Leg 3, Day 25 – How we became the Coxless crew…

Laura Penhaul By

Day 25 – how we became the Coxless crew…

I’m finding it very surreal that I am finally now writing this blog. January 2012 was when I first got involved in this project, what will nearly be to the day on completion 4 years on. It is so surreal to think we talked about it for so long and now we are out here, actually doing it and nearing the finish line. Since leg one I said to myself that the final leg will be the time to reflect on us as a team, to give my account of how we came together and how these 5 ladies have made this journey the life changing experience it has become.

When I first got involved in this row, I never in a million years would have thought that pulling a team together to do this would have been one of the most challenging parts to getting to the start line. As far as I was concerned, I assumed there would be hundreds of women who thought the same as me and would jump at the chance to be involved. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a once in a lifetime experience? It was a bit of a wake up call to realise that my way of thinking maybe was not quite the ‘norm’! Certainly at the start, I was naive to the enormity of the project, what had begun as a row across the Indian Ocean, developed to the first leg of our journey, just to Hawaii, to then wanting to row the whole Pacific all the way to Oz. In my head, I knew that one day there would be a team of women who would be the first team to row across the Pacific and I knew that if I gave up, then someone else would have a little more staying power and they would succeed in getting a team together, so my mantra was ‘don’t let it be someone else, we can be the first’.

There has been over 20 amazing women who have actually been directly involved in the row, that have applied and been selected to be part of the team but through one way or another, lasting a day or maybe a year, whether it was life that may have got in the way to waiver their commitment, or postponement of the row, they had made a decision to step out. At first when someone had invested their time and you had invested yours along with our support team’s time, it was hard not to take it personally when someone decided to pull out. Each time felt a little like a relationship break up, only in these circumstances you really do hope to remain good friends afterwards! However I grew to realise that the commitment and dedication I was looking for in people, was a massive undertaking and for someone to be able to take it on, all the jigsaw pieces of their life needed to be in a good place; financially, physically, emotionally and with a good social support team around them. People’s reasons for doing the row was also a key indicator, to not be in it ‘to find themselves’, but to actually already be fairly content with all aspects of their life and the row to only enhance it. I recall an ocean rower who did the Atlantic as a pair and he recounted how his rowing partner became very withdrawn and so he had said to me ‘if you’re in a bad place before starting the row, what gets thrown at you in the ocean will only drive you deeper into despair, make sure you’re in a good place to start so you can cope with what the ocean has to offer’.

For some people, the realisation that the row wasn’t for them was actually a harder decision to make to pull out than to stick with it. I have always respected their decisions to recognise if it wasn’t right, something of this scale needs 100% commitment and no questioning as to whether it’ll go ahead or not. There were plenty of moments where it was questioned if the row would happen and even 3 months before departure we still didn’t have the full budget! The row had been postponed twice and not just for a month or two, but a whole year at a time, so the track record I realised, most probably didn’t give the applicants endless confidence in their applying. There are also other things outside of our own lives that will impact on our decisions to commit, that being if you have a partner or any family pressures. I remember having the discussion with Izz when it had been a painful decision for her to step back and do the one leg instead of all three. I knew how difficult this decision would have been for her and fundamentally family always comes first. To me, I remember thinking that it was a bonus that Izzy was still keen to be involved and actually her decision worked out for the best, without it we wouldn’t have had Lizanne and Meg involved and we wouldn’t have ended up with three journeys in the one expedition.

Day out 3

Every person that has been involved in this project to get to the startline has been instrumental and without a doubt, everyone has made an impact and a mark in developing what this project has become. I feel like the row has become like a patchwork quilt, every person being influential and having made a mark when involved.

So how did our crew get involved?

About a year and a half into the project, Emma had seen our advert on Escape The City.com. She was part of a group of 18 that were selected after application and came to meet us on the Isle of Wight at the Round the Island Race with Raymarine. There was then a second round of interviews and testing more on a team dynamic perspective which was held at the clinic I used to work at Pure Sports Medicine. It was a few months later in the year, that we unfortunately lost the crew member who had started the idea of the row. Annie and I had been working together on the row for over a year and a half so when she stepped out, the next few months felt like a divorce. We had been inseparable for that time, putting all our efforts into the row, so when Annie was no longer able to be involved it certainly became a testing time for me to try and remain focussed on why I was here and what the row was for.

