Leg 3, Day 69 – 3rd leg Meg

Meg Dyos By

Day 69 – 3rd leg Meg

From April 19th 2015 my role within the Coxless Crew physically began. Having met Nats and Ems twice, Izz once and Laura a handful of times, I had become third leg Meg, and had committed to undertaking the challenge of rowing the third leg of the journey from Samoa to Cairns as a part of a team I barely knew. The leg where the girls would be the most tired, the leg where they would have been at sea the longest and the leg that took these girls to the finish line. It was daunting, and as they rowed out of San Fran, I felt physically sick, sitting at work on my laptop, and watching the pink dot begin to move, knowing that when I next saw them, it would be my turn to row out of a marina with them.

On land, I ran the info@coxlesscrew.com email answering questions that people asked, from ‘what oars are you using’ to hearing stories of people who had been affected by breast cancer. To say the least, I felt overwhelmed. I hadn’t even seen Doris’s oars, let alone know what they were made of! As leg one progressed, and the girls on the ocean faced the waves and the hardships that ocean life had to offer, myself and Lizanne faced training for a challenge I’m not sure either of us knew the extent of what was fully involved – through sports psych with Keith we tried to prepare our heads for the ocean, yet the realisation of what we had signed up for could only be fully appreciated when we saw land disappear out of sight and we were on the ocean.

I managed to Skype the girls in each of the stop offs. With words escaping me of all of the questions I had prepared to ask, I was constantly worried that they might not think I would be a good member of the team, and instead general chitchat and laughter unrelated to what the ocean would hold for me occurred. The girls encouraged me to ask them questions, but I had thousands! Wary of asking the same questions as everyone else, I laughed to myself as there were no words that could sum up the emotions I felt. Excited, scared and completely in awe of these women. How could I be a part of this team?! I very much worked on the mindset that I would take everything in my stride. Learning about the ins and outs of Doris, and rowing a part of the Pacific Ocean would be a process – for now I needed patience and to focus on training my mind and my body.

15.11.1LSOS-SAMOA02

Upon Lizanne’s departure onto Doris, and Izz’s arrival onto land; seeing Lizanne enter the world of the ocean, and hearing from Izz that it was ‘awesome’, I felt closer to a member of the team who had spent weeks at sea with LP, Nats and Ems. This gave me a huge insight into what life was like on Doris. Yet in all honesty you have to see it to believe it!

Integrating into a team, that has just spent 6 months together at sea on a 29 foot rowing boat is a daunting task! It wasn’t one that could fail, as I would be getting on a boat with three of them within the next 10 days. In my mind I so wanted to jump up and down, organise a party and dance the funky chicken in excitement for the girls arrival into Samoa. Yet Keith had advised me to stay calm and go easy for the first few days as the girls were going to be tired and might want space. I felt a member of the team because of the work that I had done on land, but upon seeing the girls row into the marina, I couldn’t have even began to visualise that I would ever feel the way Lizanne looked with the girls on Doris, a fully fledged member of the team. Yet here I am, day 69 feeling as if I have been here for a lifetime. It has been a learning journey, and the girls couldn’t have made me feel more at home. They have shared in my emotions from being scared at big waves, to moaning at my sore bottom despite the fact that these are feelings that they first experienced many moons ago. I feel extremely lucky in this leg to have felt a small bit of what each of the legs have had to offer, different hardships to different joys. All I know, is that when I look up at the roof of the aft cabin and see the Coxless crew logo, it takes me back to my original application for the row. I didn’t for one second ever think that I would be in this cabin right now, writing this blog, and rowing a part of the Pacific on Doris! My love for each of these girls cannot be described in words and the idea of reaching land is a fifty fifty split of excitement versus not wanting this bubble to pop.

Update: what an evening we had! On our sunset shift, me and LP saw a family of what we thought were reef sharks coming up to the stern of the boat. At the same time in the sky on one side of Doris there were upto thirty boobies dive bombing into the water, different sizes and colours, all fishing for a feast, and twelve frigates above us also searching for their supper! In addition we have also seen a sea snake in the water. Let’s hope the abundance of wildlife continues into the Great Barrier Reef.

Oh, and by the way, we have just hit 199 miles! Cairns we’re a coming!

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Leg 3, Day 64 – ‘Nearly’

Meg Dyos By

Day 64 – ‘Nearly’

Nearly, nearly, nearly. It’s a word that we have heard throughout this leg of the journey. From the moment we left Samoa, embarking on the 3rd leg of this adventure and we were ‘nearly’ there.

According to the kindle dictionary that we have on Doris, the word nearly is defined as ‘very close to; almost’. So I suppose in terms of the rest of the journey, leaving Samoa and from every day since then we have been nearer to Cairns than the day before. But now, when looking at our chart plotter, and being able to see Cairns on the same page as Doris, can quite easily fool the mind into thinking that we are close to arriving. Don’t get me wrong, in the scheme of things we are so close to Cairns, but it is the word ‘nearly’ that has got me thinking recently. I managed to speak to my sister, my boyfriend, and my best friend yesterday on the phone as for our 400 mile reward we gave ourselves 30 minutes of extra phone calls. At some point in the phone call each person said ‘you are so nearly there’ as words of encouragement. This word is clearly hugely subjective, and doesn’t have an objective measure other than that of comparisons. To explain, if we had embarked on a 500 mile journey, then the 350 mile mark would not be classed as ‘nearly there’ yet, as Ems said, we are over 94 percent of the way to Cairns, so of course we are ‘nearly there’. But how near is ‘nearly’? On Doris we all have different points when we feel that we will be able to say ‘nearly’. For Ems it’s that moment when we can see land, for Nat it’s when we row into the marina, whereas for LP it’s 50 miles and for me it’s the moment we can see Tony and Sarah Moshman in a boat that will escort us over the Great Barrier Reef.

