Leg 2, Day 46 – A friend

Emma Mitchell By

Day 46 – A friend

Today we came within 5nm of another ocean rowing boat and enjoyed a chat about all things Pacific on our VHF radio. John Beeden is a solo rower who has previously rowed the Atlantic and is now taking on the Pacific, also rowing from San Francisco to Cairns. However, since it is only him on board his boat he can carry enough supplies for the full journey and therefore is not stopping along the way. John is also supported by Tony and we have both been being kept up to date with the others progress. Recently we have been getting closer and closer as we are both stuck in the awkward currents of the doldrums and yesterday Tony messaged us to say that we would pass within 12-15nm of each other in the next 24 hours. This morning John’s boat, Socks II appeared on our AIS and was only 5nm away so obviously we got on the radio to have a catch up. It was nice to know that we aren’t the only ones struggling with the conditions and frustrated with the slow progress. I have the utmost respect for John and for Sarah Outen, currently battling it out on the North Atlantic, for being able to do this on their own with only their own heads to get them out of any low moods or frustrations. We all have our moments on Doris but luckily we are never all having a rough time at the same time and so there is always someone to lift you up, make you laugh and jolly you along when it gets tough.

I was also happy that John agreed with me that this is not what we expected from the doldrums. I was expecting mainly flat calm seas with burning sun and high humidity, broken up with squalls of wind and torrential tropical rain. Now we have had some of this but we have also had a lot of pretty strong and always unfavourably directed winds. Last night we had about 12 hours of torrential rain with strong wind and waves breaking over the boat. This was paired with thick cloud and a new moon meaning that all around was an inky impenetrable blackness which hid the waves until they hit the boat knocking us off our seats and soaking us in salty spray. Fortunately we managed to make progress in a reasonable direction all night despite the conditions, at times reaching the dizzy heights of 2.5kts. For the first time this leg I actually got quite cold on the oars and was glad to escape to the warm cabin for a snooze, although after LP and I’s second night shift it was a tough call as to what was wetter, me or my towel!

However, shortly after speaking to John this morning the wind picked up further and despite our best efforts and hardest rowing we couldn’t do anything other than go north west. Sadly this is not the way to Samoa and so we had to deploy the para anchor to prevent us being blown North by the wind. You would think that by the law of averages or probability or something, we would have come across a southerly current or easterly wind somewhere along the way but no such luck. Sometimes it feels like we’ll be stuck in the doldrums forever and become the legend of the small pink boat going round in circles that sailors will talk of. As we know though every cloud has a silver lining and it gave us the chance to all gather in the aft cabin for some social time. Laughing til we cried over group selfies with the photo booth app and a bit of Greys Anatomy raised the mood in the Coxless Crew camp and then some games and dinner outside on deck watching the sunset finished off the day nicely after a frustrating couple of weeks. Now we are retiring to the cabins to wait for the wind to die down or change direction enough to allow us to make some progress again. now we are waiting it out until the wind dies down or changes direction enough to allow us to make some progress again.

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  1. Simon Ty says:

    First, one day that photo will come back to haunt you……..

    Second, a geographer will be able to tell me: what is your horizon ? Can you not see an object five miles away if you stand on the cabin ( and John did the same) ? On the cabin you eyes must be 8ft off the ground ? I am not too lazy to look it up: at 2m up, the horizon is 3.1 miles, at 3 meters it is 6.7m. And that is seeing something at sea level. John would obviously have been taller than that ? Could you see him ?

    Third, the doldrums. We have all said “feeling a bit in the Doldrums” as a casual throw away line. However, we are unqualified to make that comment. You can, and how frustrating. Going backwards, sideways, up and down, but hardly closer to Samoa. So, what is the most frustrating thing you can imagine ? Dropping the last biscuits over the side ? Passing close to a ship, being offered sirloin steak thrown down to you, but knowing you cannot accept it ? that last soak, 30 seconds before getting back into the cabin ? Not remembering a joke you were told in Hawaii and spending 46 days trying to remember it ? The itm of kit you left behind in Hawaii by mistake ? Waking up and the rowers saying “oh, you missed a blue whale”.

    Anyhow, little news from here. Corbyn is new Labour leader. Paula radcliffe is all over the papers with insinuations that she is a drugs cheat ( obv strongly and completely denied). Nothing else


  2. Simon TY says:

    Hey, where are all yr supporters ? Cannot believe I am the only reader today ? A friend John passes within 5 miles, and we cannot keep up the level of support from our comfortable sofas ?

    Come on you blasted Doldrums, you stupid whatever you are called current, give the girls a break. Whisk them south at super knots. Or else they will have to put up with my ramblings every day.

    When you are super tired, be safe, be careful, above all look after each other. You must support each other through these frustrating days


  3. JG says:

    I read every blogpost but don’t always write something. All I can do tonight (your daytime) is to encourage you all in your struggle against the bad winds and currents. Good for you to know that friend John is experiencing precisely the same conditions and has followed a path through the counter current almost identical to yours. How are your supplies lasting? Looks as if the wind is going to drop for a day or so and then pick up again. Try making up a few limericks and bits of rhyming poetry about each other, the Pacific, Boobies, turtles, albatrosses and flying fish, or anything. Keep safe – with you all the way !

  4. All we can say is keep on rowing. We can imagine your frustration with the currents and the wind taking you in the wrong direction. We watch you every dot of the way, check your speed , direction and position. You are creeping ever so close to the equator now. From there it is down hill to down under.
    I have a phrase book called ‘Red Herrings and White Elephants’
    Thought I would post you some nautical related phrases as Lizanne asked me in an email to send her some phrases.
    To be TAKEN ABACK suggests someone has been taken truly by surprise and stopped in their tracks. ‘Aback’ is the nautical term for sudden wind change, in which the sails flatten against the mast. In some cases, out on the high seas, tall square-rigged ships may not only be slowed down by a sudden wind change, but also driven back by strong gusts. The phrase used in such circumstances is ‘taken aback’
    I know you have been taken aback by these currents and doldrums but keep on moving. You will get there!!

    FIRST RATE means something is best available, near perfect or as good as you can get. From the time Henry VIII began organising the English Navy in the 16th century, war ships were rated on a scale of one to six (a grading that lasted more than 300 years ). Then, as now, size mattered and the smallest ships were given a sixth rating, while the largest and best armed were regarded as first rate. Therefore, the best ships to command or crew were known as the ‘first rate’ vessels, a term that became synonymous with the best of anything.
    We think you girls are first rate , the best of anything.
    Keep going and keep safe. XXX

  5. Jim Andrews says:

    That has to be the scariest photograph ever, I would keep it from any infants in your respective families. I often like reading the other comments as well as your blog and the previous commment from Sarel van Vuuren was very interesting and I concur. You are all first rate and I think, though apparently, “size matters”, I think you would probably grade Doris as 1st rate also? I really hope you get to the imaginary line soon, you deserve a break and favourable wind and current. Stay safe. XX

  6. Robert says:

    The weather you are experiencing is absolutely normal for your latitude and time of year. You are in the south east trade winds which extend well north of the equator especially in the north pacific hurricane season. If you manage to row further south winds will come more from the east. But it’s possible you may end up being forced to row west and never reach Samoa. Also as you get closer to Samoa it is often sitting in a very strong south easterly wind flow which could be difficult to row across to reach Samoa. You will need to watch for any breaks in the regular flow that allow you to make some ground south. Nice you were able to chat to John. You are now “both in the same boat” so to speak:)

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