All good things must come to an end
So unless you have no internet, don’t watch the TV nor listen to radio, have no friends or family or live in a cave, you’ll know we seem to have caused a bit of a stir in the UK! We are currently sat on a Cargo ship called Lowlands Opal bound for Canada, yes Canada. Now we know this isn’t quite the Caribbean, in fact far from it at -12 degrees but it seems our ability to be unlucky had its final strike on Monday 10th March. We aren’t quite sure why bad luck has been following us like a bad smell, although we did smell pretty bad according to the captain of the ship we are now on. So just to remind you of our run of bad luck, first of all the autohelm (autopilot) was trying to turn us back around as soon as the race started. Then, it snapped off a few days later, our compass always pointed us to 90 degrees east so was neither use nor ornament to us, the blocks that held our dagger board in, came off so we could no longer use it, we got stuck in various low pressure systems, one of our batteries set on fire burning a hole through our charts, we capsized, Lauren split her head open and then the rudder came off, the rod was dropped to the deep depths of the Atlantic, the support yacht came and the rudder they brought us didn’t fit and then the support yacht left and now we are on a 600+ft cargo ship….
The last time we sent a blog in we had 10 days left until the support yacht was due to arrive with us, these 10 days dragged themselves out like never before, the anticipation to have a fix became desperate and we spent our days dreaming of the finish, seeing friends and family and finally completing our challenge after 80 days already at sea. The support yacht arrived on the 20th February in the early hours of the evening. We spent most of the day in contact with the support yacht via VHF radioing them with our current position every couple of hours or so. They finally became visible on our horizon at around 6.30pm and the feeling was ecstatic! We were so giddy with excitement, especially when Maria the skipper radioed to say she had some Spanish cookies for us, the rudder case and rod.
It was decided that we would try and fit the rudder that evening, all of us hoping it would fit after over a 20 day wait. Then the mission began to get the rudder and supplies to us. This entailed Doug who we know as Gary after Maria always radioed us saying Gary was coming over, getting in an inflatable launch that was dragged behind the yacht, with another line trailing behind which myself and Lauren had to try and get hold of. The yacht, circled us like a shark, only a few feet away and getting hold of the rope in the swell and waves was easier said than done. We tried to hold in our laughter when Doug got launched out of the boat when a big wave hit, he was ok, just holding on for dear life. Lauren and I couldn’t contain our laughter. Finally, we got a hold of him and it was time to attempt to fit the eagerly awaited rudder! But, computer said noooooo, the rudder that came belonged to the Row2Recovery crew and low and behold the pin didn’t fit and nor did the case. Disappointment, dismay and disbelief struck us all. The yacht picked Doug back up as the night was closing in, and it was decided we would try a fix the next day. The next day came and they arrived back with us late afternoon, with the possible fixes they had been thinking of. Doug came back aboard with cables, tools and rope and we were going to try and lash the rudder case to the metal work on our boat. Again this was easier said than done in a swell and strong wind and it took over 3 hours just to lash it on, hanging out of the boat and in the water. That night it was decided that we would attach ourselves to the yacht and drift together to see if the rudder would hold. The next morning came and once again bad luck struck it was trailing behind flat in the water.
Next fix, two metal pins with bolts kindly donated by Maria. Once again we were hanging out of the back and in the water trying to attach the case with the pins, but after 1.5hours of getting the top pin in we attempted the bottom pin which was under the water line and the case and metal work didn’t line up, meaning that this fix wouldn’t work for us either. The support yacht then said they had no more options for us but they had to get going so we were given the ultimatum of leaving Sedulous and going back to Antigua with the yacht or staying with the boat and seeing if we could come up with more fixes. We felt that there were still some options for us and couldn’t leave the boat until we were sure we had tried every possible option to make a fix and finish the race. So the support yacht left, watching them leave felt very surreal, emotions had been a rollercoaster for us and after being on such a high, thinking the yacht would mean we could carry on, we plummeted back down with the realisation that it was not going to happen and it was down to us to try anything and everything to make a fix.
We managed to come up with a further 5 possible fixes which would mean we could continue.
- We had our rudder board and the pins Maria had given to us, we spent a whole day drilling, sawing, hammering to cut the carbon rudder so we could attach it to the metal work for the rudder. We waited 3 days for calmer weather to try and attach it, but it wasn’t having it. The rudder was so buoyant we couldn’t get it to hold under the water to allow us to attach any of the pins, we tried lashing it to hold, holding it with body weight in the water but nothing could get it into a position to allow us to fix it. Our final attempt Lauren made a rope handle system to try and get it to line up, but this then just ripped through the foam core of the rudder and it became un-usable, plus our drill had corroded, we were almost out of drill bits after most of them snapping on the carbon and only had 3 saw blades left out of 12 which meant we couldn’t even make another!
