Day 56 – drills aboard Doris

Laura Penhaul By

Day 56- drills aboard Doris

Who would have thought that 3 out of the 4 of us (guess who?!) were little spring chickens, we went to Brownies (I’d like to add I was In the best group Sprites!) and it was the motto of being ‘best prepared’ that you lived by. 20 odd years on and this couldn’t be more relevant. The row, as you know, has been 3.5 years in the making and all that time has been spent ensuring we were the best prepared we could be. This therefore involved a number of different courses and working with as many experts in their fields to ensure that we left as little as possible to chance and learnt how to cope with most situations. So who better to head to for advice and support than those with army and military experience, who have years of training, discipline, drilling routines and procedures over and over again. They’re also well versed at coping outside of their comfort zone, how to stay calm in pressured situations and how to work well as a team, all elements that are essential for us on our 29ft Doris. So we sought the help of Fieri ( who are a team ofex army that apply the skills they’ve learnt, to aid in teaching management and leadership skills. They took us through our leadership training and showed us the art of good communication and teamwork when they organised a weekend to see how we reacted under duress of sleep deprivation and a 66km slog in 24hrs across the breacons in Wales.

brecon beacons

Our training with Fieri at the Brecon Beacons


We then worked with Survival Wisdom ( who are ex Navy, and they helped us with our our sea survival training. I’d done the RYA course but didn’t find it very applicable learning skills in a pool when I knew we’d be out at sea if we had to employ those skills. So sea survival invited us to bring our Doris down to Plymouth to do a real, at sea drills and practice of man over board and evacuation to a life raft. They also ran us through our ‘what ifs’ scenarios and taught us the art of recognising when too many ‘lemons’ are building up (complacency that eventually leads to mishap). Finally, among other courses Medical Services off Shore (MSOS) gave us a great medical training day which included practice of suturing along with splinting and evacuating an unconscious rower.

So the reason for telling you all this, is that as much as courses are amazing, they are only useful if you repeat what you’ve learnt and continue to practice the drills. So this week we did exactly that. The plan is, that at least twice per leg, we practice our onboard safety drills, so that in the worst case scenario our actions are second nature in a stressful situation when decision making goes out the window. In our 1hr social time, we ran through the what if scenarios of an emergency evacuation due to collision with another boat and our man over board procedures. We then went on to practice how to maneuver an unconscious rower into the cabin whilst we’re bouncing around in the seas. Emma was the willing participant to play unconscious and then the 3 of us problem solved how to manoeuver Ems over the oars and into the cabin, but feet first so that the head could be easily accessible to the hatch. As ever, we worked together well as a team, we planned our steps to move her, we executed (with a lot of choice words and laughter) and we reviewed afterwards. Ems is the lightest out of all of us and must only weigh now about 58kg’s, but in our weakened state, bouncing seas and Bambi legs between us, it was an eye opener to see how difficult it was. Hopefully we will never have to employ these skills for real and if nothing else it gives us some variation on the boat and a source of banter for a few hours. Special thanks to Fieri, Surival Wisdom & MSOS for their expert advice and support.



  1. You never cease to amaze us, keep it up!

  2. JG says:

    Sorry, it’s me again but these blogs are so worth responding to and I try to be as positive and encouraging as possible. It is so important think emergency action through step by step and visualisation is almost as good as the real thing. Instinct is all very well, but unless it is trained and the brain has run through and learned the procedures developing those all important neuron shortcuts and links then risk escalates. This is why your ‘what if?’ sessions are so important and this is just more indication of how professionally your expedition has been set up by you all. It appears that there are sharks around the Hawaiian islands so maybe barnacle scraping goes on hold for as while. Go Crew!

  3. Just love the way you say “the head” in this wonderful blog, you dedicated and Bambi-legged Amazon crew!!!

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