Leg 2, Day 41 – Twilight Rambles

Laura Penhaul By

Day 41 – Twilight Rambles

For some time now, either my lovely team mates or I, have talked of the gobbledegook that I may share in the early hours whilst on the oars. I have prided myself that during this leg, there have been fewer occasions and I have made it through night shifts on normal conversation with no gobbledegook in sight. Much to our amusement however, that soon enough when Lizanne joined the team, she too was another gobbledegooker and again the midnight ramblings became consistent. I will admit though, that the 01:00-03:00 or 03:00-05:00 shift is the biggest struggle and even after over 130days at sea, this has not got any easier. Last night, after lasting 1hr58mins on a 01:00 shift without music nor discussion, I suddenly found myself with the oars down and I was reaching up to the roof of the aft cabin and into the sky. Just prior to my reality check from Nats asking me what I was doing, it had made complete sense to me that I was handing a pair of gloves up to Meg (due to join us for leg 3), who was clearly sitting on the roof of Doris in the stormy conditions we were having. Funnily enough in the next shift, apparently Lizanne stopped mid row and reached her hand back to Emma, she repeated this 3 times before she finally heard Emma ask her what she was doing, by which point she woke from her daydream state and laughed at the reality that she thought she was passing her heel cushions back to Ems.

Gobbledegook is just one form of sleep deprived chat, it is without a doubt every night is a battle with our own imaginations, so I thought I’d share with you some of those to paint the picture of life on the oars at 3am…..

Falling Asleep on the oars:
Primarily it is falling asleep on the oars that we are trying to fight against. This can become a stubborn battle with inner commentary such as the following:
– ‘just close your eyes for a second and you’ll feel better’ – If you give into this, it is soon followed by an electrical jolt through the body, as the head starts to nod or an oar slaps a wave, causing the body to surge into rapid alertness and leave the body feeling shaky with residual adrenaline for the next 5mins.
‘ no one will know if you keep rowing but with your eyes closed’ – this is a lie, as often the other rower does know regardless if they sit infront or behind you. It’s the slowing of the stroke, the shallowness, the lack of effort into the stroke that is normally there and possibly the bowing of the head that gives it away and then when asked ‘LP are you awake/ are you alright?’ A similar jolt is felt as above with the realisation you just fell asleep on the oars and therefore not wanting to admit to the brief drop off, there’s a sudden increase in rowing rate and perceived effort, with a ‘yes fine thanks!’ in reply and hope they didn’t notice.
‘Arrrr how I wish for just a little more sleep’ – often a thought that then makes you clock watch to chase the next off shift, which inevitably makes a 2hr shift feel like forever!

There are then the times when your eyes play tricks with you, thinking an object is something else than what it is, which I guess is what would be known as a hallucination. On the first night when leaving San Francisco (stupidly starting this epic journey in quite a fatigued state!) I shouted to Nat that I vividly saw the shadow of a tall ship without lights approaching us, therefore rendering it a pirate ship. After blinking a few times it disappeared, maybe I should have taken note at that point that it would be a sign of things to come for the rest of the journey!
Another occasion I made myself jump out of my skin one night when I turned to see what I thought was a bald man in the water under my oar. It turned out to be a random white fender floating past in the sea, much to Nats amusement who watched the antics play out from the back seat. Another time I have suddenly ducked out of the way nearly hitting myself with my oars, as I thought my flannel, which was hanging on the handrail next to me, was a low flying bird about to hit me. With a love of food, I have had a number of occasions whilst rowing, that I have drifted off and I am somewhere with friends having dinner. In my mind my friend Mary is passing me a forkful of Thai food to taste which I subsequently lean down to take. I find myself then waking up to my mouth open and body bent down to the oar handle as if I’m about to take a bite. The girls have informed me that my other ‘classic’ was when I was with Ems on the oars, I had stopped rowing, put my oars down and was reaching in under the stowed oars to the side. When Ems asked me what I was doing I subsequently told her I was looking for all the bags of money that I thought were stashed behind the oars – as you do!

