Leg 2, Day 92 – Digging Deep

Natalia Cohen By

Day 92 – Digging deep

As the miles count down to Samoa, the intensity increases. There is no time for being complacent and no relaxing to be done until our feet are firmly on land. The most challenging part of this leg so far has begun for me. I seriously cannot believe that we have been out here for over 3 months. Spending 12 hours of every day sliding backwards and forwards and rocking side to side to the rhythm and the motion of the ocean, we face all the elements that Mother Nature wants to throw at us. All we can do is take it and deal with the consequences. There is nowhere to hide and no respite whatsoever. For the other 12 hours of every day we spend our time either lying or sitting in an area slightly less than that of an average sized single bed! It’s ridiculous when you really think about it. Next time you wake up from your wonderful mono-phasic 8 hour sleep (I’m not jealous!), have a look around you and imagine spending over 90 days on your bed, sleeping, eating, washing, existing with one other person always in that space with you! If you’re fortunate enough to be in double bed, then just visualise half of it.

The last 72 hours have been a battle. A mental and physical struggle like no other so far on this section of the journey. We are so tantalisingly close yet things couldn’t be further from ideal. We have a very tight COG (course over ground – direction you’re actually travelling in) window in order to hit Samoa and the wind and currents have been making holding the necessary course very difficult. The rowing has been so hard. We give everything we’ve got every time we get out on the oars. Every time we manage to swing Doris round and travel in the right direction, a wave will hit her and swing her back. It’s frustrating and demoralising with the very real possibility of us overshooting our destination. Every shift has been a fight. A fight with the wind, currents, waves, physical pains and mental chatter. All of us have varying skin ailments on many different parts of our bodies so everyone is a little broken physically.

I’ve got so many salt/pressure sores on my backside that sitting is painful. As soon as it’s possible to take the weight off this area it’s gladly welcomed. The best position for this seems to be lying down (not good when you have to sit for at least 14 hours every day). I also have this strange skin irritation under my arms that has begun rubbing against whatever clothing I have on and my life jacket. It’s really uncomfortable every stroke I take until I desensitise myself to the pain. My left hand is heavily callused and beginning to blister from all the strong one-armed rowing that we are having to do. This also takes some distraction in the first few minutes of a shift before I can force my mind to ignore it.

I’d like to share a particularly hard shift that happened between 1-3am. Ems and I headed out onto the oars and we already knew before the handover that we were going to be pushing hard to maintain a COG near what we needed. I began rowing and every time I pulled the oar there was a pain in my left hand. My left bum cheek was really uncomfortable and underarms were being rubbed raw with every stroke. I dug deep and kept on rowing. I knew that within about 10 minutes the aches and pains would subside and I could just keep going. After about 45 minutes, I felt as if time was standing still. I was exhausted. I’d been giving all my energy and I was feeling disheartened. My underarms were still sore with every stroke and I felt like I didn’t have any more to give against the howling 18 knot wind and huge crashing swell. “I can’t do this”, I heard myself think, “I just can’t”. I checked myself instantly and then heard a loud, authoritative voice (that was clearly my own) say,

“You CAN do this”!

I snapped myself into gear and powered through, giving my all. For that is all you can give.
20 minutes later Ems and I were treated to one of the most incredible things…a moonbow! I’ve never seen one before but it was amazing. It was this white arc of light in the sky and it made me smile in wonder. The Universe will always throw something special your way when you need it the most.

I came in from the shift and Ems and I shared our stories as we’d both been battling different demons. We know these last few days are going to be challenging and we don’t want them to override the rest of the journey. All things considered we’ve been really fortunate to only be suffering such skin irritation now and after this length at sea it is not surprising.

Luckily we are all united in our suffering and this just pulls us even closer as a team. Whatever we’re going through, we’re going through it together. We control the controllable, believe in ourselves and do everything else needed with great SPIRIT.

We continue to laugh, row the hardest we can and talk incessantly about our bums!!

