Archive for May, 2015

Day 18 – Happy Days

Isabel Burnham By

Day 18 – Happy days

The last couple of days have been very special ones aboard Doris.

Yesterday I received news via our sat phone that I have become an auntie for the first time. My older sister Emily and her husband Ben have welcomed a little boy. It’s sad not to be at home at such a special time for our family, but it was fantastic to receive the news out in the middle of the Pacific. I can’t wait to get home and meet my little nephew – I will just have to be patient.

After a peaceful night on the oars, this morning initially brought grey overcast skies. However, by lunchtime the clouds had cleared and the sun came out. We are experiencing a few days of very calm conditions. The sea was beautifully flat and glassy all day and you could see for miles and miles. When I imagined the Pacific before the row I imagined all sorts of different conditions, but I never once imagined that the ocean could look like a giant pond! We enjoyed rowing in shorts and t- shirts (rather than our wet weather gear) and took the opportunity to do plenty of washing, hanging everything out to dry. Mid-afternoon, Laura, Ems and I couldn’t resist any longer and we jumped off Doris and went for a quick swim. The water was so blue and clear and it was incredible to swim right out at sea so far from everything. There isn’t a lot of room on Doris to stretch out, so being able to stretch and float in the water was bliss.

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After swim time came shower time. All four of us went out on deck and had a proper wash. There were a number of different approaches taken, including using buckets, sponges, flannels and a solar shower. Three of us even washed our hair. It was amazing to be covered in fresh water. We would have been quite a sight had anyone passed by – four women all trying their best to balance on a wobbly little pink boat while showering! We’re now hoping for a beautiful sunset and a quiet starry night to top off a fab day.

There are some thoughts below from the other girls on our first swimming and showering session.

Laura – ‘today to date is without a doubt the highlight for me of the trip so far. Experiencing swimming in the middle of the Pacific was something i knew I’d look forward to doing and it didn’t disappoint. Diving under Doris and looking down into the beautiful blue was epic. To top it off with then having a proper clean solar shower on the boat felt so refreshing. I couldn’t resist though to shout out the line from Old School ‘come on everybody we’re streaking!’ & although I found this highly amusing it fell on deaf ears to none of my team mates having seen the film (I think I need to educate when we arrive in Hawaii!). Certainly if there was any aircraft that flew by at the time they would have got a shocking view!

Emma – Going for a swim in the Pacific was an amazing experience. The ocean was like glass and it was like being in our own giant infinity pool. It was also great to get a different view of our beautiful Doris. I feel properly clean for the first time in 18 days and the hilarity of shower time on an ocean rowing boat was a great team bonding experience. Day 18 has just finished off with a beautiful dusk shift. With full cloud cover there was no colourful sunset but just a fading of the light turning everything to a silver glow making Laura and I feel like we were in a dream.

Natalia – The wind dropped and the sea became this still, deep blue, translucent expanse. It was incredible. I will swim in the middle of the Pacific, but today was not my day. I’m waiting for slightly warmer waters and took the opportunity to film the others! The shower was greatly needed after so long. Nothing quite like a soaking in fresh water and being all 4 of us on deck together was hysterical!! It’s amazing what we take for granted like a simple daily shower!


Day 17 – music and our favourite things

Natalia Cohen By

Day 17 – Music and Our Favourite Things

Yaaaay…we have now officially broken our record for continuous time out at sea! We’re making good westward progress… albeit slowly. The days have begun to blur and I add an animal sticker to our aft bulk head every day so that we don’t lose track of the number of days we’ve been out here.

Chatting, story telling and listening to the sounds of the wind and the waves keep us all entertained but music has begun to play a significant part for all of us out here on the ocean waves.
During some shifts we decide to chat and in others we agree that we will be doing some personal music listening. Different shifts need certain types of music and I am beginning to work out what types of music will work best for me in certain situations and when I’m in certain moods.
Music is also one of the coping strategies that we have taught to use if and when certain situations arise.

As a luxury item on board Doris, we each have a personal iPod, and music is a great way to pass some of the 12 hours of rowing on the oars.
We all have quite varied music tastes in general but there is a good number of songs that we all happily sing a long to and really love. We do like a good sing a long!

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I’ve always had a love of music and it’s always been an important part of my life. I made a huge effort to travel the world and collect snippets of sound bites from all countries I’ve explored. The result is an amazingly varied collection and the memories that the songs bring flooding back always put a smile on my face.

So far, I’ve been slowly listening my way through the last 40 years of my life and re-living many of the eras, adventures and experiences with the girls by sharing the stories that they evoke.
It’s been amazing and humbling and I truly am blessed to have had such a full and colourful existence as well as a captive audience that have no choice but to sit there and listen!!

