Leg 3, Day 70 – My wife

Laura Penhaul By

Day 70 – My wife

Last but by no means least, the final cog that has kept this journey moving and the person who brings the sparkle and glitter that makes us all smile, I am of course talking about Miss Natalia Cohen. Natalia to us is mainly known as Nat, Nats, Natty, in addition for me, she’s my wife, my pickle but one thing she is not, and that is NataliE (take note!).

As with all the girls, i’ll start from the beginning with Nats as it sets the scene of what’s to come and the impact she has had. Nat had applied at the same time as Izz, Lizanne and Megs after seeing the article on Escape The City.com. Alongside her application Nats had come highly recommended from a good friend Dave Cornthwaite. Dave is a well esteemed adventurer and has completed a number of expeditions so is well established in what works well or not so well in a team dynamic, so to have his recommendation went a long way. Nat had been part of a sailing crew with Dave, travelling from the west coast of America to Hawaii, so also an added bonus that she had experience of the Pacific seas. On meeting Nat for the first time at Bisham I remember my judgemental first impressions, wearing a sparkled jewel next to her eye and over hearing some of her conversations, I remember thinking that she was a very ‘earthy’ and spiritual person which at the time I would have said was very different to me! However throughout the day she exceeded my judgements; with Alex he reported how she’d rallied everyone together to shout words of encouragement and support when she wasn’t being tested, when she was being tested herself, she zoned in and focussed, digging deep and drawing on her own stubbornness to get the best result possible. When Nat was with Ems she had been comfortable to be open and honest about what makes her tick and really listened to others. When with me we immediately had a very open conversation and I recall Nats saying afterwards that she had felt a connection between us, obviously an insight she had greater than I about how our relationship would blossom. It went without saying that on that day Nat would be selected to be tested on the Brecons.

On the Brecons Nat dug deep when she struggled with her feet and knees through the 36km slog in the wet and cold (conditions which are her worst nightmare!). Regardless though she always tackled everything with a smile and a sense of humour. Nat wasn’t worried about hanging out at the back of the group, with anyone else that was struggling she would offer encouragement and moral support and without realising it she brought a lightness and cheer to the group. It is this trait that is one of many skills that Nat has, she brings out the best in anyone and taps into the inner child we all have. At the end of the Brecons it was clear that her personality shone and there was no question that she had to be part of the team.

Since being on the boat I have learnt of Nats life story and it is one that epitomises living life to the full. She has never let an opportunity go nor lived with any regrets, she treasures her family and will give her heart and soul to the people she cares about. In every era of her life it has been about the amazing people that she has met and for Nats, meeting new people and learning about their lives, is what brings her joy.

On the boat Nats’ energy and positivity hasn’t faltered. For me personally she has brought out my kid side, she has made me laugh until I cry on nearly every rotation, she doesn’t judge and is someone who makes you feel comfortable and confident in your own skin.


As you’re well aware, Nat and I have had a handful of disagreements if that, which are often related to my Cracknell moments or as strong minded individuals, at times when we both believe we are right in our opinions. Although the 3 spats we’ve had have been rather spectacular as we’re both quite fiery people, we have such a mutual respect that we don’t allow it to linger. We express things openly and honestly, ensure we’ve resolved it, finish on a hug and move on, with a tendency to start laughing about it a day or two later. Our relationship I can only imagine can be likened to a marriage and i have been known to share that if Nat was a man then I’d want to marry her! She has been my confidant, my wingman and has helped me to develop in more ways than one, giving me advice when I’ve needed it or teaching me to stay in the moment when I drift off into projecting and planning my life. Without any question, I can safely say that this row would not have been the same by far without Nats in it. She has taught us to stay in the moment, to savour the experiences and to draw on humour when you least expect it.I can’t imagine ever having rowed this ocean without her and I can’t imagine now never having her in my life as a true friend.

I’ve given a short summary of each of the girls in this team, but I know I’m not great at expressing in words the true emotion that I feel. To Nats, Ems, Izz, Lizanne and Meg, thank you for making this row a reality, thank you for making this the most memorable journey and experience of my life.

On a beautiful, tranquil sunrise this morning, having finished narrating the film Notebook to Megs on the oars, I was suddenly nearly thrown off my seat by what felt like a punch to the side of the head. Slightly dazed, Megs thought I’d hit myself with my oar, but alas, the pungent smell of fish, the scales left on one side of my face and the fat flying fish the size of a small bird, laid out cold on the deck, was all evidence to show that I had received the best hit to the face of this whole row. Normally the fish flounder on the deck for a good couple of minutes, but I think my head was like hitting a concrete wall for this little one.

Otherwise great news that our batteries are charging up nicely thanks to our Solbian solar panels and the help from Victron. We are remaining careful with our usage though so that we ensure all essential equipment can be used and charged effectively on the boat all the way to Cairns. So still some handpumping of the manual water maker until the final couple of days. To think, this time next week we will hopefully be with our families, have showered, slept in a clean bed, be wearing clean clothes and have eaten a feast of food! So excited!


