We are now a mere 62nm from Samoa and it finally feels as though we might actually make it. Although the currents are still keeping us guessing we have had almost 24 hours of lighter winds and weaker currents which has meant a rise in spirits and good progress towards our destination. I am hugely looking forward to reaching dry land and getting the opportunity to rest and recover. In Hawaii this didn’t really happen as we were so busy getting everything done and when we got back onto the boat at the beginning of this leg I was already exhausted. The rowing in this leg has been both a physical and mental battle with almost every shift at the oars requiring a fight against the currents or wind and a lot of travelling slowly or in the wrong direction. Right now I am exhausted both physically and mentally and feel like I have nothing left to give. Over the last few weeks, rowing, which has been a part of my life for many years and which has so far been my happy place on board Doris has become unenjoyable and I have had to drag myself out of the cabin every two hours to get on the oars. Since I am the ‘rower’ of the boat this in itself has been an extra level of personal challenge. A little time away from Doris to reset and get ready for the final push for Samoa is sorely needed.
However as well as endless challenges, the doldrums has also thrown up many unforgettable sights and experiences on this stage of the journey. I could watch the skies for hours and not get bored of the endless variety of cloud formations and the fact that you can sometimes see three or four different weather conditions happening around you at once. Having a power shower under a rain storm is an experience I won’t forget in a hurry. The moody storm clouds in front of burning red sunsets and the glowing sunrises that turn the ocean around you into a sparkling watercolour make you feel like you’re in a dream and no matter how tough it gets, for me, rowing under a bright starry sky or a full moon never fails to lift my spirits. Not only have we also seen an incredible variety of wildlife but our proximity to their home while we are on Doris makes it feel like we have made friends with the ocean dwellers. Farewell doldrums, you are a unique and often magical place but we look forward to some following winds and favourable currents to help us on our way to Cairns.
UPDATE: Today conditions were favourable enough for us to take 45mins out of our rowing schedule and have a team social. We wanted to take a moment before we reach the chaos and distractions of land to celebrate what the four of us have achieved over the last 95 days and to celebrate Lizanne’s involvement in this before she leaves us to return to the real world. It got a little emotional! Together we have battled the erratic conditions of the doldrums, picked each other up through the tough times, laughed, joked and danced together and shared stories of our lives. We will miss the fresh, creative and happy presence of Lizanne when we set off again from Samoa. She is strong yet flexible and brings out the best in all of us. However in the same way that Izzy has been with us in spirit all of this leg, Lizanne will join her in the next.
Following on from a lovely blog written by Lizanne yesterday, I thought I’d take this opportunity to write a few words of how Lizanne will be missed on Doris, what she has brought to the team and my side of the ‘bromance’!
Lizanne has had the toughest deal out of all of us and yet one of her biggest strengths is that she takes it in her stride and never complains. Having joined the team just 2 months prior to us leaving from the US, the only time we’d met was during the team recruitment stages back in May 2014. Lizanne’s dedication was evident then, having flown over from South Africa she got stuck in straight away, rowing Doris over to the Isles of Wight without having ever rowed before,sharing a cabin with me for the night to get a feel for the space, heading to Wales for the Breacons beasting weekend to get a sense of sleep deprivation and leadership. Lizanne easily fitted in socially with the group and it was because she’d just taken on a new business (Cape Town Osteopathswww.CTOsteo.co.za) that she could only commit to doing a single leg of the journey. This made LV our number 1 reserve if we needed it. Crazy how things work out, but a phonecall months after we’d met and thankfully Lizanne was just as enthusiastic to join the team as we were to have her.
Not only did Lizanne not get a chance to meet up with us again since the Breacons, but living in South Africa meant that she had to do everything remotely. We linked her to Alex our S&C coach who wrote her a programme from afar, to Keith our Sport Psych who set up many a Skype session and to GSK HPL to do pre-departure testing. Although there were many an email and phonecall to share as much information as possible before we got on the boat, there was minimal time we’d ever spent together and certainly no time was spent as the team that we’d become. Unlike Meg, who fortunately has had Izzy back to share her stories and guidance in her preparation, Lizanne bless her, was coming into the row fairly blind in what to expect. When meeting with Lizanne in Hawaii she slotted right in, as if we’d been a team of friends for years. She immediately got to work and in less than 24hrs of arriving she was elbow deep in clearing out our mess on the boat!
