Archive for September, 2015

Leg 2, Day 64 – A blog about blogs

Laura Penhaul By

Day 64 – A blog about blogs

A number of you have kindly asked us questions in emails or in our blog comments, as to ‘when do we find the time to blog?’, ‘where do you get the inspiration about what to write?’, ‘when do you start thinking about your blog?’etc. so I thought I’d take inspiration from you all and use this time to answer your questions.

As you may now know, we rotate around the team writing a blog each day, so that we only need to write one every 4 days. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when we have no idea what to write about and it feels a little arduous, but truth be told, I think writing the blogs has been a blessing, as it creates a natural distraction from the monotony of row, eat, sleep, repeat. Sometimes we have the ‘planned blogs’ where we’ve thought of a number of subjects we want to write about and have 3 or 4 lined up before it gets to our turn. Other times it will be a ‘reflective blog’ where in the preceding 3 days it occupies some thinking time whilst on the oars and therefore helps a 2hr shift fly by.

Alternatively, there is the ‘wing it blog’, when literally in the last 2hr off shift you still have no idea what you’re going to write until you pick up the iPad and start typing. Finally, there’s the ‘event blogs’ when you’re lucky enough to have something significant happen on your blog day, whether that’s an animal sighting, a storm or a key milestone achieved.

With regards to the timing of writing our blogs, this comes down to our 2 awake shifts, giving us less than 4hrs to fit it in amongst the other chores. Thankfully, being a great team, we look out for each other and often the one that isn’t blogging, will make the food and run the water maker to save time. This leaves just eating, washing and reading our emails coming in, before we can settle in to writing our blog.

Once our blog is written, we tend to do ‘story time’ for the other team mates on the oars, which is usually during the sunset shift or before depending on timing. This entails propping one self up by the aft cabin so to face the rowers and also the team mate in the cabin can hear. The blog is then read out which also gives a chance for correction of any mistakes and/or additional comments to add from the rest of the team.

The iridium Go is then run so that we can send/receive emails for the second time that day, it would be our night time so equivalent of your early morning (approx. 7am UK time). Often the sending of the blog runs over into our first sleep shift, so once the routine of logbook, talcing and sudocreme application is complete, silk liners laid out and alarm set, the blogger will lay reclined and the light off so that the team mate can snooze. Then the blogger will lay out with an arm outstretched by the hatch so that the iridium go aerial can face up to the sky. If a picture is being sent, this can often take many attempts and up to an hour, leaving just 15-30mins of snooze time before being back on the oars.

The comments and emails we receive from you all is really humbling and running the iridium go to receive emails into our inbox is honestly what we look forward to each day. Our support team back home will post us a copy of your blog or Facebook comments and then in our row partners, one of us reads the messages aloud to the other. Simon TY, JG, Jim Andrews, Andrea Herr to name a few, thank you for your unrelenting support since day 1, your comments make us feel connected to you and closer to home than what we really are. Emails received from people we have yet to meet but send us regular updates, I.e. Mike Fenwick and Aunty Linda thank you. There are also those we may never meet but send us a fleeting email to let us know they are reading and following and have been influenced by what we’re doing, we are truly humbled to think we can touch anyone’s lives, so thank you for letting us know. What is strange and difficult for us, is to have this one way relationship with you all, receiving amazing emails and messages from afar but not having the ability to return our thanks. Please know we do appreciate every comment or email we receive and we hope that one day on land we can get back to you with a personal thank you.

UPDATE: Don’t say it too loud or it might come back but we seem to have had a let up in the strong westerly current over the last 24 hours and have been able to make progress South! Woop woop about time! We appear to be in sperm whale territory at the moment. The other night on the stroke of midnight Lizanne and Ems were visited by a large pod of sperm whales swimming all around close to the boat. It was magical to see them by the light of a full moon and a really special moment. Early this morning Laura and Ems saw another pod of these beautiful whales with their big stubby noses swimming past Doris. We also watched a group of masked boobies and frigate birds catching their breakfast. We have had the most beautiful couple of nights rowing under a clear sky with the horizon lit up by a huge bright moon. Sadly there was no sign of an eclipse over here and we think it must have been over before our night time.

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Leg 2 Day 63 – Rockin’ and Rollin’ with the Waves on land

Meg Dyos By

Leg 2 Day 63 – Rockin’ and Rollin’ with the Waves on land

As I prepare for the impending adventure and last leg of our journey across the Pacific, my life more than ever seems to be revolving around the movements of the waves in the Pacific Ocean. With my original departure date having been approximated before the girls left San Francisco for late August – here I am in late September – on land, and watching the small pink dots plotting our progress like a snail trail across the Pacific. Like you, these dots inform me where the girls are, as I watch the image of ‘Doris’ addictively, and anticipate my nearing but still unknown departure date.