- To drill holes down our spare rudder board and attach it to Row2Recovery’s metal rod that we would lash onto the metal work on our boat. However, this never even became possible because of the drill corroding!!
- Attach metal rod by lashing with cable ties, rope and wire and then cable tying and lashing our old rudder case to the rod, This already had holes in after our attempt to make a fix before we dropped the rod and the yacht arrived. We attached the rod with anything and everything we had, including iPod cables. What was frustrating was that the rod held perfectly and was very tightly fitted, but the case was just ripped off the rod in the swell. We tried both the case and rudder and just the case, but neither lasted more than 5 minutes. The swell was just too powerful, and although we tried testing its durability on board by pulling and yanking, the Ocean is just powerful beyond measure and no place for a cable tie it would seem.
- & 5. Trailing ropes and drogues from the stern of our boat to act as our rudder in keeping us with the waves rather than being side on to them, thus allowing us to row. This in theory should of worked, but the swell was always either a cross or the waves were pushing the wrong way, it took us over 15 minutes just to try and turn the boat to go with the waves by which time we were on our way back round again in a 360! We couldn’t get the speed up fast enough before the boat continued to turn, which meant that the ropes/drogue never took a hold in the waves which meant our final option also failed.
The afternoon of our final rudder fix was somewhat quiet, calm and peaceful and we were in complete disbelief that none of our fixes had worked. It was ironic, as the night before we still had two options to try and were only about 2 weeks away from Antigua if we could row. We were positive that one of them would work and spent the evening chatting about continuing and finishing believing we would get there. But it wasn’t to be, the final option failed and we were left looking at each other knowing it was over for us. Lauren got out of the water and we sat on deck, quiet with the realisation that we were going to have to retire with less than 700 miles to go out of the 3000 and over 90 days at sea. We were starting to run out of food and body and toilet wipes, drifting wasn’t a realistic option for us we didn’t have the supplies to do it as it could’ve taken a further 40-50+ days. Plus, we set out to row across the finish line and complete the challenge, not drift into the Caribbean with our spirits and determination destroyed, never mind our physical state after running out of food and hygiene wipes!
So that left us with no option but to retire from the race, it was a difficult decision to make because we knew realistically we couldn’t continue, yet we were so passionate and determined to complete the race. If there was a chance we could have, then believe us when we say we would! Our call went in for our rescue and the cargo ship we are now on came to pick us up. We were picked up on Monday 10th at around 11pm, leaving Sedulous and climbing a 90m rope ladder to get on board. The Captain came down to welcome us aboard; we could hardly stand let alone walk. We were given a beer and some food, our cabins, towels, boiler suits to wear and finally the chance to have a hot shower! Watching Sedulous drift away was somewhat sad, she was the third part of our team and we had to leave her. We left her AIS on and the nav light so hopefully she won’t get run over by another boat. As we moved away from her the light slowly faded away, which leaves us en route to Becancour, Canada. We’re due to arrive in the early hours of the 20th March. We plan to fly back to the UK on the 21st and are truly looking forward to seeing our friends and families for the first time in over 110 days.
We will update you all on our arrival with the rest of our adventure, because there is certainly more to come.
Day 96, Tuesday 11th March 2014
Rowing an ocean wasn’t ever going to be easy, we knew that things could go wrong, and be out of our control, safe to say we’ve had a few of these instances! Both of us have been amazed and overwhelmed by all of the support back home and really can’t thank everyone enough. We’ve spent the last month trying to make rudder fix, after rudder fix and nothing has worked in these conditions, we are now out of options.
So, with a heavy heart, we have had to make the decision to retire from the 2013 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. We set out to row the Atlantic not to drift it, and whilst the race is over for us this time, we are determined to continue raising awareness of cervical cancer and money for our chosen charities Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and Myton Hospice. We are now on a cargo ship heading for Canada, the story continues and we’ll update when we can…..
Last but not least
So here we are. The 11th of Febuary 2014… with just a mere 1160 miles to go! Ha oh well, never mind, sometimes things don’t go as you wished or planned and that is a harsh lesson to learn. Alas, fear not, we are still here, smiling, joking and forever determined to finish…one day!
