Archive for June, 2015

Day 48 – Rowing is my happy place (and the answers to the quiz)

Emma Mitchell By

Day 48 – Rowing is my happy place (and the answers to the quiz)

I started rowing at Marlow Rowing Club when I was 15 and have pretty much been rowing ever since. Before starting this row I declared that rowing was my happy place and I would enjoy being on the oars more than in the cabin. This has almost always been the case. It is regatta season back at home right now and for the first time in many years I am not spending my weekends competing at Dorney lake or Henley and am instead rowing a very different kind of boat in very different conditions. Yesterday I was wearing my Marlow rowing Lycra on the oars and thinking about the differences between river rowing and ocean rowing….


The first and very obvious difference is in the boats. In river rowing we race in nice light sculls which you can pick up and carry on your shoulder. Doris weighs over a tonne and requires either a travel lift or a slipway and some careful trailer manoeuvring to get her on the water. Doris moves slowly and feels heavy when in still water and only comes into her own when surfing big waves. After rowing in waves the size of 4 storey buildings and being constantly soaked in sea water I will never again complain about choppy water on the Bristol Docks, wind over stream on the river at Marlow or Henley or getting splashed by a certain doubles partner! Having said that a sculling boat goes fastest on flat water and I’m excited to get back in a boat where it feels like effort put in results in more boat speed rather than being at the mercy of the tide, currents and wind.

Technique gets you a long way in river rowing. Getting your catches in quickly and perfectly in time can win you a race and posture, balance and finesse are the aims for every session. On Doris especially in big waves like those we are experiencing today technique is some what overrated. Sometimes the water is there and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes you manage to stay in time and sometimes a wave grabs your oar and either almost ejects you from the front of the boat or jams you in the stomach, knee or shin. In ocean rowing keeping your oars as high off the water as possible is a good thing. I think I am well suited to ocean rowing. Several coaches have previously told me my slow catches make it look like I stop for a cup of tea. In Doris drinking tea on the oars is one of life’s pleasures especially on a night shift.


Steering a river rowing boat can be done by two methods. The easy one for the rowers is to get a cox to steer. The harder option is for one of the rowers to steer either using the oars or a rudder connected to one rowers shoe. There are plenty of nightmares to be had about not hitting the booms at Henley or hitting the cross harbour ferry on the Bristol docks. On Doris we also have two steering options. The first is our Raymarine autopilot which can either hold us on a bearing or navigate us to a waypoint we have entered on our chart plotter. This is the very easy method and all we have to do is row and keep an eye on our course over ground to ensure we are travelling on the course Tony has set. When rowing in adverse winds or currents as happened for the first 35 days out of Santa Barbara and moving too slowly for the autopilot we move the rudder using a hand held line which we can jam in place. This works well but can sometimes lead to levels of frustration similar to bouncing around your lane at Dorney rather than holding a straight course.

When you want to communicate with other boats on a river you tend to shout at them. When turning the boat around at the end of a lake or section of river there is the chance to sit next to another boat for a chat and a following coaching launch can shout instructions to you. However on the Pacific we talk to other boats using our VHF radio. At 3am this morning I was woken up by a call from a boat called Mokihana who had been following our journey and wanted to say hello. They had hoped to cross paths with Doris but ended up 13 miles away so couldn’t actually see us but it was amazing to speak to someone when we are 900 miles from the nearest landfall who knew who we were and what we were doing. They’ll be making the return trip from Long Beach to Hawaii in about 8 days time and hope to get a bit closer then.

So far since we have left San Francisco we have rowed over 2000nm and each rowed for over 700 hours. I reckon this adds up to at least one summers worth of rowing already and we haven’t even made it to our first stopover yet! Here’s hoping that rowing will still be my happy place by the time we get to Cairns!

Answers to the Coxless quiz below…

1) Nat is the one with many accents although a lot of them are very silly. I find it really hard not to end up speaking back to her in my own ridiculous accent every time we are on shift together.

2) I have to admit that it was me who lost my Tupperware overboard in a butterfingers moment. I also managed to throw Laura’s mug away when trying to be really nice and wash it up for her.

