Leg 3, Day 5 – Bittersweet

Lizanne Van Vuuren By

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
― Haruki Murakami


I’m on the edge of bittersweet. Happy and sad, completely changed, yet still the same. The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind, and after 97 days at sea I almost can’t believe that I am actually back on dry land.


The first thing that struck me was the incredible love and support that has radiated around us. I am still catching up on messages and emails, and I am incredibly grateful to everyone who shared and supported our journey. We certainly felt the love out on the ocean, but it is only since being back on land that I realise just how much love we have been showered with.

The last few days on the boat was the toughest for me; it was all coming to an end. It was beyond the sea sickness, enduring the sweltering heat or fighting the wind and currents. That was all physical; something our bodies got used to and was able to push through. We got strength from the fact that we knew our circumstances will change. The midday sun will be replaced by the cool shimmer of the moon, the rough waters will be replaced by calmer seas and the current will push against us one day and go with us the next. It’s easy when you figure out that what goes up must come down and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It does something to your psyche that helps you persevere, while munching on Oreos and singing “Defying Gravity”. As for my last few days… this was it.

My new challenge has been dealing with the end. I’ve never been good with endings, and I’m pretty sentimental; be it the end of school, university, relationships or the row, I don’t like it when something comes to an end. Luckily I know this about myself so I have allowed myself time to let the previous three months sink in before bouncing back to my old life.

When something ends, I try to be respectful of the impact it has had on my life and so I don’t rush into something else straight away. What can I learn from it and what will I change after it? I’ve been asked many times “so, what’s next?”… There will be a next challenge, (land based!) but for now I will eat, sleep and allow my body time to get its strength back.

My body is slowly removing all signs of the row. My muscles are getting used to standing for long periods of time again and the calluses on my hands are slowly disappearing. My body clock doesn’t wake every two hours, but I wake up very early. I am in Australia at the moment, so still have not returned to work.

As much as I don’t like endings, I am excited to head back to Cape Town and get back to my old routine. Since being back on land I have enjoyed a big, stable bed, showers and clean skin, normal food (!) and seeing my family. I am also excited to join Izzy and Ella on the “behind the scenes team” organising fundraisers, the arrival into Cairns and social media etc. The journey is not over yet.


On a complete side note, if anyone is or knows of an Osteopath who would like to work in Cape Town, I’m looking for an associate to join my practice. Email me at lizanne@coxlesscrew.com for more info




So what are the lessons that I learned?

Challenges can be fun

I have learned that in order to complete any challenge the connotation doesn’t have to be sombre. Challenges can be fun, and you can laugh through anything. There’s a time and a place, sure, but when the tears have dried up, make a joke. Laughter carried us all through the rough times

The importance of teamwork

I can talk about this for hours. Our team worked well because we are all different and we lived by our team values; Strength, Perseverance, Integrity, Resilience, Inspiration and Trust. We supported each other, encouraged and listened. When one person was down the others picker her up.

Build a team around you, everyone needs a support system.

Women are strong

You don’t have to be a man to do epic challenges like this. Over the past few months I have become acutely aware of the strength women possess. Magical things happen when a group of determined women put their heads together and work towards a goal.

You can do absolutely anything you set your mind to….

As cliché as this sounds, it’s true. Start small and you will find yourself at the foot of your own Pacific.


The row changed a part of me which I’m finding very difficult to explain. I’m still the same person, I’ve just been refined.


I miss the girls, but I am extremely excited to follow Megs journey on the boat. She is amazing and will contribute so much to the team.


We’ve just passed the 200 mile mark. Woohooooo!
Nights have been pitch black since we left Samoa with thick cloud cover and no sight of the moon. She’s now beginning to wax, so hopefully she’ll come and introduce herself to Meg tonight or tomorrow.
There’s been a gentle increase in wind and swell and so Meg now has to contend with bigger waves and splashing. She’s slowly learning the rules of the sea…and we’re all observing them afresh with her.


Lizanne x



  1. Andy says:

    Here I am on holiday in Florida and still find myself doing a daily check of the blog.
    Addictive following!!

    Be safe,
    Andy x

  2. JG says:

    Good luck Lizanne.

    Savour the memories of your time on the ocean but look forwards, strengthend and, as you said, refined. Things will never be quite the same for you as they were before Doris because you are now aware of what you can achieve and you are re-shaped as a result.

    A|ll the best


  3. Peter says:

    A lovely blog to read – a great response to the challenge that continues.

  4. Jules says:

    So beautifully written and expressed. I love that your team values spell spirit and am beyond proud of what you have achieved Lizanne and your team. Feeling inspired, uplifted, intrigued for the next installment and looking for my own next adventure. Keep going ladies. Us landlubbers are living vicariously through you. Love might and lots of fun for you all x

  5. I love that Murakami quote, so very true.
    It has been a joy to read your blogs from Doris Lizanne, and to watch your journey. Good luck with the next phase of your life and new adventures, and of course to the team. Still following and willing you all on every day from here in the Tamar Valley. I now often take note of a two hour stretch in my day and think of you all out there rowing or sleeping for that time. Xx

  6. Babs and Ray says:

    What a superb blog, once again you have shared your very personal feelings and experience. It has shown on each leg of the journey how important it had been to get the correct team member, and all of you girls have surpassed all expectations. You all deserve every bit of admiration you are getting from around the world. So glad you have taken time to recoup before heading back to work, without doubt a very different person, but yet with the good qualities you had before. Meg is now taken over the last baton and bringing in Doris with the team of the most amazing girls, we salute you all, Izzy, Lizanne, Meg, Natalia, Emma and Laura. Stay safe girls and savour these last few weeks xx

  7. Simon TY says:

    Lizanne, a lovely commentary to read. U must feel rather bereft. Every thought, every effort, every worry focuses on yr little 29 ft world. Every movement, every ( short) dream, every meal, every conversation in that little bubble ( afloat in a ginormous bubble of ocean).

    You must feel disappointed ( and relieved) not to be carrying on. Every conversation now will be “what was it like ?” Repeated a thousand times. And many of those memories you would be preferring to share with those who went through it with you. There will be funny moments, on a plane, over dinner with strangers : “oh, no, I’ve just Rowed across the Pacific” where it will seem completely surreal and only the callouses on yr hands will remind you, and make them believe you are not fantasising.

    Above all, it is absolutely remarkable that you parachuted in to such a close knit team, little rowing, no wide ocean experience, almost a complete stranger. So, I hope you have not changed at all. Because just to have done that, you must have been fairly remarkable already. ( this is suddenly getting a bit soppy, sorry !!).

    To the crew now, amazing progress, the well oiled machine strides on. Must feel easy now. So be careful, safe, and not complacent. I hope that the moon is great, the stars are awesome, the ocean is kind, and you realise how extraordinary it is what you are achieving.


  8. Jim Andrews says:

    Great blog Lizanne. Loved the quote and glad to hear you are recovering. The calluses will disappear but the memories are forever. Thank you for your part in my memories of this exciting and epic adventure. your contribution has been huge and your personality has shone through. Good luck in life and all you do. Doris is certainly eating up the miles at the moment. Well done ladies, with all your other followers, I hope your remaining few weeks are comfortable and the Ocean and weather are kind to you. Your progress since Apia has been excellent, long may it continue. Stay Safe. XX

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