chili Company, and I gave Mike and Jarrod a bag, and I ate it all. As a matter a fact, if I were to row again, I would probably triple down on the green chili I brought,” said Captain Pfetzer. 

Team Guardian said they have a potential buyer for the boat. The money will go towards the nonprofit fundraiser. Team Guardian said they’re planning their next project, but boat races are not in the plans.