Leg 3, Day 66 – Don’t count your chickens

Laura Penhaul By

Day 66 – Don’t count your chickens

You’d think that with just 300nm to go and with the end in sight, that the home straight would go quickly and calmly. Well, we should know by now that for us this would never be the case. It was only recently that Keith had emailed informing us of how most accidents happen with close proximity of home, so a message to stay vigilant and ‘on it’ all the way until we step on dryland.


If anyone reading this was following us in leg 1, you will be aware of a problem we had when water was found to have got in to our battery and charging electronics locker during a storm. The ingress of saltwater caused corrosion which consequently led to the charge controllers overheating and failing, which in essence meant no recharge facilities for our batteries. This resulted in an 800nm detour to Santa Barbara in order to fix the problems, before we left again for Hawaii. Thanks to Victron (our battery sponsors) and Tony (our support manager), Doris was well fixed and preened before setting off for Hawaii and again for Samoa.

Typically, Nat had only mentioned this week how she felt that maybe this leg would finish the same way it started, her thought was in reference to how this leg had started from Samoa; good speed with prevailing winds, of course I had interpreted it to mean how the whole journey had started and subsequently told her not to jinx it! Well too late! She was partly right, as signs showed that the last week may reflect the first week fiasco we had after leaving San Fran. A few days ago, I noticed one of the batteries was showing to be at a much lower voltage than it should have been and on investigation I discovered an error light on one of our battery system monitors. On testing the batteries with a volt meter I established one of the batteries was in a poor state of charge so I started liaising back and forth between Tony and Victron to establish what I need to do on the boat to test what needed to be tested. Unfortunately the conclusion to all the tests was the batteries were very low on power which left me with no option but to switch everything off apart from the chart plotter (shows our navigational charts, Position etc.) AIS (to indicate other boats in the area and inform them of us) and Echomax (a radar reflector for large cargo ships to pick us up on radar) all three for safety. On checking an hour later, the batteries were depleted still further, therefore I made a decision to switch everything off and resort to back up navigation, i.e. handheld GPS and magnetic compass with the view to only switch on the nav light and AIS if we spotted a boat in the distance. Unfortunately the battery terminals in the handheld GPS had corroded and it didn’t work (last tested in Samoa), but luckily we have the Navionic chart app on our phones, so we’ve used that for the last couple of days for keeping track of our course and location. We’ve also had to resort to using the manual hand-pump water maker aka M Rod – a mechanical reverse osmosis desalinator, as without electronics we can’t make water through the electronic Schenker desalinator. MRod involves sitting out on deck and Hand pumping. There’s a long tube in the sea water which the water is sucked up and then as you pump it is drawn back and forth through a filter. To put it in perspective, our normal water maker makes 30l of water Per hour, on the manual pump, we make just 3litres per hour. It has been knackering! Having to finish a 2hr row session, then sitting out on deck in the sweltering heat under the blistering sun for another hour, then swapping with your team mate, then returning to row positions for another 2hrs of rowing. I must say it’s been joyous for the last 2 days! If our shoulders and arms hadn’t had enough of rowing for 9 months well the manual water maker has certainly topped it off.


Thankfully the sun is shining and the batteries are coming back to life, so hopefully it won’t be much longer until we can get our electronic water maker back on!

Day 65 meant we got to watch a couple of videos that Izz had put together for us and amongst it was a huge surprise to see one from my hero, Chrissie Wellington. I can’t thank her enough to see her smiling face and words of encouragement from someone who has achieved so much, was a real motivation. Perfect timing! Also a highlight for today….. We were interviewed by CNN! Sarah Moshman did a great interview with them yesterday and they followed it up with a sat phone call to us all today. We all got to chat and share our story of why we’re here, what it’s like and what we’re looking forward to when we reach Cairns. They’re also hoping to speak to us again when we reach land, how exciting!



Leg 3, Day 60 – Meggy Moo

Laura Penhaul By

I have previously described how Ems, Izz and Lizanne got involved in the row and so today’s light is shone on Megs aka. Meggy moo, Megsy, who’s involvement has been paramount in this final leg of the journey. 

Meg Dyos had applied to be part of the row at the same time as Izz, Lizanne and Nats, having seen the article on Escape The City’s website. What drew me to Meg’s application was how her personality shone through in her answers. At the age of 24 she had achieved more than most have in a lifetime and showed a wealth of experience and enthusiasm about charity fundraising. Megs had previously shaved her own head in front of her school to raise money, she slept rough on the streets to understand what life was like, she’s climbed Kili, been to Peru, worked in Nepal and travelled through India and Africa. As Nats has previously alluded to in a blog, age is just a number and without a doubt Megs is so much more worldly wise and well travelled than I ever was at that age. 

The first time we met was at Waterloo station, where after chatting on the phone we’d arranged for a trip down to Christchurch so that Megs could be introduced to Doris. Spending the day together with no distractions, gave me a great insight into a relationship with Meg and I knew instantly that she would be perfect for the team. Her bubbly, enthusiastic and positive character was exactly what any team would need. After being part of the Bisham selection day, Meg was definitely short listed for the next review with Fieri on the Breacon Beacons. Unfortunately though Meg couldn’t make it to the Breacons and at that point had decided that too many things in her life were unsettled and that going on the row at that point wouldn’t have been sensible. We stayed in touch occasionally on text or phone, so when I got a text in January 2015 from Megs saying ‘don’t forget that I would still love to be involved, so if there’s anything I can do please let me know…’ I jumped at it! It came right after Izzy had come to the difficult decision to be there for her family and would only be able to complete the first leg. Timing is everything and I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, so when I received Meg’s text there was no hesitation to give her a call. 