So as the four of us row harder than we have rowed so far on this leg, we try and remain focused and take the word ‘nearly’ with a pinch of salt until we reach our own personal ‘nearly’. We still have at least another 7 days on Doris, equating to a minimum of another 84 hours on the oars. So to put it into perspective, with 350 miles still to cover, we have the equivalent of approximately 18 English channels to cross! On the oars last night I was discussing with LP the mantras and motivational words that we will be saying to ourselves over the next week, and power songs that we already have prepared in our performance enhancing strategies that Keith our sports psych made us prepare for the journey. Words such as focus, strong, dig deep, and keeping at the forefront of our minds ‘will it make the boat go faster?‘ as a question to decisions that we make, are all examples of ways that we will focus.

Our parents are all on their way to, or are in Australia already, with Nats and Ems’s already there, mine on a plane currently, and LP’s due to leave on Wednesday. It was only this week that I received an email from my mum saying that she now understood how much of a limbo I was in before I arrived in Samoa. Like the rest of the parents, having spent the past month tracking Doris and attempting to guess when they will be needed in Cairns, and then having rebooked their flights twice, and still not knowing whether or not the flight that they are currently on will be the right one to have chosen, all they have said is that they WILL be there for our arrival. With the delay of the row, both myself and Lizanne’s departure dates for leg 2 and then leg 3 of the journey were also delayed by up to 2 months. As a result, our lives rolled with the waves watching the pink dot addictively until we received the call from Tony saying that our flights had been booked. For Hawaii, Lizanne departed when the girls got to 250 miles. For Samoa, due to the epic 97 days in the doldrums of leg two, and the unpredictability of the girls arrival, I didn’t depart UK until they got to 100 miles!

I think that we would all agree that the support that we have constantly received from our parents throughout, has been one of the things that has got each person through, and I’m not sure that we will ever be able to thank them enough. It’s one thing a member of the team having to roll with the waves, waiting their turn to row, but it’s another, putting our parents through the same process as they all wait together, rolling over the rest of the coral sea and then the barrier reef with us waiting; waiting for our arrival. Here’s to hoping we don’t keep everybody waiting too long.

Update: Today I ate porridge for supper! Porridge! As our savoury options begin to lessen, and the sugar diet commences we are trudging along waiting for more direct Easterly winds and less current to carry us to Cairns one stroke at a time. Oceania are you hearing us bebbey, push us please!

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Leg 3, Day 59 – Aunty Jane and her Pacific Ocean

Meg Dyos By

Day 59 – Aunty Jane and her Pacific Ocean

Pressure points on the bum cheeks causing shooting pains when in a seated position – but there is no other position, it is the rowing position and to get to Cairns we need to sit like this. Whilst getting constantly splashed, and whilst watching the miles dissolve painfully slowly, out here, whilst sitting on the oars, it is sometimes difficult to remember why we are actually putting ourselves through this. But then you remember, that it is our choice to do this. We are choosing to cross the Pacific, and yet many people don’t choose to cross their own Pacific. In fact they are forced to face it, and then cross it. My Aunty Jane is someone who remains at the forefront of my mind in this challenge. Her strength, determination and positivity is mind blowing and she has continued to inspire me throughout my life. I asked her to write a bit about her experience of cancer, and I can’t thank her enough for sharing her story, sharing her Pacific Ocean that she has been forced to cross. Every day we receive emails from people who share stories like Janes, it is these that keep us going to remain resilient until we reach Cairns and then after, in raising 250k for Breast Cancer Care and Walking for the Wounded.

my pacific3

My Aunty Wendy (janes sister) has worked as a cancer nurse for the majority of her career, I also asked her to write a small bit on her experience of cancer:

‘For many a diagnosis of cancer, or the big C as many call it, is their worst fear. It is like standing on the shore facing a challenge and you cannot predict how the journey will go, exactly how long it will last or whether you will even survive it. Your body will change, through surgery and treatment. You wont look the same, or feel the same about how you look. You will have days where no-one really understands what you are going through. There are days where you cannot bear the thought of getting up and going for your next treatment, you are too tired. Days where you have to push yourself to do anything. Days where you feel like you can conquer the disease. Days when you think the disease is winning. Then, once all the treatment is over, what do I do now, my life has been all about beating cancer… now what? How do I get back to normal, what is normal any more?’