3) Laura and Izzy are the two who can’t dress themselves at night. At any low moment I only have to think of watching through the hatch door as Laura tried desperately to get her head through her leggings while Nat watched and it makes me giggle.

4) Nat is the one with the bizarre food tastes. In the last few days she has taken to adding protein shake to almost everything she eats.

5) Izzy is definitely both the one who sings the most and the most tunefully. The prize for the least tuneful rendition of a song probably goes to Miss Penhaul and Miss Cohen’s version of Titanium!

6) Laura is our biggest wildlife fan and I haven’t ever heard someone use the same noise you would associate with calling a cute puppy to calling a 45ft whale or a shark.

7) Laura – Freddie, Emma – Shaun, Nat – Sally and Izzy – Bono

8) Izzy is the team member who is most offended by the footwell.

9) Nat has the most ridiculously tanned hands although all of our arms are catching up now that we have some sun so we are slowly looking less silly.

10) It was Nat and I who got a faceful of water through the port hatch. We are now both too scared to open it and just suffer the sweatiness. LP is still the bravest with opening it so I predict she will be next!


Day 47- Introducing our famous peanut to the world

Laura Penhaul By

Day 47- Introducing our famous peanut to the world

Those of you that read our day 41 blog from Nats would have been enlightened to some of the physical issues we are experiencing whilst out at sea. Knowing that there are a few fellow ocean rowers planning to tackle the Atlantic later this year, I thought I’d drop down a few top physio tips on how to keep some niggles at bay…

1) top of the list is without a doubt ensuring that you do not leave without having a ‘peanut’ on board. The peanut is unfortunately not of the edible kind, however its uses are multifactorial and unlike anything else ocean rowing related, it’s inexpensive! Simply tape 2 tennis balls together and hey presto, you have a functioning peanut. Uses: – mobilise your thoracic spine (part of your spine between your shoulder blades) by lying flat onto it, so that it presses into the muscles either side of your spine. Whilst lying on it, reach your arms up and over your head, or work your ribs by taking deep breaths and long exhalations, or rotate side to side at one level of your spine. Gradually shift your body along the peanut, spending approx. 1min on each level of your spine.
– trigger point release. When the outer part of your hips get tight you can lie on your side on the peanut so it applies pressure on the tight areas. When your shoulders get tight, you can lie again on your side, but so the peanut is applying pressure on the muscles in your shoulder blade. – replacement foam roller. With lack of space aboard Doris for a foam roller, the peanut does just the job, if not in my opinion it gets in a bit deeper and therefore is even better. Tend to use it in this manner along the outside of the quad to release it from the ITB and also in the calf. If you bend your knee in and out or flex your ankle up and down respectively, whilst lying on the peanut, you’ll get a good affect on the hip or calf. – throw and catch. If all else fails and you don’t use it, you’ve now got 2 tennis balls on the boat to play throw and catch with your team mates or make into ‘Wilson 1’ and ‘Wilson 2’ (from Castaway) to hold off insanity.

2) Pullum Sports resistance band (I’d suggest red as you can double it up). This is x10 or more of the strength of black theraband so don’t bother with that stuff, it’s also much more robust. Uses: -Conditioning. Because you’re not walking around and don’t have any ground reaction force for your muscles to be working against, you will atrophy (muscle waste) those muscles that are not being used.The band can be used to do isometric holds (sustained resisted contraction) for your hips to at least keep some activity in your hip rotators (part of your glute/derrière muscles). Also if experiencing shoulder impingement due to rolling forwards too much, then again sustained, resisted shoulder rotation can be effective. – Stretching aid. To add additional resistance to a stretch or help gain that extra range of movement you need.

3) Stretch. Ideally after every rowing session I would target the following key areas:
– hip flexors
– quads
– hamstrings
– glutes
– thoracic spine & ribs with rotation – anterior chest/ shoulders – wrist/forearm This is often done out on the oars but can also be done in the aft cabin if your team mate allows you to use the space. If I had to target just 2 areas because of time, then I’d go hip flexors and thoracic spine for me, but these are the areas I have issues which may not be the same for all.