Standing on a platform at Clapham junction has never been so exciting as I phoned Meg in response to her text. The first five minutes were the usual pleasantries of catch up before cutting to the chase ‘So Meg, you mentioned you were still keen to be part of the row, does this mean you would be up for being considered to row a leg, say from Samoa to Australia?’ I think the response was ‘oh my god, yes! Flippin’ heck, but I’ve never rowed?!’ After having some time to think about it, Meg still came back to me enthusiastic about joining the team and life for her had settled, so timing was perfection. For Meg, this was the time the Coxless Crew journey began…. I wonder how much she regrets that now?! 

Meg and LP

As soon as Megs got involved she was dedicated to the cause, running her own fundraising events back home, rallying her family and friends (who have played as big a role in supporting us as Meg has), she got stuck into following her strength programme and having meetings with Alex, plus her favourite time was spent focussing on the psych aspect with Keith. I recall a heads up from Keith that Megs favourite phrase was ‘I’m fine!’ Not a phrase good enough or detailed enough for any psych to be content with and so a love hate relationship for Megs began.  

Seeing Meg’s beautiful smiling face when we arrived in Samoa was such a comfort to see. She knew everyone and was busy helping and coordinating support for us where she could. The difficulty was getting her to realise that she was part of the row team now and not support team. I hope to think that now after 60 days at sea that she finally feels just as part of this team as anyone of us as she has played a crucial role. On Doris Meg has without a doubt been a ray of sunshine during a leg that for the 3 of us, could very well have become mentally one of the most challenging. I for one have found I’m more reflective and getting more easily frustrated at slow progress with the draw of land forever closer, but Meg just brings a great sense of humour to the boat at the best times. I have upmost respect for Megs in that she knows who she is, she doesn’t worry easily about what people think of her and she epitomises our values especially integrity. I love her true openness and honesty that she has shared from day one of meeting, it is so refreshing, she’s not scared to vocalise when she’s fearful of something, or to celebrate in the small things. You know where you stand with Meg and although her strong left field opinions are often based on a Google search rather than anything of solid substance, she does love a good debate on random subjects which makes a 2hr row session fly by. 

I could continue writing oodles of great things about Megs, but as with the rest of the girls, she has made a place in our hearts to be a true friend for life, a solid Coxless Crew member that brings some ‘Fogle’ to the mix and without question has made this last final leg a memorable and enjoyable experience that without her it wouldn’t be the same. We love you Megs and thanks for being you! 

Memorable moment with Megs : dancing on New Years Day
Memorable tune : Faithless Insomnia 

Update: Today Megs had her debut on the VHF radio where she spoke at length with Jovo Ligud Baliao, Captain of the Nona Butler Cargo ship. I think this made her week or even month as Jovo may have competed with my Harry obsession, there’s obviously something about a nice voice over the radio waves. I’m sure if she wasn’t in love with Will back home that Will you may have had some competition on your hands! Otherwise another hot and sticky day in the Pacific but hopefully from tonight the winds should be picking back up in our favour, here’s hoping and wishing on all the shooting stars we see!


Day 3, Leg 55 – Performance v Enjoyment

Laura Penhaul By

It’s the debate of doing a ‘Cracknell versus Fogle’; James Cracknell being an Olympic gold medallist in rowing and renown for pushing his body to the extreme, often passing out before giving up, compared to Ben Fogle, a tv presenter with no competitive history to date.  If anyone saw the Atlantic Row race where these pair were in the competition together, they had a documentary filmed and aired on BBC called ‘Hell and High Water’.  The underlying message that came from their row was how as a team you need to be aligned in what your aim is.  For Fogle, his aim was getting from A to B and just finishing the race.  For Cracknell, it was getting from A to B the fastest, and, with performance in his blood, winning the race was his motivation.  So, although the pair had the same end goal of reaching Antigua, their thoughts on how they got there were very different.  This led to numerous disagreements on the boat and for Cracknell a great deal of frustration, for Fogle a real hardship and negative journey, never feeling he could do enough.  However, the interviews post row show how actually the diversity between the pair brought them together; Cracknell said that he grew absolute upmost respect for Fogle for his unrelenting contribution and he wouldn’t have rowed with anyone else as he taught Cracknell how to enjoy the journey.  Fogle too reported that without Cracknell they would have never made it to Antigua and he had taught him so much about stepping outside his comfort zone to see what the body can really do.  The pair have gone on to do a number of further expeditions together and I don’t know if it was a myth, but word on the street was that Cracknell was best man at Fogle’s wedding, so although there were disagreements, their relationship grew rather than suffered.  A perfect example of how opposites can actually work together.

