Archive for October, 2014

The journey of life…

Natalia Cohen By

Natalia – The journey of life…

Life is all about choice and having the courage to believe in yourself and follow your passions. At least that’s what I think.

I have never wanted normal, easy, and ordinary – My life has been a series of amazing experiences that have shaped me and inspired me. I believe in living, feeling and breathing all my moments and although ultimately I have no idea what this game of life is all about and where my next, let alone final destination will be, I’m going to make sure that I enjoy every step of the journey.

Cape Town

I am fascinated by people, how we respond to our world, the physical and emotional limits we can push ourselves to and most importantly the strength of the human spirit.

We have only one opportunity in this crazy world, so why not live an extraordinary life; learning from each other and giving love and compassion back in return.

Not dwelling on the past, not worrying about the future, but being fully present in the moment whenever possible.

Tanzania Coast line

I believe that the universe presents events in perfect order and that everything happens for a reason (or that every experience is a learning opportunity and there is always a positive to be taken from a situation). This way of thinking has allowed me to feel comfortable with a free-spirited lifestyle in over 50 countries, immersing myself in different cultures and continuously challenging myself by being outside my comfort zone and entering the unknown.

I have been fortunate enough to have lived all over the world. From walking the Camino de Santiago (800 km walk across Northern Spain), leading adventure tours in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America to operational management, teaching, coordinating volunteer projects, monitoring plastic pollution in the Pacific and eco-lodge management in East Africa. In all of my eras, through the people that cross my path, there is always an underlying awe that I feel: people fighting to overcome their personal hardship on a daily basis.

This wonderful will of spirit, this triumph over adversity, particularly prevalent in the destinations that I have explored deeply, never ceases to amaze me.

It is possibly because I’m open to any opportunity that is thrown my way, and interested in unique experiences, that I have been led to this monumental expedition. Although it is like nothing else I have ever done or will most probably ever do again, the Row is certainly another incredible journey or era.

If the opportunity had presented itself at any other point in my life up until now, I almost certainly would not have been interested but some inexplicable desire draws me to it now.
They say timing is everything.

I have always had a love of water. I am a Pisces, an enthusiastic swimmer, find the sight and sound of the ocean deeply meditative and get a great sense of calm and peace when I am near or around water. It’s where I feel at home. I am intrigued how the Row will challenge me and excited to explore the depth and breadth of my own spirit and mind. I want to use the insight gained from the planning, execution and lessons learnt during this experience to inspire and motivate others after it.

Antarctica

This prevailing essence of human spirit is the same whether it’s a woman fighting with breast cancer, an injured servicewoman battling to find a way back into society, a woman struggling in a male dominated business world, communities in the developing world dealing with daily existence or any human stressed by their own personal demons.
We all have our own Pacific Ocean to cross in whatever form that comes.
My hope is for everyone to learn from and allow the magic of the varying journeys and lessons of life that they encounter to make a profound and positive impact on them and most importantly – to believe in the strength of human spirit that connects us all.

We all have the power to write our own story…so let’s make it an amazing one! x

Camino

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48 hour row out of Falmouth

Last Thursday we headed off for our first 48 hour stint aboard Doris. The original plan had been to row out across the channel but the weather was against us and with 50mph winds predicted we took the advice of Tony who will be our land support when we are out on the Pacific, and changed the plan to stay in more sheltered waters. Although we will deal with tougher conditions out in the Pacific we wouldn’t be able to get far enough away from the coast to be safe out there this week.

Doris meets the BBC cameras

We were up early and headed down to Falmouth Haven to pack up Doris with our supplies for the two days. After a final interview with BBC Spotlight we rowed away from the marina with the legendary Guy in a RIB acting as our support boat. We had decided to head out to Pendennis Point to get a taste of some rough water and it was my first experience of rowing Doris in some proper waves. It was great fun battling the elements although very tough to keep her facing into the waves. It was slightly less fun once we swapped over on the oars and Izzy and I ended up in the cabin experiencing some seasickness symptoms. Stay posted for the BBC footage of us out on the water. After a few hours we headed back to the shelter of Falmouth and bid goodbye to Guy ready to spend the following 42 hours bouncing up and down (and up and down) the River Fal. We now know every twist, turn, mudbank and boat on that stretch of water!

Laura and Nat happy on the oars

Laura and Nat happy on the oars

We rowed 2 hours on, 2 hours off for the full 48 hours meaning that each of us was on the oars for 24 hours, never getting more than about an hour’s sleep at a time. However, we all seemed to manage it pretty well and in the most part it was really enjoyable. A noticeable exception to this was the 3.30am to 5.30am shift which was definitely the toughest. Especially on the first night where Izzy and I ended up battling against the tide for 2 hours, managing to move nowhere and sitting next to a green buoy for the entire shift. Being the intelligent individuals that we are we decided to keep ourselves awake by playing ‘I spy’. In the dark. Whilst not moving!

Izzy enjoying some sunshine

During the 48 hours we experienced, rain, wind, sunshine, lightning and fog, all of which we dealt with in good spirits, staying dry and warm in our Crewsaver outerwear. We also experienced the challenges of changing in and out of many layers of clothes in a very small cabin, cooking in the footwell, sleep deprivation and use of the bucket! Insight was gained into how careful we are going to have to be when trying to fit all of our kit onto our small boat and how important it is for everything to have a place. However the most important thing that we learnt was how well we have bonded as a team. We looked after each other, entertained each other, sang to each other and laughed a lot. So excited for our next adventure!