The girls asked me to write a blog about the build up to Samoa, and it’s difficult to know where to start! With Lizanne’s departure to Hawaii, someone who I had grown very fond of and despite the mileage between us with her in South Africa and myself in UK, she was the perfect training buddy, and general teammate! But then, with the arrival of Izz back to land it has been great listening to her wise Pacific knowledge and advice, and getting to know her better (I only met Izz once before the girls left). My training has also continued both mentally and physically, although I tell you maintaining weight gain is hard when there is so much going on! Last week myself and Izzy completed a 24 hour row in Kent. With the help of our sponsors, New Level Results it was a great event. Mentally it was brilliant to know what spending 2 hours rowing felt like at any one time, but also spending 12 hours on a rowing machine in a 24 hour period brought home the physical reality of our journey, and only makes me more in awe of the girls I will be rowing with on their 3rd and final leg across the Pacific. This row, especially since the girls have been out at sea since April, has been very much about the support team coming together and supporting each other and the girls on Doris both emotionally as well as physically, and I firmly believe that these girls will be friends for life!

But in the meantime, finding myself slightly alone on land whilst the girls have been at sea, I’ve done my best to talk to people that have rowed oceans etc, and get advice from any nook and cranny that I can! In doing this, Ben Cooper has been great to talk to! He is currently in training to SWIM the Atlantic – I REPEAT – SWIM the Atlantic! Do give him a follow at www.swimthebigblue.com – he is called ‘Bonkers Ben’ for a reason! Another person is Alan who rowed the Atlantic solo, who I met for lunch and ate chicken feet with in Chinatown (as you do) – but its people like this, amongst others that have kept me going, and talking to them about their adventures has given me a greater insight into being out at sea.

I suppose the message of my blog today is – yep I’m still here, rooting for and supporting the amazing four girls currently still rowing on Doris getting closer by the day to Samoa! The support team are spreading the word as much and more than ever – I’m prepping my body and brain with cream cakes and mindfulness – but for now, lets continue to cheer these totally amazing girls and hope that the currents push us ever closer to the end of Leg 2 – SAMOA – Extra toilet rolls and Oreo’s to be packed for leg 3!

Meg x

Update: We reached less than 800nm to go today! Woop woop! This caused for celebration with a special exped food and for me a hair wash. Unfortunately as per usual, the current was not favourable to allow us to stop rowing, but hopefully only one more degree to go until we’re out of this ridiculous ITCZ. We would have loved to go swimming and know a few of you have asked why we’re not swimming more. Fundamentally it’s because the conditions haven’t been suitable and we can’t afford to drift even a mile off course, getting in and out is disruptive to the rowers on the oars plus if you’ve gone in you have to have a shower with clean water afterwards so you don’t risk salt sores- again disrupting rowing on deck. Finally Fernando has certainly put a stop to us wanting to jump in, especially considering that he pops up out of nowhere! LP x

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Leg 2, Day 62 – Prepping for Pancakes

The Team By

Day 62 – Prepping for Pancakes

There’s a saying in Afrikaans that goes “n boer maak n plan”. Quite literally that means “a farmer makes a plan”, although it’s not referring to literal farmers but locally a ‘boer’ is a word describing Afrikaans people and so is referring to the resourceful nature, persistence and perseverance of the South Africans. I perhaps shouldn’t be talking like this seeing as the rugby World Cup is going on and I heard SA lost to Japan?!! But alas, it’s a small saying that has big impact. It has been poignant in my life as I’ll generally look for ways to adapt when life throws a curve ball.

I don’t mean to bore you again with the same news, but we are STILL going West, and we desperately need to make some headway South very soon. The current and wind has been relentless and is making every rowing shift difficult as it feels like we’re rowing through treacle.

“Control the controllables” Keith, our sports psych always says, so in attempt to lift the mood I dug out our ready made pancake mix and baking tray. During my reflective time on the oars recently I have been contemplating two things; what I’m going to do with the fish when I catch it, and what the best way would be to make the pancakes. It’s important stuff!image1 (13)

So onto the making of pancakes a couple of days ago. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, here’s how it went…

Needed:
Two Tupperware
Three plastic sporks (or whatever utensils you have)
Baking tray
Jet boiler
Readymade pancake mix
Water
Nutella (essential)
Oil (we used the almond oil that collected at the top of our almond butter)

This is best done on a scorching hot day when your rowing partner has got to write their blog as there will be limited movement and disturbance in the cabin… Thanks Emma,

Preheat baking tray to (as hot as it will get) degrees by leaving it out in the sun, on the side opposite to where the waves are splashing.