Sometimes the music just provides a subtle soundtrack for some reflective time staring out at the vast deep blue ocean and then other times that music serves purely as a distraction technique, or way to power up when your body or brain resists.

I’m partnered with Izz at the moment, who adores her music and is a wonderful singer…
Having re sung all the songs from the Sound of Music – we went on a mission to create a song of our own.
We leave you with this…

Our Favourite things

Oatcakes, dried mango and snack packs surprises
Warm sleeping bags and beautiful sunrises Dolphins and whales and easterly winds These are a few of our favourite things

When our bums hurt When the Velcro sticks When we’re feeling sad
We simply remember our favourite things And then we don’t feel so bad

Sunshine and starry nights and moonlight on the water
Laughter and story telling and 2 hour shifts that feel shorter
Albatrosses that soar by with long outstretched wings
These are a few of our favourite things

When the waves splash
When we’re cold and wet
When we’re feeling sad
We simply remember our favourite things And then we don’t feel so bad

Social time and passing ships and messages from home
Music and audiobooks and forecasts on the sat phone
Waiting to see what the next rowing shift brings
These are a few of our favourite things

When the muscles ache
When the hands claw
When we’re feeling sad
We simply remember our favourite things And then we don’t feel so bad



Day 16 – Social time

Emma Mitchell By

Day 16 – Social Time

Due to our shift pattern where we row and rest in pairs it is very rare that the 4 of us all get to spend time together as a full team. On a normal day our interaction with the other pair is limited to good mornings and good nights, making faces through the hatch and a handover of the current steering and sea state as we swap over on the oars. Keith our awesome psych support (who incidentally has been sending us a quote a day since we left from San Francisco – I’m interested to see if he has enough to last us all the way to Australia!) had stressed the importance of including some social time for the 4 of us while out on the ocean. Yesterday afternoon we were struggling with the wind and current and after finding that we were drifting faster than we could row and in a better direction decided to all retire to the aft cabin. Those of you who have been following our blog will know that we have been singing a lot of ‘The Sound of Music’ soundtrack during our rowing shifts. Whilst in Santa Barbara Laura downloaded the film on to her iPad so we decided what better way to spend a couple of hours than having a sing along. Cue laughing til we cried, some terrible singing prompting Izzy to suggest ‘Shall we just listen to her (Julie Andrews) sing?’, a lot of dead legs (the aft cabin is a bit cozy for 4!) and a couple of hours break from the reality of being ocean rowers.


After the film Laura and I heading back to the oars and made some good progress west during a peaceful first night shift. During our following off shift I was woken up just after midnight by our AIS alarm letting us know that a cargo boat was within 2 nautical miles of us. I got on the radio to check that they had seen us (they had) and had a nice chat to them before being told off by the coastguard for using channel 16 for idle chit chat. They then had a chat to Nats on the handheld radio on deck. The boat was called Maunda Willi and the conversation went a little like this:

Nat: ‘We’re a 29ft ocean rowing boat, what kind of boat are you?
Maunda Willi: ‘we’re a 1000ft cargo ship’
Nat: ‘you’re… big!’
Maunda Willi: ‘you guys have balls’
Trust me in a sleep deprived state it was hilarious!


Day 15 – midnight ramblings


Day 15 midnight ramblings

So for the last 3 days I’ve been on shift patterns with Izz. Every 3 days we rotate our row partner so that each of us have shared time together rather than developing 2 teams of 2 on the boat. For us it works really well as its pulling us closer together and gives opportunity to spend time with one another.

Anyhew, the last 3 night shifts with Izz has been movie night on the oars and an awesome recollection of The Lord of The Rings trilogy. Izz is honestly amazing at narrating the whole story, she remembers all the names of the places, people and the step by step plot from start to finish. I honestly feel like I’ve rewatched the movies and it made each 2hr night shift fly by. The only hiccup is when I try and interlude on the story when I’m trying to keep myself awake. Usually between the hours of 3-5am I am s little drowsy & this apparently is prime viewing for my midnight ramblings / gobbledegook talking. Basically what happens, is that I’m trying to stay awake so start talking but then during the conversation I drift off into daydream and my conversation apparently shifts to that also. According to Izz, An example is the following: ‘Yes I remember Frodo having an invisible jacket he also has my iPod on charge which I mustn’t forget, but I don’t know how to log out and save my file from excel on my computer like on the iPad!’ It’s not until I hear izzy say ‘You what?!!’ That it snaps me out of it and I realise where I am. So to get me back on focus, we decided to stand up and do our ‘Friday chicken dance’ (courtesy of our sport psych Keith and sorry Keith we adapted this for when needs must on alternative days!). Worked a treat and then I was fully compus mentis for the closing of Lord of the Rings.

