Atlantic Row 2013 Blogs

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.

  1. 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!
  2. 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!!
  3. 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.
  4. &  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!

Lauren x

 

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:

  • Twix
  • Snickers
  • Minstrels
  • 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.

Love Hannah

xxx

 

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:

“Lauren,
As you sit looking out across the water, I want you to remember how proud of you I am, and how much I admire you for taking on such a challenge. If things get hard keep close in your mind the reasons why you are doing what you’re doing. Remember when you’re at home in a normal day to day routine, how quickly a couple of months can slip by with no real sense of achievement or accomplishment. Use that to remind yourself that 1- before you know it you’ll be out of the water with a lasting memory of doing something amazing, and 2- we have our whole lives ahead of ourselves to worry about mundane first world problems. So to stand up for something you believe in and push yourself to reach such an amazing goal is truly giving yourself something to live for, be proud of and breaks you away from everyday normality, to use your time on this earth to make a difference. GO FOR IT!
All my love,
Laura “
It’s a short letter, but the words are so true. I hear Laura’s voice at night, reading her letter to me, willing me to keep pushing on, reminding me that what is 2-3 months in the grand scheme of life? It’s nothing, at least I have the ability to be out here, so shut up moaning and get on with it.
The 7th of January was another rocky, stormy day. I was on the oars during my 1pm-3pm shift, and Hannah was hanging out of the aft cabin, trying to see if we could makeshift something to fix the autohelm. Alas, we could not, but when she appeared out of the stern cabin she said ‘ There are so many Barnacles on the boat..we need to get them off, have a look’. Intrigued by the elusive Barnacle, I leaned right out of the after cabin, peering to the side of the boat. OH GOSH THE HORROR. The water line of our boat was covered in clusters and groups of huge suckering Barnacles, it was like something our of ‘Alien’. I quickly retreated back into the cabin, but that was it, I could not get the image out of my mind. For the next 16 hours, I itched continuously, unable to sleep through the night shifts, and waking myself up with daydreams of Hannah falling in the water, only for when I pull her out she is covered head to toe in the suckering, slimy moving Barnacles. To say I had ‘Ants in my Pants’ is an understatement. By 11am the next morning, I could take no more. It wasn’t a calm day, in fact far from it, but it was sunny. So I called for Hannah to pass me the surf leash, scraper and goggles. Giggling, Hannah filmed me, as I stripped off and lowered myself in the water…I had a few sneaky glances to check I was alone and scraped them off! We were lucky though, we have copper coated anti-fouling on the hull of the boat, which means they cant stick there, but still there was enough on the water line for me to spend 15 minutes scraping them off. ERGHHHH just typing this has sent me into an itching frenzy.
Hallucinations are beginning to set in also. After a couple of weeks or so, you learn to cope with the tiredness but things start to go bump in the night. Occasionally we hear chattering, or men’s voices, at times it sounds like someone is whispering your name but you cant locate the voice. My most recent and most vivid hallucination is when I see Charlie Chaplin riding one of those 1920′s circus bikes, with the huge back wheel. He rides past me on my right hand side, towards the stern of the boat, gives me a wink and then just disappears. He then repeats this act every 5 minutes during my 1-3am shift, but more worryingly it has started happening during the day also. I know it cant be real, how could it be? For one, Charlie Chaplin is dead, its also impossible to ride a bike on top of the water, and where does he disappear too after he reaches the stern of the boat? Perhaps we sounds as if we are going crazy, who knows, maybe we have? But you have to see the funny side in everything out here, and not take anything too seriously. You have to laugh, or else you would cry.
Night-times can be lonely, there are points in the night where me and Hannah are like passing ships, grunting one or two words to each other during the change over. It’s hard, and I find myself longing for the day hours where we chat to one another, share stories, problems or our favourite conversation FOOD! To get over this we have started to talk to each other in stupid voices throughout the night, putting on our poshest of accents, congratulating each other on completing their shift. It sounds stupid but it makes all the difference to keeping the spirits high. I have also taken to singing to Hannah in my best Heather Small accent ‘ What have you done today to make you feel proud?’, I sound nothing like her, in fact I sound constipated if anything, but Hannah gives me a bemused smile, and I know she deep down likes it.
The ocean is full of rubbish, that is one sad fact. More often then not, we see bags of rubbish floating past us, car exhaust pipes, parts of boats, wrappers etc. We have also seen a message in a bottle, about 15 ft away from the boat at 4pm..how great it would have been to open it and read that letter, but realistically it was probably a crisps packet shoved into a plastic drinks bottle, and so we live with the dream that it was some romantic love letter, maybe even for us? Aside from that, the most random thing to see was a green witches fancy dress finger, with a painted red nail. WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? It was so funny to spot, of all the things to float past us in the ocean, if I had to choose, that would be the most random.