The first week of February brought many celebrations. On the 2nd, my brother Sam Morton turned 22 (Happy Birthday SammyRoss!), on the 4th Co Ocean Rower and brother from another mother Hannah Lawton turned 25, and now as we enter the second week of February, we hit the 70 day marker of our epic rowing (slash surviving) challenge..so many celebrations!
So where are we now? Hopefully not drifting in a north easterly direction! Perhaps we are pressure steering or perhaps we are drifting our smelly selves to Antigua, it’s probably either of those two as we wait eagerly for the Support Yacht to bring us a new rudder, an ETA of a further 10 days.
Ahhh the rudder…..the day that snapped off was probably the second saddest day of my life.
It happened in the early hours of the morning, a loud crack and then complete silence. This is unusual as normally the rudder is making either a knocking or a banging sound. As I leant of the back cabin hatch, torch in mouth, trying to detect just how dire the situation was, all I could see was our rudder case split in half and trailing in the swell. Hmmm, not great. All I kept thinking was ‘Really?..did this honestly have to happen’. We had only just recovered from our fire incident just three days prior and learning to deal with the shock of rationing battery life and no ipod music. Hannah was in a similar state, silent, with the occasional ‘I just can’t believe it.’ How unfortunate then, that the saddest day of my life would follow just 24 hours later, by which, in a last ditch attempt to fix the rudder sleeve, Hannah had made a cable tie fix that would allow the metal rod to slot through the sleeve and act as a pivot point. HOORAH!!!….That would be until I lost grip of it, hanging out of the cabin window and watched dumbfounded as it plummeted into the deep depths of the ocean. I don’t really know how it happened, one minute I had hold of it, the next, it had gone, but what I do know is that I’ve never seriously contemplated suicide until that point in my life. When all hope flashed before my eyes, and Hannah was waiting eagerly for me to give her the thumbs up, it took all of my strength not to chuck myself out of that aft hatch and see what animal wanted me for an afternoon snack.
I still can’t believe it even now, but thankfully we are both able to laugh about it, and I will forever live with the nickname of ‘Butterfingers.’ At the time, I sobbed my eyes out for about 5 minutes, unable to see how I was going to face Hannah knowing both the disappointment and frustration she would have rightly felt towards me. So, I stopped crying, because that never helps any situation, and if you know Hannah Lawton, then you’ll also know how well me crying would have gone down. So I ‘manned up’, went to the front of the boat and told Hannah how sorry I was. There was little more to be said, and 15 minutes later back in the cabin she said she wasn’t angry at me and we shared a packet of raw salted peanuts and well like I said, life goes on and we sit waiting for a new rudder sleeve and thanks to me, a new metal rod.
Perhaps then it was Karma playing a trick or too when just 4 days after the rod incident the boat capsized a full 360 roll and I split my head open on the same back cabin metal frame. One minute we are both snoozing, daydreaming of clean bed sheets and hot showers, the next minute I felt a massive whack on my head, opened my eyes and I’m looking at water through the cabin window (this is odd..) and then in one simultaneous movement I am slammed onto my back again and I return to staring back at the sky. I can remember propping myself up by my elbow and seeing our kit, and equipment everywhere, our mattress cushions bunched up and Hannah lying in the most awkward position humanly possible. I called see if she was ok, and we both started to giggle, what a way to wake up! It was probably at that point that I could feel a warm sensation pouring down my face, and before I know it, I’m wiping my eyes but I’m unable to see anything because there is so much blood pooling into my eyes. Ermmm Hannah I think I’ve cut my head. Hannah was busy sorting herself out and so hadn’t looked up at me yet, but when she did, I knew it probably wasn’t just a scratch. “Oh,ok, erm buddy, erm yer you’ve cut your head.”, ahahhah Hannah is so so squeamish and cannot stand the sight of blood, so apologising, she quickly escaped outside to stop herself from vomiting. So I stopped the bleeding and poured surgical spirit into the cut, which truly is an unpleasant feeling. I could feel it was probably quite large, but it’s at the top of my head in my hairline and so I was unable to see in the mirror. Turns out, it’s about 6-7cm in length and pretty deep. After many calls to the Duty Officers and the Sea medic, poor Hannah had the envious task of skin gluing my scalp back together. Dr Lawton indeed did a marvellous job, only leaving the cabin twice to stop the vomit! And so we continue again our epic story of survival and I will undoubtedly have the scars to prove it, a nice memento. At least it wasn’t smack across my forehead-every cloud really does have a silver lining.
