Leg 3, Day 67 – Frustration

Emma Mitchell By

It is 6.30am and I am dragged from a too deep sleep by the rowers outside waking us up for our first row shift of the new day. It is already hot and stuffy in the cabin and I can’t wake up enough to speak to Nats who is in there with me while I pull on my smelly, salty rowing kit and drag myself out on to the oars. I am steering. LP hands over to me telling me that we are still in a strong southerly current and that constant steering is required to zig zag towards our destination. Nats and I start rowing at 70%. It is time to start pushing ourselves in every session as we need to reach land before we run out of food or hit any bad weather. Holding a good course is especially important at the moment as we approach a narrow gap between reefs. After half an hour we are still not able to get our speed above 1kt and I am getting increasingly frustrated with this and the steering which is swinging around by up to 100 degrees in a few strokes. I want to get to Australia. Our parents are there waiting for us and we have been out here far longer than we ever expected. We row hard, at 90%, for two lots of 15mins, legs burning, the water feeling like concrete. It makes at most 0.2kts difference to our speed. This feels like so little that it is hardly even worth the effort but it is at this point where we need every little bit of speed or extra mile so we do the second 15mins. 

The end of the two hour shift approaches. Usually this would mean retiring to the cabin for two hours, getting some well earned food and then having a stretch out and rest. However today I need to stay out on deck in the sunshine which is already burning despite it only being 8.30am and make water for an hour using our hand pump. Our batteries are slowly charging up but we still don’t have enough power to run our electric water maker and there is no way of knowing how much longer we will need to be hand pumping. I get off the rowing seat and into the water making seat, drop the tubes over board and start pumping. My arms and shoulders are burning and I have to change arms every few minutes. After a while I get into a rhythm and it becomes almost therapeutic and the bonus is that I get to spend time with LP and Megs who I am not on shift with. We manage to have a giggle and the hour passes. 

It is time to swap places with Nats who comes out to make water while I head inside for some food. By the time I have made food and eaten half my rest hour has disappeared and I still have to write a blog. I have barely started when it is time to don the sweaty kit and return to the oars. This time we manage to hold a speed just over one knots for most of the session. This is a relief but at this point in the journey with following winds and a south westerly current we should be travelling much faster at around two knots. None of us can understand why despite the fact that we are working so hard we are still crawling along. However a good opportunity arises for Nat, LP and I to be together on deck while LP makes water and share our frustrations and reflections on our 9 month journey and how to make our last week or so a positive experience. 

Again instead of heading to the cabin at the end of the row shift I am back on the water maker. The midday sun is draining me of any remaining energy and I am feeling jaded to say the least. I pump continuously and a tiny trickle of water emerges from M-ROD. By the end of the hour I have only just filled a single water container. However the song game passes the time and provides entertainment and we are all glad that nobody can hear us sing out here. 
Another short hour of rest races by, sweating and trying to finish my blog while eating a chicken korma. Then it is back to the oars for another shift where the ocean feels like treacle and I wish I couldn’t see the deck repeater which shows our speed and direction. At the end of the shift we have moved less than two miles closer to Cairns and I am feeling dispirited. Making water with the hand pump is slow so we don’t have enough water for a proper wash. A quick rinse of the bits and pits and wipe off of the worst of the salt before heading to the cabin for our first sleep shift. 

The cabins are unbearably hot after a hot day and the sun is still pouring in. Nat and I split up so that we have a bit more space to sweat in and I head to the forecabin. I lie on my towel and try to employ mindfulness to relax but I know that I will never sleep in this heat. I try to lie as still as possible and rest my muscles. Eventually I start to drift off and almost immediately LP is opening the hatch and calling me. It is time to row. Again. 
The salt sores on my bum hurt and I can’t find a comfortable way to sit and the salt in my clothes is making me itchy. However the sun is setting and it is my favourite time of day on Doris. The temperature cools to a comfortable warmth and the light is beautiful. The sun sets in a glow of orange behind us and the sky in front of us glows pink with grey clouds. The beauty still takes my breath away and all of a sudden I’m not in such a rush to get to land. Even our speed seems to have picked up a little. 

