Day 7 – Antics on the night shift

Laura Penhaul By

Day 7 Antics on the night shift

During the night, we each (in our pairs) have 3 night shifts to get through. Last night, Ems and I had just got on the oars at 01:00 for our second shift. The night was a beautiful clear sky so we were looking at the amazing stars & trying to pick out the North Star, the plough, Orion’s Belt & our star ‘Doris’ (my friends had bought us it before we left). Suddenly in the distance I saw what I thought initially was a firework (until I realised we were mid-Ocean so guessing there’s not too many parties out here!) so soon realised it had to be a red flare which is a signal for distress. Emma had spotted it too which reassured me as I’ve been known to see things when I’m tired (that’s a whole other blog post!).

We got the girls in the cabin to screenshot our location on the Navionics maps just in case it was needed again. Next step was to get onto VHf but there was no response and we couldn’t see a ship on AIS either. So we called Falmouth coastguard to inform them of our sighting and they kindly put Natalia through to the U.S. Coastguard. Lieutenant Anthony was extremely helpful and had very kindly said that they had been looking out for us over the recent weeks (always reassuring to know). Anyway, he asked a series of questions for Nat to relay to us, So he could estimate the distance the flare was from us, firstly by measuring your fist height above the horizon, estimate the wind speed where we were and its direction. After receiving this info, we’d assumed that they were checking AIS and Radar for the boat’s location so they could contact them directly.  We figured that we’d done what we could and didn’t think any further action was needed. Much to our complete surprise, about 20-30mins later, Emma noticed a red and green light flashing in the distance, these lights actually were the helicopter of US coastguard! They hovered over us to clarify some further details and then spent the next hour circling the area. I suddenly felt really guilty for calling them out as what if we were mistaken with what we saw?

We’re still unaware of whether they did find anyone, but If they didn’t and it was a false alarm I feel bad for sending them on a wild goose chase! At least it’s better that way than to not report it and have missed something significant.
Either way, it certainly made our shift go quickly!
Personal notes: Howie – thank you for the email. Knew it was you before reading the name based off those riddles. Looking forward to hearing the answers!
Hilton – also looking forward to hearing the answers too, they’ve certainly puzzled us.
Michelle and Heather – happy birthday for this weekend you two, thinking of you both xx



  1. Danielle says:

    Keep up the good work girls! Loving reading your blog! Nat, do you have a seperate email address I can write to you on?
    Dan. Xx

  2. Allen says:

    Well done ladies,

    I’ve had to contact the coastguard a couple of times. It’s better to report these.. Even if it was someone having fun.. testing out their flares, or discarding an out of date one. A bit of a stupid thing to do, but you never know.
    There’s no reports in the press about a rescue near you, but not all the news ends up on the web.
    Enjoy your rowing and the quiet weather. Best wishes. Allen.

  3. Johnnie says:

    Great that the Coastguard have you on their radar. Never worry about reporting a flare – we let two off one time just south of the Needles when we thought our Folk boat had finally had it and no-one responded. All was well in the end but we could have done with some help.

    Great progress west in the last 24 hours well done – and that in spite of being buzzed by helicopters.

  4. Simon TY says:

    How exciting ? Hope that noone was in trouble. Is reassuring that they got there so quick ( reassuring for you ?). Bit of a movie moment in high seas, helicopter overhead, downblast from rotors flattening the water, you shading yr eyes from the inevitable searchlight, Daniel Craig abseiling down to deliver yr Milk Tray…….now you are fantasising. Anyhow, another story for the book that one of you have to write including yr blog, and some of our inane commentary

  5. danny says:

    Did you ever find out what it was?

    • The Team says:

      No, our on shore team contacted Falmouth coastguard but nothing was reported. It remains a mystery.

  6. Karl says:

    I just read about how the light you see from the North star is 400 years old! Aka is 400 light years away.

    That, and how there are more connections in your brain than there are stars in the milky way galaxy!

    Wrap your brain around that as you are rowing at night and keeping a sharp eye out for strange lights and UFO’s.

  7. Jim Andrews says:

    Love reading the cheerful reports and also about the harsh reality of your task. I hope our little messages of support give you a little lift, your blogs certainly are a big part of my day.
    As always our thoughts are with you. X

  8. Karan says:

    Wow girls never a dull moment is there. Take care thinking of you all big hugs Isabel xx

  9. Jane says:

    Hello girls,

    I read your posts every day and am in complete awe of the courage and stammina that you four demonstrate every day. You’re doing a brillinat job and are incredibly inspiring. Thank you and stay safe x

  10. Simon TY says:

    I have just been imagining the conversation. Robinson Crusoe on his liferaft, after sending up flare:
    “That was quick. How the hell did you get here so quick ?”
    “Er, well, we rowed”
    He would have thought you were Sirens, captivating him in his dillusional state

  11. Wow!! Never a dull moment for the Coxless Crew! If there was someone in trouble they will be eternally grateful to you all for taking the time to inform someone. It’s not like walking past something in the street…..there aren’t going to be that many people just passing by in the Pacific! Love that your friends bought you a star they called ‘Doris’ that’s brilliant 🙂 Loving the blogs ladies!! Amazed you have time to write such entertaining blogs with everything else you have to fit in! Cxx

  12. m-c says:

    never feel guilty, they probably needed the practice!!!! Keep strong and remember at the point ur getting low, someone will crack a joke! x

  13. Helen Outen says:

    Glad all well ladies!!! Never feel guilty about reporting such things…..if you hadn’t and someone had been in trouble ……doesn’t bear thinking about.
    “If in doubt….call out”
    Keep up the good work.
    Helen ( Sarah’s Mum )

  14. Catherine says:

    That’s great that the Coastguard have been keeping a watch over you. And that they gave a bit of night time reprive. Better to contact them to assume someone else will. There’s a syndrome for that. Can’t remember what it’s called. Will look it up. Take care. Cx

  15. Heather says:

    Wahoo! I got a mention 🙂 Thank you sweetie. An exciting eve indeed & definitely think you did the right thing so well done. Hoping the conditions ease for you very soon – at least you’ve conquered your sea stomach!! Much love to you all & one for the playlist from me – ‘Geronimo’ by Sheppard (not sea or boat related, just a good song!) xxx

  16. Ray Penhaul says:

    Just checked with Falmouth Coastguard, they assume that the U.S. coastguard never found anything as they didn’t report back, but as other people have said, better safe than sorry. Hopefully not long before you girls pick up the right wind and current and pickup speed. Terrific group of girls, so proud of you all. xx

  17. Well done – by the time you read this you will have cracked the 2000 mile mark to Honolulu. Clearly still battling the elements but you will make it! Music – try George Ezra’s ‘Budapest’ – good rhythm to row to and a soothing tune.

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