Leg 3, Day 27 – Three perspectives – mother, father and brother

Natalia Cohen By

Father (Bernard):    My first reaction to the news that Natalia had been chosen to join the crew, was a definite NO! to the idea. How could I, as a father, allow my daughter to embark on such a crazy venture!! Having always allowed my children to follow their own path in life, I duly resigned myself to the fact that she would, as usual, make her own decision. As time went by, I gradually accepted the fact that it was going to happen and that I had to learn to live with it. I have the greatest respect for Natalia’s abilities and know that she has always known which path to take.

Mother (Anne):  When Natalia initially told us that she was interested in rowing across the Pacific Ocean, I actually laughed. My daughter, who loved the water, was a wonderful swimmer, had worked on yachts, had travelled the Pacific in a yacht, but who had NEVER rowed in her life, was contemplating this enormous challenge! 

We were horrified when we realised that she was serious. “What if the boat capsized, what if a whale came up under the boat, what if they were attacked by pirates, what if she fell out of the boat and was attacked by sharks, etc. etc”. This was an adventure too far! We knew Natalia to be an adventurer and non-conformist and someone always seeking a new challenge, but this would be so DANGEROUS.

She went for the interview and we thought that would be that, until she came home some days later and told us that she loved the whole concept of the row, had met Laura and was very taken with her. She met Emma and Izzy and was offered a place on the row. The whole concept was incredible – 4 women to row 8446 miles, sleeping for 2 hours and rowing for 2 hours, unsupported, raising money for Breast Cancer Care and Walking with the Wounded. To say we were filled with trepidation would have been an understatement!

However, the whole thing came to fruition, but when Isabel was unable to row the whole way and could only do the first leg, I was secretly pleased and thought the project would collapse. I underestimated the determination of Laura, Emma and Natalia. They had the bit between their teeth and were going to do this. Lizanne and Meg were brought on board and legs two and three were sorted.

Once the row started and they left San Francisco we became addicted to watching those little dots on their tracking page and reading their daily blogs, we settled down a bit and began to rather enjoy the journey. We looked at the girls and the row in a different light – what amazing women they were – anything thrown at them, they overcame. Their determination and resilience became a talking point with our friends and family and with people from all over the world, who started following them, admiring their courage and spirit. Their salt sores, their ‘claw’ hands, their lack of sleep, etc, were talked about with such stoicism, and NEVER did they whinge or complain!  They had a job to do and come hell or high water, they were going to finish it.

When we met in Hawaii, after their first leg, I was not sure how they would be physically and was quite apprehensive, but after a few stumbling steps as they came off Doris, they were energised and excited and enjoyed all that the lovely people from the Hawaii Yacht Club threw at them.

The second leg was a real challenge – 97 days instead of the 65 stated – The Doldrums really got to them and once again, their spirit and determination kept them going. (I would have jumped into the ocean and drowned myself, weeks before they arrived in Samoa!) I thought that Samoa was going to be hard to leave, especially after the gruelling 2nd leg and getting back on Doris, difficult. I could not have been more wrong – they were raring to go and now that it is the last leg, they seem to be galloping along with their goal in sight. We are so proud of all 6 of the girls and feel extremely blessed to have such a strong, adventurous, interesting, loving, spirited daughter.

Brother (Jared):    My sister and I started travelling in 1980. She was 5 and I was 4. We packed up all our belongings in Johannesburg, and headed 5800 miles North, to the unknown world of Manchester. Not the most exotic of locations perhaps, but quite a big adventure none the less. More than anything, it instilled in us the notion that we were a little bit different from those around us, and that our home was not a fixed place. As we got older and learned to make our way in the world, the seed of that idea grew and branched out, and for Natalia, became a way of life. She decided that the whole world would be her home, and set about seeing as much of it as she possibly could.

Natalia is the most travelled person I know. And I know a few. She has literally been from the Himalayas to deepest darkest Africa. From the foothills of the Andes to the frozen wastelands of Antarctica. She is the epitome of living life to the full, she is the journey, with only a vague concern for the destination. When she told me about the ad for the row, my reaction was ‘haven’t you done enough already?’ But she hadn’t. For her, there is always more to see, more to experience. She walked into this great adventure with her eyes wide open, taking each day by day, moment by moment. As she always does. Since setting off from San Francisco those many months ago, I really can’t think of any time where I was worried about her. I chart her progress in much the same way as I have done for all her previous adventures.

For some, rowing a boat across the greatest expanse of water on earth would be the pinnacle of their life. For Natalia, it’s just another leg of the journey. I fully embrace, and in many ways share, her spirit of adventure. What else is there that makes any sense? We’re not here practicing life. We’re here living it. The ‘One night only’ performance is happening right now, and all of us are starring in the line-up. Natalia is making hers a show worth watching. Are you? 

A huge thanks to everyone that wrote to us with their star/planet suggestions. 
We’re going with the info received from Mt. St. John observatory in New Zealand who describes the object perfectly. We now believe that it is the planet Venus and apparently it will be in conjunction with the moon today. 
The reason for the fading in and out still remains a mystery but may just be an atmospheric effect seen by us as we are so close to the surface of the water.