So am I painting a grim enough picture for you? Trust me it’s not pretty. Our poor bodies must be in complete shock. Life off the boat normally consists of daily showering, hair products, makeup, perfumes..yer, you get it..pretty girly stuff. So just imagine what not showering or washing our clothes for 70+ days must look/smell like. In all fairness, our bodies are cleaned daily in a baby wipe wash routine, but it’s our hair and clothes that are a sight to see. More so Hannah then me, I brush my hair and coat it in Moroccan hair oil quite regularly, it’s pretty oily, whereas Hannah ahahahhahh I’m laughing whilst writing this, literally looks like Hornblower. No comb or brush has touched her head for 70 days, so truthfully it’s now a matted nest of dead hair that just sits on top of her head. We laugh so hard at it, and it provides us with daily entertainment on board the boat. Hannah however remains forever hopeful that she will get the dreadlocks out when back on dry land, and has a heavy duty detangling session planned for her mum when we arrive in Antigua. I remain a tad more sceptical, but whatever happens I’m going along to film it.
So, when waiting for the Support yacht what does life involve, truthfully on the days when we can’t pressure steer, it gets very boring. I often venture outside to try and attract the wildlife and capture the fish on film, I remain unsuccessful to date. I think they are perhaps camera shy, because guarantee as soon as the camera is back inside, safely locked away, or out of charge, a pod of dolphins appear.
I have nicknamed Hannah ‘chief snoozer’ as she has a profound ability to sleep at any given point in the day. But we have both discovered a joint talent..80′s karaoke, such sweet beautiful singing voices we both have. We play party anthem roulette on itunes, and have quite possibly got the best rendition to Dolly Parton’s 9-5, its spectacular.
As the days stretch out we begin to run out of snack packs, and now with just a handful of snacks left on board we face the rest of our journey surviving on freeze dried meals only. DUH DUH DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUH, yes please feel our pain. Whilst I appreciate this will make ‘real food’ taste all the sweeter, I’m not sure how much longer we can both stomach porridge with sultanas or ‘Tasty’ Beef Stroganoff. Can you believe it’s called ‘Tasty Beef Stroganoff’, it actually says that on the packet, it’s the definition of false advertising! It should read ‘ Red cat sick, with chewy mince and undercooked rice’, and whilst I appreciate it might not sell, it is at least the truth.
My heart goes out to Hannah, who on the 4th of February woke up to spend her 25th birthday with me (butterfingers) in a rather wet and mouldy cabin. I’m pretty sure there are better ways to spend a birthday, but we tried to make the most of it regardless. I sporadically sang Stevie Wonders ‘Happy Birthday’ chart hit, bursting into song whenever I felt she needed it, we ate some delicious Thornton’s vanilla fudge and I gave Hannah a hand massage with some of the body creams I had bought her as a present. I did offer a foot massage, but she hates feet and can’t stand anyone touching them, so opted for a hand massage instead. I did a good job and now have earnt myself a dual nickname of ‘Masseusse Morton’..along with butterfingers. It wasn’t the worst birthday imaginable, but I can’t wait to give her the celebration she deserves back on dry land. SO HAPPY BIRTHDAY HANNAH!!
I’m guessing by now that we are indeed the last ones out here, and so we want to congratulate all the teams in this year’s race, wow what an achievement guys. Whilst we are both incredibly jealous that you’re tucking into Bacon sandwiches and Sunday lunches, we couldn’t be happier or prouder for what you have overcome. I have no doubt that every team faced their own challenges and hurdles, but to overcome them and to finish, no one can ever take that away from you. I think the Atlantic Challenge is very special in that sense, we feel the same joy and happiness for those that succeed but equally have felt despair for the teams that were forced to retire. But whatever happens we cannot wait to catch up with everyone back on dry land, swap tales and give everyone a massive hug!
I’m not sure how much longer we will be out here, or even when the rudder arrives whether the boat will hold a bearing or whether we will have to hand steer our skinny, smelly rotting selves over to Antigua. What we do know, is that together we made the decision not to give in, and as the days stretch out we only grow in determination to finish. Perspective has given us everything we need to push on and continue. Quite early on we received an email from a mutual friend of Elle’s and it read ‘I can remember when just climbing the stairs to bed would cause Elle so much pain.’ That line rings so loud in our heads whenever we doubt ourselves or our ability to continue, and so we push on and live for the day we can proudly step foot in Antigua.
KEEP TUNED FOLKS!