Janes story

‘I was young, energetic, and in my twenties when I discovered several lumpy areas in my very ample breasts, I felt invincible, I liked running, and was physically fit, I had also recently become vegetarian. I had a job I loved and lived a full, busy life. I had a few emotional ups and downs related to failed relationships but didn’t think for a moment I may be unwell. I went to the doctors and got referred to a general surgeon who decided that the largest lump should be removed, this happened a couple of times and the lumps were described as calcifications. my surgeon stated that I just had unusually lumpy breasts, I was left with scars but was never offended by them nor got bogged down by their appearance.

It was a few weeks before my thirtieth birthday when I found a smartie sized disc of a lump in my upper right breast, it was entirely different to the previous calcifications so back to the usual routine of doctor, surgeon, hospital, and operation, I naively never considered that this lump may be cancer, that surely happened to other people…not me! The surgery went well and my charming surgeon went to great lengths to “preserve my beauty”(his words) making an incision around the areola of my nipple and channelling under the skin to reach the lump, the result was impressive and I went home. Within hours I received a phone call to return to the hospital without delay, when you take a call like that you know it can only mean one thing.

My sister Sally came with me and it’s probably just as well as I don’t think I took in a great amount of the content of the ensuing conversation once the word cancer was mentioned, my surgeon said he always had concerns about me and my breast “makeup”. From then I was swept along with a multi treatment approach, first about a third of my breast was taken away to ascertain if there was any evidence of spread, to back this up about eight lymph nodes were taken from under my arm for the same reason, no choice now regarding “preserving my beauty”. Thankfully the results confirmed that there was no indication that the cancer had spread, I was thirty years old and considered very young to be diagnosed with such a disease, I felt immensely fortunate to have had the condition caught so early on, I have always been aware that for some people the cancer has spread to a far greater extent before they are even aware that they have cancer leaving them often with less favourable outcomes.

Instead of thinking “Why me?” I just focused on “Why not me?” and prepared myself for chemotherapy, radiation with iridium wires, and radiotherapy all of which were being done to hopefully clear my body and the immediate site of any stray cancer cells that may have been lurking about. The chemotherapy which I had, did not cause me to lose my hair but the process and associated drugs did make me put weight on, cause me to get mouth ulcers and leave me with the taste of rusty metal in my mouth. I used to drink camomile tea when the chemotherapy was being administered and to this day (over twenty years on) can not bear the smell or taste of camomile.

The iridium wire treatment involved five radio active iridium wires being inserted into my remaining two thirds of breast and left in place for three days in a controlled situation. I was in a small room at the hospital and visitors were restricted to a twenty minute visit and were not allowed beyond a protective lead screen. The room which was the last in a corridor, at the end of a block actually had yellow and black radioactive tape and signs both on the door and externally in the grounds. After three days the iridium wires were removed, I had ten holes which were entry and exit points for the wires, I don’t think this treatment is actually used any more. Finally I had twelve lots of radiotherapy focused specifically on my breast. I have two black dot tattoos which were used each week to align the treatment to exactly the same area. Of all the treatments this was the least invasive yet this was what I disliked the most as it involved being left completely alone in a room for thirty minutes with some music playing, I recall it being a little too soul searching and tears rolling from my eyes whilst I lay there strictly motionless.

Upon reflection I think that perhaps I suffered from transference in that I expanded a huge amount of energy grieving failed relationships but never really got upset about having cancer. I had some counselling sessions but did not find the process particularly helpful, I was blessed by having fantastic support from family and friends and found work the constant in my life that provided a welcome distraction to bury myself in. I really do think the experience made me a far better person and none of us know what we are capable of until we are tested. I was left with vastly different sized breasts but didn’t dwell on it, I had been through enough and it was the least of my worries. I was just glad to be alive. Most of my friends were settling down, getting married and having children, in that regard I still had hopes and dreams but had been warned that getting pregnant would be a very risky business. What doesn’t kill you
makes you stronger resonated with me ….I was not unscarred by the experience in more ways than one and acknowledged only in the last five years how unhappy I was with my uneven breast appearance. An operation that should have probably been done fifteen years earlier sorted the imbalance.

But it was not to last …..

Just over two years ago, twenty years plus on from my first diagnosis and age fifty, I got recalled after a routine annual mammogram and went back to Kent and Canterbury Hospital to undergo fine needle aspiration to extract a sample from a chain of “white dots ” which had shown up on the mammogram and were cause for concern. I had to wait a week for the results and upon my return seven days later it was confirmed to be cancer for a second time in the same breast as before. I had prepared myself for this news and naively thought that it would just be cut out. What I had not prepared myself for was the statement “You will need a mastectomy” I just had not considered this and left the hospital in a bit of a daze to the extent that I had a small collision with a minibus at the end of the road. I called work and explained that I needed the rest of the day off.

What followed were appointments with a plastic surgeon to look at options for a mastectomy followed by immediate reconstruction. As I had plenty of belly fat it was decided that this would be used to create a new breast, quite amazing in fact! I had a rather bad experience with morphine post op and had to wear a support bra and tummy support 24 hours a day for several weeks. Given that this breast had already been subjected to quite a lot first time around may have contributed to some major healing issues that required negative vacuum wound therapy to
assist with the healing process. The result is not perfect and efforts are being made to improve the outcome but once again I feel so very fortunate to have received an early diagnosis, I find the NHS quite marvellous. As I am surrounded by female family I was able to be tested to look at the genetics to see if my family were at greater risk, I am pleased to say that the results revealed that they are not affected genetically with what is known so far by the experts, however I have been advised that I remain high risk and can elect for risk reducing surgery by having my remaining real breast removed which I am seriously considering as I do not wish to wait to see if I will get breast cancer for a third time. When I came to discuss this I was a little overwhelmed by the various options available following mastectomy; implants, back fat, thigh fat or a combination!

