Leg 3, Day 52 – 2015: A year of ocean rowing

Emma Mitchell By

Day 52 – 2015: A year of ocean rowing

If you had told me at the beginning of this year that I would be waving goodbye to 2015 from Doris still out in the middle of the Pacific I would have laughed. This adventure was supposed to be all done and dusted by now and I thought I would be toasting the new year on dry land while reminiscing about the magical days on the ocean.

However best laid plans and all that, and to be honest if you are going to reflect back on the past twelve months and clear your head ready for the new challenges of the year ahead then I don’t think there’s any better place to do it than while staring out over our blue bubble of rolling waves with birds flying and clouds scuppering overhead. 2015 has been a year all about the row. The first few months busy with the final preparations and heading off to San Francisco and the start line and the months since then filled with two hours on, two hours off in the dance of life on board a 29ft rowing boat called Doris. 2015 has been a unique, special and exciting year and 2016 has a lot to live up to but the journey is not finished yet and I’m sure there are plenty more adventures and challenges to come both before and after we reach Cairns. The possibilities for this new year are endless. I was thinking about my highlights and lowlights for 2015 and unsurprisingly they all involved experiences from the Pacific so I thought I would share with you the things I have grown to love and hate about ocean rowing over the last nine months.

HATE:
1) Waves which crash over your head leaving your skin crusty with salt.
2) The constant battle to dry my towel.
3) Hot and sunny days where the sea state is rough and the only option is to keep the hatch doors firmly closed and sweat it out in the sauna which is the aft cabin.
4) Moonless nights when you can’t see the waves before they crash over your head.
5) Being on para anchor. Rather than being a well earned rest from rowing this is an uncomfortable ride involving being thoroughly shaken up in a small, hot cabin while our muscles stiffen up making us feel like old women.
6) The alarm which wakes me from a peaceful sleep after a far too short 90mins.
7) Eating rehydrated food every day. Now don’t get me wrong, as rehydrated expedition food goes it isn’t bad but after 233 days I would kill for some fresh vegetables and an apple.
8) Being slapped by flying fish at night
9) Battling adverse currents and winds and travelling at speeds of less than 1kt despite rowing as hard as possible.
10) The lack of green. We have seen every imaginable shade of blues, greys, pinks and orange but I miss the colour green and the sight of trees and rolling hills.

LOVE:
1) The days when the ocean is silent around us and the mirror flat surface reflects the sky, stretching out like an endless infinity pool.
2) Clear nights where millions of stars shine above us and the Milky Way stretches across the sky. These are the nights where I feel our insignificance and how small we really are.
3) The company. We have shared our tiny home and our life stories, laughing, singing and crying our way across the Pacific and formed a bond which will stay with us forever.
4) Being part of a strong team who come together utilising each other’s strengths and working with each other’s weaknesses to achieve something far bigger than any of us would ever have achieved alone. I count this as different to number three and feel lucky to count these five girls as both my team mates and my friends.
5) The feeling of being on top of the world as you ride up to the top of a huge wave and can see around you for miles before rolling down the other side back into the trough.
6) The whales, dolphins, sharks, turtles, fish and birds we have shared our journey with. When travelling so slowly on a level with their watery home these wildlife encounters are up close and personal.
7) Days when we are flying along with following winds and favourable currents and surfing the waves towards Cairns hitting top speeds of over 5kts.
8) Swimming in the crystal clear ocean with mahi mahi cruising around below and the space to stretch out in all directions in the cool clean water.
9) Having the time and space to think, share stories and ideas and really listen to each other without the distractions of real life with its constant connectivity to phones, emails and social media getting in the way.
10) The way the waves transform into misty mountains during a heavy rainstorm which when it clears leaves the brightest rainbow in the sky which reflects on the water making us think we are headed towards the pot of gold at its base.
UPDATE: Last night, in massive swell and after a few huge waves hit us out of nowhere beam on, we had to put a line out and retire to the cabins during the dark hours. LP and I had a slumber party in the aft cabin complete with a film and snacks while Megs and Nats retired to the forecabin which was fortunately less like an oven than usual. Some of Megs ability to sleep through anything must have rubbed off on Nats as they both managed to get some shut eye and were looking amazingly chirpy this morning. It is New Year’s Eve so obviously we have some festivities planned for later. The party poppers and yellow pants are ready to help us welcome in 2016 from the Pacific in another celebration we will never forget.