Since being out at sea for nearly 100 days, Lizanne has been nothing but a pillar of strength to us all. Never complaining (unless it’s about the washing up sponge!), always thoughtful and supportive. She’s confident in sharing her emotions which helped to integrate her immediately and bring us closer as a team. When she had to miss her best friend’s wedding and also when she received the news of her uncle passing away, she was open with how she felt but then moved on respectfully, not allowing negativity to linger. It’s been refreshing to talk ‘shop’ and get the mind working again within the world of medicine and therapy. As Lizanne is an Osteo and I’m a physio, we’ve spent hours sharing our patient/athlete stories, how we’d treat x/y/z, ideas about running a practice and future courses we could each do. I think it’s for this reason that we appear to be seen to have a ‘bromance’ as we have a number of shared interests. Only Lizanne shares my sense of humour. with Flight of the Concords – It’s Business time, or making up our own voice overs with the sea life we see. She also shares in the gobbledegook in the twilight hours, which restored the fact that I wasn’t completely loosing it, or at least I wasn’t loosing it alone! Lizanne is the only person I know that can still look glamorous after weeks of no shower, sleep fatigue, being hot and sweaty in the sun and being coated in sea salt. However there is just one thing I won’t miss about Lizanne and that’s her knees falling on top of me in the cabin! Lizanne is the only person I know who can fall asleep with her knees bent up, however it means that when the boat rocks, her knee will flop down often smacking into me. I then prop the knee back up without waking her and the process is repeated. I’ve been known to pull her legs out straight without her even waking up!
With just a few days left with our little South African, there is no doubt that she will be sorely missed, but not to distract from the fact that we are also looking forward to introducing Meg to Doris. I can’t wait for the day that we are all together as one team, with Izz, Lizanne and Meg, definitely a motivating thought to look forward to reaching the finish.
Update: We’ve got less than 100nm to go! We’re still battling the currents and wind but thankfully making progress towards Samoa. Without a doubt though, we can not thank you all enough for such amazing comments of support we’ve received off the back of Natalia’s recent blog. We are truly humbled and it has certainly given us a massive boost of motivation after reading your kind words. Thank you all.
Day 93 – Lightening never strikes in the same place twice
The proverb goes that an unusual event is unlikely to ever happen again in exactly the same circumstances or to the same person. Who knows what the future holds, but for starters I think I’ll stick to land based challenges from now on. As I sit writing this blog I know that this row, alongside these five women essentially gives us our own individual strike of lightening. Each leg of the journey will be different and so Izzy and Meg’s experience will be incomparable to mine, but together we build different pieces of the puzzle completing Nats, Ems and Laura’s full journey.
Even though we were all brought together by the row, I’m sure we will remain part of each other’s lives far beyond our destination. We are a strong team and have endured many stresses together; winds, waves, currents, torrential rain, muscle sprains, tears, heartache, back ache, sleeplessness; and that doesn’t even include the arduous years some had to endure to get Doris to the start line.
As my time left on the Pacific diminishes by the day, the thing that I will miss far beyond the wildlife and amazing night sky or sunrises is the unity we’ve developed within the team. Being in each others faces and spaces for so long brings rise to an unspoken language formed, where you can talk with a gesture and where our female intuition is at its sharpest. If ever I wanted to make lightening strike twice, it would only be with these three.
Everyone needs an ‘Emma’ in their lives. She is kind hearted, generous and will put her heart into everything she does. Our team is built on her strong foundation, the rock; solid, firm, powerful and resilient. Without her none of us would know how to row, and we probably would have washed up on the shores of Christmas Island long ago. Her gadget fingers will fix anything before you’ve even noticed that it’s broken or squeaks. She has been a pillar of strength throughout this row and her stories will keep you captivated, intrigued and surprised at the crazy things she’s done in her life. It’s a testament to the gutsy way she leads her life…. And that smile! It creeps up her face and into her eyes. Without Ems we would sink.
Nat is quite simply, glitter! She is what makes the group sparkle. She’s the fairy dust in Peter Pan that lifts everyone up and makes them fly, captivating you into her own magical Neverland where people just laugh, become philosophical and eat mandarin fruit pots. Nat will always ensure to “bring you back to the moment” and will make sure that you are thankful for the amazing sunrise you are experiencing at that moment. She has a beautiful demeanour who sees the funny side of everything. Without Nat the boat would be sparkle-less and dull.