So why do I reminisce about this story…. well right now we are approximately 650nm away from Cairns, which if we can keep 50nm days, means we’re just 14 days away from our arrival and this is pretty convenient seeing as the food audit yesterday highlighted we only have 14 days worth of main meals left.  So, I come to find myself in a ‘Cracknell’ headspace.  Without a doubt I have enjoyed this journey, thanks largely to the influence of my team mates, but it’s no secret that I am ready to step off Doris as the typical feeling of the finish line being in sight but yet still so far away.  Yet I know half the team are more in a ‘Fogle’ headspace and, rightly so, have highlighted how they wish to enjoy these lasting 2/3weeks aboard Doris.  So, with now an added time pressure of our food running out, our parents all having booked flights with return flight dates cutting it fine for our arrival, combined with us having no wind and little current to assist us, if we don’t step up our performance then we won’t be arriving in 2 weeks.  If we make the next two weeks about performance only, it’ll make our last two weeks on Doris hell and those less used to being in a performance environment with pressure will really struggle mentally and potentially ruin this whole experience.  However, if we focus solely on enjoying the journey and pretty much going with the flow, then we’ll never get there before the end of January or even February at this rate!  So, I ask myself, how can we collaborate a Cracknell and Fogle approach so that we are all facing the same direction together?

I brought the team together for a quick pow wow today to see where we all were in our expectations and thoughts about finishing. I used the tool of the 7 hats that Keith our Psych had introduced to us; blue hat first to state the facts i.e. 14 days of main meals, 50nm p/day needed to arrive in 14 days, black and white hats to state my opinions both positive and negative on the situation I.e. Our end goal is the same but the path we’re taking is maybe different  within the team, red and yellow hats to highlight my emotions around the subject I.e. Feelings of frustration and then the green hat, ideas as to how we can overcome the differences and realign. Then there was a chance for each crew member to voice their own opinions/ emotions/ ideas. Collectively we agreed that we need to step it up but not so much that we loose the enjoyment of it, so plan of action is to state at the beginning of the shift with our row partner, as to how the shift should look like i.e. row hard for an hour and then steady for 45 mins. Ems too is going to give each of us more row tips to aid in efficiency of our rowing technique where we may have got complacent. We’re also going to tighten up on our handovers on the oars to minimise time loss between shifts. Small things that soon add up but are simple to change, all whilst ensuring we keep some enjoyment in our music shifts and Megs also is going to look into rewards for days that pass rather than just mileage.  So fundamentally we’re collaborating the two approaches so we are all on the same page/same boat and going in the right direction together.

This row has always been about the journey, more of a ‘Fogle’ approach, it was specifically not part of a competitive race such as that of the Atlantic for that very reason.  Coming from someone who can be slightly competitive and serious about training, being part of a race would have had very different aims and certainly would have brought my ‘Cracknell’ side out a lot earlier!  With this row we have had goals to still meet but agreed on the flexibility of being able to enjoy the wildlife that we have encountered, added in socials as a team in the middle of the Pacific, enjoyed swims etc. so that we remain socially cohesive as a team  and without a doubt I wouldn’t ever have changed our approach to this journey.  Given the conditions, the set backs and delays that we’ve faced, if we were a team that were serious all the time and focussed purely on the numbers, I believe we wouldn’t be here today and if we were, we certainly wouldn’t be here with smiles on our faces, having enjoyed the ups and downs and I very much doubt we would be stepping off the boat as lifelong friends.  Within the diversity of the team, without realising it, there has always been a reasonable balance of Cracknell v. Fogle outlooks and opinions. No different to before, this team will pull together and dig deep when needed and laugh throughout the whole process. This row has shown us how performance and enjoyment can coexist, but maybe ask yourself whether you need a little more Cracknell or Fogle in your life to give you the motivation or the enjoyment you need to succeed. 

Today has been a scorcher! I think my body has got out of the habit of dealing with pan flat conditions, still air and stifling heat, because at midday today, rowing was torture! That being said it is bitter sweet, beautiful scenery and no salty splashes, but that also means no prevailing winds or currents to push us along to Cairns, so back to snail pace for a day. doh! X


Leg 3, Day 51- hiccups

Laura Penhaul By

Day 51- hiccups

Whilst life aboard Doris is going swimmingly, I’ve come to realise that there’s often a few hiccups that arise that we don’t share, not by any reason other than it’s automatic for us to crack on and deal with it and we haven’t seen the neccessity in sharing it.