 Visitor wise, we are not alone. We have two 3ft electric blue fish with florescent yellow fins that live under our boat. They are ballsy little creatures, always appearing when you’ve been to the toilet, or chasing your oars when your rowing. They are beautiful though, and I like that. I smacked one on the head with my oar the other day, just to test how scared it was. It loved it! It followed my oar for about 10 minutes after that, speeding up to it, backing off for a little bit, playing cat and mouse. Flying fish are a bit of a pain though, and they stink also. At 11pm the other night, I had a bang on the window and ‘LAURENN’..a bit dazed I opened the cabin door and Hannah went ‘ I’ve just been smacked straight across the face, but I cant see by what!..’ hhahahah I started to laugh, she did not look amused, I think it was more the shock of it then anything else. I turned on the lights, and there was a flying fish, jumping about all desperate to take a breath, but with a cheeky grin on its face, proud to have hit Hannah bullseye on her cheek!
 The nature of the challenge makes it hard to envision the future. There are days when you cant see past the next week, or even the next 2 hours. It seems never ending, and because you live 24 hours of the day, there is no break between time. I thought the row would make me dream about my future life, not at all. More often than not, our dreams are of nostalgic value. I find myself reliving memories or situations I have not thought of in years. We are both very similar in that sense, sometimes when the conversation (usually food) is exhausted, we will both fall silent set in our own memories or dreams. One of us will usually break that silence to tell the memory whilst the other one will laugh, or smile and then will share their day dream too. It really is one big trip down memory lane, a bitter sweet experience between memories of growing up, past relationships, family members that have passed away or situations where perhaps you feel disappointed in yourself, or could have acted differently. I could tell you all about Hannah’s childhood, the rabbit that would steal food from her lap, the video tape of Hannah running straight into a wall and her dad’s commentary of ‘Oh Crumbs.’ Likewise she could tell you that Cheese and bean toasties have never tasted so good then when in Abersoch, or how Cold oats and hot water with honey will always remind me of my Granddad Les. We don’t know what triggers them, only that sometimes they are so real and vivid its hard to distinguish between past and present.
 Does sudocream actually work? A question I didn’t think would have any great relevance to me. But no, the tub of white paste has yet to make any impact on the state of my festering bottom. Things have deteriorated from bad to worse. Gone are the days of just spotty and rashy, but my bottom is now one big raw blister, no skin, just raw chaffed tissue, that bleeds and sticks to each other. It is hard to write down just how painful it is without sounding melodramatic, but I can truthfully say that in the 24 years I have lived, to date it is the most painful things I’ve experienced. Note the to date, as I have yet to have children and I don’t want to jinx myself as I’ve heard some pretty shocking childbirth stories. One bonus is there are no infection signs yet, which I am grateful for. It makes rubbing surgical spirit into the raw blisters just about worth it!!
 The daydreaming about food continues, and the longer we are out here, the cravings become more fattening. More so, they become more vivid, and occasionally we have both felt like we can actually taste the food. So we thought we’d share some with you, and who knows maybe we can offer some inspiration for what to cook for dinner tonight, or in honour of us!
  • 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.
 It feels like a long way still to go, but we look back now and we are halfway there, and we are still surviving and as strong a unit as ever. We are both shocked and grateful at the bond we have developed. In fact Hannah turned to me this morning and said ‘ I just can’t believe we haven’t had a single fall out, its bizarre. Why do you think it works?’..I just shrugged and told her its because I’m awesome, so be grateful and accept it. JUST JOKING. I don’t know why it works, but maybe its a combination of similarities and differences, that we both strive and push for the same thing but our approach is very different. All I know is that I’ve earned myself an infamous Hannah Hug and lifelong friendship rights (I filmed her on my ipad saying that I was a friend for life, so no backing out now Hannah!).
 Lastly we would like to share some quotes that have helped us to keep going and made us gain perspective in the days when all you want to do is be sat at home, with a cup of tea..possibly eating cake. Put yourself in a life changing/ endangering situation and the quotes sound as if they were written for you.
“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.
A famous one, I know, but the days spent on paraanchor, or getting bashed about at sea, or even when we rowed for 18 hours straight just to try and crawl out of it- that quote helped me put it all into perspective, keep pushing and get ourselves out of hell!
“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
Those words are so true, back in normal life, we both craved this. I couldn’t wait to break out of mundane life. And now sitting here getting battered about at sea, all you wish for was to be back there. It helps us to remember not to dwell on the negatives, forget the pain both physical and mental and to enjoy it, live and embrace it. Because before we know it, we’ll be back on dry land, bored, craving the next big adventure. Dry land, there is a weird thought. We scanned through some of my first iPad videos the other night and seeing land felt so surreal. All we have seen now for 40+ days is a sphere of blue water and sky. At time it feels as though you are in a glass snow dome, and someone is just shaking it for a laugh, Your horizon is only 2-3 miles long and if I could think of something back on land to compare it too, it would be like a treadmill for rowers. You are just rowing on the same spot and the only way you know your making any headway is watching the miles on a computer screen tick down.
Everyday we get closer and closer, the pace might change, there might be points where we have to stop for a few hours, but everyday we get closer. Words can’t describe how much we miss home now, and we both are just so excited to see our family and friends on that Pontoon in Antigua (or back at home, depending on how rich they are!). One thing is for sure, no matter how slow or long this will take us, how many storms we will face, how many breakages we will fix, we will not give in, we will finish…..if not, we are both swimming to Antigua, pulling this bloody boat with our teeth.
All my Love,
Lauren x