It was at this point though that the lovely Emma became involved and thankfully was still interested in the row and for her sins she has remained highly dedicated ever since. Going into Christmas of 2014 there was Emma, myself, Ella (who has been doing our social media) and Natalie Miles. Natalie brought a huge amount to the row, just naming a few, she was behind the new logo, new design and website, bringing in great contacts such as Stephen Coe for the logo design and branding, alongside Stephanie J who designed and still manages our website (thank you both for all that you do!). Post Christmas though we realised that we still lacked the funds we needed in order to be ready and safely prepared to leave in April 2014, so the painful decision of a second postponement to 2015 was made. At this point, understandably neither Ella nor Natalie could continue to commit the time to the row, so they stepped out of the physical row commitments but thankfully Ells was still able to help out with the social media and Natalie, although has moved to Canada, I know would still have helped out if needed.

Screen shot 2015-11-05 at 16.27.16

So 2015 was the last chance for me to pull a team together. I figured there was lots of change and lack of clarity on our previous attempts, so learning from them and collaborating with our Sport Psych Keith, along with our charity Walking With The Wounded, the structure of recruitment was much more planned and stringent. Firstly, the advert and applications clearly highlighted the commitment needed for the next year and post row. These applications went out to the military, to sailing communities, rowing communities and escape the city.com. Once again through Escape the City, both Natalia and Meg found out about us. Izzy had heard through Emma’s Facebook post and Lizanne spotted the tweet about us on Chrissie Wellington’s Twitter feed (thanks Chrissie!). They were 4 amongst 20 that were invited for a day of interviews at Bisham Abbey. Here they met an experienced ocean rower Fergus Scholes, who took them through images and videos to show them what life was like aboard an ocean rowing boat. They then did physical testing with Alex Wolf our S&C coach, met with Keith our Sport Psych, did a film interview to camera, had a group session with Ems and a 1:1 with me where they could ask me anything. All applicants had a chance to visit Doris and take her out for a row too.

The final stage was with Fieri Leadership & Development who generously arranged a 24hr non-stop slog across the Brecon Beacons in Wales. This was interspersed with leadership skills and tasks to develop communication and teamwork under more stressful conditions and as we became more and more sleep deprived. Combine this with our Psychometrics with Keith and for once we had a good snapshot of team dynamics and who would work well together.
Having the Psychometrics and our team supports input, made this selection much more objective. Either way, I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and without a doubt I cannot imagine ever rowing this ocean with anyone else than the 5 girls that are here. I haven’t laughed this hard for this long ever, I have never been this open with my emotions that aren’t my best friends or family, I haven’t got this close and personal with anyone who I’m not in a relationship with. To me these girls have got to know me inside and out, my flaws and imperfections included, they have made the dream of this project come alive and every step of the journey an enjoyable one. I always wished to find a team that we step on the boat as team mates but step off as true friends and I’m so proud to say that we have achieved beyond my expectations with this.

Over the coming few weeks I will be writing individual blogs about each of the girls, to share with you what I believe they brought to the team and why they have made the journey so special.

5 of us


Leg 3, Day 22 – A blog from Laura’s parents

Laura Penhaul By

Day 22 – A blog from Laura’s parents

How can we ever follow such informative and varied blogs, but here goes! Being the parents of Laura who began her journey approx 4 years ago telling us that she planned to row the Pacific with a team of 4 girls in aid of her chosen charities and unsupported! This last word sent shivers down our spines, reflecting back on watching the likes of David Walliams, Davina McCall and John Bishop doing their charity swims, where their support was invaluable. Where did she get this idea from? Over the next few months/ years we watched the struggle to get funding to build Doris, along with building a team, with the correct dynamics. Watching her juggle work along with many courses to be able to carry out this epic journey safely. The team had to carry out sleep studies, survival training, learn about sea, electronics and mechanical skills, alongside getting fit with rowing most days and building up body mass. The dedication to detail for all the girls has been a testament to their success. Then last March the parents had a chance to meet ‘Uncle Tony’ if ever you want someone to put your mind at ease then he is the man to go to. He is their support, albeit from the land either home in Plymouth or waiting on the Marina at their chosen stops. The other major support has been Keith their psychologist who has been just as invaluable, helping to get the right team together and be at the end of the phone for the girls and us parents if required.

