Leg 3, Day 70 – My wife

Laura Penhaul By

Day 70 – My wife

Last but by no means least, the final cog that has kept this journey moving and the person who brings the sparkle and glitter that makes us all smile, I am of course talking about Miss Natalia Cohen. Natalia to us is mainly known as Nat, Nats, Natty, in addition for me, she’s my wife, my pickle but one thing she is not, and that is NataliE (take note!).

As with all the girls, i’ll start from the beginning with Nats as it sets the scene of what’s to come and the impact she has had. Nat had applied at the same time as Izz, Lizanne and Megs after seeing the article on Escape The City.com. Alongside her application Nats had come highly recommended from a good friend Dave Cornthwaite. Dave is a well esteemed adventurer and has completed a number of expeditions so is well established in what works well or not so well in a team dynamic, so to have his recommendation went a long way. Nat had been part of a sailing crew with Dave, travelling from the west coast of America to Hawaii, so also an added bonus that she had experience of the Pacific seas. On meeting Nat for the first time at Bisham I remember my judgemental first impressions, wearing a sparkled jewel next to her eye and over hearing some of her conversations, I remember thinking that she was a very ‘earthy’ and spiritual person which at the time I would have said was very different to me! However throughout the day she exceeded my judgements; with Alex he reported how she’d rallied everyone together to shout words of encouragement and support when she wasn’t being tested, when she was being tested herself, she zoned in and focussed, digging deep and drawing on her own stubbornness to get the best result possible. When Nat was with Ems she had been comfortable to be open and honest about what makes her tick and really listened to others. When with me we immediately had a very open conversation and I recall Nats saying afterwards that she had felt a connection between us, obviously an insight she had greater than I about how our relationship would blossom. It went without saying that on that day Nat would be selected to be tested on the Brecons.

On the Brecons Nat dug deep when she struggled with her feet and knees through the 36km slog in the wet and cold (conditions which are her worst nightmare!). Regardless though she always tackled everything with a smile and a sense of humour. Nat wasn’t worried about hanging out at the back of the group, with anyone else that was struggling she would offer encouragement and moral support and without realising it she brought a lightness and cheer to the group. It is this trait that is one of many skills that Nat has, she brings out the best in anyone and taps into the inner child we all have. At the end of the Brecons it was clear that her personality shone and there was no question that she had to be part of the team.

Since being on the boat I have learnt of Nats life story and it is one that epitomises living life to the full. She has never let an opportunity go nor lived with any regrets, she treasures her family and will give her heart and soul to the people she cares about. In every era of her life it has been about the amazing people that she has met and for Nats, meeting new people and learning about their lives, is what brings her joy.

On the boat Nats’ energy and positivity hasn’t faltered. For me personally she has brought out my kid side, she has made me laugh until I cry on nearly every rotation, she doesn’t judge and is someone who makes you feel comfortable and confident in your own skin.


As you’re well aware, Nat and I have had a handful of disagreements if that, which are often related to my Cracknell moments or as strong minded individuals, at times when we both believe we are right in our opinions. Although the 3 spats we’ve had have been rather spectacular as we’re both quite fiery people, we have such a mutual respect that we don’t allow it to linger. We express things openly and honestly, ensure we’ve resolved it, finish on a hug and move on, with a tendency to start laughing about it a day or two later. Our relationship I can only imagine can be likened to a marriage and i have been known to share that if Nat was a man then I’d want to marry her! She has been my confidant, my wingman and has helped me to develop in more ways than one, giving me advice when I’ve needed it or teaching me to stay in the moment when I drift off into projecting and planning my life. Without any question, I can safely say that this row would not have been the same by far without Nats in it. She has taught us to stay in the moment, to savour the experiences and to draw on humour when you least expect it.I can’t imagine ever having rowed this ocean without her and I can’t imagine now never having her in my life as a true friend.

I’ve given a short summary of each of the girls in this team, but I know I’m not great at expressing in words the true emotion that I feel. To Nats, Ems, Izz, Lizanne and Meg, thank you for making this row a reality, thank you for making this the most memorable journey and experience of my life.

On a beautiful, tranquil sunrise this morning, having finished narrating the film Notebook to Megs on the oars, I was suddenly nearly thrown off my seat by what felt like a punch to the side of the head. Slightly dazed, Megs thought I’d hit myself with my oar, but alas, the pungent smell of fish, the scales left on one side of my face and the fat flying fish the size of a small bird, laid out cold on the deck, was all evidence to show that I had received the best hit to the face of this whole row. Normally the fish flounder on the deck for a good couple of minutes, but I think my head was like hitting a concrete wall for this little one.

Otherwise great news that our batteries are charging up nicely thanks to our Solbian solar panels and the help from Victron. We are remaining careful with our usage though so that we ensure all essential equipment can be used and charged effectively on the boat all the way to Cairns. So still some handpumping of the manual water maker until the final couple of days. To think, this time next week we will hopefully be with our families, have showered, slept in a clean bed, be wearing clean clothes and have eaten a feast of food! So excited!



  1. Jim Andrews says:

    Another great insight into your relationships on board and a hint at your excitement building, toward your triumphant arrival in Cairns. You obviously have a huge respect for each other and it is a nice thought, that this unique experience has created such strong friendships. The disagreements will fade into the distance with time and were probably born of frustration and lack of personal space. It is good that you have the maturity to clear the air and put it behind you.
    It seems quite insane that I have been following you for all this time, I have written shed loads of stuff, can’t even remember, what I have typed, past yesterday. You have become a big part of my life for the past 9 months and I really think I will feel quite sad when this journey ends. I have been concerned when your blogs have been delayed, and fearful for your safety. I was also conscious of how the Doldrums dragged you down and wondered how difficult it would be to climb back on Doris. Like Meg, the sharks were a concern too. I am so proud of you Great British girls, you have been through the mill, you have overcome all challenges and you are soon to be entered into the history books as the “Coxless Crew” conquerors of the Pacific ocean. Stay safe. XX

  2. Simon TY says:

    Day 70. I am stuck in a 29 ft room listening to a Company Director drone on. I have no idea what he he talking about ( epitaxy….. Yup look it up yourselves).