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)

NOTE: Before we get into this, I apologise for the grammatical errors contained within this blog. Writing on the laptop whilst rolling from side to side in the hot cabin is a task within itself..I have had to leap out of the cabin to vomit whilst writing this, so please look past the primary school spelling mistakes.
 The date today is the 27th December 2013 and the time is 20.03, this means its been 23 days, 7 hours and 3 minutes since the start gun went off in La Gomera. Wow, thats a surreal thought, and as I sit here typing in the mould infested cabin (coffin), I cannot believe its been that long and that we are still going!
So where should I start? Maybe from the beginning… So lets begin with race start, didnt go exactly to plan..we had envisioned a speedy start to keep up with the other crews, however within 2 minutes we realised our autohelm (boat steering for non boaties) was faulty, and so our boat was turning in circles, unable to establish a bearing, our brand new compass was also faulty, which meant for us we were unable to row! Not great for a 3000 miles rowing race, however after an hour in the hotbox of a cabin trying to fix it, we decided to just crack on and row using hand steering and the compass on my iphone and fix it the following day. Hmmm what a nice little plan that should have been, however by the evening of Day 2 we found ourselves on para anchor being smashed about in a storm, in which the whole autohelm unit became completely detached…So back to rope steering it is then for the whole trip!
To say the weather hasnt been kind is a fair statement, after an intial storm on our 2nd/3rd day, we set off rowing again, making good progress and catching up on the other crews only to land ourselves back in which can only be described as the Depths of Mordor..yep our poor little rowing boat and 2 little girls inside it literally were thrown about like ragg dolls in this massive ocean, the sound and force of the waves hitting the boat was just incredible, the power of the water is unbelieveable and something which makes me have great respect for the ocean.. and so for the next 48 hours we got bashed about inside the cabin, landing ontop of each other with each wave that hit the boat…
The next couple of weeks to be honest are a bit of a bleughhh, we’ve been beyond unlucky with the weather and unfortunately due to our intial hold up, have been caught on the back end of a huge low pressure system, which has made rowing almost impossible..So we had too options give up or just stick it out..we choose the latter. If your wondering what unrowable seas are like, then picture our rowing boat trying to travel in a straight line, however you have 10-20ft waves coming from all angles smashing you from one 180 degree angle to the next, no daggerboard, no compass bearing, and at times its gets so confused we completely loose our GPS configuration..thats what we are trying to row in and the conditions have yet to change in our favour.
NOW we have the boring weather business out of the way,I wont give you a day by day account because frankly that would be really really boring (Trust me the days spent on para anchor were beyond dull..just think sleep, ipod, sudocream and snacking) but rather Ill tell you some stories about daily life whilst rowing the Atlantic.
Food. Good god its awful. The first couple of days myself and hannah struggled to eat anything,we were both so tired, we literally just managed to row, sleep and drink water. But soon enough the hunger pangs started, so we thought lets devour some tasty freeze dried meals, yumm just the thought of it makes my stomach curdle. So heres your choices girls for the next 2-3 months, beef shephards pie, spaghetti bol, curried beef with rice, chicken and vegetable pasta, mild chicken Korma…pick anyone of these tasty delights and it sits in your stomach like a brick, its so calorie dense it leaves a film of paste in your mouth and no matter what meal it is, its appearance is somewhat similiar to cat vomit, which makes trying to to chew it in a rocking airless cabin, just rank. Thank god for snack packs is all im going to say, for the past couple of days my breakfast has been a mars or twix bar followed by some other chocolatey delight..sounds a bit grim I know for breakfast, but the freeze dried porridge is a whole other story and I dont think I will be able to hack one of those for a long long time.