4) tendon gliding for ‘claw hand’. This mobilises the tendon along the sheath that it runs in. When the hand starts to adopt the claw like position, then mobilising the tendon and working the extensor tendons will create more balance.

5) self trigger point/ massage. When the claw hand starts to kick in, take 5mins pre and post row to get into your forearm and also the palm of your hand.

6) talcum powder and sudocrem. You can’t have enough of it. Talcum powder I learnt when doing triathlons, that it was a great trick to have talc in your bike shoes and trainers in transition so that you don’t spend time drying your feet or risking blisters when you run in wet shoes. So I brought this little gem to the boat by adding talc to our list and as you may be aware from the blogs, it has been the saviour of the derrières. Now Sudocrem too has multiple uses and is brilliant. I was fortunate to have less of an ‘angry bum’ than the others, I’m not sure how I got away with this, but certainly regular hygiene, strict routine of dry clothes off oars and the routine of: talc post row, sudocrem for pre row, I feel works.

7) SOS Rehydrate ( I can’t recommend this stuff enough. Just like you’d take rehydration salts if you were significantly dehydrated due to vomiting/ diarrhoea, this stuff has been made more palatable with no compromise to optimising the osmolarity for hydration. Sir Ben Ainslie used it the year he turned Americas Cup around and its recently been used on the Volvo Ocean Race as well as being integrated into many main stream sports. All I can say is that it works an absolute treat for us out here and I definitely notice a change in my alertness and productivity after having it.

8) heat management strategies. Keeping cool on a 29ft ocean rowing boat where there’s no where to hide from the sun, is a slight task that we are constantly problem solving best options, so far I have these:
– battery powered hand fans – wet your head band and then regularly remove and hold it to the wind so it cools the material and then re-apply. – put your wrists as far as your pulse points in the sea to cool. If fully overheating then get your whole body in, nothing like hitting all pulse points by a wee dip in the sea.
– keep well hydrated (as above)
– wear loose, light reflecting Clothing
-wear sun cream factor 50+. We use Rocky Mountain sunscreen and their face sticks which are brilliant. They were recommended to us from one of our Ambassadors Sarah Outen who is another fellow ocean rower.

Currently to date, these are a few tips that spring to mind and I’ll keep you updated with any additions as we progress. X

Personal messages:
Michelle – so lovely to hear your news hon, can’t believe my wee man Jack has started school and Big H is walking! Amazing news, time flies in the Robertson household!
David Bowes – what a great email to receive, thank you so much for your kind words and more importantly the inspiration of music on Doris. We do indeed have Louis Armstrong ‘what a wonderful world’ so we’ll play that and think of you as we sing along, certainly changing the words to suit our environment is a past time we regularly enjoy :).


Day 46 – Rowing By Numbers

Isabel Burnham By

Day 46 – Rowing By Numbers

As our journey continues and we inch closer to the Hawaiian Islands, it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid constantly thinking, discussing and dreaming about numbers. How many nautical miles have we travelled in the last 48 hours? How many more days will it take us to reach Honolulu if we can average a speed of 2 kts? How many more days of snack packs do we have left?
In keeping with this theme, I thought I would share some numbers with you.

0 – fish caught (this does not include squid and flying fish washing onto deck)

1 – Albert the albatross – our daily visitor and good luck charm

2 – starts – one from San Francisco on 20 April and one from Santa Barbara on 12 May following an unscheduled stop to resolve a problem with our battery charging system caused by water damage

3 – buckets on board – red bucket, black bucket, washing bucket

4 – boats seen in the last 3 weeks, all cargo ships

5 – girls on the Pacific – Izzy, Laura, Emma, Natalia and Doris

6 – majestic whales that swam alongside Doris on 18 June

7 – our top speed – 7.4kts reached surfing big waves

8 – times each crew member has called home since 20 April

9 – items of clothing currently hanging off Doris drying in the sun

10 – times we have listened to Nat’s cheesy RnB/HipHop playlist

13 – hair washes aboard Doris

16 – days at sea between San Francisco and Santa Barbara

17 – movies/books retold as entertainment for the other rower on the oars in a night shift: The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Hitch, Gladiator, Pride and Prejudice, Cool Runnings, The Proposal, Notting Hill, Braveheart, Les Miserables, The Holiday, Good Will Hunting, Forrest Gump, The Notebook, Top Gun, The Book Thief