My experience of breast cancer second time around is one that I feel should be spoken about to raise awareness. I work with a team of some young people, and many men and I want people to know what has happened to me because unfortunately, some of their girlfriends, sisters and mothers will be affected by this disease. Being older this time around I am less sensitive and have the support of my friends, family and my then fiancé who is now my husband. I know that I am high risk so for that reason I try to value the time I have and take a few more risks in how I live my life. I do have wobbles of confidence but generally am very happy with who I am and treasure my life.

It is not what happens in life, it is how you deal with it and I have taught myself to be positive. I think that positivity is hugely powerful.

I am immensely touched that my experience of cancer has played a small part in motivating Meg, my beautiful brave niece to row the Pacific Ocean as part of the all female Coxless Crew who along with the team have made Breast Cancer Care one of their chosen charities, girls I salute you.

All my love Jane x

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Leg 3, Day 54 – Rotations

Meg Dyos By

Day 54 – Rotations

In the real world, we choose when we wish to socialise with a friend, how long we wish to spend with them, and what we do when we meet up for a catch up. There are some friends that you might see once a month, and some once a day, yet here on Doris in our Pacific Ocean bubble, we spend each waking hour with the same person for 5-7 days before rotating partners. We spend 24 hours a day with this person. We row, we eat and we sleep and whilst doing so catch up with the person that we haven’t really seen for 10 – 14 days (two rotations). So for this blog, I thought I’d give you some more details on how and why we rotate rowers and shift patterns.

So how does it work? Every 5-7 days one person from each shift pattern will swap. It normally happens one hour into an afternoon rowing shift for one person, and one hour into a rest shift for the other. On saying goodbye to your rowing partner of the previous 5 – 7 days it is always quite emotional and you feel as if you are heading to a far away place. Yet instead, you are merely sharing the exact same cabin with the next partner, and remain only metres away from your previous partner at all times. Weird! It’s also a really great breath of fresh air jumping on the oars with a new(ish) person, and catching up on all of their news over the past 10 – 14 days. You wouldn’t believe how despite sharing the same 29 foot space on Doris, how little the two shift patterns communicate. Unless a social is planned for the whole team, it is much less than you would expect, with changeovers every two hours being the most time we really get to chat, and at night time it’s often more of a friendly grunt than chit chat. The hatch door remains a window from the cabin onto the other shift, and from the rowing seat into the cabin, and yet it is only in calm seas that we can hold the door ajar and chat.

Changing rowing partner is one thing, but shift rotations also work as one of the ways to break up the monotony of the shift pattern. There are pro’s and cons to both the early and the late shift patterns. One has the sunrise and one has the sunset, the temperatures for sleeping – on the early shift the first evening sleep is hot, whereas on the late one the morning sleep is rather sweaty.

I love the diversity that changing shift patterns gives to our week. The experiences that I have with each rower and the topics of conversation are so different. With LP, nights of gobbledygook that make us both laugh whilst telling story after story to keep ourselves awake. With Ems, the constant challenge of towel drying has me in fits of laughter, and any story of hers that starts with ‘when I was in Belize’ you know will be a good’un. Then there’s Nat – deep conversations that go off at the most abstract tangents and change from serious to laughter that makes my sides hurt – each one of these girls brings so much happiness to my life on the ocean I can’t imagine anyone else I’d like to do this journey with.

To give you an idea, I have written below our shift patterns. Currently myself and Nat are on the late shift, and Ems and LP are on the early:

– Late shift –
07:30 – 09:30 – row
09:30 – 11:30 – sleep
11:30 – 13:30 – row
13:30 – 15:30 – awake
15:30 – 17:30 – row
17:30 – 19:30 – awake
19:30 – 21:30 – row
21:30 – 23:30 – sleep
23:30 – 01:30 – row
01:30 – 03:30 – sleep
03:30 – 05:30 – row
05:30 – 07:30 – sleep

– Early shift –
07:30 – 09:30 – sleep
09:30 – 11:30 – row
11:30 – 13:30 – awake
13:30 – 15:30 – row
15:30 – 17:30 – awake
17:30 – 19:30 – row
19:30 – 21:30 – sleep
21:30 – 23:30 – row
23:30 – 01:30 – sleep
01:30 – 03:30 – row
03:30 – 05:30 – sleep
05:30 – 07:30 – row

Update: Today quite frankly I’m absolutely exhausted. Last night I napped on the oars, had my first experience of speaking gobbledygook to Natalia in my rendition of The Devil Wears Prada, and even in the daylight my eyes are struggling to stay open. We have just done our food audit on board Doris. We have 14 days left of main meals, amongst other snacks and breakfasts etc. Here’s to moving faster and finding a westerly current soon! On a positive note, we had a visitor this morning so close to the boat we could have touched it – a sea turtle by the name of Billy. He was so cute going through the water doing Breast stroke and coming up for air! We tried to get him on the go pro from underwater, but every time, Billy shot off away from the boat – he must be camera shy!