Bottoms and toileting. One of the first questions people used to ask when I told them about the row was ‘What about going to the toilet?’ hmmm yep the ‘toilet’ aka a bucket. For some reason my body has decided to develop the weakest bladder known to man, Hannah on the other hand has a bladder of steel and can hold a wee in for days (which is very useful in a storm), hmm nope not me I literally need to pee every 2 hours on cue. Whatsmore the bucket acts as some sort of suction unit and takes some force to remove it from my bum which whilst being thrown about in a storm is like something out of a slapstick movie….and erm can get messy.One thing that has shocked me is the state of Bottom. Holllllllllly hell, its like a teenage acne dreamland, covered in sea sores, rashy. Its incredibly painful and itchy but ive been sudocreaming daily and its just about holding up..just.
Capsizing. Yep its going to happen, but 23 days in we’ve had a few near misses but not a full roll. The first one was a  half capsize and I was flung into the water, but grabbed hold of the safety line in time to not lose sight of the boat…sounds scary, its not really, infact it happens quite a lot…There you are just merrily rowing, dreaming of rum punches and washing my hair and WHAM random side wave decides to smash into the boat, not cool. The other one happened was more like 3/4 roll and unfortunately we snapped a blade/oar in half during that one, but dont worry folks, we have spare blades, so all hope is not lost.
The ocean is incredible, and as ive mentioned earliar so powerful. During the day you can see the waves rolling towards you like a block of concrete, each wave towers over the stern of the boat and you find yourselves staring into a 20 ft wave not knowing whether your boat with float over the top or whether its going to land on top of you (invariably the latter). At night its very different, you cant see them, but you can hear them…all will be very quite and you start hearing this building sound like a deep murmour that gets louder and louder as it approaches. I thought the waves would scare me, but they don’t, once you accept you are a very very small part of the Atlantic, the fear ceases to exist, and it just becomes part of daily life.
Animals and other visitors. To date we have seen birds, dolphins, fish (big and small) and 1 whale…thankfully no sharks just yet. I however brick myself everytime they come near the boat and more often then not my intial thought is that its a massive shark comiing to attack and eat me for its dinner…I usually call for Hannah to come out of the cabin because ive seen a single black fin about 10ft from the boat and its a SHARKKKKKK..she then comes bounding out and about 20 seconds later about 3 ft from the boat a whale surfaces and sprays water at us…this story is almost an exact replica of what happened with the dolphins, minus the spraying.Hannah loves the animals and sees them as a good luck sign, im a bit more weary and prefer them to keep their distance no matter how ‘friendly’ they are meant to be. The whale was cool though, I’ll admit that, it continued to show off for a further 15 minutes next to us doing little splashes jumps and other whale gymnastics…although I cant work out if it was a friendly show or an aggressive act, either way I live to tell the tale. We currently have a little swallow type (dont know the exact name) bird that has followed us for about 5 days now, it gets closer and closer with each day and im just waiting for the morning when it perches itself on our safety line and we can feed it oatcakes and fruit and nut mix.
Human wise we have had one visitor so far, on Boxing day evening at about 7pm we noticed a large white sailing boat heading straight for us quite quickly.They didnt have their identification system turned on which was slightly annoying, however I put a radio call out to all white sailing boats within the area to be aware we are an ocean rowing boat and to change their route. 2 minutes later a french man replies, saying he is coming to see us..he sailed over to us, we had a chat over the VHF, he thinks we are mental and couldnt believe that two young girls were out in the ocean all alone, but took some pictures of us and sailed away at an enviably faster pace then our little boat.
Christmas day. I don’t think I will ever remember a less christmassy christmas day then the one spent on the rowing boat. It starts like all our days do, with peeping our heads out of the cabin to check out the conditions, only for it take a couple of minutes for the realisation to set in that we are rowing the atlantic and that the conditions are still against us…its so frustrating and incredibly depressing because with each morning we both have this positive happy vibe that ‘today will be the day we continue to row non stop’ only for each morning to have that dream smashed into pieces..maybe the morning I wake up and think ‘I cant do this anymore’ will be the day when it finally lets up. The next 10 hours were spent non stop rowing and hand steering, until finally at 6 O’clock we resided to the cabin to call family and open our christmas sacks. In the months leading up