Leg 3, Day 66 – Don’t count your chickens

Laura Penhaul By

Day 66 – Don’t count your chickens

You’d think that with just 300nm to go and with the end in sight, that the home straight would go quickly and calmly. Well, we should know by now that for us this would never be the case. It was only recently that Keith had emailed informing us of how most accidents happen with close proximity of home, so a message to stay vigilant and ‘on it’ all the way until we step on dryland.


If anyone reading this was following us in leg 1, you will be aware of a problem we had when water was found to have got in to our battery and charging electronics locker during a storm. The ingress of saltwater caused corrosion which consequently led to the charge controllers overheating and failing, which in essence meant no recharge facilities for our batteries. This resulted in an 800nm detour to Santa Barbara in order to fix the problems, before we left again for Hawaii. Thanks to Victron (our battery sponsors) and Tony (our support manager), Doris was well fixed and preened before setting off for Hawaii and again for Samoa.

Typically, Nat had only mentioned this week how she felt that maybe this leg would finish the same way it started, her thought was in reference to how this leg had started from Samoa; good speed with prevailing winds, of course I had interpreted it to mean how the whole journey had started and subsequently told her not to jinx it! Well too late! She was partly right, as signs showed that the last week may reflect the first week fiasco we had after leaving San Fran. A few days ago, I noticed one of the batteries was showing to be at a much lower voltage than it should have been and on investigation I discovered an error light on one of our battery system monitors. On testing the batteries with a volt meter I established one of the batteries was in a poor state of charge so I started liaising back and forth between Tony and Victron to establish what I need to do on the boat to test what needed to be tested. Unfortunately the conclusion to all the tests was the batteries were very low on power which left me with no option but to switch everything off apart from the chart plotter (shows our navigational charts, Position etc.) AIS (to indicate other boats in the area and inform them of us) and Echomax (a radar reflector for large cargo ships to pick us up on radar) all three for safety. On checking an hour later, the batteries were depleted still further, therefore I made a decision to switch everything off and resort to back up navigation, i.e. handheld GPS and magnetic compass with the view to only switch on the nav light and AIS if we spotted a boat in the distance. Unfortunately the battery terminals in the handheld GPS had corroded and it didn’t work (last tested in Samoa), but luckily we have the Navionic chart app on our phones, so we’ve used that for the last couple of days for keeping track of our course and location. We’ve also had to resort to using the manual hand-pump water maker aka M Rod – a mechanical reverse osmosis desalinator, as without electronics we can’t make water through the electronic Schenker desalinator. MRod involves sitting out on deck and Hand pumping. There’s a long tube in the sea water which the water is sucked up and then as you pump it is drawn back and forth through a filter. To put it in perspective, our normal water maker makes 30l of water Per hour, on the manual pump, we make just 3litres per hour. It has been knackering! Having to finish a 2hr row session, then sitting out on deck in the sweltering heat under the blistering sun for another hour, then swapping with your team mate, then returning to row positions for another 2hrs of rowing. I must say it’s been joyous for the last 2 days! If our shoulders and arms hadn’t had enough of rowing for 9 months well the manual water maker has certainly topped it off.


Thankfully the sun is shining and the batteries are coming back to life, so hopefully it won’t be much longer until we can get our electronic water maker back on!

Day 65 meant we got to watch a couple of videos that Izz had put together for us and amongst it was a huge surprise to see one from my hero, Chrissie Wellington. I can’t thank her enough to see her smiling face and words of encouragement from someone who has achieved so much, was a real motivation. Perfect timing! Also a highlight for today….. We were interviewed by CNN! Sarah Moshman did a great interview with them yesterday and they followed it up with a sat phone call to us all today. We all got to chat and share our story of why we’re here, what it’s like and what we’re looking forward to when we reach Cairns. They’re also hoping to speak to us again when we reach land, how exciting!




  1. Anna Renton says:

    Hang on in there, you’re such an inspiration! X

  2. Wow! What a great blog and cnn interview. Seen Sarah’s live really good but to hear you all was great! Hoping the sun stays out to recharge those batteries – I remember being on water rations when out on exercise as our desalination plant went down. You are all showing so much resilance to the obstacles you have to overcome. LP Ben says you can be his electric mate when your home! The footage on CNN was great – seen the whale oh my what stories you will have to tell and I imagine the pot noodle story will be around forever! Make some more memories over these next few days, and remember a few quiet moments each day to reflect on your journey as soon you will be surrounded by family and friends and be wanting that bit of quit time to reflect xx love to you all xx

  3. Barney says:

    CNN interview with Sarah was great, should bring in a few more fans! I liked the bit when she said “They have been pretty much uncomfortable all of the time”.

    It is amazing you have not had more technical problems along the way. I was none too confident when you had to turn back in the first 500nm. Emma, as chief engineer on board, has done her job well.

    Not surprising if you do have a few problems in the last 300 nms. Remember John B’s words…” I found it incredibly difficult and frustrating…” and no doubt you will too. When the going gets tough….! You know what you have to do.