What is the girl version of a ‘Bromance?’
Laura and I have discovered that we have countless similarities. There is a constant chatter about our shared interests; triathlons, work, music, family, friends and food. At the moment food is our main topic of discussion, reeling off recipes as we present what is on ‘today’s menu’. She is diligent, hard working, open and funny. If she was a man I might marry her. She’s the powerhouse of the project, a great leader and the centre of it all. Without LP none of us would be here.
It amazes me every day that after 93 days of eating, sleeping, talking, rowing, living in such close proximity to each other we’ve not wanted to chuck each other overboard. In fact quite the opposite; it has bonded us far beyond what I had imagined.
We are currently united in complaining about our bums hurting in the sitting position, ie rowing! We’ve not done too badly if this is the first signs of deterioration after 90 days!
As the miles count down to Samoa, the intensity increases. There is no time for being complacent and no relaxing to be done until our feet are firmly on land. The most challenging part of this leg so far has begun for me. I seriously cannot believe that we have been out here for over 3 months. Spending 12 hours of every day sliding backwards and forwards and rocking side to side to the rhythm and the motion of the ocean, we face all the elements that Mother Nature wants to throw at us. All we can do is take it and deal with the consequences. There is nowhere to hide and no respite whatsoever. For the other 12 hours of every day we spend our time either lying or sitting in an area slightly less than that of an average sized single bed! It’s ridiculous when you really think about it. Next time you wake up from your wonderful mono-phasic 8 hour sleep (I’m not jealous!), have a look around you and imagine spending over 90 days on your bed, sleeping, eating, washing, existing with one other person always in that space with you! If you’re fortunate enough to be in double bed, then just visualise half of it.
The last 72 hours have been a battle. A mental and physical struggle like no other so far on this section of the journey. We are so tantalisingly close yet things couldn’t be further from ideal. We have a very tight COG (course over ground – direction you’re actually travelling in) window in order to hit Samoa and the wind and currents have been making holding the necessary course very difficult. The rowing has been so hard. We give everything we’ve got every time we get out on the oars. Every time we manage to swing Doris round and travel in the right direction, a wave will hit her and swing her back. It’s frustrating and demoralising with the very real possibility of us overshooting our destination. Every shift has been a fight. A fight with the wind, currents, waves, physical pains and mental chatter. All of us have varying skin ailments on many different parts of our bodies so everyone is a little broken physically.
I’ve got so many salt/pressure sores on my backside that sitting is painful. As soon as it’s possible to take the weight off this area it’s gladly welcomed. The best position for this seems to be lying down (not good when you have to sit for at least 14 hours every day). I also have this strange skin irritation under my arms that has begun rubbing against whatever clothing I have on and my life jacket. It’s really uncomfortable every stroke I take until I desensitise myself to the pain. My left hand is heavily callused and beginning to blister from all the strong one-armed rowing that we are having to do. This also takes some distraction in the first few minutes of a shift before I can force my mind to ignore it.
I’d like to share a particularly hard shift that happened between 1-3am. Ems and I headed out onto the oars and we already knew before the handover that we were going to be pushing hard to maintain a COG near what we needed. I began rowing and every time I pulled the oar there was a pain in my left hand. My left bum cheek was really uncomfortable and underarms were being rubbed raw with every stroke. I dug deep and kept on rowing. I knew that within about 10 minutes the aches and pains would subside and I could just keep going. After about 45 minutes, I felt as if time was standing still. I was exhausted. I’d been giving all my energy and I was feeling disheartened. My underarms were still sore with every stroke and I felt like I didn’t have any more to give against the howling 18 knot wind and huge crashing swell. “I can’t do this”, I heard myself think, “I just can’t”. I checked myself instantly and then heard a loud, authoritative voice (that was clearly my own) say,
“You CAN do this”!
I snapped myself into gear and powered through, giving my all. For that is all you can give.
20 minutes later Ems and I were treated to one of the most incredible things…a moonbow! I’ve never seen one before but it was amazing. It was this white arc of light in the sky and it made me smile in wonder. The Universe will always throw something special your way when you need it the most.