Remembering the first time we were taken to Rossiters boat yard to see the shell of Doris, I felt physically sick at the thought of our daughter out in the middle of the largest ocean in the world in this little 29ft boat. I think at that stage, I secretly hoped she would not get to the start line. However over the coming months, seeing the determination and the way that they were planning every detail, along with a team building weekend, where the last of the crew were chosen, we began to feel that it was going to happen. Meeting the girls was my turning point, as they seemed so focused and bonded this gave us the confidence that we needed. So by the time we got to San Francisco we were fully committed to the row and in our small way tried to help. They had to reposition the boat to the Presidio Yacht Club the afternoon before they were due to set off, this was difficult as the currents and wind in the bay around Alcatraz are very strong, and challenging, however they made it and I wish I could have bottled their smiles as they stepped off the boat. I felt then, they had shown us parents that they can do it unaided, silly I know but if you’d have been there you would understand . That night at 02.00hrs in the pitch black, with nothing more than their head torches and our torch lights, they set off out under the Golden Gate Bridge, a surreal moment. The night was still and all that could be heard were the boats clanging, oh! and our nervous laughter. I had so dreaded that moment and yet having the other parents there giving each other support, was so much better than envisaged. I do not recall any tears, just hugs and “stay safe” then we became glued to the iPad and the little pink dot. Many a time it has been very frustrating at home, as we know they have struggled against the mighty ocean, sometimes being pushed backwards, and worrying when we hear that they are in rough seas, or dealing with seasickness. However nothing prepares you for the pride we felt when we saw them arrive into Hawaii, I was so excited I thought I took a video of them, instead I have a lovely picture of the ground, the yacht club and a couple of arms and our faces! Yes I had the iPad on reverse. What has humbled us the most is the kindness shown by so many people, by the hospitality of people that did not know the girls, the support from different parts of the world, and the generosity of so many people towards their chosen charities Walking with the Wounded and Breast Cancer Care. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts, and all we want now is to bring our girls home safe and sound. Roll on Cairns, we will be there waiting for our hugs with our girls, parents united.

Ray and babs

Father here, can you imagine what Laura will be like when she gets home after the row and has fully recovered, she was stubborn before God knows what she’ll be like now!! I am sure one day she’ll meet someone and get married and have a family, I can just imagine it, up at 6:00 out by 8:00 coffee at 10:00 lunch at 12:00 etc, a young child saying I can’t Mum and Mum saying you can do anything if you put your mind to it, and a husband thinking “and they say growing up is hard”!! We have made new friends and met some amazing people during this journey and yes it has been pretty stressful at times but I know when we see Laura step off the boat in Cairns it will be one of the proudest days of our lives.

Anyone reading this especially those that have children I’m sure will appreciate and understand when I say that they are the most important part of your life and when they achieve great things you can’t be anything but immensely proud of them. We have two wonderful children so I must also mention Adam who along with his lovely wife Katie designed a massive extension to their property and did a great deal of the work themselves whilst also bringing up our gorgeous granddaughter Isla, I’m sitting here now in their house writing this and thinking WOW! this is some achievement. So with what they have both achieved so far in their lives, both determined to reach their goals and doing so I think I can safely say not only are we very proud but also very lucky. Anyway Father is signing off now before I write something I shouldn’t, like for example the night Laura deprived our dog of his bed (bet that gets edited)!
We have just passed the 1000 mile mark. Woooohhhooooo! Reward is a shot of Baileys.
No boats for 22 days and today we saw 2.
Everything is still damp and salt sores continue to decline…today might be a double chocolate bar day!!