The second sleep shift is much cooler and I am quickly snoozing happily. It feels like only seconds before it is time to drag myself awake again but it is cool and not splashy so I don’t even have to put on my crusty jacket. Our speed has slowed to less than 1 knot again. The current is stronger or we are more tired and we have to push hard through the pitch black night. The wind has picked up making it hard to hear my rowing partner so there is minimal conversation as a distraction so we eat ginger nuts to cheer ourselves up. 

Third sleep shift next and it feels like I haven’t even closed my eyes before Nat is nudging me to get moving and get dressed. The final night shift is always the worst, I am sleepy and time seems to drag. We fall asleep for the final time and when we wake the sun has risen and a new day has begun.

It’s been 9 months and ocean rowing hasn’t become any easier. I will never take fresh water or sleep for granted again but I have learnt a lot about myself and how not to let the frustration take over. I couldn’t imagine doing this on my own and it is the strength and support of our team and the sharing of our frustrations and tears which has got us all through this. Despite the tough times I feel sure that it is not the frustration but the magical moments on the Pacific with these special girls which I will carry with me forever.

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26 Comments

  1. Steve says:

    It’s so interesting reading the blogs and I always wonder where on Earth you find the energy but I’m grateful that you do. Can’t wait to buy the book.

  2. Jim Andrews says:

    Wow Emma, that was awesome, you poor souls sound exhausted. If I had to pick one blog from the last nine months, that told the whole story. I would pick this one. I feel your exhaustion and frustration, through your well written words. Words that you typed for my benefit, while needing rest. It is very humbling to read what a person has agonised over, composing. Even though you are on your knees, you still inject the positives, your opportunity to mix with the other team, your delight at the onset of evening and cooler air. The best bit “the magical moments on the Pacific with these special girls”. I take nothing away from Izzy, Lizzane or Meg, all have been magnificent, but you three, that have made the whole journey are, in modern parlance, “mega”. I am in awe of your physical and mental stamina. I run out of words to describe my admiration, (probably a blessing to the reader). Suffice to say, When you bring Doris to Liverpool on her tour of Britain, the drinks are on me. Stay safe. XX

  3. Wow Emm, you’ve made me put pen to paper (Meg will tell you it is a rarity) if only to give you all a final boost for this, what appears to me to be the last long battle to reach what is your final goal.
    Sometimes it is meant to be and I know it is easy for me to sit at my computer and write these few words of encouragement, but we (all of us) want you succeed after all the sweat and tears along the journey. We at home have enjoyed every moment!

    Our thoughts and good wishes are with you every pull on those oars and for every agonizing wake up call at the start of your watch. We are closer to you now in the earnest hope that Neptune will look favorably on The Coxless Crew together with “Doris” in the coming days left. Enjoy the wonders of the Barrier Reef and stay safe.

  4. Wendy says:

    Hi Emma,

    I can massively empathise with you and the team. Sounds like a new challenge has created an opportunity for you all to face it, and face it you will do. Thought I’d pass on a quote I found recently ‘definition of and optimist (n) – someone that knows that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster. It’s a CHA-CHA. ‘ Robert Brault

    Enjoy the hardships of the next few days as it will soon be over and you will be back in the Doldrums squeezed into the underground tube wishing you were back on the Pacific. All the very best in rowing and strong tail winds. Wendy

  5. Another amazing blog that had me rowing every stroke alongside you and feeling the accompanying pain and frustrations too! Brilliant stuff. God speed you heroic women all! Sending you love and best wishes for your final push to the finish. As my little granddaughter would say to me as I struggled to fasten her into her car seat, “You can do it!” And so can you. Come on girls, you’re nearly there;keep safe and keep going!xxxx

  6. Anne says:

    I walk along the promenade every morning at 6 am. I go onto the marina and stare into the horizon thinking I can see a small pink dot there. Very soon that will be a reality and cannot wait. My grandson is coming to visit for a few days and he will be so excited when I explain your arrival to where we are standing. My heart aches for all of you, but arrive you will, to much accolades for the enormity of your accomplishment. Stay safe, stay positive,. The other parents will be here next week and all of us will. be sending speed thoughts to Doris to get you here as speedy as.possible.