I came in from the shift and Ems and I shared our stories as we’d both been battling different demons. We know these last few days are going to be challenging and we don’t want them to override the rest of the journey. All things considered we’ve been really fortunate to only be suffering such skin irritation now and after this length at sea it is not surprising.
Luckily we are all united in our suffering and this just pulls us even closer as a team. Whatever we’re going through, we’re going through it together. We control the controllable, believe in ourselves and do everything else needed with great SPIRIT.
We continue to laugh, row the hardest we can and talk incessantly about our bums!!
To keep up morale and to remember the magic of what this leg has brought, I have been asking everyone to think of all their most memorable moments. So…as we power through the tough times, these, as well as the incredible support we are receiving from all of you, are what we remember. Thank you for motivating and inspiring us x
Today’s blog comes from dry land! I can’t believe that it is nearly 100 days since I left Doris and the team in Hawaii. I have been asked by the girls to blog to provide an update on what I’ve been up to since I got home at the end of July (and to give them a well earned day off blog writing!).
Probably the most common question that I have been asked since I got home is: “is it difficult being back in the real world” or “did it take you long to adapt to being back in the real world?”. The short answer is no. I don’t want to disappoint anyone (some people seem to expect a very profound or philosophical answer!), but I came back to find that the real world is exactly as it was before I left! I have been lucky enough to have had a really amazing experience, learnt some new things and met some great new people and I’ll take that forward with me, but I don’t see myself or the world any differently now. It was lovely to see friends and family again after being away and to be able to thank people personally for all of their support, but after that I just slotted straight back in to everyday life. I think a big reason for this is the fact that life out there on Doris is simply so far removed from everyday life that it really does feel like another planet. The ‘bubble effect’ that we talk of is very real. Now that I am back on dry land, it is still sometimes difficult for me to imagine what the girls are doing and feeling, which is strange since I spent so long out there with them myself! I have emailed Doris a few times with that in mind, telling the girls to try their best, despite the frustrations and difficulties, to appreciate the incredibly unique situation that they are in, as once they are home it will seem like a faraway world. Of course, we are all very different people and the other girls may find that they have a completely different experience on returning home, particularly Ems, Nat and Laura who will have been at sea for an incredible 9 months or more.
Now I am back on dry land, I am in a support team role and have the responsibilities that come with that. We received a huge amount of help in the run up to the start line, but since coming home I have seen first hand how much time and effort is still being dedicated every day by our incredible support team of Tony, Keith, Ella, Alex, Kirsten and Meg (until she flies to Samoa on Thursday!). We really can’t thank them enough for their hard work, generosity and enthusiasm. There are also so many others to thanks of course, including our charities, sponsors, PR support Carver PR and Angle Studios, ambassadors, families, friends, supporters and followers.
Life as a Coxless Crew supporter is a busy one and I thought I would finish by summarising a few key events that the other members of our shore support team and I have been up to recently:
- Meg and I did a 24 hour “rowathon” at Discovery Park in Kent. We rowed a 2 hour on, 2 hour off shift pattern to help Meg to prepare mentally for this routine when she joins the girls on Doris in Samoa. The event was a chance to tell more people about the row and to raise money for our charities, as well as an opportunity for me to meet Meg’s extended family for the first time. These guys are amazing – they should be available to rent out to cheer people on! Thanks also to Discovery Park, Miles and Barr and New Level Results for their support.
-Meg, Ella and I were joined by a number of the team’s family and friends at The One Show, where Matt Baker and Alex Jones spoke to the girls live from the Pacific.
- Meg, Kirsten and I attended the 2015 Women of the Year Lunch as representatives of the Coxless Crew team. The lunch is an annual event held by the Women of the Year Foundation to celebrate women’s achievements and contribution to society. We still have no idea who nominated us to attend, but we are very grateful that they did! It was a wonderful occasion. The room was packed with women who have achieved extraordinary things. We heard some fascinating stories and felt very humbled to be there.