Inspire, Fire, Fish and Birthdays
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat” (T Roosevelt)
I started listening to Katherine Grainger’s recent autobiography release ‘Dreams Do Come True’ and finished it over two nights of rowing. The above quote is how her book starts and I found it very apt for what we are out here doing. It’s a great book, I would say read, but rowing whilst holding a book would be somewhat difficult, so I opted for the audio version instead. It’s fitting in so many ways, with each day a new challenge and with every day of not rowing feeling like a step back and another day further from the finish. We may fail trying to break the GB Women’s Pairs record, but we will have overcome some of the worst weather, equipment problems and the voice inside that says ‘just give up’. And because of that we won’t have been defeated, just held back by forces out of our control. This is not a challenge to be looked upon lightly, the dangers are very real and can be somewhat scary at times, but we never set out on this challenge to gain praise or admiration, we set out because of inspiration. Inspiration from someone, who fought a long hard battle against cervical cancer, yet still managing to remain witty, charming, and positive. It’s a strength I don’t think many possess, but it’s a strength that can be passed on through the hearts of others, because of that, you won’t hear us complain about the bad days, nor moan that it’s taking too long. Life is taken to often as a given and for that reason you must go out and seize each day, try new things, meet new people and do all the things people tell you, you can’t. By no means do any of you now have to stand up off your chair and say ‘yes yes I CAN row the Atlantic’ and toddle off to sign up for 2015! But what you could do is help us in our campaign to raise awareness of cervical cancer and much needed funds for our charities. Go out and tell everyone you meet about the inspiration Elle was and direct them to our website to put a few pennies in the pot!
Before I go into the past couple of weeks in a boring and tedious fashion, I thought I would update you with a few happenings that have not gone in our favour. Firstly we had the ‘fire’ when I say fire please don’t think of our little boat drifting across the ocean with flames bulging out of the sides and me and Lauren hugging the bow cabin for dear life! We aren’t sure what happened, all we know is that one of batteries somehow set on fire. Luckily for us, we were inside the cabin due to bad weather and smelt what seemed like an old man’s pipe to me and shortbread to Lauren in time. I was lying on my side when this happened and saw some smoke not long after the smell had appeared. No brainer, there’s something wrong!! We turned the power off, grabbed the fire extinguisher and got out of the cabin. Luckily, we still have one working battery, although, that has been slightly melted as well. We discarded the burnt out battery overboard to give the fish something to play with, (maybe Nemo and his friends can now have more fun) in all honesty it was the safest thing to do and now we are rationing power and therefore water as well. (Which will hopefully get better when we get further west and hopefully have more sun!) No word of a lie, we have had our foul weather gear on for all but about 7 days thus far! On top of that, I know someone has a voodoo doll because so far we have no dagger board, no compass, no autohelm, no battery and now no charts as the fire burnt a hole straight bang through the middle of them, we also now have no rudder attached to our boat. Yeeea, the rudder. So that came off early this morning with one big wave, and completely ripped it from its pin. So now not only can we not hand steer, we can’t row either! So I bet you are now wondering what that means?! Well so are we, we have spoken to the race organisers and the solution so far hasn’t worked. We are now waiting on confirmation as to whether the support yacht can bring us a spare rudder case, because we have no way of attaching our dagger board we have 3 rudders, so fear not we just need the case!! But it does now look like a later finish than we ever expected. When we know what’s happening, you will know too. Until then if you think we are sitting on anchor to top up our tan, well I can assure you we aren’t
And guess what…it’s now less than 2 weeks until my 25th Birthday. Which seems somewhat scary in its own right, half way to 50 eeeek! It looks like we will still be rowing our skinny little bums over to Antigua at this point, albeit hopefully not too far away. I am not sure how a birthday on an ocean feels, probably as non-descript as Christmas and New Year did. But I have been good and saved part of my Christmas present from my family to open on my birthday, you got it…VANILLA FUDGE is sitting there and waiting. Tempting me day by day, but this Hannah is not giving in, oh no, that’s one treat that will be kept and savoured with every bite, in fairness it will probably be consumed in less than an hour, as anything we have left that tastes vaguely nice is usually demolished within seconds. Which brings me to ‘snack packs’, they are a great thing, until you get one that’s well…rubbish. Snack packs should consist of a minimum of the following:
- Salted peanuts
- Boiled sweets (probably Cola Cubes and/or Rhubarb and Custard)
- Breakfast bar
- Rice Krispies Squares
Well, if we were ever to do this again that is!
Onto something slightly strange for a second, to which maybe someone reading this can explain? The other night it was a beautiful full moon and like every night there is a full moon, you can make out a face from the dark craters (well if you are me you can, Lauren refuses to be able to see this face and thinks I have gone bonkers). Anyway the moon, it was perfectly round but the face was upside down for the first 4-5 hours of the night and then somehow on my next shift was the right way up again. I have never seen this before in my life and wondered if I was actually seeing things. Can the face be upside down? Tell me…have you seen the face?