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15 Comments

  1. Happy New Year to you all from the Mills clan here in Cornwall. Good wishes to you all for 2016 and an extra big hug for Laura from us all. Stay strong and keep safe. xxxxxx

  2. Simon TY says:

    Very very happy new year to you all. Amazing achievement having got this far and so much to look forward to. You can tell your grandchildren “I went to Oz once…..I rowed there”.

    Xxxxxxx

  3. Zenna says:

    Happy New Year! Well done so far . I hope the sea is flat and the sky bright for your New Year’s Eve ! Happy 2016! Xxx

  4. Liz says:

    a very happy New Year to you all from us all down in Cornwall. We are so,proud of your achievement and have saved some bubbly to share together Laura when we meet up hopefully very soon! Xx

  5. How can anyone find words to add to yours, yours is a journey we would all fear but love to be brave enough to confront. Please stay safe, row hard, you have inspired us all, can’t wait for the film and books, love to all of you and your team.
    Barry

  6. Stella says:

    Wishing you a calm New Year with perhaps some dolphin first footers. You are role models for all young women. Row on and tell your stories, all of them, to as many as you can, for years to come. Stella.

  7. Jim Andrews says:

    Great leveller Emma, though I will point out that the Love section looks much bigger than the Hate section, bigger word count, so I am going to read into that. There is more that you love on Doris than hate? The great thing about the way we recall events in our life is through the proverbial “Rose tinted glasses”. That is why we insist, “summers were much nicer, when I was a kid”, “the good old days” etc. So I can expect that in five years time, when you appear on the Graham Norton or Jonathan Ross show and he asks how was it on Doris? your reply will be. It was fantastic, every day was sunny with flat calm seas, the wildlife was awesome, the food was exceptional and the rowing, easy peasy, as for hiccups or surprises, there were none! Yeah yeah. Anyway I reckon 15 to 20 max, more blogs and we will part company. I will miss my daily routine of following my new found heroes but I will be very happy that you are home safe and sound, having achieved what we mere mortals can only marvel at. Stay safe. XX

  8. Allen says:

    Hello again ladies,
    I was going to wish you a Happy New Year, when I realised that you had already celebrated it and were now waking up on New Year’s day!
    When you get to Australia, what will you do about the 6 time zones that you have crossed, as well as the International dateline? Are these extra hours deducted from your overall time?
    You are truly World travellers!
    Anyway, best wishes for 2016 and all the changes that it will bring.. Especially dry land!
    Allen.

  9. Anna C says:

    In case any of you would usually be skiing at this time of year, don’t worry – there’s no snow – at least none in the western part of the Alps – so you’re not missing anything. You’ll see more action sticking to your oars for 2 or 3 more weeks! Just seen in the new year here, and hoping that yours has started well. Have you tried charades on the oars? It’s a must for this time of year. Good luck with the final push (pull)! Anna and Marius xx

  10. Andy says:

    Happy New Year Ladies!

    2016 will be the official year you finish your challenge. I look forward to seeing your names in the Queen’s birthday honours list.

    Much love,
    Andy

  11. Barney says:

    Thanks for the entertainment from 2015, congratulations on achieving so much to date, and may 2016 bring you all the rewards of a job well done.

  12. JG says:

    Happy New Year the Crew – already left you a message on FB so I won’t repeat it. Just 650 nms to go and levelling out again. You’re not far off JBs track now and the weather looks as if it might ease off a bit as trhe depressions souith of you either dissipate or move away according to the web up to 5 Jan. Fingers crossed. Keep safe and take care. (I’ll spare you the pain of a joke tonight!)

  13. Our radio alarm has just come on and there you are Emma talking to Sara Cox and coming through as if you were in the room next door…….what a lovely start to our day to hear you sounding so ‘full of the joys of Spring’. Have a lovely New Years Day aboard the lovely Doris and our very best wishes for the rest of your awesome journey into beautiful Cairns, where we hope you get a reception you all so deserve………Happy 2016 to you all and all your followers.

  14. Neil says:

    Laura,

    We spent a great evening with your folks last night (Ray stayed awake!) with a super meal and fantastic fireworks. But the highlight was our little chat with you. Keep pulling at those oars and enjoy what is left of your journey. Happy New Year to you all.
    Neil
    xxx

  15. Paula says:

    Fabulous blog as always. Thank you for sharing those things. You are all amazing, congratulations so far and happy new year to you all. Paula

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