Once all your utensils and ingredients are set out to take up most of the space around you in the small cabin, taste the Nutella just to make sure it’s still ok…

Scoop a spoon full of almond oil with spork 1, avoiding the almond butter and pour onto baking tray and spread out evenly over middle section of tray. Leave in the sun to heat for about 10mins (if you’re time conscious like we are). Ideally longer would yield better results.

Into Tupperware 1 put a few scoops of pancake mix, add water and mix until you have desired consistency. Seeing as we won’t be able to get the heat up very high a thinner consistency is advisable as to avoid a thick uncooked middle. Check Nutella again, still ok.

Fill the jetboil with a cup of water and turn it on waiting until water starts to boil. Bring the heat down to a simmer and place the jetboil underneath the baking tray to allow the steam to heat the tray further. Once it’s hot, pour some pancake mix onto the oil covered area of the tray.

Once the pancake mix is spread out into a thin layer with spork 2, cover it with Tupperware 2. This creates a kind of ‘greenhouse effect’ around the pancake mix which will act like a steamer.
(……and you thought you’d never use all those science experiments at school!!)

Test pancake readiness by prodding with finger. If it separates it’s not ready yet.

To remove pancake from baking tray, use a Coxless Crew postcard. It’s a perfect spatula size and wonderfully thin which causes pancake to stay intact.

No need to flip the pancake as it has been steamed from the top already. With spork 3 apply toppings. Nutella still ok? Yep, still fine.

Topping choices:

  1. Nutella (thank the stars for Nutella)
  2. Almond or peanut butter with Nutella
  3. Dried fruit with Nutella

Sadly I burnt my leg with the hot water during my science experiment which meant that the rest of pancake day will resume on a different day when the sea state allows. Leg is fine, stuck it in the sea and it has been wrapped in cellophane like a chicken fillet for the past few days, all fine now.

UPDATE:  I’ve been learning a bit of Spanish from a podcast and Nat giving me lessons. I’m back on the oars with her which means lessons resume. Vamos!

Lizanne x

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Leg 2, Day 61 – Day & Night

Natalia Cohen By

Day & Night

Whenever we need help, hope, inspiration or strength, we naturally look up. I’m not sure if that upwards glance is to connect with the ‘presence’ or ‘universal energy’ we all believe in (in whatever form that comes) or by looking to the heavens above we feel the space to breathe and the opportunity to clear our minds. The one thing that connects us all no matter our destination or circumstance, is the sky and atmosphere surrounding it. I have never spent so much time studying the sky as I have out here in the almighty Pacific and I have developed a deeper adoration and amazement for what is so freely on offer to us all and that embodies the impermanence of everything. Daytime
I’ve always been a fan of the blue sky as it gives a good bright light and background colour to photos and makes any place seem happier and more alive. However, I do also believe that a cloudscape helps to add drama to a landscape and also aids in producing some of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen. One of our favourite pastimes out on the oars is cloud watching.

So much so in fact, that we decided that we were going to create a cloud appreciation society on our return and were completely dismayed to find that someone has beaten us to it!!

Shapes, sizes and textures constantly shift, merge and break. Huge towers climb upwards and wispy tufts streak across the sky. Cloud colours Include white and varying hues of grey and blues during the day and pinks, oranges and reds during sunrise and sunsets.

Clouds

There are numerous types of cloud and although I am yet to educate myself on all of them (which would be an amazing thing to know)…here are a handful I can share:

– Cumulus – are the fluffy cotton wool type of clouds that drift happily across the sky on sunny days. Normally this type of cloud does not produce rain and so they are also known as fair- weather clouds. They can however form a tall tower which is then known as a Cumulus Congestus and can give short showers.

– Stratocumulus – is the most widespread of all cloud types. This is a low layer or patch of cloud and normally what you see when the sky is overcast. Stratocumulus comes in many varieties and can be thick whereby it blocks the sun or moon completely, has more than one layer, is quite wave like in appearance, or thin and therefore shows the outline of the sun or moon.

– Cirrus – are those beautiful clouds that form the tufted wispy streaks and are usually found high in the sky. These usually turn an iridescent pink during our sunsets out here.

– Stratus – is the continuous horizontal sheet of cloud that forms and more than often comes with rain. We’ve seen a lot of these in the doldrums.

Rather than point at clouds and shout “look, a stratocumulus opacus”, we do what everyone else does and find as many shapes, forms and stories as we can hidden in the clouds.

LP and I are definitely the main cloud namers. Between us we have seen elephants, dogs, cats, mice, angels, robots, rabbits and camels, to name a few. We had a cat and dog, one in front of each other, watching the sunset one evening and I have seen a couple dancing the tango, with the woman’s leg placed high on the man’s shoulder.
Leading on from the lack of testosterone theme of my last blog, we have on more than a few occasions also spotted certain male body parts shaped clouds!