  4. JG says:

    Well Doris has held it together for such a long time but is now beginning to show signs of the stressful time she has had. It is always the electronics. Do you have a sextant on board?

    I assume that with your water reserves (replaceable ballast) and remaining rations and your backup navigation aids you have enough still to get you safely into Cairns.Presumably you can still be tracked and advised on which course to set.

    Checking the tracker at 15 0032 (Z) Mar 16 I calculate that you are just 270 nms from Cairns. Hang in there girls – there are many people rooting for you.

    CNN and Sarah doing a very good job of keeping you in the public eye. Putting the BBC to shame.

    Take special care and keep safe.

  5. With all your difficulties, you are still under 300 miles to go. You are certainly the team to bring Doris home. Stay safe these last days.
    With all our best wishes.
    Rossiter Rowing Boats

  6. Simon TY says:

    I cannot imagine there is much that Neptune can throw at you that would phase you. I hope that the batteries recharge so that the hours of pumping for the water do not have to carry on.

    It seems like just a couple of days ago that there was 500nm to go. Now it must be 250nm. Come on, so close, so close.

    When do the first parents arrive in Cairns ? Will be odd hanging around, staring out to sea. Who will come out meet you ? No reason why some could not come out 100nm and spend sometime shouting encouragement, sail beside you telling jokes, playing Bowie, drifting along beside you. It might be unbearable seeing them so close, yet unable to hug ? If it was four days out it might be difficult, but a day out, would be start of an amazing procession in.

    Anyhow, hope the sun in shining ( not too hot), the wind is blowing ( not to strong) and Doris is racing through the water

    Xxx S

    • Ray Penhaul says:

      All the parents are out here now, Natalia’s parents are actually in Cairns, while Mike, Sally, Babs and I are in Sydney doing a bit of sightseeing and Sara Emma’s Mum is somewhere, gone walkabout as they say!! Hey,not long now okk

      • Simon TY says:

        Hope you having a good time. One of Laura’s followers Johnnie Lloyd now lives in Sydney. His yacht was built at Rossiters and he visited Doris. He looks in here occasionally. I been trying to persuade him to fly to Cairns to join all of you. S

      • Jim Andrews says:

        Sooooo jealous. We loved Darling Harbour. Looking forward to all you families being reunited with your girls. Didn’t they do well?. Enjoy

  7. Jim Andrews says:

    Well done Laura and crew for surviving the glitches and problems that have tested your reslove and abilities. As you said, the last thing you need is an hour on a manual pump following a two hour row. I suppose “needs must” but how trying! As long as you can produce sufficient drinking water, most other uses can be put on hold, for the remainder of the journey. You will overcome because, that’s who you are! I agree with JG, regarding PR and updates, where are the BBC? I emailed all our terrestrial channels back in November, asking why we were not getting regular updates, I also requested a promotional mention at the end of the early evening news bulletins, to both, engage the public and increase the number of donations. I received replies from all of them, stating that my request had been forwarded to the appropriate desk. Nothing else since. I would have thought, they would have jumped at the opportunity to share in a British success story of such magnitude. They always seem keen to report what is about to happen on Eastenders, or Strictly Come Dancing! I believe that the whole Population would be behind you, if only they knew. Anyway, enough from Mr Angry of Liverpool! Sub 300 Nm and counting, you are NEARLY there, I have lost NEARLY 6Lbs and NEARING Retirement. Life is good.
    Stay safe. XX

  8. The tension is building with the inevitable ‘last straw’ problems. Luckily you all have strong backs! Hope things go smoothly now. Babs and Ray have arrived so excitement is mounting. Thinking of you all during these last few days. No doubt it will seem surreal when you actually finish, but what a mega achievement 🙂

  9. Esther B says:

    Whatever next?! These things are sent to try us… Let’s hope the batteries are up and running again soon and you can use your two hour rests to actually rest!

    It’s all getting exciting now as the miles tick away and land gets ever closer. How far out will you be when you will be able to see land? Cairns is really lovely, especially up near Kuranda, so I hope you are going to take some time to have a look about – once you have done all your interviews and met all your fans of course! I wish I could be there to congratulate you all in person.

    Keep going girls! xxx

  10. Simon Teague says:

    Hi ladies,

    Well as you get closer and closer to one of the most awe inspiring and exciting finishes to any expedition, you have been writing the most incredible blogs. We have been reading them every day ‘on the edge of our seats’ .

    We totally appreciate all the tears, laughter and frustrations – your blogs are written in such a way that it feels sometimes like we are right there with you, with a box of tissues at the ready.

    We are so proud of you. You have lived the dream and we know you will be successful, not only in accomplishing one of the greatest expeditions of all time, but we also know that you will go on to be hugely successful in everything you do in the future.

    We would love to be there with you when you arrive into Cairns and will continue following intently in the meantime.

    Keep on rowing with SPIRIT.

    Best wishes Simon & Andrew

Leave A Reply