Leg 3, Day 56 – DIY

Emma Mitchell By

Day 56 – DIY

I have learned lots of new skills since becoming involved in the Coxless Crew project both in the journey to the start line and the journey across the ocean. One of my favourite learning curves has been my DIY apprenticeship with Uncle Tone. Before we reach each stopover I make a list of the maintenance jobs which need doing which aren’t so easy to do whilst riding the waves. When, in leg one we had to return to land after 16 days to fix our electronics we also had a long list of maintenance jobs which we had compiled while getting used to life on Doris. These weren’t things which affected the integrity or safety of the boat but which would make things more efficient, easier or tidier on board. For example we fitted bungee between the pockets in the aft cabin for extra storage and a new cover for our vents in the fore cabin to stop leaking when big waves flood the deck. Now when I say we did this, what I actually mean is that Tony worked and I assisted and learned. I have come to realise that almost anything can be fixed with epoxy putty, that araldite will glue anything and that I love taking things apart and putting them back together again better than before. On land we have modified the seat setup, shortened the oars, installed storage in the aft cabin roof, fixed leaks, installed fans and replaced various items. I can now be trusted to wield the cordless drill, saw and marine sealant unsupervised. I have also learnt a lot about electronics, solar panels, boat setup and how Doris was put together through the different maintenance jobs we have needed to do since we left San Francisco.

Leg 1 5

DIY has become one of my roles on Doris while out at sea as well as on land, probably because things that squeak, rattle, flap, grate and creak annoy me before they annoy anyone else. Now when anything breaks I am the first port of call for the girls. The DIY jobs on Doris are ongoing while we are out on the water and mainly involve WD40, gorilla tape (I don’t believe you can have too much of this stuff on board, Tony thinks that three rolls is too much!), and our trusty screwdrivers and spanners. The salt water makes things rusty and squeaky and the different rowing fittings loosen over time. Recently I’ve had to tighten the rowing riggers, fix the oar collars, clean and lubricate the seat bearings and WD40 the wind vane and go pro camera fittings, regularly tighten the grab rails and adjust the hatch handles. I love the satisfaction of a job well done and am looking forward to taking my new found DIY skills and the drill back home and getting started on some new projects.


UPDATE: Last night was probably the most beautiful of this leg so far. When Megs and I came out onto the oars for our first night shift it was pitch black, the inky darkness enveloping us, the ocean silent around us. As we pulled our oars through the water the sparkle of phosphorescence glittered. Over the two hours the clouds slowly thinned and then dispersed leaving a sky filled with thousands of bright stars which were reflected all around us in the mirror flat water of the mighty Pacific. We then heard some splashing along the side of the boat and I thought I saw a fin. It disappeared but about 10 minutes later a fin glided up alongside us and we saw a huge shark swimming beside Doris. It was Eduardo, back with us after heading home to spend Christmas and new year with his family! He came back a few times through the shift and then again to visit Nats when she came out to row. Our second night shift started with the same magical star filled sky, followed after an hour by the moon glowing red on the horizon. As it rose up a shining path reflected on the water lighting the way to Cairns. We wished on a couple of shooting stars and felt incredibly lucky to be experiencing what few people will ever see. Our final night shift found clouds gathering on the horizon and as dawn began, the sky lit up a bright orange. As it faded away we thought the show was over but as the sun peeked over the horizon the sky glowed once again before giving way to a clear blue sky and sunshine as day 56 began.



  1. JG says:

    Well done Emma, not just for another fascinating and beautifully written blogpost but also for being the maintenace engineer on the boat. Your skills in spotting deterioration and remedying it are keeping the show on the road. It’s the maintenance men and women who keep the world turning. I detect a kindred spirit there because like you I am happiest when tinkering with something that is broken or not working well or just needs tweaking and fixing instead of being thrown away. In your case life depends upon what you are doing, in mine it’s well – just saving money I suppose. Keep safe girls Ula seems to be keeping it’s distance Take care.

  2. Jim Andrews says:

    What a fantastic blog Emma, your description of your night shift was almost romantic, it sounded beautiful. You are all so lucky to be enjoying these unique scenes and experiences, however, you have also earned those special moments through your commitment and sacrifice to your cause. I am envious of those idyllic moments of beautiful scenery and wildlife but could not possibly endure, what you fantastic girls have endured. When I left the Army, I was completely useless at DIY, I loved watching the various tradesmen going about their skills and studied them like a child when I had the opportunity. I don’t think I am particularly skilled but I will have a go at pretty much anything that doesn’t carry too much risk. Like you, the satisfaction of a job well done is payment enough.
    Your blog is evidence that after 9 hard months you can still enjoy and appreciate the beauty around you. I hope that continues to the last stroke of the oars. Well done! Stay safe. XX

  3. Allen says:

    Hi Emma,

    I am sure you are aware of the flow chart..

    Does it move? .. Yes.. Should it move? .. Yes.. No Problem!

    Does it move? .. Yes.. Should it move? .. No .. Use Duct tape… No Problem!

    Does it move? .. No .. Should it move? .. No .. No Problem!

    Does it move? .. No .. Should it move? .. Yes.. Use WD40… No Problem!

    Glad you’re all still doing well.

    Best wishes.


  4. I found this fascinating on so many levels, just the ingenuity of making things work, puttering along do you have a utility belt?

    Loving the attention to detail how tape can be such a boon to repairs and the like especially how any noise can be so obsessively hunted down like some prey for Emms toolset 🙂

    Just reminds me of all those films that rely upon the engineers, secretly the hero but always a member of one team.

    But I get a wonderful sense of the beauty that surrounds you, even in the darkest of nights there’s still things to see with the iridescent plankton I guess it is and just seeing the stars, you made this post both dramatic and romantic in just a few words.

  5. Peter says:

    A lovely blog to read ahead of the land of nod. I find it a real pleasure fixing boats too – in a bodge and scarper fashion. I am now regularly over-taken in kayak races by boats that are only floating because of my self-taught fibre-glassing and gel-coat skills. Even my car now features a fibre-glass head-light repair which got it through its MOT – with a real mechanic helping out the bodger, but in the same trait of that will do for now…go gentle and she will be fine.

  6. Barney says:

    I hope Uncle Tone posts a blog before Cairns. He is a star in this show without a doubt. Pity his name is not Charlie, he certainly has his Angels well trained and ruthlessly efficient. My question is: How did you choose Emma to be the maintenance engineer?

  7. Esther B says:

    What a wonderful description of your surroundings Emma – I felt like I was there with you when in fact I was sitting at my desk surrounded by files!!! That must be one of those moments when you realise how lucky you are to be in the ocean. And Doris is lucky to have you Emma!


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