So I thought I’d give you an insight into a few scenarios which we take for granted. On Christmas Day as we had explained, we put a line out to trail behind Doris and removed the dagger board so she sat comfortably central to the prevailing waves without the need for steering. When it came to the time to pull the line in, Emma noticed that the line was caught. By this point it was pouring down with rain. I went out the port hatch to see out the back of the boat and to check the rope wasn’t caught around the rudder, which in this case it was. Trying to minimise waves crashing into the port hatch and the rain too soaking our sleeping area, I proceeded to remove the main rudder. This involves removing a pin that keeps it in place, then sliding the rudder up high out of the rudder sleeve (this is connected to the stern of the boat and has the steering lines attached). The pin normally is attached via a lanyard piece of rope (as is everything on the boat that is loose), unfortunately though I’d noticed the rope had snapped, so on removing the pin it was free. Knowing it would be a disaster to lose it, I kept it between my teeth, with one hand freeing the rope and the other hand balancing the rudder out of the sleeve, all whilst precariously perched out of the port hatch in bouncy seas. Successfully freeing the trail rope for Ems, the rudder could then be replaced, the final step was to reposition the pin. Doh! My fat, non-dexterous, ocean rowing fingers slipped and the pin dropped into the Pacific abyss. After shouting a few expletives after it, I realised we needed to secure the rudder asap otherwise we had no steering and at the time, Doris had spun to sit beam onto the waves. With a holler to the deck for Nats to grab some cable ties, I then secured the rudder with a series of cable ties linked together like a daisy chain, not pretty but certainly worked for a temporary solution!

On the electronics front, we’ve recently had a slight hiccup in that we’ve lost the use of the compass reading on our deck repeater. When we navigate, we work with both heading (the direction the bow of the boat is facing) and course over ground (cog – the path the boat is actually taking). So often we may be heading/facing 270 degrees but due to the currents and wind we are actually travelling at 320 degrees COG. Luckily the gps is still working to give us an accurate course over ground (cog) and we also have 2 compasses mounted on the boat. It’s been good to brush up on the old fashion compass use, although the slight problem on a rowing boat is that you face backwards to the way you’re moving, so because the compass reads the way you’re facing and not where the bow of the boat is, we have to +180 to calculate our heading. Always good fun in the middle of the night attempting math! Raymarine however have been amazing and given in depth advice to trouble shoot and help to sort it.  Spike bless him, was even kind enough to give us his personal contact details so we could contact him over Christmas if needed.

In the current big waves that crash across the deck, the deck gets fully washed out which causes some water to leak into hatches and in particular our life raft hatch situated under the front rower. We can often be found bilge pumping out the hatch in the middle of big waves. Also, we seem to be in cooler waters than previously rowed, so therefore there is more work placed on the water maker causing the relay to kick in when the pressure reaches too high. There has also been a couple of small leaks from the jubilee clips I can only assume from increase pressure, so therefore the screw driver has been out to tighten the jubilees and the pressure relief valve has been used to off load the relay.

These are just a couple of scenarios that mix up our daily routine, along with many other tweaks that Ems makes on the DIY front. So hopefully that gives you a little more insight into the boring side of life on Doris, just so you know that it’s only 90% of the time that we spend singing and dancing across the Pacific!

With a strong NW current and now 21k S/SE winds, we are making terrific progress up North! Here’s hoping this will be short lived and we’ll soon be back on the westerly highway to Cairns, if not, parents you might need to adjust flights to head to the Solomon Islands! Always the way, with everyone commenting on how close we are, these last 700nm I’m sure will be the longest yet.


Leg 3, day 45 – Christmas Eve

Laura Penhaul By

Wow I never would have imagined back in April, that we would be celebrating Christmas with Doris in the big blue! But here we are. Regardless of seeing the same faces, being in the same environment, seeing the same view for over 250 days, we are definitely making the most of mixing up the monotony with some Christmas cheer. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely have had my moments and just had a 2hr row shift that was a tad teary thinking of family and friends that I so desperately can’t wait to see, but as everyone keeps reminding us, this is a once in a lifetime and will be a Christmas to never forget. 

Christmas Eve for me is normally my favourite celebration over the Christmas period. It is an evening that I never want to miss and many a time have finished work to drive 5hrs home to make sure I can attend our family Eve celebrations. It was once my Nan’s ( aka Chocolate nanny when I was a child) birthday, so since I can remember, the whole family have always come together for an Eve dinner. When my nan passed away, we continued the celebrations and every year now we head up to my uncle John and Aunt Claire’s barn house. It’s a beautiful home where the fire is always lit, Aunty Jean will be sitting back in an armchair enjoying the nibbles and drinks, whilst my Aunty Claire will have made an amazing spread of food – which in the last 2 years certainly helped my weight gain – I ate seconds and maybe even thirds! My cousin Tom will have Pip his dog on his lap and both him and James, his older brother, will be fending off my Aunty Liz’s inquisition about girlfriends. My Aunty Mary (famous for her pasties!) will be knocking back a tipple or two of hot punch to start, whilst making everyone chuckle with stories she reminisces about with my mum often the kick starter to the topic of conversation. My dad, brother and Uncle John will be in cahoots with one another trying to make the funniest joke, taking the mickey often out of my poor Aunty Liz or being sarcastic about something or someone to get a laugh. My uncle Roy will be sitting back taking it all in and will then be the one to deliver the killer lines. If my brother is there with my sister in law Katie and their daughter, then Isla my niece will certainly be the centre of attention and at the ripe age of 3 she will be entertaining the room and making everyone laugh. It’s a very special evening and this year although I’m not there in person, I will be there in spirit as well as the other end of the sat phone in order to get my small fix of family time. 