You may have heard about our new friends, the congregation of fish we have under our boat. They have now been with us for a good couple of weeks. Not only that, more seem to arrive every day or so. You would think fish would be friendly little things, although some of these aren’t so small. Lauren seems to be fascinated with them (simple things), but well these fish know how to get their own back. My theory is that after Lauren slapped one with an oar he went to get his posse ready to attack at will. Lauren fell right into their trap with this theory as she decided after shift to put her hands in the water and flick it around…the little nipper got her! A bite straight to the hand, and it drew blood. Cracker! Don’t worry; it didn’t take her hand off or anything, just a little nip, that was enough to get its own back.
I can’t say a lot has happened in the past couple of weeks, I told you boring and tedious. We are still keeping high spirits on-board Sedulous, adamant we will finish what we started! It’s all a matter of time and as soon as the weather is pushing us in the right direction we will come off anchor, and as soon as it is rowable for us to pressure steer we will be out there two up putting on a gun show for the fish. Until then we will have to see what the outcome will be for us, but cross your fingers, toes and everything, and we will make it to the finish line! Quitters are the losers remember, you gain nothing from quitting bar the memory that you gave up to the face of adversity.
Forty Days and Forty Nights: ‘Life is either a great adventure or nothing’
The sun is not shining, it is raining, we are rowing directly into a 20ft swell and it’s day 40 of the Atlantic Challenge. That’s forty days of back breaking, bum numbing, sleep depriving, joint aching, constipating and frustrating hard work. The type of hard work, that makes us at times, question just how long we can go on like this for. With each shift, the boat is at a crawling pace, it feels like rowing in treacle and the swell is pushing our little rowing boat in the wrong direction. The frustration with the conditions is at breaking point, every way-point or milestone we have set ourselves has meant to be the point at which ‘the conditions are in our favour’, and each time we row another 100 miles to reach it, the conditions have never changed. I pray with everything I have, that when we reach 17 degrees west, there will be some change, if not consistency in the sea state. This week has been an award winning week for unpredictable, changing seas. For 2 days we had hot blistering sunshine with not a single wave or current in sight and we struggled to maintain 1.5 knots, Days 3-5 saw no sunshine and 10 ft cross swell swinging the boat from one bearing to the next, but at least the speed was between 2-2.5 knots. And now at days 6-7 we are in a huge storm, buckets of rain, waves the size of houses pushing us in a north westerly direction..we hit 5 knots of boat speed, but what a shame, its in the opposite direction to Antigua…lets deploy the para-anchor.
“SO WHY DON’T YOU JUST QUIT GIRLS?’..Lets face it, you’ve been rowing for 40 days and you’ve still over halfway to go. You’re miles behind the other crews, in fact 400 miles behind Atlantic Forces and then a further 500 miles behind the main pack..just sack it in, you gave it your best, but the steering and the conditions have meant its just not your time,give up, go home.”
All of the above, has derived from both texts we’ve received, and in the darker days, from our own minds. The physical aspect of the row is not what makes this a challenge, its the psychological component to push through when you’re out of luck and everything is against you. Yes your joints feel like they’ve been smashed with a sledge hammer, yes your bottom is chaffed within an inch of its life and yes, you probably would like to sleep for more then 90 minutes at a time, but you can push through that. What is so hard though, is to stay positive and keep moving forward when the ocean decides it wants to re-enact the scene from Lord of the Rings, where Gandolf the Great screams ‘YOU SHALL NOT PASSSSSSS.’ at the giant beast. We are beyond desperate now, sometimes we have 6 hours of rowable seas, and the pace picks up, you allow yourself to hope and dream that ‘ This is it! We are out of the worse, Antigua here we come..’ and bang 7 hours later, the sea is unrecognisable, it’s angry, and launching itself at you. We are at the point where we are attempting to row for 24 hours a day, in a 2 hour on/off shift pattern. The boat for the most part is holding a bearing, but we changed the set up of the boat so we are now rowing out of stern position and changing the steering whilst rowing at the same time. Its frustrating work, and can often be very time wasting when the boat is swinging and swaying in the rough seas, but at least we are moving 24 hours a day.