46 – days at sea since we left Santa Barbara

62 – total days at sea

248 – 2000kcal snack packs consumed

283 – times we have boiled our Jetboil stove to make our freeze dried meals or hot drinks

348 – 2 hour shifts rowed by each rower since San Francisco

696 – times our alarm clock has gone off

750 – grams of of talcum powder used

1420 – nautical miles rowed since we left Santa Barbara (this value will differ slightly from that on our website as our onboard GPS tracks us continually while the Yellowbrick tracker which provides the data for our website polls every 4 hours)

1930 – nautical miles rowed since we left San Francisco

2784 – litres of water drunk

7926 – diameter of the Earth in miles

8446 – total number of miles Doris will travel from the USA to Australia

70300 – number you can text DORIS to (in the UK) to donate £3 to our amazing charities Walking With The Wounded and Breast Cancer Care


Day 45 – The Inspiration Wall

Natalia Cohen By

Day 45 – The Inspiration Wall

Update: – Less than 990 miles to go to Hawaii!! Yeeeehhhaaaaaa!
– We are all getting really dodgy tan lines!

As well as being the ‘entertainer’ aboard Doris, I am also the mindfulness monitor. I am responsible for ensuring that we all enjoy as many of the moments out here that we can, or at least reflect on the journey so far and find the time to think about daily highlights and lowlights, hopes and fears.
From time to time I’ll throw a random question out to the girls or suggest we do a body scan or just stop rowing and watch the orange globe sink behind the sea to end another day or drink in a star filled sky.

The one luxury we do have out here is time…and plenty of it. Time to be practical, ridiculous, to ponder, to reflect, to think and to stop thinking.
One of the ‘easy’ questions I’ve been asking the girls is, “what is the most important thing in life for you?”

I don’t have my definitive answer yet and apart from the usual replies of love, happiness, family, talc powder (!!) the one thing that stands out for me is that I have always made an effort in my life to enjoy the journey. During the different eras and experiences that I have had, apart from the natural beauty and energy of a place, the highlight for me has always been the people that I have met along the way.

Whether for a reason, a season or a lifetime, most of the people that have crossed my path have had an impact on my journey of life. Whilst having the time to recount all these personal life stories out here in the middle of the deep blue, I find myself following many of the names of a person who features in a story with,

“They’re on the wall”.


The wall being referred to is our ‘Buy A Mile inspiration Wall’. This is the ceiling of our fore cabin that is covered with the names of all our followers, family and friends. The names are all different sizes depending on how many miles a person has bought (£10 per mile and the more miles you buy, the bigger your name).

This wall of names is our inspiration, our drive, our motivation and for some of us, almost a condensed version of the people that have touched our lives and those we hope to still meet. I have been truly humbled and at times felt totally in awe of the support that we have received not only on a personal level from people that I know but also by the incredible generosity from random strangers as well as the friends and colleagues of the other girls.

We do not have words to express our deepest gratitude for your support and the money that has gone into Buy A Mile (BAM), has been instrumental to getting us here where we are today and will hopefully help us to complete this extraordinary expedition.
We are happy and honoured to not only have each of you in spirit, but also to have your name physically share in our long, arduous journey riding the waves of the mighty Pacific with us!

I can safely say that almost everyone that has touched my heart, features on the BAM wall and there is something quite magical about lying beneath it and drinking in all the love and support.
In difficult times, I know that this will be a great source of energy for me.

There will be many more BAM blogs to come from all of us over the coming months as we all have our own stories to share of friendships, inspiration, romance and insight gained by people that feature on the wall.
In the meantime, to those of you that are already travelling with us – THANK YOU, and to those that would still like to be part of the journey from Hawaii or from Samoa, we very much look forward to having you join us x



Day 44 – The Coxless Quiz!