We have a lot to thank in our parents who got in the Christmas spirit back in October where un be known to us, they prepared presents, quizzes, games, decorations and videos for us to have on Doris during Christmas. We can’t thank them all enough as it has certainly made it so special and without it, tomorrow would just be another day. Instead, we have had the Christmas count down to look forward to instead of endless miles or days. 

So Christmas Eve so far has kick started with wearing our Christmas hats (courtesy of my parents and the little gifts inside- thank you!) whilst partaking in Sara’s (Ems mum) Christmas quiz. The outcome I’m afraid to say, was 12/15 for Ems and Nats (think this was mainly Ems!) and a shocking 5/15 for Meg and I. I can safely say that I am absolutely useless at quizzes unless they involve sport or science my general knowledge is appalling, so I can only apologise to Megs for my poor contribution. This evening the Christmas fairies have organised a Christmas carol service with baileys and hot chocolate out on deck for midnight mass (weather permitting). 

We wish you all a very merry Christmas and know that even if we’re not there with you in person, we are in spirit. Also savour the flavour and think of us when you tuck into your roast potatoes, stuffing, pigs in blankets, Turkey and cranberry sauce….. Whilst we’ll be whipping up another chicken tikka! 

Update:A text from tony today has delivered us a Christmas present from the Pacific, hopeful calm weather for Christmas Day which is much better than what it was looking like earlier in the week. You may have noticed our course has dropped South, this was to gain some ground whilst we could. Now with the weather improving we can hopefully cruise along again West in the easterly winds to Cairns. There’s also some pre- Christmas Day pampering/ hair washing so we’re make some effort for the big day, plus singing at the top of our voices into the blue, to some Christmas carols.


Leg 3, Day 40 – Izzy and Lizanne

Laura Penhaul By

Day 40 – Izzy and Lizanne

In my previous blogs I have mentioned how I wanted to use this time to explain how we came together as a team and how each of the girls have made this journey so amazing. Izzy and Lizanne I have written previous blogs about before they left the boat, so to avoid repetition and seeing as people think I have a ‘bromance’ with Lizanne, I would hate to be seen writing more about these two than anyone else, so I have brought them together in this blog.

Izzy and Lizanne both showed interest in the row at the same time that Meg and Nats joined in approximately March 2014. Izzy in fact had come along to our Inspirational Speakers Night the year before, just shortly after Ems had joined the team as she’d seen it on Emma’s Facebook. That night was a great success thanks to Ella for organising and for our key speakers Danny Crates, Martin Hewitt, David Cornthwaite and Emily Penn who all volunteered their time to speak of their amazing adventures followed by us, who were yet to have achieved anything. I’m sure I recall Izz having said since, that she thought the row was an amazing adventure but at that time never imagined she’d be applying to do it herself. Oh how time and things change!

On the day at Bisham Abbey where most applicants were met and were to go through interviews and assessments, neither Izz nor Lizanne were able to make it. We therefore set up Skype meetings during that day, so they were still involved and therefore had a schedule to do 1:1’s with Keith, Ems and I plus Fergus to get a chance to ask questions and hear more about life at sea in a rowing boat. It was however compulsory for them to come to see Doris, go out for a paddle and also make it to the Breacons weekend. For Izz bless her, this meant missing one of her best friends weddings. Having been away in France for her mum’s birthday during the Bisham weekend, Izz unfortunately had to make the decision of sacrificing her friends wedding or to miss out being considered for the row. The fact that she attended the Breacons weekend went a long way to show her commitment and dedication, so definitely played a role in a reason for selection. That being said, I think I can safely say that Izz has the busiest diary of anyone I know, so our 6 weeks notice was still last minute.com for poor Izz.

The Breacons for Izz was actually more of her comfort zone than the rest of ours, as climbing mountains or walking in the Yorkshire Dales is a regular weekend past time for Izz. So it was going to be the sleep deprivation, team management and leadership tasks that I was hoping would apply the test for her. However I recall Izz becoming the perfect Girl Scout image when she got handed the baton to lead the way and navigate across the Beacons, if only I’d taken a photo!

Without question though what drew us to selecting Izz, is that she thrives in the areas that I don’t. Her strengths are my weaknesses. Izz was exactly what was needed to give the project and the team an extra push to make it to the startline, which is exactly what she did. Someone to co-ordinate, organise and document everything that was in my head on to paper and pick up the missing links. She definitely applies her meticulous organising skills to all parts of her life and is the epitome of ‘work hard, play hard’, as she was even able to keep us inline when she was skiing down a mountain in Canada that Winter.