To keep up morale and to remember the magic of what this leg has brought, I have been asking everyone to think of all their most memorable moments. So…as we power through the tough times, these, as well as the incredible support we are receiving from all of you, are what we remember. Thank you for motivating and inspiring us x



  1. You girls are a wonder! Facing such opposition, then rewarded with your moonbow, spectacular!
    Good luck with hitting your window, and I wish I could help with your bum cream!
    Wishing you good currents and winds, David

  2. Sam steward says:

    The determination you each has is admirable. As I read your post I’ve been feeling a little gloomy (injured so off running, which was my free anti-depressant) and what you face puts my various mundane worries into perspective. You carry my mums name with you in Doris. And thinking of both her and her tough life, sadly cut short by cancer, and of you battling the waves each day to make a differnece to so many lives with all your fundraising, I felt humbled.
    You have taken on an awesome challenge but I know it won’t overwhelm you. You have great strength in each other, and in your clarity of purpose. You’ll hold these experiences with you long after those pesky skin ailments have healed, and people will hold you in their hearts for just as long too!!!!! Thank you xx

  3. Michael says:

    This is when the FEARSOME FOURSOME show the world what they are truly made of…

    Truly inspirational!

    Power it home!!

  4. Jim Andrews says:

    Wow Natalia, that was distressing to read, I have no suitable words, to bring into focus, an understanding of what you are enduring. I just repeat, I so hope the next few days offer you some reprieve, and conditions improve markedly.
    It probably gets monotonous hearing that, you are an amazing group of people and that, your courage and resolve is immeasurable. That is, however the truth, and will be repeated. I have lived in remarkable times, witnessing great human feats, of discovery, endurance and adventure, none of which surpass the achievements of the occupants of Doris. Best wishes. Stay safe. XX

  5. Susan says:

    “Control the controllable….believe in ourselves…. And do everything with great spirit” are truly inspiring words ! Thank you for loving them, sharing them, and allowing me to feel them too! Please believe that I am one of many sending you just that little extra bit of Spirit you ladies need for the final drive to Samoa!

  6. Antonia says:

    My poor girls. Be gentle with yourselves. I am a firm believer in the old adage ‘whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. I prefer my Grandfather’s motto: ‘When you get to the end of your tether, tie a knot in it and hang on.’ This is the hanging on part. You WILL make it. Just a little more. Come on. YOU CAN DO IT.

  7. Anne says:

    Darling Natalia
    My heart aches for you, but it is not long now and knowing your strength, determination and perseverance,
    you WILL make it and get to Samoa, before you know it.
    We are all sending out messages and prayers to the Universe for the next few days to be kind to you and give you good ‘moonbows’, good currents, light winds and wonderful daily mileage. You all so deserve to be dry and rested on land. Just keep thinking of that wonderful bath, bed and food. Be safe, be well, with much love xxx

  8. Simon TY says:

    Not sure what to say, other than thinking of you all the time. Lots of us willing you on, praying that you get a break and some peace from the forces of the Pacific. You are strong, you are awesome, never forget that.


  9. Hi Girls, Natalalia do you think it could be a fungal skin infection under your arm. Wondered if you had any anti fungal cream eg cotrimazole in your medicine box, once settled then Vaseline .
    Sounds so very hard for you all, it’s very difficult for us to say anything that can help you other than so many people are behind you wishing you a speedy end to this second leg of your amazing journey.
    Keep safe.

  10. Mike S. says:

    When I hear of your troubles against current I think Oh how I would love to say move over girls I am a paddler I will take over for the next 8 hours. A dream I know but I do know that you will find strength & spirit because that’s what you’ve inspired us with this whole trip, you are awesome.

  11. Ray P says:

    Laura sent us an email saying not to worry when we read Natalia’s blog they’re all ok just really frustrated with the weather and currents. As Laura’s parents you can’t help but worry as I’m sure the other parents do when you see or should I say don’t see but think you do!! what things are like on Doris but one thing is for sure they have each other for support and it really shows when you read the blogs. You girls really are something special. xxxx

  12. JG says:

    I am lost for words and I feel Natalia’s pain. The weather is a contrary swine blowing from the SE doing it’s damndest to demoralise you. Yet again your strength has made you rise above the effects of the struggle and the environment. Nothing but admiration for you all. The reality of it just makes us realise the enormity of your enterprise. It’s good sometimes to tell it as it is. With you all the way – keep safe.

  13. Simon TY says:

    Hang on in there girls.

    One of the most remarkable lessons I have learned is what an extraordinary tough, but thoughtful, courageous, but gentle, articulate but stubborn group you are.