- Meg and I met with the teams from Breast Cancer Care and Walking With The Wounded last week to talk about our ongoing fundraising effort. Laura and Ems wrote blogs earlier this week explaining a bit more about why we are supporting these brilliant charities. We are very lucky to have good relationships with both charities and we receive an amazing amount of support from them. We have got to know everyone we are working with at BCC and WWTW well and they really do feel part of the team. Tomorrow, I am going to join some of Walking With The Wounded’s injured service men and women to walk one day of their 1000 mile Walk of Britain challenge. I can’t wait! http://walkingwiththewounded.org.uk/walkofbritain2015/
- Preparation for Samoa has been full steam ahead! With help from some of our incredible sponsors, Tony and the rest of us have been making sure that the girls will have everything that they need to resupply Doris in Samoa ready for the third and final leg to Australia. Our thanks goes to Victron, Crewsaver, Solbian, Peli Products, Azoprint, Revo, Jetboil, Fusion Audio, SOS Rehydrate and BeWell expedition foods (and many others).
UPDATE FROM THE GIRLS: Ems and Nats were in the cabin when they heard the cry of “turtle” from LP and LV on the oars. They rushed to the hatch door. “That’s a small turtle, maybe it’s a baby turtle, how cute” said Ems. “Wait a minute I think it might be a coconut” said LV. On closer inspection that is indeed what it turned out to be. T minus 4 days until the main thing left on board to eat is rehydrated beef curry. Samoa can’t come quickly enough!
This leg of our journey has been a particularly tough one and today marks 30 days since our expected arrival date in Samoa and needless to say we are still not there. We have been incredibly inspired by the stories from women, both friends and strangers who have shared their Pacific with us and this has been particularly poignant coming from those supported by Breast Cancer Care. In the tough times it is the sharing of these stories which puts into perspective a few waves and adverse currents and reminds us why we have taken on this challenge. We want to support and make a difference to those women who are facing and overcoming adversity in their daily lives which they have not chosen to take on. All of us in the Coxless Crew and almost everyone we know has had their lives touched by Cancer. One in four women suffers from breast cancer and therefore the support that Breast Cancer Care provide touches the lives of a huge number of women and their friends and families. We wanted to be sure that we knew exactly where the money we raised for this charity was going and after learning more about the different services which they provide we decided as a team that we would like to contribute to the Younger Women Together program since as we are all young women this was close to our hearts.
Younger Women Together is for women aged 20-45 who have been diagnosed with primary breast cancer in the last three years. Although breast cancer is less common in younger women with around 5,600 diagnoses in women under 45 every year these women have different needs, worries and responsibilities to deal with. In particular issues surrounding fertility and the challenges of dealing with a young family alongside their diagnosis.
Younger Women Together run two day events which take place on a Friday and Saturday, with all food and accommodation provided free. They give the women who attend the chance to talk and share stories with others in the same position as themselves, away from the pressures of their everyday lives. A group of experts and specialists in the field are also in attendance and topics such as treatment, fertility, sex & intimacy, reconstruction, relationships (present or future), lymphoedema, healthy eating and exercise are all discussed with plenty of opportunities for questions to be answered. The events have been hugely successful and “every woman who joined us last year said they would recommend it, and many have made lasting friendships. The next Younger Women Together event is on 20 November in Bristol. For more information visit the Breast Cancer Care website at https://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/information-support/support-you/local-support/younger-women-together
If you would like to help us meet our fundraising target of £250k and make a difference to women facing and overcoming breast cancer and those women injured at war then please visit our Virgin Money Giving page to donate.
UPDATE: We have just passed the 200nm to go to Samoa mark! Woop woop! We are still battling with the ocean every stroke to try to hold course for Samoa and our date with a shower, a proper bed and some real food. Fernando came to join the party again yesterday and Nat and I considered what would happen if he was washed onto the deck in one of the huge waves crashing towards us…..
Many may wonder why we are raising money for two charities that seem to be completely different. Well, it’s because they have a common purpose; both charities support their personnel with an holistic approach, to support through the adversities that they’ve faced and help them to see beyond the illness or injury. The charities create opportunities for sufferers to be able to speak and learn from others who have gone through the same, they work towards re-education and re-training to show them what a fulfilling life they can achieve going forwards. I have seen a number of ex servicemen come through an expedition with Walking With The Wounded and it’s transformed their lives, re-ignited an inner confidence and belief in what they can achieve. There are so many amazing charities out there, but WWTW stood out to me because it aligns with my passion of Paralympic sport. They demonstrate through their expeditions, to focus on the abilities their wounded personnel have and not to wallow in the disability. At Headley Court, this is where the in-house rehabilitation process begins, to teach personnel how to walk again or adapt to use of prostheses etc. the attitude they demonstrate reflects the spirit of the military personality, if you have a below knee amputation well it’s deemed as a ‘mere scratch’, if you have lost one upper limb and a lower limb, again there is always someone else worse off than you. Having this approach hopefully helps them to accept their disability and make a smooth transition into society. However, leaving the military must be very hard for some who have only ever known military living. This is where WWTW come into their own, they have amazing experts around them to help support those finding it difficult and the aim of the charity is to prove to them what they can do and not focus on what they can’t.