Personal messages:
Mum – can’t believe you put pepper on Islas pasta when she meant Peppa Pig – has had me chuckling for days! Michelle and Heather – SO great to speak to you both, you felt like you weren’t that far away and I loved hearing your voices and sound words of support. Can’t wait to meet Pip!
Adam Sargent – hope the training is going well, I’ll need to do some cycling when I get back before we go out for a ride. Paul Robertson – Where did you get the daily fact of the days that you wrote with Michelle on my daily cards? Flippin love them and they are a talk of the boat on a daily basis. Current favourite ‘Donald duck comics were banned in Finland because he doesn’t wear pants’ priceless!

Laura x


Day 14 – Time

Isabel Burnham By

Time works strangely aboard Doris.

2 hours on the oars can fly by when you’re listening to music and watching the sunset, or chatting with one of the other girls and rowing into the night under the stars. Or 2 hours can feel like forever, dragging out minute by minute, when you are battling against a strong wind with the water heavy on your blades, or are struggling to keep your eyes open in a night shift.

Sometimes 2 hours off feels like a decent break and you have time to eat, check the sat phone, wash and rest. Other times you go to sleep at night only to wake up what feels like 10 minutes later, but it’s time to go again.

As the day is broken down into 12 two hour shifts, we each have 3 daytime and 3 nighttime rowing shifts and 3 daytime and 3 nighttime rest shifts. When all of the shifts are put together, they seem to race by. Every day comes to an end and I can’t believe how fast the sunset shift has come around again. The rest shifts during the night are swallowed up with sleep and I am always surprised how quickly the dawn shift comes and the next day has arrived. Today we have reached the 2 week marker and it feels like a lot less.

I’m enjoying the simplicity of it all. Nothing to focus on but our little boat. At the same time, it is so lovely to receive messages of support and news from home. I spoke to my parents on Sunday on our sat phone and have been enjoying getting all the updates and messages from friends from home via email. Thank you so much for sending them through.

The last 36 hours has finally brought calmer and drier conditions. Although we still don’t have the easterly winds we need, we are making steady progress west and have had a chance to dry out our kit. The change has brought renewed enthusiasm in the team. We’re looking forward to a bit of social time when we next swap pairs and we’re making plans for fancy dress Friday.


Day 13 – this too shall pass


Day 13 – This too shall pass…

5 years ago I did a 10 day silent meditation course that was the hardest thing, mentally, I’d ever done. During this Vipassana course ( you are simply and effectively taught the basics of a Buddhist meditation technique. The courses are run all over the world in the exact same format, are funded by donations and staffed by volunteers who have sat the course at least once before. It was a fascinating experience and one that will forever remain with me in some subtle shape or form. The ultimate goal being love and compassion for all – which is how I attempt to lead my life by looking for the best in others as well as remembering to be kind to myself.

The basic teaching is that there is this law of nature that everything changes. Attempting to change the bad habit patterns of the mind and not to have cravings or aversions to things (as they will only ever lead to unhappiness or suffering), is at the centre of the teachings. Be balanced and non reactive to situations and be safe in the knowledge that whatever it is that is happening or you are feeling right now, will change.
For this reason there is no need to hold on to stuff mentally and by not giving negative scripts more power by indulging them – you simply observe and then let it go (in the wise words of the Frozen lyrics!)

There’s all the evidence in the world for this being a good way to live life and no example more perfect then what we are experiencing right now out here in the almighty Pacific. I’m doing my best to be non reactive, but it’s difficult. I have to constantly remind myself to feel no aversion to the regular soakings and the freezing cold clothes we have to put on before rowing. My sleep deprived mind plays tricks on me, especially at night, and I’m so exhausted that I dream I’m rowing and row in a dream like state through many shifts.
I try not to get too excited when the sun shines or the wind ceases from blowing so hard so that we can row with two arms…and I know that all this is a mere taste of things to come.
We will be tested every stoke of this journey. The key is to take all moments as they come and remember that:

This too shall pass

I have a sneaky suspicion that this next few months is going to become the most difficult thing I will have done to date. Although the physical is becoming more challenging now with the bum issues, wind in a less than favourable position creating hard rowing, cold, constant dampness etc… we know that all this will change. Before long the heat and possible lack of wind will be our challenges and after that a different set of obstacles to overcome – no doubt.

How we deal with most of the physical is through the mind and the mental challenge was always going to be the biggest test out here. That was what had drawn me to the expedition. I will need to remind myself of this when I’m battling the aversions and giving in to the cravings (fresh food, more than 90 minutes sleep at a time, a shower, being able to stand steadily straight upright etc !??!)

What we are going through will be finite and nothing compared to the mental strength needed by a cancer sufferer or woman injured at war. This is where we have witnessed some real strength and spirit. The mind is our most powerful tool and it’s good to remember that.