Nats getting a bit wet on the oars

Huge thanks need to go to Shaun Pascoe, Falmouth Haven, Guy and all of the other supporters who joined us in Falmouth or came over to say hello on the water.  The Cornish welcome was a huge morale booster and I’m sure we’ll be back!

Some well earned pasties from Laura's Aunt Marie to celebrate a successful 48hrs training

Some well earned pasties from Laura’s Aunt Marie to celebrate a successful 48hrs training

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Sea Survival Skills – with Survival Wisdom

On Monday and Tuesday of last week the team and Doris were down in Plymouth with the amazing Survival Wisdom (www.survivalwisdom.com) for 2 days of sea survival training.
We arrived at the Survival Wisdom centre at the beautiful Mount Edgecumbe country park, accompanied by the brilliant Dean from Timecode Pro (www.timecodepro.co.uk), who generously came with us to film our training.
The day began with a welcome cup of tea and introductions to our instructors: Richard, Jase and Alf. The team at Survival Wisdom specialise in “giving you the resilience to deal with challenging environments across the globe and enduring, crucial skills for any situation”. They have a scarily impressive portfolio of military experience gained working and training in some of the most challenging environments in the world, including sea, jungle, desert and extreme cold environments, so we were in very safe hands!
Monday was a day in the classroom broken down into 4 main sessions:
(1) Overview of sea survival and a discussion of hazard awareness and risk reduction specifically in the context of our Pacific Ocean row
(2) The psychology of survival
(3) A discussion of the safety equipment that we will have with us for our row
(4) A ‘dry’ run through of life raft drills, man (or lady!) overboard drills and use of flares
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The sessions were incredibly valuable. The Survival Wisdom team had done their homework and had a close look at our planned route and equipment list, so all of their advice was tailored toour challenge.
It is crucial to our team that we approach our row as safely as possible and reduce all potential risks as much as we can. As part of this, we will be making sure that we have all of the best safety equipment and know how to use it. Before we go, we will also identify all potential hazards and prepare detailed ‘what ifs’, setting out the actions that we will take if particular sets of circumstances arise. It was reassuring to run through some of these scenarios with Survival Wisdom and to hear their positive thoughts on our approach and to get some brilliant additional suggestions from the team.
The ‘dry’ run through was a good learning experience, as well as great fun. We started with a quick session outside where Jase went over how to activate white collision flares. We then headed back to the classroom to practice the actions required for getting ourselves into a liferaft. Doris is a completely self-righting boat, so we should never need to get into our Crewsaver Life raft, however we need to be well prepared for the worse case scenario.
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On Tuesday, we had a chance to put the previous day’s learning into practice. We headed out on Doris early in the morning from the Mayflower Marina in Plymouth, who generously hosted us for the day (www.mayflowermarina.co.uk), and rowed out into Cawsand Bay. Conditions were windy and bumpy enough that 3 of us were a little sea sick. That didn’t hold us back though, and we met Richard and Jase from Survival Wisdom out in the bay with Alastair and one of his colleagues from All Marine Engineering Services (www.allmarineengineering.co.uk) with their boat.
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We started off by practising our liferaft drill. We were wearing our amazing Crewsaver ErgoFit smocks, salopettes and 190N life
jackets and we jumped off Doris into the water with our grab bag of crucial safety equipment. We grouped together into a ‘crocodile’ and swam together to the liferaft.
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Once inside, we ran through the list of immediate actions to be taken on entering the liferaft (bailing excess water, inflating the final bits of the raft, closing the doors, deploying the para anchor etc). The conditions were choppy, which made the drill more realistic. We even spotted a twister on the horizon(!) and Emma and Laura were battling with sea sickness throughout, but they didn’t let that distract them from the task in hand.
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After the liferaft drill, we practiced our man over board drill from Doris. Getting back into Doris from the water was more challenging than getting into the liferaft, but we all managed it unassisted. We also practised lifting an “unconscious” Laura into the boat. After the successful drills, we headed back into the Mayflower Marina and to Jolly Jacks Bar Bistro for a well earned fish and chip lunch and a debrief. There we met Sally Baum, Heather and the team at Jolly Jacks who came on board as sponsors of our row after just a quick meeting and we were completely blown away by their kindness, enthusiasm and generosity.
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There isn’t room in this blog to set out all of the numerous learning outcomes of our sea survival training, but if there are 3 things that we will all take away from our time with Survival Wisdom, they are probably these:
(1) Everything we take on Doris must have a purpose (and, if it can, more than one purpose, as there isn’t much room on
board!)
(2) Be aware of possible risks, or ‘lemons’. Identify them and don’t let them accumulate – we don’t want too many lemons on the boat!
(3) When faced with a challenging situation, there is no substitute for having a cup of tea and taking the time to make a good team decision about how to deal with it.
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A huge thanks again to Dean from Timecode Pro, the teams at Survival Wisdom and All Marine Engineering Services, the Mayflower Marina and Jolly Jacks for all of your support and for making it a great couple of days in Plymouth.
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