WWTW’s mission is to support all veterans with physical, mental or social injury to gain the skills and qualifications necessary to develop new careers outside the military, re-integrate into society and provide long-term security for themselves and their families. The monies we raise are specifically going towards women that have been injured at war. Check out the website here
In addition to the services they provide, since the charity was founded in 2010 by Ed Parker, WWTW have organised and run ambitious expeditions to extreme parts of the world incorporating teams of wounded servicemen and women, both with physical and mental injuries.
The rationale behind their expeditions to the North Pole in 2011, Everest in 2012 and more recently to the South Pole in 2013 focus on both the wounded as well as wider society and include:
– To raise awareness of the work Walking With The Wounded undertakes.
– To provide inspiration to those coping daily with injury and disability.
– To demonstrate to ‘Our Wounded’ that they are able to achieve at the very highest level.
– To highlight to Corporate UK the extraordinary skill, determination, ability and courage that members of the wounded community possess despite injury.
All of their expeditions are sponsored in their entirety by corporate partners and their funding is separate from the generous donations they receive for the charity. This ensures monies they receive from fundraising activity are distributed solely into their re-education and re-training programs and not into funding any elements of the expeditions.
The latest expedition is the Walk of Britain, which has seen four British and two US wounded veterans walk 1,000 miles across mainland Britain, starting in Scotland on August 22nd and finishing at Buckingham Palace on November 1st (72 days in total). The team are Alec Robotham, Matt Fisher, Scott Ransley, Stewart Hill, Kirstie Ennis and Andrew Bement.
Hopefully it will be timed that when the Walk of Britain team finish, we may well also be arriving into Samoa. So whilst we may moan about salt sores, I’m sure they’re enduring worse with irritation of their stumps, or back issues where a leg length may be putting them out. Whilst we do our wet:dry routine every 2 hours to get on or off the oars, it’s a reminder of how difficult it can be to simply put on a pair of dry socks when you only have one functional hand. It certainly acts as motivation for us, that no matter how much the weather and currents are against us, the Walk of Britain team and many other injured service personnel are inspiring us to draw on our abilities without complaint.
Thanks to the lovely Johannes of Victron Energy and co-ordination of Tony, we have finally got ourselves back on track with being able to use and recharge our personal electronics. The power issue started when unbeknownst to us one of our eight solar panels failed and because of how the solar panels are wired together the failure resulted in us losing a big percentage of our battery charging ability. Over time, with the unknown reduced charge going to our two batteries, we noticed the batteries were gradually dropping and despite conserving as much power as we could we didn’t seem to be able to get one of the batteries to fully charge back up. The inability to fully charge one of the batteries concerned me as normally I ensure we recharge both our batteries to 100% at least once a week which allows the batteries to equalise and synchronise with the battery monitors. With the help of Tony remotely, I was able to fault find and discover one of the solar panels had indeed failed. Disconnecting the broken solar panel from the system meant that we regained the charge ability from the other working panels, however after several days of good solar charging conditions and continued power conservation one of the batteries still appeared to be at a much lower state of charge than the other. After lots of correspondence back and forth, Tony discussed things with Johannes and shared all the test meter results I had given them from the boat and it was felt that one of the battery monitors wasn’t giving a true reading of the battery’s actual state of charge. After manually synchronising the battery monitors to show both batteries were 100% full the batteries are now showing to be fully functioning, discharging and recharging equally again. So no more concerns over lack of power, which means we can have music again!!
As a side note, some of us can charge our iPods from Power Monkeys (portable solar chargers) we can have on deck, but unfortunately not all our iPods are compatible with the Power Monkeys, so music has been scarce for the last few weeks – I have no idea what I’ve been thinking about nor what we have talked about for that time, but some how we managed even when it was during the difficult conditions.
