Leg 3, Day 68 – All for one and one for all

Natalia Cohen By

Just as a heavy downpour of rain can clear the air, a sharing of feelings and opportunity to be completely honest with someone can be a huge weight off your shoulders.   I’ve been dealing with some of my own frustrations over the last few days.

As well as all the obvious challenges an expedition of this nature presents, the one that I’ve been thinking about recently involves the fact that LP, Ems and I have lived the same 24 hour day, every day for the last 9 months. The fact that we’ve been in a confined space, sleep deprived, dealing with our own personal mental and physical challenges, in an extreme environment with no privacy and no escape sounds like most people’s idea of hell, yet, on the whole, what has amazed me completely, is that we’ve actually dealt with life out here on the almighty Pacific in a wonderfully supportive, compassionate and humour filled way. 

We constantly get asked how we do it and ‘honestly’ how do we really get on? Do we drive each other crazy? How can four women together not want to kill each other?

I think everything worked out perfectly for this row. The fact that we had three of us rowing the entire route and then three different team members joining us for each leg of our journey was vital to the success of project. For the purposes of this blog, I am going to be talking more about the relationship between the three of us that set off from San Francisco in April 2015 and will be rowing Doris into Australia in what we hope to be January 2016.  I have affectionately nicknamed us the Three Musketeers and I don’t think some married couples know each other as intimately and completely as we do! 

The Three Musketeers have had an impressively strong and healthy relationship during their time at sea. That’s not to say that at times there hasn’t been miscommunication, misunderstandings and simple difference of opinions (some of you may well remember the instant noodle incident!) We are human after all and although I have nothing but respect and admiration for these incredible women, we needed some variation. The injection of the other musketeers along the way to help us fight the challenges that Oceania has thrown at us have been invaluable. Izz, Lizanne and Meg have all brought their own unique magic to the boat and the team and the change in team dynamic that has come with each of them has been indispensable to the sanity of the Three Musketeers. 

As we slowly make our way across the Great Barrier Reef towards our destination, I think we underestimate how different everyone’s headspace can be regarding the same event. Although everyone is itching to get to land, I am still savouring the simplicity of life and the connection to the ocean. I am determined to end this adventure as I have endured it, with a positive and mindful attitude and embracing every moment fully wherever possible. 

My frustrations of late were sparked by the need to express some emotions I was having and speak out openly and honestly as on a personal level I don’t want to end this journey with any negativity or anything left unsaid. Every cloud has a silver lining, and so as we continue to have to pump water during our rest shifts, a perfect opportunity arose for me to air these feelings directly with both Ems and LP as the three of us were out on deck at the same time.

Ems was frustrated by our progress and her inability to single handedly control Doris on our sunrise shift. I could sense her despair and upset and could see her angrily yanking the steering and aggressively plunging her oars into the water. I reminded her of the fact that we can only control the controllable and that hopefully next shift things will have changed. I then suggested that she releases her frustrations by writing them down and therefore letting them go and not giving them any power (which resulted in her blog). Amazingly, that afternoon, we received an email from Keith suggesting the same.

My main frustration with Ems lay in the fact that I didn’t really know what I could do to best help her. If she wanted me to distract her, help bring her back to the moment or just leave her for a while to rant at the ocean. During our heart to heart on the deck under a relentless sun, I asked that if the same situation happens again in the future she will tell me what the best or most appropriate course of action for that moment would be, so that I don’t feel so helpless and can possibly help shift her thoughts from negative ones to positive ones.

The issue I wanted to raise with LP was different. We have always had a special connection. We are like family and with that closeness comes the ability to push each other’s buttons easily. I felt that over the last few days we had become incredibly reactive to each other. Whether it was something she said to me or I said to her, both of us would instantly react and it was upsetting me. The thing was, that I couldn’t really put my finger on why it was happening, but all I knew was that I didn’t want it to continue into our final days and we needed to make an effort to make it stop.

After an hour of sharing emotions, thoughts, opinions and facts, we all had a hug and……I’m now ready to enjoy the ride into land (however long it takes) with all 5 of my warrior women and amazing team mates happily and firmly in my heart x


 *————       ‘One for all and all for one’        ————*



  1. JG says:

    Amazing that it has taken so long for any cracks to threaten and that is testament to the positive attitude that you all have to this project and each other. Got it under control and that will last to the end. Brilliant!