So, how do you motivate yourself in situations like I’ve just described? and would you believe me that despite all the pain, and frustration, there are moments, daily, where it is just the most amazing experience I have ever lived. There have been days where the only sound you can hear is your own breath, sunsets that shine, colours I never knew existed, shooting stars that feel so close, you could almost reach out and grab them. It is awesome, and on the days when I’m not sure how long I can keep pushing for, I let go of the oar handle, close my eyes, take a breath, open my eyes, and take in everything that’s around me. It is so easy to dwell on the negatives, a trait I think all of us suffer from. So we made the pact to try and see the good, even through sleep deprived eyelids.
Sometimes though, motivation does not come from within, but from the words and quotes of others. Both myself and Hannah are lucky enough to have been written, letters, quotes, & cards from our closest friends and family. I will never again in my life, underestimate the value of my friendships back at home, their ability to pick me up when I’m at my lowest or question our love and loyalty to one another. The shock of how loved we both are, has hit Hannah the hardest, a realisation that perhaps unintentionally she has neglected those that mean the most to her and has seen her vow to make more of an effort to both friends and family. It is the same for me also, and if you ever want to appreciate what you have, the friendships you value, consolidate your life’s hopes and dreams..then I strongly recommend ocean rowing. One of my favourite letters was written by my great friend Laura Cooper, and I thought I’d share it with you. It reads:
- Hot beef Baguettes (With juicy onions on crunchy white rolls.)
- Fish finger sandwiches
- Sweet potato fries with blue cheese dip and or Garlic Mayonnaise
- Prawns with Marie rose sauce.
- Toast with butter
- Bacon/sausage sandwich with hash browns.
- Beef Wellington
- Rocotillos Banana and Peanut Butter milkshake
- GBK chicken, cambers, cranberry burger
- Chicken and Bacon club sandwich from Aberosch Deli
- Sausage pasta bake with crisps on top
- Shortbread Biscuits (Thank you Kate Hallett for starting that craving!)
- Cadbury’s Flake bars..The closest I’e got to crying is when I finished my last chocolate bar from my xmas sack…distraught doesn’t cut it.
“If you can’t fly then run,
if you can’t run then walk,
if you can’t walk then crawl,
but whatever you do,
you have to keep moving forward.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
“When you’re safe at home, you wish you were having an adventure. When
you’re having an adventure, you wish you were safe at home. ”
– Thornton Wilder
A message from the skipper: Fish, Diets and Dreams
For those of you wondering what it could possibly feel like to row across an ocean (most of you probably aren’t, but for the benefit of those that would like to know…) well, I thought I would enlighten you with some “Hannah time” of thoughts, wisdom and jest.
Now, if you ever fancy being thrown around like a rag doll, sleeping in damp and mould, having a bottom so sore you have to powder and Sudocrem it (other brands are available, they aren’t a sponsor) every two hours, if you want to squirm around when you sit down because it hurts to rest on your bum cheeks in one place for more than two minutes, you want to relentlessly be bashed in the shins, thighs ribs and groin by the oar handle (which may I add is propelling at you with some good old force, only to be stopped dead by your own body mass!) and you maybe want to do an extreme weight loss diet that includes lots of food (odd) but be super active, enjoying the ocean breeze through your matted, greasy, tangled, dreadlocked hair. Then look no further, ocean rowing is just right for you!
On a serious note, I’m not kidding. Grim is genuinely an understatement, but the achievement is immense and a feeling we are yet (fingers crossed we don’t end up on a cargo ship to Botswana) to feel. So far I have been overwhelmed by what we have seen, Whales, Dolphins, Fish, Birds, shooting stars, sun/moon rises and sunsets, ships, plastic bottles, car exhaust pipes, naked Lauren, Lauren’s sore bottom…you name it we have seen it. Including the little fellas that slapped me in the face two nights ago…flying fish! We have now had around 6 or 7 dead ones on deck in the morning, never seen them in the day though which I find quite strange. But what gets to me so much (for those who know me well) is not being able to put on lycra in a manner which means it’s not all twisted and rolled in different areas. I mean put aside my slight OCD tendencies here, its plain uncomfortable to go on shift in ill-fitting Lycra!
Weirdly my nights have been filled with vivid dreams. Talking out loud to people who have passed away, including a friend that passed some time ago. I woke myself and Lauren up reading my mobile number out loud, Lauren quickly checked if she needed to remember what I had just said. No no I replied in my dreamy state. It’s BIZZARE! Dreams are a weird thing as it is, but out here they are even weirder. We both dream of going to the toilet, needless to say we wake up desperate for a wee to only have the sudden shock hit us like a brick wall, that to go and we will consist of braving the dark, 30ft cross swell, and 25 knot winds to go and hover over a bucket, whilst holding on for dear life. Not quite the plush bathroom you were dreaming of! Our dreams always entertain us the next day, talking about what felt so real only a few hours ago.