Leg 3, Day 20 – Foodies!

Laura Penhaul By

I thought it about time, that considering everyone has mentioned my love for food, that I share with you my passion. I love food! Always have, always will. I’m not a vegetarian, nor vegan or pescatarian etc. I love to eat anything and everything, with the exception of, Marmite. I’m definitely in the ‘hate it’ category, but it annoys me that Marmite is the only thing I don’t like, so every few months I will re attempt having some on toast, which usually ends up in me getting half way through the piece of toast before I nearly gag and have to give it to my housemate or throw it away! One day I’ll crack it and turn to a lover of Marmite!

I have grown up with my mums amazing home cooking (roast dinner definitely tops anyone’s!), so have always eaten fresh, home cooked foods and enjoy the process of cooking myself. So when it came to doing the row and Alex (our S&C coach) and I sat down to see how much weight I needed to gain, it was looking to be 12kg’s over the coming year. A target of 30g of protein every 3-4hrs and approximately 4,000 calories per day when at home. Easy I thought, I couldn’t have chosen a better expedition, normally working on marathons or triathlon I’ve kept a healthy diet but always had a healthy appetite, but this time I’d need to include some more calorific foods and lots of it – Happy days! It started off well, but then to be honest, it suddenly became a chore. What was once an enjoyable process had become a need, a counting game of calories for the most in a meal rather than the least and alarms on my watch to remind me to eat rather than wait to feel hungry. I started off with fresh home cooking, adding extra coconut oil or olive oil to foods, drinking glasses of full fat milk, making shakes with cashews and cream in, but still it was difficult to consume the volume of calories healthily, so more chocolate, cakes, pastries crept their way in, choosing burgers on the menu instead of grilled chicken, and chips instead of vegetables. The row had been postponed for a year and then another, so I ended up eating like this for over 2years, alongside the training which meant more calories when doing endurance work and more protein with weights. I reached my 70 kg’s mark just a month before departure – yey! Although with all the stress and anxiety leading into the start line, I’d lost about 3kgs before we even left!

So the girls will tell you how much of a bossy boots I was about eating and how imperative it was for everyone to gain weight and overlook the appearance of added fat gain and the lethargy you feel with eating so much food, because no doubt we’d loose it on the row, and that we have! Typically, as being the one that eats the most in the team and the one most anal about not wanting to loose weight, I’ve lost the most! I haven’t weighed in yet, but the fact that I can see my shin bones and ribs is pretty much a sure sign of weight loss. I may have always been someone of a slim frame, but I’m not a fan of skinny, I much prefer strong over skinny, so seeing so much muscle waste away is slightly distressing.
Anyhow, it’s not for want of trying to still load up whilst out here, so to prove my eating habits, I thought I’d give you an insight into my daily diet at sea:

09:30 – BeWell Exped breakfast of ‘healthy fruit muesli’ (800cal) mixed with Maximuscle Progain protein shake (600cal).
11:30 – on the oars x 2 granola bars (190cal each)
13:30- BeWell Exped Meal of Chicken Tikka Massala (800cal) followed by Exped Dessert Chocolate Pudding (500cal)
15:30- on the oars handful of sweets (250cal total)
17:30- noodles (300cal) and foil packet of tuna added (200cal) followed by a Mars bar (240cal)
19:30 – twix bar (200cal)
23:30 – biscuits (160cal)

Obviously regain is high on the agenda for us when we return home. During the second leg it became a daily conversation topic between Lizanne and myself about ‘if you could eat any 3 course meal right now, what would it be?’. So keeping up the trend, today I have been dreaming of my dream day of food when I get home, so here it is;

Breakfast – granola and yoghurt to start with, followed by eggs benedict then some fresh fruit
Lunch – one of my Aunty Marie’s extra large, homemade Cornish pasty
Mid afternoon snack – A Chapel Porth hedgehog ice cream (2 scoops of Cornish clotted cream ice cream, with a dollop of clotted cream on top, covered in honey roasted nuts)
Mid afternoon drink – Stop off at the Blue Bar in Porthtowan for a white chocolate hot chocolate
Evening meal – mums roast beef dinner with Yorkshire puddings, dessert- mums profiteroles!
Evening snack – glass of full fat milk and some 80%+ dark chocolate
Think that should cover it! The only problem will be when I’m still eating this volume a year down the line and have stopped all exercise, you may not even recognise me!