Daytime treats in the sky include: – rainbows – birds (Boobies, Frigates, Terns, Petrels, Shearwaters)
– sun halos Nighttime The cycle of the moon creates variety for us at night out here in the middle of nothingness.
With a new moon and clear sky, the galaxy stretches above us shining infinite starlight down upon us. The more you stare, the more you see. As the moon waxes (gets bigger) or wanes (gets smaller) you get varied skies and light. With a full moon our oceanic world is lit up as if a giant torch is shining on and around Doris and everything from the waves and clouds to the dolphins and whales are more easily seen. Only the brightest of the constellations are visible and depending on the moon’s position we are either bathed in small moonlight sparkles or are rowing in a white gold shining pathway.
When we have agreeable sea state, night time rows are some of my favourite times to be out on the oars.
A simple highlight during a night shift is either seeing a boat (has only happened 3 times this leg) or an airplane. On spotting an airplane, someone usually cries “airplane, airplane!” while explaining the direction to look and then waiting for confirmation from the other rower. Once both have see the flying object there is always great excitement and a chorus of “yaaayyy!”
I think it’s just good knowing that there are indeed other life forms out here…as most of the time it feels like we are all alone.

Nighttime treats in the sky include:
– moon halos – shooting stars
– satellites
– strange unidentifiable lights
– airplanes

*Make time when you can every day to stop and contemplate the sky and then think of us. Also remember, that however thick or dark the clouds, there is always blue sky and sunshine or stars and moon above them. Stay strong. Keep positive. Be happy x

Light on oar

UPDATE:
As if the universe knew I was writing this blog, tonight LV and I were treated to the most magnificent night sky. An almost full moon was surrounded by a burnt orange thick halo, thin cloud and then around the halo was a rainbow (moonbow?!) Surrounding the moon was an impressive collection of small broken clouds creating a patchwork effect. I’ve never seen anything quite like it and it looked almost other worldly. It was magical.

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Leg 2, Day 60

Emma Mitchell By

Leg 2, Day 60

It is day 60 since we left Hawaii. Many of you might know that we had predicted that this leg of the journey would take us about 60 days and by that calculation we should be arriving into Samoa today. Sadly we are still around 900 miles away from Apia where we will make our next landfall and still trying to fight our way out of the doldrums. Naturally we have all been a little bit frustrated with our slow progress and cannot wait to get out of the westerly current and making haste towards our next stop.

Expecting that it would take us 60 days we packed our supplies accordingly along with an extra contingency of 6 days (10%) in case it took an extra few days. This means that we are beginning to run out of certain things. Although we have plenty of food on board to keep us well fed until the most negative prediction of our arrival because we packed in enough for two main meals per day and have only been eating one, we will be running out of breakfasts, deserts and snack packs in the next week. This means the sad day is imminent where we will be eating beef curry for breakfast. Fortunately all is not lost because yesterday in the midday heat I went into our front below deck hatch where our last remaining snack packs and some other treats were stashed. In there I discovered an extra chocolate supply we had forgotten about including a few packets of timtams, almond and peanut butters and some extra cereal bars and sweets. Bonus as it means we aren’t going to be totally deprived of treats from here to Samoa. From the snack packs I retrieved from the hatch I picked each of us as close to our perfect treats as I could find. Mine contained a chocolate chip cliff bar, a natures valley oats and honey bar, dried fruit containing mango, pineapple, apricots and cranberries, a large pack of Oreos, some chicken noodles, tuna, 2 starburst sweets and some fruit gummy snacks. It is funny how much food can change our mood on the boat. A good snack pack can keep you happy through the night when you have you favourite treat to keep you awake. Overcast or rainy days are ‘shepherds pie days’ where we eat this most stodgy and comforting of our freeze dried rations. On particularly hot and sunny days oriental chicken, probably the lightest meal is often the choice. In the aft cabin we have the condiment hatch (formerly the cinnamon hatch before we jettisoned the cinnamon in Hawaii) which contains ketchup, sweet chilli sauce and soy sauce to add flavour to our meals. I have been known to make a meal choice just because I fancied some sweet chilli sauce! This leg we didn’t put any chocolate into our snack packs as the heat means it would just melt. Having a separate chocolate stash means that it can be saved for a day when we feel the need for a little treat. Hot chocolate, chai lattes and peppermint tea are usually the choice at the end of a long cold night of torrential rain and wind.