Update: the wind has died and we were able to enjoy a couple of shifts remaining dry and discomfort free. The sun shone and the sea expanded calmly before us.
Ems and I had a peaceful sunset shift and although I’ll breathe in the moments, I won’t attach myself – as by the next 2 hour shift – who knows what the ocean will throw at us.



Day 12 – take 2


Day 12 – take 2

Today it has been hard going to have fun on Doris. It is still 18knot North Westerly winds which is making it hard work to hold a good course over ground and we are still getting very cold and wet every rowing shift. We are also still mainly rowing with only our right hand oar which is becoming very tiring. We are beginning to think we will arrive in Hawaii very lopsided!

However, excitingly we are now at 123 degrees West which is officially further West than we have been since leaving San Francisco! I also got to ring and speak to my Mum on our satellite phone. It was amazing to speak to home and have her sound like she was just next door. A few nights ago Laura and I were on the favourite 2am night shift and we’re talking about the people who inspire us and my Mum is definitely that person for me. Always inspiring me to go after what I want and follow my dreams no matter how crazy they might be!

Nat and I have just had a tasty meal of chicken and veg noodles and defrosted our feet and now we need to get ready to head back out into the cold and wet and head West.
Update! We saw a turtle. He was next to the boat and was about 70cm long. He initially looked a bit like a piece of debris but then he poked his head up to say hello. We called him Edward!

Leaving you with Izzy’s quote for today… “Being cold wet and tired on your own is miserable. Being cold, wet and tired with friends is an adventure.”



Day 11 – Uncle Tone doesn’t do precipitation

Laura Penhaul By

Day 11 – ‘Uncle Tone doesn’t do precipitation’

So when we first started working with Tony (who we’ve now become accustomed to call Uncle Tone, our number one onshore support) we discussed through his weather reporting plan, we asked about knowing when it would rain, Tony’s response was ‘I don’t do precipitation’ apparently wind is the only necessary information we need to know. Well today Uncle Tone, it precipitated… A lot! I’m sure when we ever get the days of reaching sunny climates and have a tropical rain storm, we’ll appreciate the fresh water, however today, combined with the regular crashing over of waves, it added to being soaked right through! Unfortunately Doris doesn’t come with a tumble dryer or heater to dry our layers, so it was once again back to the glorious wet/dry routine, which is always a pleasure to get back into after a 2hr rest in the dry. However on a good note, we think we have finally freed from the Southerly current and can once again attempt to push West. North Westerly winds are 15-18 currently so are limiting us getting out too sharply but it certainly feels a lot better moving in the right direction. Not going to lie, I think we’re all looking forward to finding some of those Easterly winds and sunshine that everyone talks about, rowing this last week has been heavy going and we’re all starting to feel the effects. Ongoing thank you to everyone who is sending us lovely messages and keeping us updated.

Personal messages:
Paula Dunn – so great to hear from you although sorry to hear of some of the injuries, please pass on my thoughts to those mentioned and give Gemma a hug from me.
Dan Howie – your messages are cracking us up! We love them and I want a full update of the stag do antics, hope it’s everything you wished for ;).
Bernard Cohen – HAPPY BIRTHDAY for Saturday! Your daughter is keeping us all amused on the boat.



Day 10 – Right arm rowing

Isabel Burnham By

Day 10 – Right arm rowing

A prolonged patch of NW and W winds has meant that we have been rowing fairly similar conditions for the last week or so. We are battling to continue to move West as much as we can but progress is very slow. Watching our boat speed and course over ground on the on deck repeater has become addictive. Even an increase in speed of 0.1 or 0.2 knots seems significant. My right arm is starting to show definite signs of overuse with the joints in my hand and elbow aching and stiff. Fingers crossed for some more favourable winds soon so that the left arm can get back into action more.

A big plus of the current conditions is that we haven’t had such strong winds and high swells as on some previous occasions so the night rowing has been by and large peaceful and there has been much less splashing. Dry rowers = happy rowers. We also have plenty of sunshine during the days, so have been taking advantage of it and washing and drying some of our clothes. Doris looks a little like a floating laundry with items of clothes handing off every possible fixing.

We are continually coming up with new topics of conversation to keep us awake on the oars. Last night I treated Ems to the full story of Les Miserables (which she had never heard), including some of the songs from the musical, which took up a full 2 hour shift! There is something wonderful about being able to sing out at the ocean at the top of your lungs and knowing that no one will hear you (apart from poor Ems, Nat and Laura of course!). Today brought chat of favourite films and quotes from movies. I’m continuing to love listening to music on the oars. 4.15-6.15pm for me and Ems is usually a peaceful music shift with the sun glinting gold on the water as it just starts to sink in the sky. That shift is up next after this break. I’m going to read a couple of chapters of my book now, eats some Nutella on some oat cakes and then jump on the oars at 4.15. Looking forward to getting back out there.