Leg1 9

The introduction with Lizanne was very different. I recall seeing a few comments from Lizanne on our Twitter feed after Chrissie Wellington had kindly posted that we were looking for team members. I think Lizanne may have even said something along the lines of ‘so gutted I live in South Africa as I would have loved to apply’. Of course not wanting to rule anyone out, I looked into Lizanne’s profile. Awesome picture of her doing some thing adventurous by the sea, pictures of completing a half ironman plus half marathon fell runs, plus she was an Osteopath that had trained with a colleague of mine. So I figured that if she was the right person, then we could make it work from SA even if the distance pre-row was not ideal for team cohesion and familiarity, we have Keith to work his magic for that! Regardless of this, Lizanne set about applying and then booking her flights to come over for a couple of weeks. She travelled down to meet Doris and within our first 24hrs of meeting she stayed aboard to get a feel for the close proximity. The next morning we headed out to row over to the Isle of Wight with Ems and I, so with 3 onboard we rowed for 2hrs and rotated every hour. After 10hrs we made it to Cowes and Lizanne certainly had got a good insight of life aboard Doris. When she joined us again for the Breacons, Lizanne’s bubbly personality shone through. She was a great team player, getting stuck in and being adaptable where needed. I remember when we were all dead on our feet at the end, it was the early hours of the morning and we thought we’d finished until the Fieri team gave us one more final task, to get all the equipment back up to the house which was 400m away, carried only by stretcher and we had a tight time limit. One minute Lizanne and I are half asleep on the floor, the next we’re sprinting on our blistered feet, carrying our backpacks as well as 20kg drums strapped to a stretcher. I don’t know where we got it from, but even back then we seemed to snap into action together.

It was during the Breacons that Lizanne had made us aware that she had just bought a new business back in SA, so realistically she felt she couldn’t commit to doing the whole row but would certainly wish to be considered for a single leg. When Izz then came to the difficult decision that she could only do one leg, it was a no brainer to get straight onto the phone to Lizanne. Luckily for us she was still keen – happy days!


Whether on the boat or now off, Izzy has been a machine to keep the wheels in motion back in the UK, as well as being so thoughtful Izz has even written us cards, wrapped presents and co-ordinated videos for us to watch on day 10, 20, 30 etc. Lizanne too has been busy on email giving us blog ideas, discussion points and working with Izz to organise an event when we’re back in the UK.

Both Izzy and Lizanne have brought different things to the row and a different dynamic from leg 1 to leg 2, but this is what has made it so special. A journey in each leg, a new team dynamic, a new colleague that steps on the boat as a team member and off the boat a true friend.

Last night was one of the most memorable night time moments aboard Doris. The sea was a glass calm and with the sound of only our oars breaking the water each stroke, when we stopped rowing it was the quietist I have ever heard it. No waves breaking, not even a gentle breeze to have wind in your ears, it was completely silent. As Nats and I were about to change over with Meg and Ems, I suddenly heard a hollow breath in and exhale… A whale! The moon had set so it was pitch black apart from the star filled sky, so we couldn’t see the whales but only could hear them breathe at the surface for about a minute before they dove back down. Their entrance and movement through the water was even silent, just the breath through their blowhole to be heard.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a striped cane of candy.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me two boats a passing.
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me three sharks a circling.
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me four Christmas hats.
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, five Tupperware
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, six boobies flying
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me, seven belly flopping fish,


Leg 3, Day 35 – Doris is coming home

Laura Penhaul By

Day 35 – Doris is coming home

Some of you may have noticed on our social media that, thanks to Transglobal Express, we can confirm that Doris will be coming home with us to the UK! A huge thanks to Izzy and our sponsors who have all been working hard to see if anyone could help us to get her home. After having an unexpected detour to Santa Barbara in the first month and our expedition now nearly 9 months rather than the planned 6, our contingency budget has been exhausted. Combined with having lost our shipping sponsor prior to leaving and having that unexpected spend, we unfortunately knew that we lacked the funds to get her home and if it wasn’t for Transglobal Express, we would have had to leave her in Australia for sale. Thankfully, Anton Bowring of the Transglobe Expedition Trust (one of our top supporters – see Izzy’s blog from Leg 1), put Izzy in touch with Lawson Archer of Transglobal Express and it was from here that they kindly offered to fully fund the shipment. Transglobal Express offer freight services, parcel delivery and international couriers, so basically can send anything anywhere in the world, including a 29ft, 1 tonne, pink ocean rowing boat! We are so happy and grateful to have them on board, supporting our challenge and bringing Doris home.

doris into sea

So many of you have asked what next with Doris? Certainly in the first couple of months after her arrival back to the UK, we would like to host a couple of events where you, and certain schools interested, can come to see Doris and have a guided tour. After this, with outstanding costs for the remainder of the expedition, we unfortunately will have to sell her and the remainder of funds will go to our charities. That is unless there are any sponsors out there that would love to see Doris homed in a museum such as the Maritime Museum in Falmouth, Cornwall, where she could potentially be housed in the ‘women at sea’ section? Maybe then her legacy can live on for years to come. Doris without a doubt has been our solid 7th member of the team, she’s stoic, resilient and persistent to battle through the waves and wind, totally in keeping with our team ‘spirit’ values. If anyone is interested in investing in Doris for future use, then costing and detail of full equipment listing etc. will be drawn up on completion of our row and once Doris has made it safely back to the UK. For any enquiries prior to this, please contact info@coxlesscrew.com.

At this precise moment, I’m feeling rather guilty. Nat and I are sitting inside our cozy cabin with Christmas lights flashing and tucking into our noodles and shepherds pie, whilst Meg and Ems are out on the oars weathering one of the most intense rain and thunder storms we’ve seen since the doldrums. I guess at least they’re getting a good wash! Although I’ve just looked out of the cabin to see the pair of them now rowing whilst wearing snorkel masks! Hilarious sight to see.