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More distressingly our toilet paper supplies are dwindling and we are down to our final roll. Fortunately we have a few extra packets of wet wipes but we are having to be sparing. Luckily we packed plenty of suncream as without that we would be frying in the burning equatorial sunshine and we have plenty of soap, aftersun and toothpaste left (not sure what that says about our cleanliness!) so at least this means we’ll be able to wash our hair before our arrival in Samoa.

UPDATE: We have all been a little despondent this week due to our slow progress and the fact that we aren’t close to Samoa yet so today Lizanne made us some pancakes with Nutella to cheer us up – yummy! Last night at sunset we saw a large pod of whales all around the boat. They looked like very large dolphins with stubby noses and we think they are sperm whales. Shortly after this we witnessed a fish frenzy. A large shoal of fish obviously being chased by something all jumping out of the water, splashing and looking like an explosion was happening under the water. Today we have had a shark swimming around the boat again as well as a large dark animal which we have yet to identify as it keeps disappearing before we can get a good look. Lizanne got hit by another flying fish last night while sat in the hatch of the aft cabin as we got ready for sleep and I got hit by one on the oars in the dark. They seem to be a new type now, darker with double wings which look like a butterflies.

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Leg 2, Day 59 – Can lightening strike twice?

Laura Penhaul By

Day 59: can lightening strike twice?

Right when a few of us are starting to miss home or feeling the dregs of the monotony of rowing 12hrs a day, today the Pacific brought a taste of home to us. It appears that regardless of being at the equator where you’d imagine it to be searing heat, we have entered into rowing what seems to be the English Channel in early Winter. It’s actually been cold through the night, torrential, non-forgiving rain and bitter winds making us want to wrap up warm in the cabin and have a shepherds pie to warm our little cockles up. Like a taste of back home. Who would have thought, that at the equator we were drenched wet and freezing cold, dreaming of a hot cup of tea rather than an icey cocktail.

Last night started with a star filled sky and then suddenly the stars disappeared and we entered into a sky of pitch blackness with heavy clouds you could feel all around us. There’s something about the dark that can allow your mind to play tricks on you, when you’re on land, then the darkness can bring a fear of someone being there when you can’t see them. Out here, thankfully void of any unknown visitors in the dark (unless it’s Monty the Booby landing on Doris) the fear instead is of the looming clouds overhead, you don’t know whether they are about to rain on you, or worse still, are they lightening storm clouds. Last night they were exactly that,  lightening storm clouds.

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I love watching lightening from a distance, where you can see the night sky light up for a split second. The natures phenomenon of how lightening is created through electrical charge, it’s fascinating. However, when you row into these clouds at night time and you feel the clouds have engulfed you, then I feel it’s less fun when that electrical surge happens directly above you. Don’t quote me on the odds, but I think it’s something like a million to one chance of ever being hit by lightening and if you ask Tony if we are at risk, he’d say there’s a very slim chance albeit next to no risk. However, in my head, that computes to, ‘but there is a small slither of a chance it could happen, Doris could be struck by lightening’ and let’s face it, people do get struck by lightening and with our track record recently in the Doldrums, I would put us at higher odds. Let’s look at the facts, we’re a small boat that yes is low to the sea level and doesn’t have a huge mast up to the sky, but we do have carbon fibre in the hull which correct me if I’m wrong, but I think would be a conductor. We too have aerials that stand up approx. 1.5m above the cabins. We don’t have a grounding line. So as far as I’m concerned, when sitting within the heart of an electrical storm, I’d prefer we take precautions and needless to say my heart rate was most probably sitting a little higher last night until the storm had passed. So maintaining a steady rowing pace, the aerials were folded down and then when the clouds above us and all around lit like a lightbulb had been switched on and the rumble of thunder soon followed, it was time to watch from the cabin. We sat it out for just 10-15mins max until it had passed overhead and then returned to the oars. Shortly after, Ems and Lizanne had to do the same in the last 15mins of their shift, as another storm cloud passed over head. On returning to the oars, as it has been for the past few days and let’s face it, pretty much 90% of the Doldrums so far, we have once again been battling against currents and the wind, making it heavy work to go little distance for a lot of effort. This without a doubt has been the most frustrating and I think we all have had our moments cursing the sea and wishing it to ease up just a little bit. Thankfully by noon today, the grey clouds had lifted, the sun began to shine again, the winds and current started to settle down and we have been able to resume rowing South. So with just 3degrees (180nm) to go until we are hopefully out of the doldrums once and for all, I think this will be a point of celebration even bigger than crossing the equator!