A strange thing happens when you start to get close to your destination after a journey like this one; a bittersweet taste of excitement in reaching our goal, yet sadness for everything that will come to an end. My days on the Pacific are numbered as we draw ever closer to Samoa. In Samoa I will pass the baton onto Meg who will complete the circle and push the girls onto Cairns, Australia. A full reflection will be done closer to the finish line, but for now I will share with you things that I will miss, and the things I won’t miss.
I will miss…
– Swimming in the big blue!! This has been and always will be my highlight. Suspended in a gigantic body of water, with curious fish coming to say hello. (And by fish I don’t mean shark. Fernando has luckily been MIA recently) – Having a 360 degree view of an ever changing ocean, and no, surprisingly it doesn’t get boring at all. It’s like watching a bonfire; something so repetitive and intriguing you can’t keep your eyes off it
– No make-up. Getting ready in the morning takes 4 minutes. Plain Jane wins! – The simplicity of life out here. Our biggest decision for the day is what we’re going to have for lunch. This is becoming a little more distressing of late as our options are very limited now
– Our routine. So much so that I might incorporate a sneaky 2hr nap into my life when I get back
– Eating all my meals with a spork. Not sure I remember how to use a knife…
– The wildlife. It’s possible that we’ll never get as close to Dolphins and whales like we have on this trip
– Last but not least, the girls! I suspect there will be an empty void in my life for a while. On the other hand, it will be nice to see different faces and have different conversations. There’s a lot of repetition on the boat
I won’t miss…
- Attending to my bum every 2 hours with a Sudocreme or talc application. Don’t get me wrong, this strict routine has (quite literally) saved our derrières from turning into horror stories! Prevention is better than cure! During times where the winds are high, the waves constantly splashing us and the rain soaking us, we are especially attentive as these are prime conditions to cause ‘angry bum’ – Having only 2 shorts and 2 t-shirts to rotate in and out of. Yet again, not having to spend any time thinking “what am I going to wear today” has been a treat!
– Being able to lie next to someone without any part of your bodies touching… Especially when the cabins are ridiculously hot. This is usually helped by a piece of sleeping sheet used to create a gentle partition between you and team mate to prevent that layer of sweat forming between you
– Hearing or asking the question “is it gonna rain” before heading out on the oars. Looking forward to not even caring if it’s due to rain… Umbrella, a warm, dry living space and hot chocolate will do the trick
– Having food that resembles baby food consistency. We look forward to solid food, like Steak!!
– Moving faster than 2knots, which is pretty much strolling pace
– Informing someone of how hot you are by including the mention of a sweaty upper lip. “Oh my gosh I’m so hot I’ve got a sweaty tash!” It is certainly going to be an adjustment when I get back to my normal life… Then again, will it ever be normal again?
UPDATE: after a night spent on the para-anchor we have been rowing hard today to try and keep a course over ground (COG) of 235*. LP and I slept in the Forecabin. Ems made our dinner and Nat came and delivered it right to our hatch door. LP and I proceeded to watch The Sound of Music on her iPad. It was magical.
It was my first Forecabin experience with two people in there, and yes, it was cosy, yet the worst nights sleep I’ve had in a while. Liz x
After spending 6 months out in the middle of the Almighty Pacific, I feel as if I’m slowly beginning to understand her a little better. She truly is magnificent, as I’ve said many times before, but it’s difficult to ask you to come and experience her without first preparing you for her ever changing personality. Within her vast boundaries, Oceania can be a healer, joker, protector, and teacher. This is why she provides us with the perfect environment to fight and overcome our adversities and to learn many a lesson from her variable landscape. She is a very close ally of the wind and the sky and working in unison, they have a strong effect on her mood and behaviour. Just like us, she has her moments of feeling either frustrated or reflective etc and when we are in sync, a deep connection is felt. She has the power to uplift and change our moods and has and will always be our constant companion throughout our odyssey. Without further ado, may I present… Oceania the playful – Varied sea state that changes quickly. She’ll taunt us with splashes, but they normally amount to nothing. There are sometimes 2 waves that come from different directions that we watch collide and it’s as if she is doing a high 5! She tends to rock the boat quite a lot in her playful state and will also wet whatever we have hanging on the grab rails to dry and find this very amusing. Her favourite game is hide and seek, where she hides a wave and then sneaks it up on us to give us a little fright but no soaking.