Simon TY – thank you for your riddles, although you’re right, with the accumulation of sleep deprivation I feel that currently our intellect is that of a 5 year old, so maybe riddles for kids would be better suited, so we have a better chance of figuring them out!
Life aboard continues to be salty and sweaty, the winds are due to pick up again tonight and the swell continues to be rather large. Meggy Moo has taken to the waves like a fish to water! The tunes are playing on the radio daily and we are nearing our half way mark already. So taking the rough wit the smooth, all is dandy aboard Doris.


Leg 3, Day 16 – What has become the ‘norm’

Laura Penhaul By

Day 16 – what has become the ‘norm’

What’s normal? ‘Conforming to a standard, usual, typical, or expected’. Well, with no more than just the 6 of us forming our own social etiquette to measure ourselves against, our ‘norm’ I have come to realise, may not be seen in the same light to those of you outside of our little bubble. Habits I understand, take approx. 6 weeks to form with consistency. So after 7 months at sea, Nat, Emma and I appear to have developed a number of habits that we are only enlightened to understand are not ‘normal’, when we commence a new leg with that of a fresh pair of eyes.

Here are just a few things that we have come to take for granted and if it wasn’t for Lizanne or Meg coming in to join, we would never realise the disparity of our actions and therefore I would never have thought to share with you what our ‘normal’ looks like. So in true ‘Izzy’ form, here are my bullet points:

– Surfing 40ft waves: you may expect that during this time we just hang on for dear life, but for us, these wee mole hills in the sea have become our ‘norm’ therefore during the bouncing seas you will find us; brushing our teeth, using the bucket (whilst holding on to the handrails), hanging out some washing, munching on a cereal bar whilst also rowing etc.

– coping with 40+degrees heat: in a cabin with doors that have to remain closed due to the crashing waves and inside the cabin itself is hotter than a bikram yoga room, you may come to think that we just lie still and control our breathing to cope with the heat. Well, instead we light the jetboil inside (to add a little heat!) and whip up a hot chicken tikka masala or beef curry for lunch! We still continue to blog, run the water maker and even download footage to the hard drives, all whilst literally dripping with sweat to the point where after a 2hr shift we have to wring out our dry towels of sweat!

– supporting during the emotional times: as you know, we’re a close team and there’s times when one of us maybe upset about something or feeling unwell, but there’s usually another team member that’s more upbeat. Well you may assume that the first thing we do is hug or be a listening ear, but truth be told that first thing’s first- we grab the camera! Every bit of varied emotion, or throwing up over the side has to be captured for the documentary, so we are accustomed to this and don’t take it personally when record is pressed first then hug comes second.

There are many more scenarios, routines, and habits that we have got ourselves into, but one thing I’m intrigued to see is that will these take 6 weeks to get out of the habit of after the row? If so, I can only apologise in advance to my housemates, who will therefore find multiple pots of sudocreme and talc in the bathroom and will have to put up with the airing of my derrière on a regular basis!

In the language of Lizanne:
Happiness is – still cruising currently at an average speed of 3.0knots covering a minimum of 6miles per shift and yesterday a 68 mile distance in 24hrs!
Happiness is not – constant salt splashing and very sweaty off shifts in the cabin, meaning everything is wet or damp and there’s no where to dry anything. If it gets us to Cairns quicker then we can suck it up!