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Leg 3, Day 50 – The window

Meg Dyos By

Day 50 – The window

Gilbert lay in his hospital bed at the end of the ward, next to the window. His 2nd bout of chemotherapy caused him to feel nauseous, and at the ripe age of 86 he liked to lay back and reflect on his life. His waking hours were taken up with thoughts of his family, his children, grand children and great grandchildren and what they may be up to. Late in the afternoon, the bed next to him was filled by Dudley. Dudley was also suffering from cancer, and was due to start his 4th bout of chemotherapy. Without family in the area, Dudley enjoyed engaging in conversation with other people on the ward, and was a particular favourite of the nurses.

In the days following, Gilbert and Dudley became great friends. Having discovered that they went to the same school together, both widowed and then telling each other their life stories they had lots in common. From his lying down position, Dudley requested that Gilbert look out of the window by his bed, and relay the sights that he saw. Gilbert commenced with descriptions of the park that the window overlooked, and it became a daily occurrence. From the boats on the lake, to stories of children and families playing, and joggers and dog walkers – the list continues, and Gilbert’s descriptions caused hours of entertainment to Dudley who would lay back and imagine all of the sights that Gilbert saw.

A few days later, Dudley awoke, and expecting his normal morning update on the world outside the window, he turned over and looked towards Gilbert’s bed. The bed was clean sheeted and with no sign of Gilbert, Dudley asked the nurse where Gilbert was. To which the nurse replied that Gilbert did in fact pass away in his sleep peacefully during the night and was found in the early hours. Beside himself with mourning for his friend, Dudley requested that he be moved to the bed by the window so that he could look over the park and remember his friend. To this the nurse agreed and made up the bed for Dudley to move to. Dudley also told her about Gilbert and his daily commentary of the happenings in the park outside the window. Confusedly, the nurse walked away to continue with her duties – not only did she know that Gilbert was partially sighted, but she often looked out of the window, and was always disappointed to see that it looked onto a brick wall.

This story was told to me years ago, and has particularly resonated with me during my time on Doris. The fact that Gilbert was able to cause Dudley so much enjoyment through the use of his imagination, and was able to create such beautiful descriptions of the world outside despite his poor sight and that the view from those new replacement windows was in fact a brick wall I find particularly moving. The brick wall is our Pacific ocean, it is our only view from onboard Doris and we need to create distraction to sometimes move our minds away from the ocean and paint pictures of other places. On the oars we are Gilbert and Dudley, and on a day when you might not be particularly motivated and/or we have had a similar sea state for periods of time, it is the monotony of the vast expanse of the ocean that can be lifted through these distractions. Alternatively the other person on the oars can help you to re-realise the beauty of where we are through cloud watching, or pointing out the different wildlife surrounding us.

Update: the fast moving has stopped and we are rolling in another current with the miles coming down painfully slowly. However we have loved having the full moon with us and lighting up our path through the water.

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Leg 3, Day 44 – Christmas Party games

Meg Dyos By

Day 44 – Christmas Party games

As it’s the eve of Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day draws ever closer, a particular topic of conversation that I ask people is ‘what does your Christmas Day look like?’. Christmas Day is a day in which although you often find similarities with others such as roast potatoes and gravy, it’s also such an individually special day. The differences in the way people celebrate, and the way in which people describe their Christmas Day as their face often lights up in excitement for is what makes me love listening to the the answer to my question. So this week in particular, this has been the topic of conversation on the oars.

For me, Christmas involves up to 18 of us spending the day together. A day full of laughter, good food and cheer. Amongst my crazy, bonkers family we have certain traditions that happen. Firstly, it is required that only one present is opened by anyone at any one time, and when the opening occurs, all family members watch whilst the person presenting the present shouts ‘present, present, present’. Secondly, I have never watched anything on television on Christmas Day, (this year I’m slightly excited by the potential prospect of watching a film in the aft cabin!) Instead we play party games. Today I thought I’d introduce you to some of these games in case you were needing some inspiration for your Christmas Day.

– The Hills Ring Game –

Equipment required – a long piece of string, a ring.

Place the ring on the piece of string, and tie the string into a circle shape so that the ring cannot fall off of the string. This game can be played with a minimum of 3 people, but the more people you have the better. Everyone stands in a circle all holding onto the string. One person is in the middle of the circle. It is their job to attempt to find the ring whilst the others in the circle move the ring around working together to keep the ring hidden. From experience, I would suggest the use of sound effects – in particular, the whooping noise works a treat to add extra excitement to the game.

– Gramps’s Sock Game –

Equipment required – a sock, items of your choice

Grab a sock and fill it with items of your choice. Once filled, the concept of this game is for each member of the family to guess the items inside the sock by feeling it. The person who gets the most items correct wins. Particularly interesting items to place inside the sock are squashable items such as grapes, or maybe even one or two leftover pigs in blankets.