  7. TaniaB says:

    Great blog, especially considering the circumstances you wrote it in! Know that there are so many cheering you on from the shore and being inspired by your journey. Hope the batteries charge again soon!

  8. Judith Mills says:

    As you near the end of your long journey you are still being thrown challenges but most importantly you are dealing with them and despite your tiredness, with humour still present. How amazing that you still find the positives of sitting in the hot sun having to work hard to produce enough water for you all.
    We all want you to end your challenge soon even though we will miss you. Your supporters are all pushing you onwards and your families are pulling you towards them.
    So CHA CHA on. Stay strong and keep safe. Go Doris! xxxx

  9. Jacqui says:

    Your post today has also driven me to write a reply. I have so much admiration for you guys. I tell as many people as will listen to me about your trip. I would love to meet you all and share a cocktail or two but I think I would be like a jabbering school girl in light of such amazing effort and determination. I have just noted how many i’s there are in my post, and I apologise for that. ……YOU guys are AMAZING! I (again with the I) would love to have you come and talk about your experience and motivation to my team and our company. I (again) wish you speed and safe passage to your destination and your parents, and friends.

  10. Frustration is so debilitating, but I’m impressed and amazed how you’ve all managed to dig in and support each other, you’ve done so much and come so far, but remember each moment doesn’t matter how small it feels it takes you closer to home!

  11. JG says:

    Another fascinating blogpost from Emma, mechanical genius and wordsmith. Today we have it – the truth. The struggle that each of you has and how you survive with mutual support, respect and trust. The Crew’s frustrations and discomfort have always been glossed over by them I feel and, although I have suspected it before, today the daily grind is exposed in all its shapes.
    We have now been given an insight into the amazing way in which you have all encountered, put up with and survived this incredible ordeal.
    To my mind JB and yourselves could not have been more different in the approach to the blogging thing. JB’s were more like Emmas today, a blow by blow account of his daily life – how he felt and what he was dealing with. That was fascinating and was in many ways complementary to the Crew’s, helping us to understand what was going on behind the scenes on the Pacific ocean. The Crew’s blogs were aimed more at entertainment I feel,and probably provided a bit of a diversion for them in the process.
    Today we see the realities in the glare of the footlights. Enlightening and on behalf of myself, Emma, thank you.
    Position checked at 2359 shows just 250 nms to go. JB found this the most difficult stage. Stay strong keep safe.

  12. Anne says:

    My heart is breaking for you and wish I could blow you into land! I walk along the promenade every morning at 6 am. I walk to the marina, where you will arrive and look out onto the horizon and imagine I see a small pink dot. However, that will happen soon. My young grandson will be arriving from Melbourne today, to spend a few days with us and I cannot wait to take him to where you will be arriving. He will be so excited.
    All the parents will be here by Monday and with our combined thoughts and good wishes urging you on, Doris will be invigorated with new strength and we will soon be seeing you on that horizon and welcoming you all into the Marina. I CAN’T WAIT! Be safe and God speed. xxx

  13. Barney says:

    I trust you are getting good footage of the theatre of pain over these last miles. I can imagine Sarah getting goosebumps thinking of this increase in drama at the climax of the row! Great blog Emma, definitely your best to date!

  14. mark says:

    i wonder if there are other crews doing similar challenges to you 4 ?
    brave girls youll be there soon enogh

  15. sara says:

    What a fantastic blog Ems though it moved me to tears to think whst you are going through. How glad I am thst you are with these other fantastic, caring and beautiful women who feel now like an extension to my famiky. Their wonderful parents my new long stsnding freinds. How enrichef are we for gaining so much out of your brave and challenging journey. We are in Cairns tomorrow and will be waiting for that pink dot on the horizon that is Doris brining you home to us. Cha cha on my brave girls loads of love xxxx

  16. Susan says:

    A great blog – taking us all into the thick of it with you, and making us understand what a day is like for you. Neptune guide you to your families very soon!