    I cannot believe many ( any ?) social experiment that threw four people together, put them on half a double bed, sleep deprived them, threw rain, current and wind at them, would ever ever ever find four people so able to stick together. Forget the sheer bloody minded physicality of it, the actual row, it has been amazing watching your resolve, but out of that has blossomed gentleness, thoughtfulness, reflection and what must be the most amazing self support group imaginable. I can hardly conceive how you have helped each other, hugged each other, cried together, danced together, rubbed Sudocrem in places hardly imaginable…….and remain the closest of supporters, of friends, of comrades, of travellers. That is what I find most remarkable. And it makes you each remarkable people, to be able to support each other in this way without having thrown one to Fernando.

    I only know one of you, but have now eaves dropped into the personal diary, the personal outpourings of each of you. I cannot wait to welcome you home, hugs all round.

    For now, bloody Pacific, I have had words with you before. Give them a break.

  14. Judith Mills says:

    The elements continue to try to thwart you as you near Samoa but with great strength and courage you battle on. All of us on dry land can only send positive thoughts and hope for better conditions for you all in the next few days. Dig deep, keep strong and safe and it won’t be long now.
    Natalia I thought fungal infection under your arm too. Hopefully you have suitable cream. xx

  15. pete mewton says:

    Wow the experiences and pains sound harrowing. But Natalies description of how her spirit, & by extension all of the coxless crews’ spirit, rises above the pain is a tribute to the power of the human spirit. And you are the most spirited humans in my ken. Row on. You WILL make it to Samoa and very much deserved R&R at the end of the moonbow, somewhere,perhaps

  16. Buzz says:

    Keep Going girls – you are all amazing !

  17. Helen j says:

    Girls. I have this positive board on my wall and 1 of the things on it says, YOU CAN AND YOU WILL. I believe this of all four of you because you are showing so many people what can be done and what you are doing is so inspiring to us all. We are all behind you. Dig deep.

  18. Natalia we feel for you all , however we can not possibly imagine how tough and how painful it must be. Come on girls we are all behind you. I agree with every comment that has been made .
    I like Antonia’s Grandfather’s motto. Please hang on for this last bit to Samoa. We wish you good weather and that the winds will die down. Keep safeXXX

  19. Hang in there Natalia! You girls are so awesome and inspiring! We’re all rooting for you here at the Hawaii Yacht Club. You are the topic of discussion every morning at our coffee klatch. I read your blog as soon as I awake and give everyone the daily update on our “girls and Doris.” We’re pulling for you!

  20. Aside from the most excellent daily blogs and the courage & fortitude of the team, I find the “Where Is Doris?” map really fascinating. Especially on this 2nd leg where I have been looking at the tiny islands between Hawaii & Samoa and marvelling at how many islands have houses and roads on them and therefore are inhabited.
    Without the map, I would probably never have looked at them so closely.

  21. Anna Pollock says:

    Dearest Natalia, Talofa
    You girls are being so awesome. It’s been a long battle and you are such a source of inspiration. I so wish I could be there to welcome you to my favourite Pacific Island. Xavier Lui and Tony have been in close contact and I have been following their emails so am sure you are in for a very well deserved good time. Hang in there just a little longer – we’re all beaming you love and strength.

  22. Michelle says:

    My girls and I read your blog every night before bed. After reading today’s blog we wanted to send some good thoughts your way. I asked them what they wanted to say and this is what they wanted to share: (They are 8 and 10 yrs old.) …. “You are inspiring because not a lot of girls think they can do these things. ” and ” You are inspiring because you keep telling yourself that even if things are at their worst you keep saying ‘you can do it, you can do it”. I thank you for inspiring my girls as we read about your adventure!!!

  23. Liz Cole says:

    Hang in girls, so many people rooting for you! You’ve achieved so much already and you WILL get there! I don’t know any of you personally, but here’s a BIG HUG for when you need it!

  24. Lucas says:

    Your demonstration of true endurance is a beautiful gift for us.