– Fork feeding –

Equipment required – a fork, bamboo stick, marshmallows

Attach a fork to the tip of a bamboo stick. The concept of this game is to feed the other members of the family marshmallows. Place marshmallows in a certain spot. Step onto a chair in a spot that is a good distance away from the marshmallows, and also a good distance away from the persons who are due to be fed. Pick up marshmallow with your homemade fork, and feed the chosen person – it’s harder than it looks! Do be careful to be in a stable position on the chair when feeding commences – there is a slight risk of a visit to a & e from a fork stabbing to the neck.

– The Penny clencher –

Equipment required – a two pence coin, a bucket

Place the bucket at one end of the room. At the other end, take turns one at a time to place the two pence piece between ones bum cheeks. The concept of this game is then to make your way over towards the bucket and land the two pence piece directly into it. This game can be adapted to make more difficult such as placing steps on the route to the bucket. Alternatively, it can be played as a race if you have more than one coin, and more than one bucket. This is a game for all of the family and can provide some serious laughter, across all generations. Please note, it is required that all participants keep their clothes on for the duration.

– The up and down game –

Equipment required. 2 x pieces of string equal length, 2 x keys

Tie a key onto the end of each piece of string. This game requires two teams of equal amounts of people. Each team must stand in a line all facing the same way. The person at the front of each team holds the key on the string, and the idea is that they place the key on the string down their clothing, starting from the neck down to the feet, they then pass the key to the 2nd person of the team who then places the key and string up their clothing starting from the bottom to the top (all of the team are allowed to assist, and in the case of skinny jeans this may be necessary). This movement continues up and down each persons clothing until the end of the line. Whichever team finishes first, wins. Please note, it is required that all participants keep their clothes on for the duration.

So there you are. Please feel free to partake in any of the above games this Christmas! Wishing you all a fabulous time from here in the Pacific where we will be trying the penny clencher aboard Doris!

Update – All I want for Christmas is houmous. In other news, yesterday whilst me and Laura were on the oars we saw what looked like a few big boulders in the sea, and a huge crashing reef in the distance that turned out to be atol de Suprise. In the same shift, we also clocked a huge whale in the distance that looked like a submarine – we couldn’t get close enough to see what kind of whale it was. Lastly, as you may have seen we have altered our course slightly heading a bit further south to try to minimise any ground loss from any south easterly winds in the next few days. All on Doris are excited for 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 Tupperwares
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 fish a bellyflopping
On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, eight waves a crashing
On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, nine carols a singing
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, ten dolphins jumping (just putting it out to the universe – haven’t actually seen any)
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me, eleven attempts at towel drying

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Leg 3, Day 39 – Funk Town

Meg Dyos By

Day 39 – Funk Town

As I’m sure you’ve read, this whole rowing experience is a bit of a challenge! With every beautiful sunset, there is a rain cloud around the corner and with every bit of flat and calm there is swell and splashing salty waves. All are beautiful in different ways, but it’s appreciating them at all times that is the hard bit! In other challenges that I have done, there is always either a time limit, or similar to this there is a mileage countdown, but they normally correlate, and so with one you can normally work out the other. Yet with this challenge, each and every two hour shift is completely changeable, and if using the amount of miles covered on a two hour shift, or even in a day as a guide to our arrival date to cairns, you can honestly turn yourself loopy. As a result it is imperative to stay in the moment, and not project into the future. Since leaving Samoa, I have been having constant chats with myself to make sure that I am in check with how I am feeling. Whether it is telling myself to ‘choose your attitude’ or that ‘I can do it’, or even to try and distract my mind from how much longer we may be at sea for, it is these pep talks that help me to find the strength to get back out on the oars and keep me balanced.

So it is today that I would like to introduce you to Funk Town. Discovered by my best friend Rose and her brother after their time together in New Zealand last summer, Funk Town is a metaphorical place to live out a bad mood. It’s a brilliant way of making a bad mood into a good mood, and as I’ve been teaching the girls on Doris to embrace the funk, I thought I’d do the same with you. Let me explain! So there I was on the oars, rowing in the back seat, battling a current and barely moving, when in my mind I saw a sign post that said 0.2 miles to Funk Town. I jumped, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to embrace the funk, so I managed to have a chat with myself and change mood direction. But I don’t want to scare you away from Funk Town in your lives, because it really is a fabulous place!

How can I embrace the funk I hear you say? Firstly, when a bad mood hits, accept that a visit to Funk Town would be beneficial. Ensure that your team mates know that you might be visiting for a bit so they know where you are. (They might be able to help you to de-funkify later on) Head through the welcome gates, and decide what you want to achieve in Funk Town. Most head into funk festival, a bar with other funkers. By all means do engage in conversation with other residents, but be careful not to be funked downwards into the funking spiral. Others enjoy funk de la mar, a chilled place by the sea where they can reflect on their funk. Whatever floats your boat you will find, (as after all it is a mental concept!) But by the time you have have spent some time in your funk town place, you may have decided if you are ready to leave funk town and re-enter the real world. If not, you can stay the night. I’d suggest not getting too comfortable. Some stay at the luxurious hotel de funk but then end up staying a week – funky hostel is a better option.