  17. Tracey Greer says:

    Wow, some emotional reading there – the real feelings that come at the tough times are for once making it to the surface. The fact that this is not the ‘normal’ type of blog just proves again how amazing you girls are – any time it’s been tough like this before (& I expect there’s been more than a few days like this) you have kept that hidden & instead you have entertained us with your fantastic, happy daily blogs. As everyone else has said we are all rooting for you from afar & hoping for no more tough days like today. Cairns will be in sight soon – until then your amazing spirit that has shone throughout the entire trip will keep you going. Stay safe girls. T xx

  18. This was an amazing blog – thank you for taking your precious rest time to share your thoughts and frustrations with your many followers from around the globe. Hang on in there! Although we are all wishing you a speedy passage into Cairns it is with sadness that watching that little pink boat travel across our screens is coming towards an end. Stay safe. xx

  19. HOLLY says:

    Thank you for your true words. I can’t begin to express my feelings for the 6 of you..awesome courage, tenacity, humbleness, honesty, teamwork, strength. I would have flipped myself overboard by now (or you would have) because I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have been able to endure for sooooo long. Maybe awhile, but not what you go through. I was wishing I could simply blow those pink dots westward. I don’t know you, but I do in a way. I worry about you and cheer you on and think about you many times a day. Please cherish these last few days as much as you can. Have a movie made and donate those proceeds to your cause…you will have a Hollywood blockbuster, plus a book. It would surely be more interesting than the majority of movies for the last decade. I hope you get the water going again. Please stay safe and alert more than ever in these last miles. I can’t wait for you to get there, but will sorely miss you! God bless you!

  20. Mike S. says:

    I have mentioned several times how amazing the two hour rowing pattern allows time for you to blog, but now as your very descriptive piece tells us of the weariness you still find time. Hopefully batteries will come back to strength & life on Doris will be a bit normal. Brave Girls.

  21. Antonia says:

    That sounds absolutely bloody awful. You poor things. What brave ladies you are. We all salute you! xx

  22. Simon TY says:

    Ems, amazing honest, raw, blog, exhausting and tear bringing to read. Take heart from all the equally emotional comments. There are so many people rooting for you and blowing at the blue dot. We cannot share your pain…..wish we could just take a wee bit of the burden off your tired backs and arms and bums.

    Hope today has been good, miles eaten up, electricity powered, jokes shared, Dolphins visited, easterly wind blown, turtles pushing you, coral reefs in sight, beers on ice.

    Lots of love

    Xxxx ( and one for Doris)

  23. Meghan says:

    Nearly There!!You will soon be back on Terra Firma.

    In addition to looking at your daily blogs we will from monday 18th be following Nicholas who leaves from Airle Beach on his leg of the Round the World Clipper Race. He is scheduled to reach China in mid-March.
    Keep rowing girls. We don’t want to have worry about you and our son Nicholas.

    Good luck girls. God bless.
    Love, Tina & Tina xxxx

  24. Jan R says:

    Thanks a lot Ems for this raw depiction of what you are going through. It was a difficult read for all of us who have cheered you all on and have followed your blog from day one!

    Everyone goes through their own Pacific Ocean, and your recount reminds me a lot of km 37.5 on my first marathon, when objectively the end of the run was so near, yet it seemed so far (too far!) away at the same time. Even spectators supporting from the sidelines were not enough to cheer me up as my muscles were too sore and tired. What ultimately made the big difference was a fellow runner tapping on my back saying (with signs of exhaustion himself) “C’mon buddy, we are almost there”.

    Translating this to your experience I can very well relate to how important the team is at this stage, and how this little bit of extra strength that each team member can provide to the rest of the team is precisely now making a huge difference to lift the mood, and keep you focused on rowing.

    The distance remaining is more than most people will row in a lifetime, so I think it’s smart for you to break it down into smaller more manageable pieces. I loved Meg’s idea of trying to “define” the word nearly. How far is it to reach the Great Barrier Reef? That next piece should be just a few days ahead, even at 20nm per day. And soon thereafter there will be more and more distractions (more traffic at sea, more planes, Sarah’s boat, land in sight, etc.) that will ease the pain for the very last stretch.

    Hopefully El Nino will not get in your way, and allows you to row into Cairns safely and hopefully that would still be within the month of January.

    Stay safe, and all good spirits, thoughts and prayers for you!

    xxxx

    Jan

  25. Lorraine says:

    I am amazed you find the time or energy to write a blog at all never mind such a fascinating one. Keep safe.

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