Emma Mitchell By

Day 44 – The Coxless Quiz

It’s Coxless quiz time!

Life on Doris is mainly very repetitive interspersed with moments of pure hilarity, complete peace, grinning happiness and exhilaration. Excitingly we’ve had two consecutive days where we have travelled our furthest yet miles in the right direction. The sun is out and in comparison to the first half of this leg we are flying along towards Hawaii with high spirits amongst the team. We’ve been writing our daily blogs for over two months now and have hopefully given you a bit of an idea of what it’s like to live on a 29ft ocean rowing boat as well as an insight into our different personalities. As such I have put together some ‘who dunnit?’ questions for you our followers. See if you can guess which of us was involved in each of the situations described below. A mystery prize might be in store for the first person to get all 10 questions correct. Answers to follow in my next blog.

1) We get variety and entertainment in our day in a number of ways on board Doris. One of us has taken to speaking in a ridiculous accent at all times? Depending on the accent of the day this can either be hilariously funny or slightly annoying. Who is the one with many voices?

2) There are many perilous jobs on Doris especially in rough conditions including washing up but which one of us stupidly managed to throw their Tupperware overboard on the calmest day we’ve had?

3) Sleep deprivation is a funny thing and getting up for each night rowing shift is like being woken unceremoniously in the middle of the night and it takes us a while to wake up properly. Which two of us have got their heads stuck in the leg of their leggings when mistaking them for a top while getting ready for the night shift?

4) Food is a hot topic on Doris and when on the oars we are always checking what the other pair are eating on their off shift. It’s been a while and we’re starting to get a bit inventive with our meals. Which one of us mixed an all day breakfast with a beef curry for dinner but thought it was disgusting when another of us ate toffee pudding with apple and custard?

5) We all love a good singsong on the oars and are working on Coxless Crew the musical with a few hit numbers such as ‘Glamorous’, ‘ Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me’ and ‘I see you baby talcing that arse’. Some of us are more tuneful than others but which of us sings the most?

6) We are really lucky so far on our journey to have seen a lot of different wildlife. Which team member has a generic call she uses to attract all animals from household pets to whales, dolphins, birds and turtles?

7) We all have a piece of sheepskin to put on our seats while rowing and have each named them. They are called Bono, Shaun, Sally and Freddie. Can you guess which belongs to each crew member?

8) The footwell in the aft cabin has many uses including washing, jetboiling, making water and storing our kit at night to name a few? However the area also tends to collect water, hair, sweet wrappers etc which particularly upsets one team member. Who is it that hates the footwell the most?

9) Until a few days ago for the majority of the time the backs of our hands were the only parts of us exposed to the sun while the rest of us was wrapped up in wet weather gear, hats, buffs and glasses. We all have very brown hands but who has the most tanned hands?

10) The last few days has seen a shift in conditions on Doris from cloudy and cool to hot and sunny. As such our cabin has turned into a very sweaty sauna. One way to let in some air is to open the port hatch a little. In the last couple of days two rowers have ended up with a faceful of seawater whilst doing this when an errant wave washed over the stern. Which rowers are in trouble with the hatch monitor? For a bonus point who is the hatch monitor?


Day 43 – The team behind Doris part 2

Laura Penhaul By

Day 43 – The team behind Doris part 2

In my Day 28 blog I mentioned about how there are a certain few people back home that have and are making this journey special and that without them I have no doubt that we wouldn’t be here today.

The next influential person I want to introduce you to in more detail is our Sports Psychologist, Keith Goddard (Zeus Performance Psychology). Without a shadow of a doubt, Keith has been a rock to this project, the team and to me personally. He has contributed so much to this row, but unbelievably he has done it all in his own time and voluntarily. He has been significant in team selection, for our preparation to get to the start line, for our on the water scenarios, for individual coping strategies, for support to our families and so much more.