In our shift prior, Nat and I spotted something grey/brown in the water, slightly smaller than Fernando but possibly his son, so we’ve named our new sharky ‘Alonso’.

Otherwise, as you’ve no doubt seen, our progress once again has been slowed. I’m not going to lie, at this stage in the game we should be accustomed to it, but with Christmas around the corner any delays are becoming rather frustrating.


Leg 3, Day 30 – Gadget toes Mitchell

Laura Penhaul By

Day 30 – Gadget toes Mitchell

So as promised, following on from my last blog, each blog will now be a recount of each of the girls, their contribution and why they’ve made this journey so amazing.

As you’ve most probably learnt my now, this whole row has made me more in touch with my emotions than ever before, so you’ll understand when I say that writing about each of the girls makes me a little teary eyed, but none more than speaking of Emma and our journey together.

When I first met Emma (aka; Ems, Mitchell, gadget toes (they have a mind of their own!), sniffer (Ems can be found sniffing everything before use), the quiet one (self explanatory)) she was one of 18 who had come over to the Isle of Wight to meet us for the row. Emma stood out to me, amongst a group of raging extroverts as she was different, Emma sat back and let others take the lime light. When asked, it was evident that Emma had taken everything in but would only share her thoughts when prompted. It wasn’t until at lunchtime that she was sitting within a group that I saw the roles reversed, everyone transfixed and silent as Emma retold her story of having just returned from Belize where she learnt to survive in a jungle for 4 months and had returned to the UK with a machete in her luggage! This is the thing about Ems, she is honestly one of the most fascinating, interesting people I’ve met as you really have no idea when meeting her what experiences she’s had. If it was anyone of us, you’d know about it within the first hour for sure! Who would have thought, that a quiet, smiley, Cambridge Graduate has not only survived the jungle, but has roller bladed the Berlin marathon, run a marathon, run 3 marathons in 3 days, gone to circus school to learn the trapeze & rode the Black horse in the Lloyds TSB advert! To think she’s also got a Cambridge blue for rowing and winning the women’s race in 2006, oh and not to forget, she has a PhD in neuropharmacology. Seriously, she absolutely amazes me, but yet above all this she has no idea what she’s achieved and is so understated.

When Ems and I started to work together it wasn’t quite plain sailing. Take one strong minded extrovert and one quietly determined introvert, our communications were a tad opposite. I talk, think, talk, Ems thinks, talks, thinks. I will verbalise everything as it happens and as I’m thinking, Ems won’t say a word unless spoken to or asked. To say I got a little frustrated in the early days was an understatement, I had no idea what was going on behind those eyes, did she hate me, did she think I was stupid, how was she feeling? What were her thoughts? As a person who cares about what people think of her and shares everything, you can imagine where my thoughts ran away with me, but more importantly, did she have some great ideas about things but hadn’t shared them because I hadn’t asked? Ems is actually fairly simply stated, if asked how she is, the response you will get is nearly always ‘I’m fine’, of course from my perspective, I never thought this could be the case so would always pry for more and once introduced to our sport psych Keith, he too has driven Ems to delve into the depths of emotions and feelings. I will never forget the look on her face the first time she met Keith at Paddington station, rabbit in highlights comes to mind! Yet to think 2 years on and now you can’t stop Ems from dropping Keith an email or two & being best pals, love it.

image1 (1)

Ems is one of the most thoughtful people I know. She may not express it verbally but will do it in her actions. On my 31st birthday, after being in the team for just 4months, Ems had made me the most beautiful present that was totally unexpected, a box full of little presents for the row; something sweet when I need a pick up (chocolate), something to do when we’re bored (a card game of questions), something for fun (a small paper kite), something for a laugh (face paints) etc. For this years birthday which was 3 days before we flew to San Fran, Ems had made me the most amazing birthday cake, topped with blue piped icing and an icing shape of us rowing Doris with mint choc matchsticks for oars, it was amazing.

Without a doubt, I can’t think of anyone else that I’d want as my wingman for an expedition like this. Emma is a ‘Tony Humphreys’ in the making! On the boat practically, Ems is the DIY queen, fixing anything and everything especially if it squeaks! She has organised the snack packs and the packing of Doris, supports with the navigation and worked with Tony on the logistics, not to mention being the strongest rower bringing with her 14years of experience. She is the most task focussed person I know and will give the team 150% to show we can get through some difficult conditions, only sometimes this has unfortunately been detriment to herself. Watching Ems lose her happy place in leg two was soul destroying, but one thing to highlight, is that it is testament to her strength and determination that she continued to power through. There are not many people that would be having internal struggles and yet still have got on the oars every shift, or have got back on the boat in Samoa. Emma faces things head on and I hope at the end of this, she realises what a true inspiration she has been and is to many. Ems certainly has been one of 5 that hve inspired me and motivated me to get on the oars every shift and stay focussed all the way to the finish line in Cairns! Thank you Emma for being you.

Music to remind me of Ems: Alphabet Aerobics rap (watch this space for our duet!)