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Leg 2, Day 58 – Let’s get more physical

Lizanne Van Vuuren By

Day 58 – Let’s get more physical

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to us anymore that nothing is quite as we’d imagined it would be on the Pacific. The equator was cold and wet (?!!), the wildlife has been mainly birds vs. sea life and recently every time we plan to have a team social to celebrate crossing the equator the heavens open up which causes us to postpone.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt though it’s that communication makes all the difference, and in true female form as you can imagine there’s a LOT of chatting that happens on Doris. It amazes me that there is always still something to talk about! A hot topic of conversation that gets raised daily is what we are experiencing physically. Very often it’s prompted by a groan heard as someone exits the cabin and stands up straight; a rare occurrence. Or “You alright?” as another does a little stretch before going into the cabin after their 2 hour row shift. “It’s just such hard work!” No, they’re not referring to their row shift, but about making their way from one end of the boat to the other!… A mere 4 steps. The short distance we have to walk/crawl is now a physical strain as we haven’t walked properly for 2 months (longer for the other 3 girls)

Seriously?? Perhaps ignorantly I didn’t give it enough thought, but I expected our bodies to be toned, tanned and muscly, perhaps in the best physical shape we’ve ever been??… The answer is a big, fat NO!! Instead our muscles have withered away and have become so weak I’m not sure I’d even be able to jump onto my bed when I get home… but at least we have the tan.

So what are we experiencing physically?

Legs: our legs have become good at doing one thing only; to push ourselves back and forth on the rowing seats. The weight of this might be 30kg – 50kg in a leg press equivalent depending on the sea state. Considering that this isn’t even our body weight you can start to see the issue. Since we’re hardly standing we have minimal resting tone in our muscles, taking it from hero to zero. Muscle groups particularly affected are our calves, quads and gluts. All the junk in our trunk has pretty much disappeared! This means that there is more pressure on our seat bones when we row as we lost our “padding au natural”. Our foam seat cushions have flattened a bit with someone constantly sitting on it, but our saving grace has been without a doubt our individual sheep skin. I’ve become very attached to mine…. (We have enough sheep skin for about one each per week)

Hip flexors: it’s a little unfair, but these guys are doing most of the work. Since one of the quad muscles are also a hip flexor, most of the push and pull comes from here. (Hip flexors located front, top thigh). Functionally, due to its attachments when these muscles are tight they pull the pelvis forward and unfortunately this in turn also puts strain on the lower back.

The low back: as mentioned above, the hips pulled forward pulls the back into extension. The “Bucking Bronco” side-to-side and rotation movements that happens during stormy conditions and with one arm rowing also cause the joints to become irritated. Combine this with the strain placed on the vertebral discs and you have a three ingredient recipe for low back pain. Due to its inflammatory nature the pain will mainly be felt during a static sleep shift, but thankfully it will ease off again when you get up and move.

Forearms: rock solid. The forearm muscles are the ones that contract when we grip the oars. Since we are gripping for 12 hrs a day, our wrist flexors are working overtime and causes what we call ‘The Claw’. Claw hand is exactly what it describes; the muscles, tendons and skin becoming so tight it pulls our hands into a claw position, requiring some stretching to alleviate it. The gripping muscles are overstrained and when particularly weak it makes it very difficult to click fingers or open bottles.

Hands: we may look like four female Pacific voyagers, but that’s until you see our hands…! Man hands! Thankfully no blisters, but calluses have transformed our lovely female hands into street cat paws. Well… Whatever needs to happen to get the job done. Our hands also take a slight beating when we are fighting currents or winds (most of the time) causing the joints and tendons to be aggravated which leads to inflammation. The first few minutes on the oars are usually needed to warm up and loosen up. It does feel like you’ve aged about 50 years…
Due to the oar gripping I have also completely lost the fingerprints on my index and middle fingers!

Skin: another truth about ocean rowing is that our skin is constantly covered either in sweat, salt water or suntan lotion. It’s finally taken its toll in the last week when everyone’s skin got really itchy. Making sure we wash the salt off daily is important to stop it from getting worse.

Bums: it’s been mentioned before and it will be mentioned again, we spend a lot of time caring for our derrières. If we don’t, the outcome is pretty uncomfortable, so we either cover in baby powder or lather in sudocreme every 2 hours. The lanolin in our sheepskin also acts as a soothing agent.

Sun Tan: we all love a bit of a sun kissed glow, but I fear some of us may return with a different ethnicity altogether! We tend to cover up in the mid day heat, but otherwise have constant sun cream at the ready. Miraculously, none of us have been sunburnt. Funniest of all, if immigration authorities question ethnicity on arrival into Samoa we only need to show them the back of our thighs for identification. It’s the funniest tan line I’ve ever seen.

I’m told that in comparison between leg 1 and 2, physically there have been a few differences. For Ems, our Cambridge rowing queen she’s been fairly lucky to have minimal problems, just the calluses on her hands. Nats has been much better during this leg and her only complaint is also callused hands. LP unfortunately suffers with hip impingement, ankle stiffness and upper back stiffness. The two of us have luckily been able to give each other some treatments, so keeping niggles at bay.

