Leg 2, Day 34 – The Yellowbrick Tracker

Emma Mitchell By

Day 34 – The Yellowbrick Tracker

During the 118 days we have so far been rowing Doris on the Pacific there have been many frustrating moments. However I’m not sure any quite compare to the feeling of rowing as hard as you can for two hours with the sole purpose of trying to make the boat go as slowly as possible. In the last week or so we have been battling an easterly current of up to 2.2 knots and mainly southerly winds of up to 15 knots. Given that Samoa is to the south west of our current position both of these are incredibly unhelpful. Despite all of the dead lifts Alex made us do before we left and all of the calories we piled on, we are still not strong enough to row South west in these conditions. Some days, like today we are able to make slow progress South but at other times the best we can do is try to slow down our progress in the wrong direction. Doing this though is only slightly more depressing than the sessions where two hours hard rowing results in a small amount of progress South with a South easterly course, only to lose all that South ground during the change over of rowing pairs no matter how efficiently we do it, due to the strong current and/ or wind. Once we have crossed the equator and escaped from the equatorial counter current we will need to make up the ground we have lost to the east.

I feel the need to explain why it may look like we are going the wrong way because you can all see our progress on the ‘Where’s Doris?’ map on our website. The map is updated via our Yellowbrick satellite tracker, which automatically sends position reports that show up as the dots on the website. I was introduced to Yellowbrick while working for True Adventure. Each of our school expedition teams carry one with them so that we, in the operations room, as well as their family and friends can see where they are. I used to enjoy getting the world map up when we had lots of teams away and zooming around the globe checking that everyone was where they were meant to be. When leading expeditions in Nepal, Tanzania, Peru and Brazil our Yellowbrick lived in the top of my rucksack, letting everyone back home know where we were, every four hours while we trekked up mountains, worked on our project sites and canoed through the flooded rainforest. The Yellowbrick team kindly agreed to sponsor our expedition by providing us with a tracker for the duration of the row so thanks to them, you our followers will always know where we are.

You can set the Yellowbrick to send position reports as often as you like, but ours is set to send one every 4 hours. This is the reason why the number of miles our chart plotter tells us we have travelled is more than the number of miles our website tells you we’ve travelled. While the website map draws a straight line between each four hour report, our chart plotter is constantly drawing our route, and as a result shows every wobble in our course, every loop the loop and every back track that happens during changeover. It’s probably for the best that Tony can’t see our sometimes interesting track, especially when at the end of a frustrating shift the only consolation is seeing that you have drawn a face or an envelope among other amusing pictures. However if Tony does need to get a better idea of how we’re progressing or wants to monitor our course more regularly as we leave or approach land, he is able to access our tracker remotely from back home and change the frequency at which it reports. This ability to change the frequency of tracking also provides yet another level of emergency backup should we ever need it. If you hover over the dots on the website you will also be able to see the speed we were travelling at when the report was sent. We’re still hoping that one day it catches us as we’re surfing down a wave at 6 knots!

When Nats asked me the other day what my favourite piece of kit on Doris was I answered the iridium Go! which allows me to send this blog but my second favourite is definitely the Yellowbrick which allows people to follow our progress. It is comforting to know that it is not just us who check everyday our track and whether we are getting closer to Samoa.

UPDATE: Last night Bertie’s cousin Bill the boobie joined us for a few sessions perched upon our bows. In the sunrise shift Nat and I enjoyed a lengthy freshwater power shower which has then been repeated in each of our subsequent shifts so we are feeling very clean.



  1. Jim Andrews says:

    I have now googled Boobie and identified the handsome looking birds to which you refer. Are they the bluefooted variety? I have to admit my ignorance, in that I had never heard of a Boobie bird before, so I was a little bemused when one of your blogs referred to being accompanied by one!
    You are really suffering bad rowing conditions at the moment, I really hope it improves for you soon. Best regards to the Boobies, that just sounds so wrong. Stay safe. XX

  2. You girls are amazing. You astonish me every time with your technical knowledge. I have to read over it a few times sometimes to understand it. We feel sorry for you that have to struggle the current and the wind all the time but at least on our map it looks like you do make some progress.
    On the map I can see a mountain range in a south easterly direction. My theory is that if you can just get over that ridge then it will protect you from that current. Hope I am right.
    Persevere, be resilient and we know you have the strength.
    We all enjoy your blogs but I must admit I only discovered the comments today
    Row girls row , you make us proud. XX

  3. Simon TY says:

    I am fascinated you can tell Bill from Bertie. Is Bertie female ? Have you identified distinguishing marks ? Does Bertie like clothes pegs, while Bill only wants red jelly beans ? Friggits, Boobies, lucky you not have Loons.

    Earlier on you were making up songs about yr travellers and aspects of the voyage. There must be a Yellowbrick song in here somewhere. Dorothy might be upset that you with her cousin Doris.

  4. JG says:

    Feel for you struggling against counter currents and winds. It seems that the 3 large clockwise spinning wind storms North of you around the Hawaii region. (one of which is hurricane Jimena) are dragging the air up from South of your position. They are moving away from you so hopefully you will have calmer conditions soon. I havent managed to find a source that shows the currents in the Pacific yet but I will keep looking. From your blogposts it appears that the current is your biggest obstacle. You are doing amazingly well keeping everything together. Keep safe

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