It was an amazingly clear night with a star filled sky. Between the 4 of us, we saw about 15 shooting stars and the almighty Pacific became peaceful as she gently undulated around Doris.
Progress, unfortunately, is still a little slow as we’ve moved from being stuck in a Northerly current to being held back in a Southerly one, but we’re still laughing and taking it all one stroke at a time x



  1. Jim Andrews says:

    Lovely to hear the views of the families of our intrepid Heroines. You must all be so incredibly proud, though the more I learn of these awesome individuals, I think they have already made you proud, many times over. They all seem so accomplished in careers, travels and life in general. Pride in their achievement of this phenomenal feat is more than justified but the fact that they are putting themselves through this for the benefit of others is truly humbling. I look forward to you all getting your daughters/sisters home safely and enjoying the biggest best reunion ever. Stay safe ladies. XX

    • Anne says:

      I just wanted to say Jim, how wonderfully supportive you have been of our girls and how grateful we and I am sure, they are, for your wonderful and insightful comments.
      Thank you.

  2. So lovely to be hearing from the families of these wonderfully strong and determined ladies.

    I admit I chortled a little hearing Natalia’s father’s initial reaction ‘No!’ 😀 Fabulous and I felt totally unobtainable with Natalia’s strength of will and spirit.

    I’m still sure it’s Sirious so I’m standing my ground sorry Mt. St. John Observatory sounds like it’s a bet now only Natalia can resolve!

    Loving the journey keep it up 🙂

  3. JG says:

    Frustrating to be in an adverse current. They seem to be pretty random we learn from JB’s blogs and he has exactly the same problems that you all have. When you return to civilisation you may perceive a change in the world’s atmosphere (and I don’t mean the weather). Much has happened in the world since you departed in April and we who are here day to day feel the change gradually so it is less dramatic for us but I will be very interested to see what changes you notice as you re-enter life back here again. Will you sense an underlying wariness as people go about their lives, a possible sense of foreboding as things in the Middle East go from bad to worse. Airport security will be tighter and more obvious with armed protection officers about the place. Storm Desmond has inundated the UK with Carlisle and Cumbria being worst hit. 14 inches of rain in 12 hours.
    By and large I think the Pacific is a more pleasant place to be at the minute. Keep safe and I have everything crossed for a benevolent current for you.

    • Anne says:

      You are so right JG – so much has and will have changed since the row started in April – when the arrive in January (hopefully, if they have more favourable currents), much will have changed in so many areas and places – I wonder how long it will take to get back to the old routine.
      Thank you for all your support.

  4. Oh how easily we can identify with the parents! My two travelling children have kept us on our toes with their adventures down the years. One a white water river guide, no river too tough…so they kayak the White Nile and you think ‘great, they’ve done it now,’ and heave a sigh of relief, but of course there’s the Zambezi to do next …and you heave another sigh when that’s done. The other one threw in a job with the BBC to go and do Dave Cornthwaite’s longboard trip across Australia …as you do! But we wouldn’t have it any other way and apparently it’s our fault for bringing them up to be Free a Spirits!
    I think this is why I am loving every minute of the ride in Doris…and yes, I have often thought about all your parents and truly understand how they are feeling…it’s an odd mix of fear, excitement, worry, anxiety but above all masses of love and pride.
    Onward to Cairns Team Doris, and may the winds and the currents be with you.
    Love from dovegreyreader in the Tamar Valley. (Devon side of course!)

    • Anne says:

      It is so good to hear the view of parents with similar adventurous children – most of my friends have such conventional children and wonder how we cope with it all.
      As you say, the mix of fear and excitement, with love and pride, which keeps us going.
      Thank you for your support.

  5. anne says:

    Thank you Robert for all your support. Let’s hope the girls find the current or wind that John is now in – he had rather a difficult time, previously.
    Maybe ginger nuts did it!!

  6. Esther B says:

    The map on my computer hasn’t been working recently and although I have been watching the miles tick away, it was a lovely surprise to actually see how far you have gone when I came to read today’s blog! Cairns is right there girls! Amazing.

    I hope the pace picks up again soon, although you seem to be in as wonderful spirits as ever, and Meg gets to see some more wildlife soon – I bet you are all over the flying fish!

    We are all with you xxx

  7. How do Grand Parents feel? Believe me we had all the same thoughts as Bernard and Anne and I’m sure other parents too, and when Meg was initially selected just as first reserve….we thought hopefully, well that’s it then! But the telephone call came and Meg, dancing on the table, was actually going and would be rowing the last leg.

    We are a close family and while being very much behind her enthusiasm, were thinking that her turn was months away, it may never happen. The weeks, months and finally days passed and eventually she had the go ahead to fly out. By now we had built up confidence reading the ‘daily blog’ and she was so excited joining this fantastic all girl crew on “Doris”. It seems no one was going to stop this challenge now and who are we to stop her.

    Meg who has never rowed ever before, appears to now embrace the ocean challenges. For someone who was convinced there were sharks in the English Channel, while water ski-ing does not seem phased by events since leaving Samoa.

    Looking at the chart Australia is very much in sight, and once they are through the islands there is every chance they may pick up favorable wind and current, having watched JB progress. So more ‘power to your elbows’ girls, keep safe and enjoy ‘the moment’. Thank you everyone for your support.

    • anne says:

      They are the fantastic four on this leg and of course the sensational six over the 3 legs.

      We are rightly proud of all our girls and let us hope that favourable winds and currents hurry them along.

      Cannot wait to meet them in Cairns!

  8. Sue says:

    Truly amazing feat. You should be so proud of Natalia, as I am sure the parents of all the girls will be.
    How do you follow this one. Where next?
    With love

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