Leg 3, Day 12 – Kylie Minogue OBE

Laura Penhaul By

Day 12 – Kylie Minogue OBE

Who would have thought, when I was 5 years old and watching one of the most watched Australian TV episodes worldwide, Charleen (Kylie) marrying Scott (Jason Donovan) in Neighbours, that 27 years later I would actually get to meet Kylie and better yet she would be supporting our expedition. Having grown up with Kylie as a worldwide icon for her music and acting, it was devastating to hear of her diagnosis of Breast Cancer in 2005 whilst she was on tour. Having to go through the trauma of battling breast cancer is hard enough for anyone, but add in the pressure of it being global news and not being able to keep it private. After undergoing surgery, Kylie endured 8 months of intensive radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Once she had returned to fitness (which is no small feat), she resumed her tour under the title of Showgirl: The Homecoming Tour.

When we sat as a team with our advisory board and they asked us who would be our dream patron for the row, there was no doubt that Kylie epitomised everything we stood for. Kylie shares in our values of S.P.I.R.I.T having shown outstanding Strength in her fight against breast cancer, Perseverance to return to her outstanding form as a singer, Integrity with her openness and honesty of sharing her story with the world, Resilience shown by bouncing back on tour, Inspiration that she has created globally to all those women, particularly younger women, going through the same experiences, Trust in her loyal fans and hopefully her close friends and family that no doubt supported her throughout.

Although Kylie was placed at the top of the list, as far as 3 of us were concerned, this was a daydream bubble of ever having the chance of getting Kylie’s support. However, I say 3 because for 1 of us (Miss Cohen), dreaming big and going after it was in her belief system and without a shadow of doubt, Nats truly believed she was going to get in touch with Kylie. Now there may be an assumption that we had a personal connection to Kylie to get introduced, but there wasn’t at all, just Nats shear perseverance at not giving up to find her PA and then not giving up until she got an answer. When Nat told us Kylie’s PA had been in touch and Kylie was keen to support, we were excited but to be honest we thought that it would be all chat and no substance. As the conversations continued and then a date was booked to meet Kylie, our cynicism still believed that we would get dropped at the last minute as obviously Kylie’s time is so precious. It wasn’t until we were in the hotel apartment waiting to meet her, that it finally sunk in, ‘we’re actually about to meet Kylie!’.


Kylie was certainly a breath of fresh air. She is even more stunning in person and just a beautiful, warm personality to match. We were overwhelmed and humbled to have her support and the opportunity to talk with her in person about our expedition, why we’re doing it and why breast cancer means so much to us.

There has been plenty of times aboard Doris that ‘I should be so lucky’ or ‘locomotion’ has been played out on the deck speakers and we’ve either had a sing along or got up and attempted to dance amongst the bouncing waves!

We thank Kylie for being part of our journey, for helping to spread the word and for being an inspiration to thousands of young breast cancer sufferers. We look forward to arriving into her homeland of Cairns Australia in the coming weeks!

Prevailing winds have picked up again and today’s top speed on a wave was 5.7k for Ems and I. Simon TY mentioned about our snack packs – they are going down a treat, today I had the very special Oreos which were brought out to Samoa thanks to Bernard Van Vuuren (Lizanne’s brother). On the wildlife front it has been pretty slim for poor old Meg, until yesterday! Em and I were on the oars, saw a shadow in the waves so shouted to Meg, just as she came out this huge Marlin jumped twice clean out of the water! It was pretty impressive and I think has made up for the lack of whales so far.


Leg 3, Day 8 – Doris our baby

Laura Penhaul By

Day 8 – Doris our baby

I’ve heard many people say, that when they return from a long trip away, they don’t feel like anything has changed. I already find this hard to believe as I know of plenty of things that have changed in my life since I have left. Firstly, my brother has recently accomplished his own #mypacific after having designed and built a house for his family, all whilst still working full time at McLaren F1 & being a great dad to my niece who is now 3. When I left the UK the roof was on but it was still just a shell of bricks, they are now all moved in and I can’t wait to see the finished project when I get back.

I’ve had 3 friends get married, 2 engaged and 4 who are expecting their first or second child. 3 of these friends would have fallen pregnant since I left in April and have had the baby before I return. To think I left one of my best friends Heather as a newly wed and when I get back, she’ll be in their new home, with a puppy (which will most probably be a fully fledged dog by then!), plus a baby! I don’t think my mind will be able to compute having not seen the bump. My sister in law too is expecting their second but thankfully she’s not due until my birthday in April, so that is one date I hope I can be sure to be home for!