  25. Holly says:

    I don’t remember how exactly I stumbled upon your site, but since then, I have become totally addicted to your quest. Like others, I am astounded at your grit, bravery, intelligence, spirit and endurance. I wake up each a.m. and check where you are, pray the ocean gives you a break, share your frustrations, and worry about your safety. Every day, when I am having a hard time, I think, those girls are out there rowing. OK..although difficult to talk about, I’ll give you “my Pacific”. I am the mother of a heroin addict, a beautiful, strong, smart girl who was raised by me in a good home in Phoenix, Arizona, which happens to be heroin city. I wont go into details of the pure hell this drug has made her and I go to for six years. I am now contemplating every day how much longer I can take it. We’ve been thru it all, rehabs, subs, insurance nightmares, ER’s, overdoses, etc. I’m broke financially, to look at this beautiful person and see how broken she is, help is extremely limited (dont get me started!) it’s a joke..kids are dying by the hundreds..it is a total complete joke what insurance covers and the drugs they use are even worse (suboxone). money factories for doctors..Sorry for the long tirade. I wish I had “land” to look forward to, but it simply doesn’t look like it. I just want you to know you ladies are what keep me going daily. You are simply amazing to the max! I am so sorry for the skin irritations on top of everything else. You are truly amazing..not many people could do this. Love, and look forward to land, smoothies, real food, showers, and rest!

  26. Sarah says:

    You are all incredible. I couldn’t cope with being on Doris for 10 mins in the conditions you’re battling, let alone coping with the rowing, the sores and irritations, the dehydrated food, the lack of sleep and lack of space for such a long period of time.

    You really are inspiring so many and we’re all thinking of you daily. You CAN DO THIS and what a story you’ll have to tell when you’ve finished your adventure!

    In the meantime, know that we’re all behind you all the way and be there for each other. Together you can achieve anything.

  27. Nicki says:

    Keep on going girls, you’re absolutely incredible. I read your blog updates in such awe of what you’re doing and how strong and amazing you are (even when it must feel like you’re ready to fall apart, you just keep on going with such grit and determination).

    We’re all behind you, willing you on and following your updates. Wishing you good currents and weather!

  28. Kate says:

    I find reading your blog posts so very emotional. The journey you’re taking on, every time you step up to the oars, overwhelms and inspires me.

    Reading your posts every day, I catch myself thinking about you all in the most mundane of places – the tube, the bus, doing the shopping – and wonder where you are and what you’re seeing at those precise moments.

    It is just such a wonderful thing that you’re all doing. Stay strong. Everyone who encounters your challenge is rooting for you so whole-heartedly.

  29. Katie says:

    You ladies are incredible!! Keep going, stay strong and keep smiling šŸ™‚ You are an inspiration to us all and you CAN do this!

  30. Esther B says:

    Another fabulous blog Natalia – you are so honest and truthful about the problems you are facing but STILL don’t let anything stop you in achieving your goals. You are all amazing and I’m sure you can tell from all the messages from your admirers what a wonderful job you are doing not only the actual rowing aspect but in being so positive and inspiring to everyone. Every day I check the map and every day the miles are getting less and every day we are willing you on! GO GIRLS!!! xxxxxxx

  31. Jan R says:

    Fantastic post! Actually, it is difficult to choose between the inspiration it produces to read your blog (which I also do every day) or the inspiration so many people out there all around the world take from your words and your actions. Weekend in Dubai starts on Friday, so tomorrow is another day of sports and training with my little kids who are all training for the next 5K a few weeks from now. They too draw inspiration from you and remember your row when they get tired and face their own “little Pacific”. You are all truly inspirational and fascinating characters and personalities! Keep the spirit up, pray for less pain and more favorable winds – Samoa should now be just a few days away!! Stay safe xxxx

  32. Kim says:

    Girls – your determination and endurance is just incredible. Go for it and enjoy those first few steps on land! I’m sure you’ll get a lovely Samoan welcome!

  33. Peter W says:

    Hi girls – congratulations on hanging on in there. This is a difficult one to share – but last week I spent an evening with a young family friend who played me her grade 6 piece on the piano. As she did, she removed her woolly hat and popped over to the bin to get rid of a little more of her hair. Her struggle has just begun, as she was diagnosed with a cancer in her leg four weeks ago. Your bravery is the reflection of what hers must be in the coming weeks and months. May God bless you with a tail wind and positive currents to Samoa and on to Australia.

  34. Vanessa says:

    Well done. You are all amazing and inspiring. Memorable moment… Well lots but being growled at by a tiger hidden in undergrowth whilst walking in Nepal stands out. Dig deep.x

  35. Tor Hillier says:

    Hang in there girls. So close now – you absolutely CAN do it! It takes such incredible strength to be able to power through physical discomfort like that, I can’t even begin to imagine the reserves that are being dug to the depths of as you push on towards Samoa. Keep rowing, we are all rooting for you and sending energy and dry healing vibes to you all. Can’t wait to hear that you have all arrived safely in Samoa.
    Lots of love to you all xx

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