I know Keith through my work; Keith and I worked together at the London Paralympics 2012 with Paralympics GB. In this role Keith was working with all of the Paralympic staff/ support team to the athletes to aid our process of communication, understanding of one another and the various roles within the organisation, alongside facilitating ‘what if’ scenarios to ensure we were best prepared as a team going into the Games. We were just coming to the end of the holding camp prior to the London games starting and all the staff knew of my plans to row an ocean. Keith approached me and, for his sins, he kindly offered his services if I needed them. I am sure without doubt that poor Keith had no idea what he had in store for himself. I knew at the time that this row would be 90% mentally challenging and having seen how supportive and influential he had been with us at work, there was no hesitation how much his expertise would be an asset to our row. At the time, the row was only intended to have a 1 year prep time and 6 months at sea. 3.5 years later with delays due to team change, lack of sponsorship and finances, we finally reached the start after a number of hurdles were faced and overcome. Without question, if it wasn’t for Keith, I’m sure I would have questioned continuing forwards and making it to the start line.

So 3.5 years for Keith has encompassed; helping me to co-ordinate team selection (2 full weekends of his time for interviews, then a weekend with for army based sleep deprivation in the Brecons, plus hours of preparation for how to assess each applicant), once a month telephone or Skype conversations with each of the team members involved at that time, once a month full team meeting for a whole day (this usually resided in the Hare & Hounds Pub in Bath where the food is amazing and we could constantly feed Keith with lattes), once a month face to face when he could with each of us but certainly me throughout the time he’s been involved (often I’d meet him at 7am at Waterloo station or around 5pm before or after he had travelled up from Bath for work meetings). This is all pre-row preparations. While we’re now on the water, he’s meeting with Lizanne and Meg to facilitate their transition into the team and he liaises with our families and is a mediator as to whether negative news can be shared with us or not. He also sends us a daily quote and once a week he receives a team review from us.

Not for the first time, it makes me feel quite emotional to think of all this time, expertise, patience and shared belief in the row that Keith has volunteered. What’s worse is that so far I feel there is little we have done to return the gratitude we feel. Ideally we would have loved to get Keith out to Hawaii, not only to facilitate the transition of Lizanne swapping in from Izz, but it would also be a thanks to get him involved on the ground during the project. Unfortunately, the unexpected costs incurred in Santa Barbara have eaten into our contingency budget somewhat and with 2 more legs to go we haven’t been able to afford the cost of Keith’s flights. Skype however is a wonderful thing, so we will have to make do with learning about the Friday funky chicken dance and other quirky habits he has over Skype ;)!

There are very few Keith Goddards in this world and we are so lucky, humbled and proud to have him in our lives. Now we just need to get to Cairns so that a successful trip is a reflection on all his kind efforts. Thank you Keith. X


Day 42 – Here comes the sun

Isabel Burnham By

Day 42 – Here comes the sun

The last few days have finally brought us some warmer weather and some sunshine. We currently have the wind behind us and are surfing towards Hawaii. Doris moves beautifully through the waves. We’re so lucky to have her. A big hello and thank you to Cris and the team at Rossiter Yachts where she was built.

Everyone is enjoying the sun and is in high spirits. The Pacific looks beautiful in the bright light and we have been treated to some gorgeous sunsets and sunrises. The arrival of the sun means it’s all change aboard Doris as we switch our routines into summer mode. Doubtless it will only get hotter from now on, so we’d better start getting used to the new ways…..

Wardrobe: during the day, thermals are being put away and vest tops and shorts are making appearances, with long sleeve cover ups worn when the sun is too fierce. By night, a combination of the warmth and the reduced splash (as the swell is now following us rather than beam on) means that we are managing to keep our Crewsaver wet weather salopettes off, although we are usually still wearing the jackets as wind breakers. There is usually a consultation between those in the cabin about to emerge for their rowing shift and those on deck as to the optimal outfit for the conditions. Not wearing wet weather gear greatly reduces the time required to get ready to go out on deck, is more comfortable for rowing in and reduces the potential for Velcro-related trauma discussed in one of my previous blogs!