It’s true to say neither of us ever got the ‘we have lost sight of land’ feeling, in fact far from it. It still feels odd and as if we could get back to land if we wanted to within no time at all. Very far from the truth, but hopefully it will be an overwhelming feeling when we eventually see land, because my name is first on the list to see the beautician! Have no fear though, I have already plucked my eyebrows and the routine we have planned pre-land fall will mean you won’t believe we have just rowed the Atlantic! Bar maybe our beautiful tan lines and skeletal body.
You have to embrace this row, find things funny and let things go. It’s like a cross between the two songs ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ and ‘Things Can Only Get Better’. Lauren chunters to herself a lot, telling the waves ‘no’ as they almost plant themselves on top of her. Or she screams at the boat when the steering is doing what she wants it to do. I feel her pain, I am just less expressive about it. The waves are a right little…no word of a lie, typically 5 minutes before you are about to come off shift, you are nice and dry and for once feel like you will get into the cabin dry and therefore warm. Oh no, there’s always this one wave that will plant itself right on top of you, giving you no time to dry off and meaning you have to go into the cabin wet and cold, only to out your wet lycra on for your next shift. This happened last night to me, I was thinking to myself ‘yes!! A dry one’ then Lauren popped her head out and asked if I had been splashed. I said no, it’s been fine and as she shut the door three waves planted themselves on top of me, one after the other. Needless to say I was not amused!
Which makes you question, what have you done so wrong in life to deserve this bad weather that we have had and lack of luck in boat equipment?! Lauren is adamant she needs to start believing God, I on the other hand can think of many reasons Mother Nature would want to get revenge!
Clock watching is also a bad habit on this row, you can think you have been rowing for a good 30 minutes, to look at your watch and see you have rowed for 3 minutes. Not that you want to wish your shift away, but when it’s cold with cross swells and rain you want nothing more than to be in your cabin.
It’s getting to the stage now where we are both really missing family and friends. It makes you realise just how much they mean to you, which is something in general day to day life is neglected. My new year’s resolution is to make more of an effort with my family and friends, it’s very easy to get tangled in the mundane everyday which is life and forget those who mean so much to you. Further to this we hear about the support we have back at home and it is truly overwhelming to hear, it keeps spirits up and the will to not let anyone down.
So now we are back onto 2 hours on and 2 hours off, aiming to get down to 17 degrees North in the next 11 days and then we can head West over to Antigua! So watch this space!!
Day 23 – “The Life of Pie” (Gawd I could eat a pie right now)
- Cheese on toast with Lea and Perrins (With Heinz Tomato soup as a added bonus)
- Both Mums sunday roast.
- Pancakes, bacon and maple syrup
- Pie night
- Nachos, chilli and fajitas (with cheese, sour cream, guacamole in order to qualify)
- Fish and Chips
- Hannahs Chicken and Banana, grape and mayonaise sandwich (sounds interesting, however Hannah protests its a winner)
- Lasagne with salad
- Brian Morgans Mussels and Lobster (+homemade lobster sauce)
- Alan Morgans Calamari and/or sausage rolls
- Marks and spencers Prawn sandwich (a nostalgic sandwich that reminds me of driving down to Abersoch with my mum each summer.)
- Fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Mash potato and gravy (or chips, gravy and cheese!!)
Safe to say in good spirits despite the frustrations….
We are still on paraanchor, but that’s what snack packs are for…right? hoping the low pressure will pass soon and we can be off again, currently we go round in circles when we take it up. Its hot, damp and cramped in the cabin and cold at night…can’t win!
Keep an eye out in the Metro for us, we should be in there soon! We were in the other week as well….so eyes peeled all and post anything you see of us on the wall.
If you see us in the Metro, make sure on the Tube you turn to the people around you and say ‘I know them, you should donate it’s a good cause’ thanks for your continued support, we aim to do you all proud and will keep pushing as soon as we can.
We’ve seen a whale, some dolphins, some birds and some fish…that’s about it.
Its been a long old couple of weeks, mainly spent on para-anchor! We set off and found our Autopilot wanted to take us back to La Gomera…not ideal in a race. Anyway, since then it has snapped off, and our dagger board can no longer be used as the blocks that hold it in have also come off! All in all, it has made our life slightly more difficult! We are currently rope steering, but in high cross winds and 30ft side swells, it isn’t that easy at all. However, we are mucking in when we can, pushing on and aiming to be heading west by mid next week.