Leg 2, Day 70 – Para anchor

Emma Mitchell By

Day 70 – Para anchor

You may have noticed on our ‘where’s Doris’ map that we are travelling East and our countdown to Samoa is counting back up. It would seem that the ITCZ is not finished with us yet and we have spent a couple of days battling strong North westerly winds and a north easterly current. Along with our weather forecast yesterday Tony sent us the following instructions: a course over ground South is good, East is not great, North is bad and West is a disaster. The reason for this is that once we are out of the doldrums the prevailing trade winds should be south easterly which will push us west while we try to hold a southerly course. If we make too much ground west too soon then we run the risk of overshooting Samoa. While travelling East is in the wrong direction it will actually help us make use of the trade winds when we reach them.

Yesterday after spending a few shifts travelling in a bad/ not great direction at a fast speed in a strong wind we made the decision to deploy the para anchor for a couple of hours to hold our position against the wind. We all hate being on para anchor as it means our progress is halted or we are going the wrong way and it is frustrating just sitting tight and not rowing although it does usually mean a little bit of social time with the whole team. Yesterday we enjoyed a good singalong to Backstreet Boys to lift spirits. Since we have mentioned the para anchor in blogs a few times now so I thought I would give you an insight into exactly what it’s deployment involves.

1) The decision to deploy the para anchor is made. This is usually either because a strong wind is blowing us fast in an unfavourable direction or the sea state is too big for us to be rowing, usually because the course we need to take would involve us being side on to the waves.

2) The rowers on deck move into action stations. The back rower will open the wet weather hatch to remove the para anchor and its lines and begin the process of shackling them together. The front rower will stow the oars under the gunnel along with our spare oars. These then need to be tied down. All on deck activities are usually accompanied by a nice cooling salt water shower.

3) All loose items on deck need to be either tied down or placed into a hatch. If we are getting into big weather then this will already be done to prevent anything from being washed overboard and lost to the ocean.

4) The para anchor is deployed on the windward side of the boat. The para anchor itself is a parachute which is attached to the bows of the boat and dragged behind to hold Doris steady in the wind and also to hold her in a better position relative to the waves. The parachute is dropped over board and the main line and the retrieval line are payed out after it ensuring that the chute has opened. The retrieval line is attached to the middle of the chute so that it collapses it as it is pulled back in to the boat.

5) Once the para anchor is deployed it is time to make the forecabin habitable. If we are unable to row then two of us have to set up camp in each cabin until we are able to take to the oars again. Usually the fore cabin is home to our spare dagger board, the sheepskins we sit on plus all the fresh sheepskins in 2 duffle bags, 2 sleeping bags, our wet weather gear, spare life jacket, laptop with chargers, spare bucket and spare seat cushions. All the small loose items are removed and stuffed into any spare space in the hatches. As we get further through each leg and have eaten more of our food there is more space to use up in the hatches so more space in the cabin for us. All the bigger items are stuffed into the nose of the boat as tightly as possible but they usually fall down on to the sleeping rowers at some point during their time inside. The dagger board is lashed to the oars on deck.

6) Whilst this is going on outside the rowers in the aft cabin prepare a bag of supplies for whoevers turn it is to stay in the fore cabin. This usually includes a sleeping sheet, towel, dry clothes, head torch, snack pack, toothbrush and toothpaste, iPod and/ or iPad, kindle, water bottles and a surprise treat of a bar of chocolate to help survive fore cabin life.
UPDATE: Today is a sad sad day on Doris. This morning we got our final snack packs for this leg out of the hatches. Tonight will be our last night of snacking on the oars so we will savour every last piece of dried mango, every last cereal bar and every last Oreo. Tomorrow we embrace midnight chicken korma and beef curry breakfasts. Through the last 24 hours our direction has been very random. A few spells of bad/ disastrous direction has helped us to draw an artistic silhouette of a sitting dog on our chart plotter. I think it’s the best picture we’ve drawn to date.
This afternoon Nat and I were treated to story time on the oars when LP read out our blog comments and emails to the team from the last couple of days. It lifts our spirits so much to hear such supportive messages from everyone and was a highlight of the day.
Last night Nat and I saw a large shark in the glow of our nav light. He has been around to visit Doris again this afternoon meaning no chance of a refreshing dip to clean the barnacles off our our bows.



  1. Truly can it be said you’re fighting forces so unimaginably huge yet no matter what you keep going.

    Spirits of the Oceans your journey needs a film worthy of your own stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

    The only question would I ask is whom you’d like to have as an actress to play you????

  2. Thanks for the explanation. Is the para anchor effecfive? Can you measure it’s gains? Have you lost any kit overboard? Keep going, you are an inspiration to all, find more dolphins to guide you home.

  3. Oh chums (because you feel like chums now) this must be taking every ounce of grit and determination and inner resolve you can muster….and with the Christmas news and the snack pack news too. Driving across Dartmoor today, rain lashing, wind howling and I thought imagine rowing in this and sent you all good vibes to stay safe and head on course towards Samoa in double quick time. And please know that I and so many others are brimful with admiration for you all, and reading and following daily.

  4. Simon TY says:

    I always take some hope from yr blog being a few hours ago. The currents will have changed, the wind blowing you ever closer, a secret snack pack stash found ? Or maybe not. Hope u having a good day: must be 10am or so with you now. Hope the next blog brings good news.


  5. Simon TY says:

    Realise should have ended XXXX one for each, and X one for Doris. I once got a team Valentine from the Cambridge ( woman’s I add) Blue boat that I was coaching. First card X second card XX, third card XXX etc up to VIII.

    And one for Wendy X

  6. Robert says:

    I am looking at the GOES15 visible satellite cloud image and Cameron Beccario’s surface wind chart and I can see hurricane Oho east of Hawaii sucking up air from south of the equator as it heads towards Vancouver Island, but there is no ITCZ in sight? There is some active cumulus south of you I thought I should mention since Tony “doesn’t do precipitation”. You will need to achieve a speed through the water of at least 2.5 knots to have any chance of reaching Samoa. Think about it … I’m glad to read you’ve run out of Oreos, “Oreos activated significantly more neurons in rats’ brains than did cocaine or morphine”

    • Robert says:

      By the way Tony is spot on about rowing South:):)Trouble is with the amount of sleep your not getting and the amount of food you are not digesting properly you won’t have the strength to row South, unless perhaps you put all your remaining strength into 1 oar each? Should help with claw hand too? Only sweep out a 60 degree arc, 30 degrees forward to 30 degrees aft (Shorter more powerful strokes). Doris is getting lighter so you should be going faster?

  7. Just a quick note to you before we head off to see the Mighty All Blacks meet Mightly Tonga up in Newcastle on Friday (RWC)! Great to see that you are making progress again, we will continue to follow your journey to Samoa while we are away. Keep safe and strong amazing ladies. xxxx

  8. Jim Andrews says:

    This whole thing has been unimaginably tough but the last 300 miles have been truly testing. I so hope your luck changes by the time you read this, and that para anchor can be stowed for the remainder of your incredible journey. Snack and treat deprivationon on top of all that, just another hiccup for our incredible heros, the tougher it gets, the more awesome is your achievement. However, I really don’t want it to get any tougher. You have already done enough to earn my eternal admiration. Stay safe you awesome ladies. XX

Leave A Reply