Thankfully none of our ailments are causing much disruption to our rowing, and during the minimal time we have to do “life” we are making time to look after our bodies.

UPDATE: we’ve had another North West current today. One thing I love is singing in the rain and making up words to existing songs, so with my trusty composer Natalia Cohen, we wrote the following lyrics during a torrential downpour to the song we all love, “I want to break free” by Queen.

We want to break free
We want to break free from this current It’s taking us North West
We want to break free
God knows, God knows we want to break free

We’re rowing hard
We’re rowing so hard that our hands hurt Can’t even click to the beat
Oh, we’re rowing so hard
God knows, God knows we’re rowing so hard

Is it gonna rain? Is that a squall I see coming?
Battle stations at the ready
It is gonna rain
God knows, we’ve got to save the Oreos

Ems and I had a very special morning visit by about 50 dolphins yesterday. I’ve not caught a fish yet. I’ve realised it’s possibly because the hook is too shallow in the water as it gets pulled along with the boat. Going to try make a make-shift weight tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

Also just wanted to say a huge congrats to Izz and Meg for the roaring success of their 24hr row fundraiser. Great work girls, and thanks to Megs family who have been superstars in helping and supporting!

LV xx

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Leg 2, Day 57 – The Sisterhood

Natalia Cohen By

Day 57 – The sisterhood

Despite contrary belief, put a group of women together and they do not spend all their time talking about hair, clothes and men! Well actually…I suppose out here we do talk a lot about how bad our hair and clothes smell, and do spend time every day discussing the likes of Albert, Bertie, Bill, Tommy and Fernando to name a few. Hmmmm…have you noticed, dear followers, that every creature that has crossed our path out here on the almighty Pacific has been given a male name?
Apart from one white bird who I named Whitney (Whitney white bird – obviously), we have just all automatically gravitated towards masculine naming of wildlife. I wonder why this is? There is obviously a serious lack of testosterone on Doris, and although we do think about men regularly, enjoy their energy, are very much looking forward to Samoa for certain reasons, our existence right now is one of pure sisterhood. So…we embrace it.

What is it REALLY like on a small boat with 4 women is what everyone is dying to know. You all naturally assume there will be drama and hair pulling. This is not the case. None of us would ever even so much as dream of touching each other’s filthy hair!!

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As well as time being a bizarre thing out here on the ocean, space is also an interesting concept. There are moments when our 29ft by 6ft (approx) home feels like the tiniest space in the world. You can walk across the deck in 4 steps and the cabins are cramped, cavelike and filled to the brim with ‘stuff’. This small area is shared by strong, independent, sleep deprived, determined women! Amazingly, there have been no cat fights, bitchiness or hormonal induced arguments. Testament to our different yet complementary personalities and way of dealing with varying situations, we face conflict, if it arises, openly and honestly and then move on. We’re all filled with empathy, look out for each other daily, are intuitive to changing moods and generally face all challenges with impressive group strength and humour. That really is the way it is. No lie.

It is indeed a random existence that we are living and breathing right now and it is not often I am surrounded by 3 women whom I spend the same 24 hour day with – day in and day out with no time on my own and no escape from the bubble that we’re encased in.

There is no personal space whatsoever; nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. You can hear everyone’s conversations and they can hear yours. You can see one another at all times on the boat apart from when you are on Poly when you sit behind the front rower and when both other girls are in the aft cabin and have their sun shade up, so cannot see out. To put it into perspective, we don’t even get to shower, or go to the toilet (a no. 1 or no. 2) without someone watching us!

If you need time on your own you have fleeting opportunities during awake shifts to escape to the minute sized fore cabin filled with the spare dagger board, excess sheepskins (they stink!!), and all the other miscellaneous equipment placed in there. It’s certainly not the most inviting retreat but there is simply nowhere else to go!

We’re exposed so completely and utterly, mentally and physically, that there is no time for modesty, embarrassment or deceit. We know each other intimately almost in the same way husbands and wives do, but obviously none of us share a romantic connection (even though we do enjoy the odd communal shower!?) So, as is to be expected, occasionally, there may be a slight disagreement, a frayed temper or a sleepy silence, but feelings are shared and then any negativity let go of quickly and easily. It amazes me the underlying respect and compassion I have for this incredible sisterhood even if on occasion someone frustrates me to the point where I want to pull faces at the back of them when on Poly.

My travels have thought me that lack of space is common place for the majority of the developing world. I’ve seen countless family homes where 4 or 6 people cram into one room, so in that respect our situation is not that unusual. However, what makes our situation completely unique is that we have nowhere to go even if we wanted to. We’re all in the same boat (literally) and we have to deal with it the best way we can.