I have been trialling a number of different ways to overcome these thoughts and keep myself awake, as in truth it is something that I find rather irritating that I lose my ability to control it (yes there may be an element of control freak in me!). I have come up with the following:

– if I can talk about something that I have to think about to my team mate, then it keeps me awake, I.e. Narrating a film usually works a treat, although this can still sometimes go array. An example being when I narrated Top Gun to Izz, during Maverick and Goose’s request for a fly by I swiftly followed by saying they shouldn’t tie their hands onto the oars as that would be dangerous in the event of a capsize. Lizanne recently narrated the Disney film Aladdin to Ems and apparently the story naturally included a sat phone, the iridium Go, the bucket, the footwell and fruity cereal bars within her citations.

– if I sing or even lip sync along to power songs/ ballads that can work a treat for a short period much to the amusement of anyone sitting in the aft cabin looking out.

– continually eating and drinking whilst on the oars helps give me boosts of energy to stay awake, but does however mean there is often evidence of my midnight snack-age at morning light.

– temporarily standing up and doing the ‘dawn dance’ (coined by Izzy in the first leg) but basically flailing my arms and body around in pretence to a song in my head, works to wake me up, albeit short lived until sitting down once again.

So twilight ramblings and oddities are now a normal occurrence upon Doris, I guess when people say ‘are you crazy’ to do this row, maybe the gobbledegook doesn’t add to my favour in highlighting some of those crazy tendencies!

Update: Would love to say it’s a positive one, but unfortunately with no signs of wildlife to lift our spirits today has been a frustrating one. Once again we continue to battle the current to struggle to hold a southerly course and travel at a speedy 0.2k if we’re lucky. On the upside though, we all spoke with our families this morning. Hearing your family sound so close is such a comfort. My niece who will be 3 in October, brought a tear to my eye as I hung up the phone and heard her shout ‘Love you’ (well that’s what I think she said!). It certainly makes us ever eager to get to the finish line and home to those we love.



  1. Simon TY says:

    Hey, Laura, hang on in there. God it must be frustrating getting dragged backwards by the current. I am watching the latitude creep down. It is only a creep down, but you are 3 and a bit degrees from the Equator. Almost touching distance ( well and a bit of rowing)

    Glad you causing constant amusement to you teammates ! Gobbledigook away. It makes good re-telling !!


  2. Ray P says:

    Laura dear, speaking as your father these random thoughts and actions aren’t due to sleep deprivation, for you they’re normal ie, I don’t remember you being tired when learning to reverse a car for the first time you still looked forward!! or the time when again learning to drive you looked in the rear view mirror and obviously thought, oh my hair’s not looking right and proceeded to remove both hands from the wheel and preen yourself!! I’m often asked am I worried about you out in the middle of the Pacific yes I am but I’m more worried when you’re behind the wheel of car!!!!!!!

  3. JG says:

    Can’t remember if it has been mentioned but are you tethered to Doris when rowing? Can’t have you stepping off the boat in a trance! Exhaustion plays tricks on the mind.It seems that you are struggling with the inevitably unstable local currents between the two opposing main streams but things look more settled once the equator is breached. Very nearly half way now – you are doing amazingly well. Keep safe.

  4. Barney says:

    When they make “Doris- The Film” I will be creasing up when the gobbledigook bits come up!

  5. What a hard slog this journey is for you all (both mentally and physically) but then, you knew it wouldn’t be easy. Keep smiling! A word of warning, keep yourselves well covered and respectable as, in the next few days, several of the South Pacific Rugby Teams will be flying above you on their way to England to show the Northern Hemisphere sides how to play Rugby during the World Cup Tournament! We wouldn’t want you to divert their attention by catching sight of a little pink bubble, in the middle of the Pacific, carrying four lovely ladies waving their knickers in the air! xxxx

  6. Robert says:

    Why Oreos Are As Addictive As Cocaine To Your Brain:
    A small new study suggests the brain responds to Oreo cookies quite like it responds to actual drugs – at least if you’re a rat. The “pleasure center” of the brain, the nucleus accumbens, apparently gets just as activated in response to Oreos as it does to cocaine and morphine, which could actually have some major public health implications. While the study was done in rats, the authors say it’s likely relevant to humans as well, and could explain why people have such a hard time resisting eating an entire sleeve of the cookies.

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