    There is a strong NW wind and however hard I try I am no closer to Cairns. I am sick and tired of two hours working, two hours daydreaming and am worn out. This morning I thought I was down to my last week of food, far worse, the fridge will have to be replenished soon. Thankgoodness the taps are still working. There is no sun to recharge my batteries at the moment and the nights are cold. I have been sleeping in the same bed for almost nine months, hardly six foot across.

    Little wildlife today, no whales or sharks, just blue tits, and obviously blown off course, one Robin.

    CNN are showing no interest in my travails, and Kylie is not returning my calls. I am working on my documentary Losing Sight of Sanity. No one follows my blog. Worse than that I now discover Laura has a wife. Some bloke called Keeff told me to get a grip and Tone said he would be a Great Uncle before I made any progress.

    Update: it has been another hard day. I am now 9400 nm from Cairns. I have seen no coral reefs today and have not been chased by sharks or hit across the face by a wet fish. Onwards and downwards

  3. JG says:

    It has become a habit for me this blogposting thing and I hope that in some way it has helped if only to fill in a little time whilst you read them, Certainly I have benefitted from all your posts and will have to find something else to replace them. That will be hard in terms of interest and riveting excitement.

    Natalia is clearly the glue that has stuck the team together throughout all this, Although we haven’t had the detailed minute by minute account of your relationships as the days passed we have had enough snippets to form a pretty good idea of who does what in terms of keeping things going.

    I look forward to the book that I hope you will all write. You have so much to contribute for sailors, adventurers, scientists and just ordinary folk like me.

    Just checked the position at 182000(Z)Jan and see that you are a mere 145 nms from Cairns.

    Not long now and I expect you will be seeing more activity around the Reef Zone. Helicopters, tourists, pontoons and then there’s the wild life. Sea snakes ! That brings back bad memories for me.

    Keep going girls, keep smiling and above all keep safe.

  4. Ray Penhaul says:

    Over the last few months these amazing blogs have really kept Babs and I sane because to us when one appears you know like Jim says the girls are safe, yes we get emails and occasional phone calls from Laura but the blogs are our safety net. The other aspect of these blogs is of course the comments and there are people out there who write daily comments as if the girls are their daughters, which I think is truly wonderful, rightly or wrongly there are three men who have never let us down and I feel as Laura’s Dad I must give these guys a mention as the row comes to an end and I will do that by comparing them each to one of the girls. Without doubt you Simon are a mix of Meg and Natalia, always upbeat with a great sense of humour, JG has to be Emma because I imagine JG to be practical and focused and of course Jim whom I likened to Laura the guy whose comments are so caring just like our girl. Babs and I and I am sure the other parents will all agree you three men along with everyone else have genuinely given to us without realising it so much support. Thank you so much. I would if you were ladies put XXX but I can’t so instead it’s !!!

    • Ray Penhaul says:

      Babs quite rightly pointed out that there are two other girls that I left out which I feel really bad about, it was just seeing the three musketeers had replied to the blog one after the other that I responded spontaneously so really sorry. If I thought before I wrote then having likened Meg and Natalia to Simon to me Izzy would be akin to JG again a practical stalwart and Lizanne would be akin to Jim because in our eyes she is so much like Laura. Having been told off quite rightly by Babs then if Sarel, Adri, John and Jean would like to request Babs belts me around the left ear please let her know.

  5. Adri says:

    We would also like to thank the above mentioned gents. Thank you for your continuous support, humour and encouragement. You feel like close family to us. We will miss your company post-Doris. We hope to meet you soon. Much love, Sarel+Adri van Vuuren

  6. JG says:

    Thank you for kind comments but the benefit is all mine.

    It has been a privilege to be transported by the girl’s blogposts and to be allowed to follow their lead in the dialogue each time.

    My only reservation was the inability to able to edit my errors after pressing the ‘submit’ button. Pretty pathetic to need that when you consider the faultless posts created by the Crew in their ‘office on a trampoline’!

    Six great gladiatrices, strong, brave and cunning, and on the cusp of making history. This of course is not an exclusively British achievement because an integral part of the Team is that delightful burst of sunshine from South Africa, Lizanne van Vuuren.

    So, again, thank you all.

  7. sally says:

    It is so true that the comments have frequently been as enjoyable as the actual blogs and have at times had us chuckling away. I would like to also express our deepest gratitude for the support, not only to our girls but to the parents also. The humour and insightful comments have been a welcome tonic. Heading now with Ray, Bab’s and Wendy to Cairns we will finally be ready and waiting for our girl’s imminent arrival.
    Thanks again, Sally and Michael

  8. Esther B says:

    I too have been following the girls since day one, and by default Jim, Simon and JG! All the blogs and comments have been wonderful and really made it feel like we are all in this together. We have experienced the highs and lows with the girls and now that “we” are so close to the end, I am feeling excited and sad all at the same time! I really don’t know what I’ll do on my lunch break every day once this is all over!

    What can you see now you are getting closer to Cairns girls? Are there boats full of scuba diving tourists?! More wildlife? Let us know when you can see land! With lots of love xxx

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