Although it is impossible to distance yourself physically on Doris, mentally there are ways of creating personal space. Spending a row shift listening to your own music or an audiobook, is a great way to have some ‘alone time’. I also find that if I begin to feel overwhelmed by the lack of space, all I need to do is sit on the deck and stare out at the immense vastness that is the Pacific Ocean. That never ceases to provide me with the best reminder that I can create my own space in my mind, and that is what I need to draw upon when times get tough. I have always been a person that enjoys brief moments each day of solitude, so having a lack of this is something that dumbfounds me more than having spent 141 days at sea living on a 29ft pink boat. I have not really had any time on my own since leaving San Francisco, so that’s over 5 months (close to half a year) where I have simply not had my own space. This in itself has been an fascinating experience x

UPDATE:
Visits today included Monty the Masked Booby and Daniel the dolphin and his friends.
We also have Salt and Pepper who visit us daily who I don’t believe you’ve been introduced to yet. They are a pair of beautiful, if a little loud, Sooty Terns

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Leg 2, Day 56 – Time

Emma Mitchell By

Leg 2, Day 56 – Time

Time is a funny thing. It can go really quickly if you are with someone you love or doing something you enjoy. It can go infinitely slowly if you’re in pain or doing something boring. It can feel slow at the time and then feel like it’s passed in a second and play tricks on your mind. You can fill it or you can waste it. You can never get it back once it’s gone so if you don’t seize the opportunity then it is lost forever. Time on Doris is like a roller coaster, sometimes crawling slowly uphill and other times picking up so much speed we loose track of whether we are up or down. In many ways it seems ludicrous that we have spent 139 days at sea on Doris since leaving San Francisco and that it has been 56 days since we departed from the Hawaii Yacht Club on this leg of the journey. Especially when you consider that we have only recently passed the halfway mark. The time has flown past and I can’t even remember what has filled it all. But in other ways it feels like we have been out here forever, our normal lives forgotten and replaced with a new normal where our job is to get out on the oars and row every 2 hours and spend our down time in a tiny cabin.  San Francisco feels like another life ago, almost like it never happened and even our time in Hawaii feels like a dream.

The days on board Doris race past quickly living as we do in two hour chunks. With only three day shifts to row and a couple of awake shifts to do our daily admin, before you know it you are back to another night. Then you row and sleep through three night shifts and a new day begins before you have time to realise. I fear that readjustment to real life may be a challenge when we can’t take regular naps, have to make decisions and interact with people outside of the four of us. The days add up at frightening speed and before you know it you are writing a blog for day 56! However the days can also drag in terms of reaching our destination. We have been watching our little boat creep ever closer to the equator on our chart plotter for what seems like weeks, feeling like every time we started making good progress the winds and currents would send us erratically off in a new direction. It was hard not to get dispirited as the days went by and we still hadn’t reached that milestone. When we finally reached it in the middle of a wet and windy night it was a bit of an anticlimax. There was no sign to have our photo next to, no gift shop where we could buy the t-shirt, only four women on a boat, soggy in their wet weather jackets swigging rum from a bottle in a toast to Neptune. Now that we are over that physical and mental halfway point it already seems as if we are moving faster as we count down to Samoa rather than up to the equator.

It is in the individual two hour shifts however that I find time changes speed the most. These shifts can feel either really long or really short depending on your mood, sleepiness or activities. Out on the oars the time mainly passes fairly quickly with chit chat, music or gazing out across the ocean, but occasionally there is a rowing shift where 2 hours just seems endless. The sea feels like rowing through glue, the waves are cold, the steering won’t hold or you just can’t keep your eyes open. Clock watching makes the minutes feel like hours and once you start it is impossible to stop. In the cabin, time also seems to have a mind of its own. Sometimes you can make food, eat, wash yourself and some clothes, brush your hair, tidy your pocket and run the watermaker and still have time for a little lie down and read before heading back out on deck. Other times you manage to eat and then look at the clock and realise there are only 20mins before you need to be back out on the oars.

When time and miles start to crawl along we remind ourselves that there is only two hours until our next meal, snooze or row and then it seems more manageable. If we take care of the hours the days, weeks and months will take care of themselves.

UPDATE: There is enough salt crusted on my skin at the end of every rowing shift to season a fish and chip shop full of chips. We are less than 1000 nautical miles away from Samoa and making good progress in the windy and wet conditions. Lizanne still hasn’t managed to catch a fish despite the fact that all around us are birds managing to catch their dinner. LP provided us all with some middle of the night hysterical laughter by putting on two bikini tops over her sports bra in her sleepy getting ready to row in the cabin state.

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