At any given moment, after you feel your bad mood beginning to lift, and are ready to re-enter the real world, it is time to funk out. Funking out involves plugging in an iPod, and headphones, and turning on a funk town classic. There’s a few out there – from the song ‘freak out’ to the song ‘funky town’ it really can be any song whereby the lyrics can include the words ‘funk out’. After discovering your song, and with lots of practice, it may well be that you find that you no longer need to visit Funk Town, and instead the song funks you out, which is awesome! It is also important to note that as well as funking out with music, in such a small space such as Doris that if one finds there to be a cause of the funk in the first place, that they let their team mates help them to resolve the particular situation.

So there you go. Funk Town. Next time you’re in a bad mood, try it. We’d love to hear what funk town looks like to you at doris@coxlesscrew.com. Be sure to take a photo and post to us on social media, (unfortunately we can’t receive photos) and remember what it looks like to successfully funk out of funk town!

Update – we are still in the absolutely incredibly calm, glass like ocean state! It’s completely mesmerising how the water of the mighty Pacific can go like this. It’s hot and we are battling another current, but one stroke at a time we are bobbing along, admiring the fish and the wildlife getting more excited by the day for Christmas! The stars have also been quite incredible this week, so life on Doris is good.

Glassy

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

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Leg 3, Day 37 – A Sister’s perspective

Meg Dyos By

Day 37 – A sister’s perspective

Meg has always been one to throw herself into challenges for charity, which we have all admired her for, but this row has been the biggest challenge to date!

In 2007, at the age of 17, she shaved her head in front of the whole school for Children in Need and raised over £1,000. In 2008, she ran the London Marathon, and then in 2011, Meg was Expedition Leader for a Kilimanjaro climb with her University, raising funds for a charity called Dig Deep. This involved recruiting and leading a team of students that raised £26,000. She then went onto be a part of an expedition that climbed Machu Picchu for the same charity the following year.

When Meg told me about the row, I had really mixed feelings. Part of me thought WOW what an amazing thing to do and also for two fantastic charities that mean something to the both of us, but then a part of me thought WOW, one small little boat out there in the Pacific with four girls in it – all a bit daunting if you ask me.

I couldn’t be any prouder of my big sis than I am today. Often I hear people saying “Oh, wouldn’t it be amazing to do this and that with my life”… and then never seem to fulfill these different dreams for one reason or another. Meg, and all of the Coxless Crew have taught me a lesson. We can all live by ‘what ifs’ everyday but wouldn’t it be great if we could change these into ‘I did it’ after people’s fears are faced after completing an individual challenge. That is what the #mypacific concept is – overcoming personal fears.

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At the end of 2013 our Dad had a massive accident whilst training for a half marathon that he and Meg were supposed to be completing the following week. This threw our lives up into the air and tore us both to absolute shreds. Things became very difficult for us and we had no choice but to come together as a team. As our dad is still getting over his accident, our relationship with him has also suffered, and two years on and I can honestly say that as well as Meg being my sister, she is also my best friend. I am trying to express a message here that we will now always continue to live by….appreciate what you have in life because you never know when that could be taken away from you.

Growing up, Meg was always the bossy one who used to do all of the talking for me (It was always questioned why I was a late speaker). I used to point and squawk like a parrot and Meg would translate into exactly what I wanted. Meg and I had an amazing childhood, thanks to our mum, big Sal – a completely selfless, absolute inspiration for us both. We spent our time making mud pies and trying to find some poor animals to feed it to, or doing the hopscotch in the garden. We used to have a big pond outside our house, and every year we would both find the joy out of seeing how many tadpoles we could find and bring out of the pond into our hand, and watching them develop.

Every day I watch Doris, the little pink boat rowing along and getting closer and closer to Cairns battling anything that the Pacific throws at her. I know that each stroke is bringing my big sis, and The Coxless Crew closer and closer to having their feet back on the ground. I never ever thought I would say this, but I can’t wait to hear Meg’s voice, even if it is nagging me about something!

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I really couldn’t be any prouder of the six girls in this challenge. They are amazing and I know from the bottom of my heart I could never complete a challenge like it. I am sure there are very mixed feelings at the moment, “the next time we hit land, we won’t be leaving it again on a boat” and the “Wow, what an amazing challenge with six special women that is about to end”. I wish I was there to see them when they arrive in Cairns. The amount of money that they have raised and are continuing to raise will have such a massive impact on their two chosen charities, and I know there are people that will be eternally grateful for it. Sending so much love and good luck to the girls for the rest of the journey

Amy
xxxx

Update: we have reached half way to Cairns! To celebrate, me and Ems are putting together a two course Christmas hat luncheon out on the Deck. In other news, we found out yesterday that Laura’s parents have actually been on The Dawn Princess (Harry’s boat). They sent him an email, and here is the response below:

‘First of all, thank you for your incredibly thoughtful email. It’s not often I receive mail onboard and I must say, I’m impressed it found me so quickly! My senior officer and I have not stopped talking about our encounter with the girls and Doris. We initially made contact via radio as we thought they may be in some sort of difficulty. However we were then completely taken aback by not only their positivity and enthusiasm, but also their willingness to share their incredible story with us. It really is remarkable what Laura and her teammates are undertaking. Every chance I get I load up the blog and see what they’ve been up to. The morning after we passed each other, I firstly informed the Captain of the girls adventure and then our Cruise Director so that he could publically inform all on board of this amazing story, making reference to the coxlesscrew.com website. We currently have 2986 people on board from a huge range of nationalities, so hopefully this will help draw even more attention to the cause! What a coincidence that you yourself have cruised on the Dawn Princess! And even sat in the Captain’s chair! This is something I’m still working towards! I have been with Princess for just over 5 years now since I left school at 18, and I’m finding the life at sea to be an incredibly interesting and educational one. I can also honestly say that I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to sail past Laura and the girls. It was our pleasure to talk to them, and we’re even more pleased to know it gave them a boost! I will try to contact the girls directly through their website to let them know we’re all behind them and wishing them all the best on this leg of the journey. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of us on the Dawn Princess!
kind Regards,Harry Ford

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.