to the row I would envision how emotional it would be to call my family on christmas day, I thought it would be the most awful phone call in which I would cry because I was so tired and hated rowing so much, and missed being at home for christmas. The truth was it was none of those things, in fact if anything I found it was the opposite.It was as usual my dad hogging the phone and just a firing 20 questions at me, which after 10 hours straight without food or a break, the last thing i wanted was a 15 minute question round. I never found out if my brothers were ok, my grandma or my mum, what they had done or anything about what life was like at home and I ended the phone call short, too tired and not wanting to get angry. Hannah rang her parents and sister and had a much more relaxed family chat, whilst I opened my christmas sack. MY GOD, I have never been happier to open up a selection box of cadburys chocolate bars, Its now the 29th of december and im finishing writing this blog and of course,Ive eaten them all. Hannah too opened up a bloody great treat box made up of creamy fudge, pretzels, chocolate, NUTELLA SACHETS (oh the envy!!!) and gingerbread cookies,never in our lives have we both been so happy to open up those packages, and never has cadburys chocolate tasted so delicious. We ended christmas day with a little karaoke session, in which we danced and sang to Michael buble and Top 20 christmas hits, turned the lights off and had a disco with our flashing santa light and covered ourselves in tinsel. We filmed every second of the whole show, and all I can say watching it back now 4 days later, is we look like we’ve off our rockers, still we’ve both not laughed like that in a long time, so bring on the crazy!
Daydreaming and torturing ourselves. After a while at sea, when you are sick of your itunes playlist, the food and even the snack packs..conversation undoubtedly turns to listing all the things you want and obviously cant have. For instance, food (90% of our conversations), ‘How good will it be to shower’ (mentioned 5 times on average each day), ‘Good god, I cant wait to have a wax’ (atleast twice daily), I cannnotttt wait to have clean bed sheets that aren’t damp (Happens each night before sleeping). I don’t know why we do it to ourselves, yet everyday at about 3pm, when the hunger pangs start but you can’t hack eating another ‘Tasty beef stroganoff’, we start listing all the meals we miss, and cant wait to eat when back on dry land. Here’s a shortened list:
  • 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!!)
…..Just to name a few, trust me theres plenty more.
 So theres a few stories to help build a picture of what our adventure has been like so far….I promise to write one in a weeks time and tell you some more. All thats left to say is please dont worry about us, or wish we could be back on dryland too much. Please don’t, because there has not been one day so far where I would choose to not be here. Things are not going to how we had planned them to be, that is for sure, however we are still here in the race when others are not as fortunate, and we are giving it everything we have. As a team, myself and Hannah are shocked at how strong a unit we are, each day we laugh together, fix something together or in more recent times steer the boat for each other…There is no one else I could have done this with.
I don’t know how many people will read this, or what life is like back on dryland..its been nearly a month without internet, phones or facebook (gawd!), and we have little idea about the support back at home. We hope despite the setbacks we are still making everyone at home proud, and its in some of the darker moments we hold on to why we are out here, who we are doing it for and are thankful that we still have the opportunity (regardless of how tired, sore and frustrated we get) . Hannah hates the phase YOLO, and I agree in its acronym form its a horrible word, however you do only live once and so we are just going to get on with it….
STAY SAFE CRAZY KIDS…we miss you all terribly. Lauren and Hannah x

 

DAY 15

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.

yeeeee haaaaa!!

 

DAY 11

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.

10 days until Christmas, make sure you check out Atlantic Campaigns website, our Facebook page & twitter. Spirits are still high on board Sedulous, as we embark on a journey that can only become tougher!
Please remember why we are doing this, we lost a close friend to cervical cancer and we want to raise as much awareness and money as we can. Although times are hard around Christmas if you have any spare pennies please donate to our charities: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/Insfriends
All the best
Hannah & Lauren
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