    Keep safe, cheerful and take care

  2. Jim Andrews says:

    I shall commence my response almost the same way as I did with Emma’s. Wow Natalia, I am loving this honesty, not that I have doubted any of you throughout. It is just that, as you near the finishing tape, it is almost like the blog has become a bit of a release valve. It would be ridiculous to think that four adults could be placed into a space the size of a bathroom, worked for twelve + hours a day under extreme conditions, deprived of sleep, privacy and any normality, fed on pretty unexciting rations, but not to have a cross word. Silly to even consider the possibility.
    I couldn’t even pick four close friends, that could tolerate me for half of that period, or me, them, under less testing conditions. We all have different thresholds of pain, tolerance and patience, life would be weird if we didn’t. Of course there will be differences, annoyances and irritations. Your policy of clearing the air, is the only sensible course of action.
    The closer you get to that finishing tape, the more difficult (I suspect) it will get. People who live together would be severely tested, if they had to put up with this lack of personal space for so long. A good old fashioned door slam works for some, you can’t even do that. You have an understanding of each other that no one else has. You have also allowed the other three, into your most private thoughts. I mentioned military camaraderie, in one of my early responses and what a wonderful thing it is, to be able to hand responsibility for your life, confidently to a friend. It is also something you miss dreadfully when it is gone. I think you 6 ladies have created an unbreakable bond, that will continue long after January 2016. Give each other a hug every day. Stay safe. XX

  3. Simon TY says:

    I do hope the elation of reaching the last couple of miles overrides any desire to niggle each other or “snap”. It might be easy to let off steam in the knowledge that you only have to put up with each other for another few days……”and then I never have to see you again”. Hold it in ( Keith probably says otherwise). Looked earlier and the speed was up again. All the parents gathering on the horizon willing you on xxx

  4. The Behrs says:

    We have been following your progress and blogs over the last nine months and have learnt a great deal from your amazing experiences. May you all have much energy and fulfilment in the final phases of this odyssey!
    Congratulations and love from all the Behrs

  5. kim says:

    so excited for you girls that your ambitious challenge is within arms reach of being accomplished. hand pumping water sounds rubbish to be frank but glad to hear it means you are having nice chats and it will make those smiles from your parents, yummy first meals, hot showers and proper beds all the more AMAZING! looking forward to seeing you soon – it;s flipping freezing here though so enjoy that sunshine

  6. I realise that each day I grow older but I’m never sure that the ‘wiser’ bit goes hand in hand with that.

    Frustration is a trigger but knowing what starts it is wisdom, I’ve come to the conclusion if you’re ever at a stage where you don’t even know how you got to the red zone then you need to step back.

    In such a confined space and a physical and mental rhythm that’s not natural, it’s natural emotions which underly all of it and can erupt because we’re so good at bottling them in, but we do take things out on those we love.

    You’re all friends, you put your lives in each other’s hands, and how you react can only be infused to the closeness you all have, you’re brave and brilliant but no-one is perfect, but look back to feel how proud and far you’ve come, it’s quite staggering you’re all amazing!!

    You are a part of something truly special something only soldiers in a unit can understand, I see incredible determination and comradeship that shows your all capable of giving and taking so much, coupled with leadership and most of all compassion and understanding because in every relationship give and take underpin the very foundations of what you’re trying to achieve.

    Remember you are human and that is a beautiful thing, and what makes you different allows you to knit together like a jigsaw puzzle.

    I was scheduled to leave for home on the 24th but I want to stay because I want shake everyone’s hand because I want to meet you amazing warriors of the ocean.

  7. holly says:

    To acknowledge weakness is to display strength. Is it no wonder you have occasions of “non-perfectness”?? Sleep deprivation alone drives me to the edge of blubbering. You guys would be scary perfect if you didn’t exhibit these oh so human traits. On top of that, I would say you are in the top percentile of tolerance. I would be waaaaay down there, bitching as soon as I got hot and tired and salty and wounded. Give yourselves a break, a hug, and kudos to your awesome resilience. Enjoy the rest the best you can. You rock!!

  8. kim says:

    Awesome progress yesterday girls! keep up the great work. i am just watching david attenborough on the great barrier reef and it looks absolutely stunning. a well deserved treat to see for your final 50 kms!

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