I’ve always enjoyed supporting those of my friends through pregnancy, just fascinated to see how the human body can create life and how it adapts and changes to keep mother and baby healthy. It seems strange not being there for them during this time, however I have come to think of some ways in which maybe Doris has become our baby and she’s giving us a little insight into what my friends are going through….

9 months: It is looking likely that our Doris will be due in January after 9 months at sea. Now the first 2 arrivals were late but the experts tell us we should prepare for a premature arrival depending on conditions.

Morning sickness: At the start of each leg, there has been at least one of us who has been sea sick and for more than 10 days. You still have to function and crack on but it does make you realise how distracting and uncomfortable that would be when you’re working a full time job, you’ve got the elder child hanging off you and demanding your full attention and above all you can’t talk or moan about it until the 12 week scan.

Puffy ankles: Having not been on solid ground or walked for nearly 100 days, by lunchtime my ankles & feet are like frodo feet and the size of balloons! Cold water immersion, compression socks, massage, elevation – all work a treat!

Sudocreme & talc: we certainly have tested these two products out to the hilts and can safely say they do leave you baby soft.

Back ache: when you reach land you haven’t stood up straight or walked for the duration at sea, so understandably the lower back gets a bit grumpy, much like when the weight increases as the baby grows and puts strain on the lower back.

Sleep deprivation: I hear that the first 6-9 months of having a baby, you can say goodbye to sleep, so certainly our 2hrs on: 2hrs off regime is giving us a good insight. Maybe a baby will understand my gobbledegook!

Light weights: having not drunk much for 9 months (apart from toasting to Neptune and a couple of cocktails when we reach land) I can only imagine that our celebrations in Cairns will be a cheap one.

Baby food: As tasty as expedition foods are, they are pretty much like baby food mush, so I am certainly looking forward to getting back and using a knife and fork and eating things with texture and freshness.

Emotions: I’ve seen in my family and friends, that emotions are on overdrive after a baby is born and I think as a team we can totally relate with the impact that Doris has had on us; seeing her arrive in San Francisco, the first time she was put into the water, her first paddle out into the ocean, makes you feel like proud parents.

Cravings: I recall Michelle (one of my best friends) craving watermelon when she was pregnant with Jack her first child. Since we’ve been out on the water, we constantly talk about food that we don’t have and crave, such as frozen yoghurt or a Cornish pasty!

Changing body shape: Being pregnant you have to overcome the fact that you will gain weight, but that you lose it after the baby is born. We too had to look pregnant with extra weight gain, knowing that we will lose it out here in the ocean. I increased by nearly 12kgs and reckon I’ve lost that and possibly a smidge more, regardless of my eating approx. 4,000 calories a day.

Some how I think that getting through pregnancy and becoming a mum for the first time is certainly a #mypacific much greater than us simply rowing it.

Today has brought us some sunshine and blue sky, interspersed with the occasional cooling rain cloud, but with the winds continuing to be favourable we have been cruising at a constant 2.5k and above – happy days! On the flip side, we’ve suffered from 3 major tragedies today; I lost a padded glove, Meggy lost her new cap and Nat lost her flannel – doh!


Leg 3, Day 3 – final straight

Laura Penhaul By

It’s day 3 already and for once we’ve covered over 100miles! Yey! Not sure how long these conditions of prevailing winds and currents will last, so we’re making the most of it while it’s here. If only the whole journey had been like this, we’d be home chatting to you all about it over a brew and biscuit by now! However, we also wouldn’t have experienced the challenges that we have had and overcome, the place where you learn the most about yourself and your team mates. Without a doubt, getting through the struggles has brought us closer together as a team.

With 3 days past already, it seems like this leg may fly by. Why is it when you want it to go quickly (leg 2) it takes forever, then when you want to savour every moment, time flies! 