Oceania the irritated – Big swell rolling in from one or two directions with the wind ruffling the surface of the water. White peaks breaking in the distance and also close to the boat. Bubble trails streak down the waves and you can almost see her frown. The sky will almost certainly be grey and rain will hang threateningly on the horizon. She’ll throw us some big waves and play havoc with our heading, just to try and make us as irritable as she is. This normally means that there is some one-armed rowing going on. Oceania the confused – This is when Oceania does not really know what is going on with her. There are waves coming from all sides and angles and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the direction relative to the wind. The swell is usually average to large and we have to be extra careful with wave splashage as it can from from anywhere. Average wind speed is usually 12-15 knots and as we never really know what is happening from one moment to another, we can’t normally keep a good course. Anything can happen when she is feeling like this, so we all know to stay on our guard. Oceania the angry – This is usually large swell with waves of a minimum of 12-15ft and wind speeds of between 12-21 knots. There is so much movement in the water that this face could be mistaken with the confused one, however, the wave direction is slightly more constant. To ensure we understand her wrath, when in this sea state, it’s normally pretty difficult to hold a steady course. She’ll crash waves down on us even though her anger wasn’t caused by us, we’re good as any to take it out on. If she’s really not happy there will normally be dark clouds nearby with thunder and lightening. Night time is when she lashes out even more. Oceania the reflective – This is where we work together. It’s where Oceania makes some time for us and gives us space and opportunity to gaze in all directions and feel her loving kindness and presence. She will help inspire us by having a magical light shine and sparkle down on her waters from either the sun or moon and bathe us in golden, metallic, pink, purple or blue tinged light. She gives us the calmer waters to allow time for our reflections and is when we feel her healing power the most. On occasion she goes completely still and silent and this is where we know that she is sharing some of her magic with us.
Oceania the happy – It’s always really obvious when she is happy. The water feels great to row through and we are making good speed and course. Regardless of wind strength, Oceania will normally share something sacred from within her depths with us. Dolphins, whales, turtles are among the gifts she reveals when she is feeling the happiest. She shows off her beauty in the light of a special sunrise or sunset and as the light catches her waves, it’s like a twinkle in her eye. When Oceania smiles, we feel her energy and we find ourselves smiling too. Oceania the joker – mainly found in the Doldrums She lulls you into a false sense of security and makes you think that you have a steady speed and course that will last a few hours or days, then changes her mind. She’ll throw in a squall that will alter the wind and speed or suddenly give you a current that halts your progress completely! She can send a squall your way and then change the wind direction and send it back again. When she’s in this mood, Oceania can either entertain or annoy us. Whatever her mood, the almighty Pacific is always mesmerising. She has taught us so much already and we have a deep, love and respect for her that has become part of all of us x UPDATE: - Sad to say we’re back on the para-anchor. After an irritated, playful then angry sea today with winds of 21 knots and up to 30ft waves, we are struggling to keep a southerly course and have had to try and halt our progress until tomorrow when the wind should be settling at 18-15 knits for the next few days. Looks like we’re going to be fighting to keep the right course and make sure we don’t overshoot Samoa. If it was easy it would be boring – right? - We took the opportunity to try and dry some of our stuff that seems to be perpetually damp. Towels and sleeping sheets were among the worst affected, so we all gathered on deck for a mass dry by wind session. There was much laughter and flapping of materials. Ems was doing so well, with her towel finally not so wet that you could wring it, when a huge wave came over the bow (front) of the boat and soaked it again!! - The body is truly a wonderful thing. From about day 86 our bodies have been speaking to us. They are saying, “Enough is enough ladies, we can’t take it no more. We’re ready for some rest and recovery and we want to be dry, clean and salt free. Please get to land as quickly as possible and look after us!!” We are getting all manners of skin rashes, irritations, salt sores and pressure sores and there is no opportunity for them to heal properly as we’re constantly wet. Last leg on day 60 my body told me it was enough and luckily 8 days later we arrived in Hawaii. I’m hoping that the 8 day rule will apply now too, let’s see if we make it Samoa by then!!