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Leg 3, Day 34 – Feel the fear and do it anyway

Meg Dyos By

Day 34 – Feel the fear and do it anyway

But what is fear? And how does it differentiate from being scared? It’s a subject that myself and Ems were discussing on the oars last night, and as with the majority of conversations on Doris without the use of Google, it remains an inconclusive discussion. Surely it’s subjective and the above words mean something different to everyone? Pre-row this is something that Keith, our sports psych asked me to consider, and in doing so, collate a list of my fears of rowing the Pacific. Along with this, I was also to work on a list of things I was scared of, and to prepare a plan known as a ‘what if’ plan. The idea of this is to basically have a plan in place, and ways to deal with any situation that may arise that I was already scared of. The result being that having talked about the given situations prior to them happening would enable our body to go into survival mode if the said ‘what if’ arises as opposed to freaking out.

So yesterday, I felt my fear and did it anyway. It was a fear that I knew that I would be likely to face, but due to the rougher sea state that we have been experiencing it was also likely that I might not get the opportunity to actually face it.

– Swimming in the Pacific Ocean –

To be honest, it is not specifically swimming in the Pacific which was on my ‘what if’ plan, and fears list, but instead the potential sighting and/or contact with a shark. If you’ve been with me when I’ve been water skiing for the majority of my life, whether it’s in Sandwich Bay in Kent, or the South of France, you would have seen the panic in my face at falling off of the water-skis and waiting in the deep water for our boat to come back around and throw me out the rope. The thoughts running through my mind of whether I’d rather the shark bite my rear end, or my feet with the ski’s on! Irrational as it may sound, we all have these fears that we can’t explain, and whether it’s watching Jaws as a child, or is a fear that has appeared completely out of the blue I have no idea.

underwater

Ems and I lay in the cabin yesterday after putting up our Christmas decorations when we heard Laura say ‘can I suggest that we swim in the next hour?’. My heart pounded, and I lay there, silently hoping the idea might pass and I wouldn’t have to say the obvious ‘yes, absolutely, yes’. But it didn’t, and of course, an opportunity of a lifetime arose, and myself and Laura got ready for a dip. So, Snorkels on, Laura armed with her dads Volvo ice scraper ready for some overdue barnacle scraping, a quick pre-swim underwater shark check with a face plant into the warm Pacific; all clear, so in we plopped. Entering the water, it felt so amazing. Space! Space to stretch. Space to kick. Space to move our muscles in a different way to the last 33 days! But then the fear. Almost feeling my heart pop out of my mouth, I clung like my life depended on it to Doris, trusting that she would hide me from any roaming sharks! But then building up the courage to look around under water, and wow!

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There’s not even words to describe the expanse of the unknown, the unknown that we are actually rowing on top of. Without stating the obvious, and of course not that I was expecting to touch the bottom of the Pacific Ocean at a minimum of 3km deep, but it just goes down and down and down into an abyss of electric blue, now tainted with flying barnacles falling deeper and deeper into the below having been released from under Doris with Laura and her power scraping. Still clinging to Doris, I checked the surrounding area for any shark sightings, as brave Laura’s very poor wingman in the operation. And then, I couldn’t do it anymore, my body was shaking, and it was time to jump out. Looking up at Doris and being athletically challenged at the best of times, I was extremely happy that we had decided to put out the safety ladder, despite the girls saying it was easy to jump out without it!

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Landing onto the boat, and realising that actually we had the whole other side of Doris to clean, Ems took the baton and jumped in with Laura as I shark watched from out of the water. I sat there overlooking the biggest ocean in the world and became a little bit emotionally overwhelmed that I had just swam (if you can call it that) in her. Despite not seeing a shark, placing myself in a situation where my fear of sharks actually became rational, as opposed to skiing in Kent where the most you see is a seagull that wants to know if you have any food or not felt great!

What’s your biggest fear?

Update: It’s been a busy 24 hours! Last night at sunset, we heard Laura on the oars shout that she could hear a blow hole, so we all jumped out of the cabin, and coming towards us was a huge whale. Not sure what it was as we saw it really quickly and then it disappeared into the deep, But wow! Then, last night after Nat saying that we hadn’t seen an aeroplane pass us, me and Ems saw one fly across the whole sky. Perhaps the big octopus will be next after all! We also came within 6 miles of another passenger ship and could see it on the horizon due to the bright lights coming off of it. Finally, finally we can see Vanuatu in the distance – its a straight line to Cairns from here!

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