Leaving Samoa I had a sudden sense of feeling very overwhelmed. The realisation that this would be the last time to step onto Doris, the last time we will arrive and row out of a harbour, the last time to be counting down the days to Australia. We SHOULD now only have just 2 months to go on this epic journey and for me my target for this leg is to stay more in the moment, to soak it all up and build more amazing memories. The past 2 legs I would say I have spent about a 1/3 in the moment and 2/3 planning for what needs to be done in Hawaii/ Samoa/ Cairns/ arrival back home/ work etc. So this leg, I am making a conscious effort to switch that ratio to appreciate where we are and what we are doing, I certainly don’t plan on ever repeating this journey again! 

As the girls have mentioned in previous blogs, Samoa really is a beautiful place, the people, the culture, the way of living – it’s so simple. I know we’ve mentioned many a thank you to the wonderful people that opened their homes to us, gave us treatments and food, but today I wanted to say thank you to Wendy and Ian. Wendy and Ian left Samoa the same day we did, on their beautiful catamaran. On the morning we left, they gave us some fresh papaya and mangoes to have on Doris. I can’t believe we hadn’t thought of doing that before! Usually we’re straight into our snack packs and freeze dried, but this definitely made our day. Such flavoursome fruit as a dessert after a curry, perfect!

Fresh papaya onboard Doris
Meggy has been a superstar and just gets stuck in and well integrated immediately. She’s on rotation with Ems but then I’m next and I can’t wait to hear new life stories, so exciting! She’s not moaned once about feeling sea sick and is doing all she can to prevent it. Definitely a great addition to the team who shares in our values.
Nat and I had a telephone interview with Phil Williams on BBC Five Live, which still fascinates me how good comms are from the middle of the Pacific. Makes you feel so close to home even though we’re the opposite of the world and in a different hemisphere.

Radio 5 live interview


Day 2 on Samoa

Laura Penhaul By

Day 2 on Samoa…

Waking up this morning in a massive king size bed with beautiful soft, fresh linen at the wonderful resort of Sinalei was worlds apart from where we were just 48 hours previously. A couple of us got up early and went down to the water front where we jumped off the pier into the deep, fresh water spring that came up in the sea. The water temperature was like a cool bath and it was so clear with beautiful colourful fish swimming around us amongst the coral reef.


We then had the most amazing breakfast, which for most of us is our favourite meal of the day and for me, it’s been the food that I’ve been talking to LV about for the last 2 weeks at least! We had the buffet breakfast which included marmalades such as papaya, lime and banana, or coconut marmalade with nutty bread or coconut bread, fresh mangoes and apple cream fruits. This was the starter to cleanse the palate before the main course of eggs benedict including bacon and spinach on 2 muffins!





Followed by a dessert of pancakes with bananas in orange marmalade syrup – seriously delicious! One bonus of needing to stock up on food whilst we’re here, we’re literally eating everything in sight, love it!! Before leaving I got to do one last rendition of the Hakka to check I had it right, apparently I need to work on my scary face! (See facebook for the video!)

Laura doing the Haka

Laura doing the Haka

We were sad to leave Sinalei and the wonderful John who had been so generous in providing our stay, but it was time for Doris to get pampered. We cleared out everything from the hatches and deck, washed her clean and let her air dry before repacking. Whilst down at the dockside, we had some wonderful visitors, from the group of men from Tansmania, to the 2 lovely couples who are living and travelling the world on their boats.


The Tasmanians


Us with Joe from the hotel


The finale for the evening was a phone call with Keith our Sport Psych. Touching base on where we are as a team reflecting on our 2nd leg, setting us up for success on the last leg, ensuring we’ve got our individual plans laid out for what we want out of the last leg and how we prepare for bringing Doris home for the finish. Plenty of homework to ensure that we don’t completely laze about whilst we’re here!

One thing is for sure, Samoa is definitely getting harder and harder to envisage leaving next week. The people, the food, the culture and the island itself, is one of the most beautiful places i have ever been to. Thank you Samoa.


Leg 2, Day 94 – Lizanne

Laura Penhaul By

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 Osteopaths www.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. 

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.