Water: our water consumption has gone up dramatically so we have our desalinator running for longer each day. We are all drinking more water in the hotter temperatures, often with added SOS Rehydrate rehydration salts. We each have Camelbak sports water bottles in holders out on deck to drink while we’re on the oars, as well as drinking in our breaks. The sunshine means that nearly every day is a good day for washing kit and Doris is now constantly draped with drying clothes. We also took the opportunity to all have another solar shower out on deck on Sunday and are all feeling much better for it.

Suncream: the suncream routine has started to take up a larger and larger part of our day. We apply and reapply our factor 50 suncream throughout the day and then use our lovely aftersun from Green People once it is cooler and before the night shifts start. Our panda eyes and life jacket tan lines are coming along nicely.

Cabin: the cabin is getting hot, hot, HOT! We have the hatches shut when we’re not moving in and out to prevent any water coming in, so it gets very toasty. Ironically, it is the rowers doing the work on the oars who are cooler in the breeze and the pair having their rest in the cabin who are sweating. We have stowed the sleeping bags away and are now only using our Sea to Summit silk sleeping bag liners at night.

Food: our hearty hot expedition meals which were previously such a comfort when we were wet and cold now bring us out in food sweats and consequently take a lot longer to eat. One bonus of the sun is that we can use it to heat up the wet rations that we have by leaving the foil packet on deck to get warm, rather than immersing it in boiling water. On the food front we had a big treat on Sunday when we ate an astronaut food cookies and cream ice cream sandwich that Claire Hammond from our sponsor Raymarine and her sons had kindly given to us. It was such a treat to eat something different and it really tasted like cookies and cream ice cream! Thanks so much to Claire and the boys.



Day 41 – Let’s get physical

Natalia Cohen By

Day 41 – Let’s get physical


  • We believe we have passed our half way mark! Woohhhoooooo!! We haven’t seen our miles made good table but by careful scrutiny of our chart plotter it certainly appears that way.
  • I officially went the longest I have ever gone without washing my hair! 40 days and 40 nights. It was washed yesterday whilst we had our second group shower on deck. Amazing!
  • It was a spectacular sunset, clear starry night and a sunrise that led to a day of prevailing wind and clear blue sky. LP and I woke from our rest shift at 10.15am dripping with sweat! The aft cabin was roasting. If it’s not too cold it’s too hot! Are we ever satisfied??! This is a taste of things to come, as from now on it’s just going to get hotter and hotter.
  • We had a great social hour today, where we all got out on deck and did some stretching led by LP.

image1 (6)

We would say that this journey is 90% mental but…

Maybe you’re interested in what is happening to us physically.
LP has collaborated with GSK to do research on what could possibly happen to us out here during an expedition of this type and length (more detailed, scientific info regarding the research pre, mid and post row to come on a later blog by LP).

In the meantime I thought I’d do a simple run down in layman’s terms on what the last 41 days has brought.

In order to have the necessary extra reserves, we all had to put on between 7-12kg, increase our fat percentage and gain substantial muscle mass before beginning the row. This programme was drawn up by the amazing Alex Wolf (Strength & Conditioning Coach) in conjunction with LP.

Whether from the cramped conditions during the rest periods or the 12 hours of rowing that we do daily, here is some of the physical symptoms we have been experiencing:

Muscle soreness
– Tired/aching legs
– Stiff neck, back and shoulders – general stiffness in the body as we are mainly hunching, crouching or crawling around the aft cabin when we are not rowing.

Joint pain
– Claw Hand is probably the worst ailment for some of us. Every time we wake from a 2 hour rest shift, our hands have seized up. LP says that this is tendon related as well and has given us tendon gliding exercises to do (she can explain more about this). Getting dressed can be a little bit of a challenge as well as the first 10 or so strokes on the oars before we get warmed up.

– Seat bone pain is an issue for some. We are spending an usually large time sitting and for some with more pronounced seat bones or less ‘padding’, this has started to cause discomfort. We have a variety of different seat options to try and help with this problem but for some, getting out on the oars for a 2 hour row shift is just a pain in the arse!

Muscle wasting – Most of the amazing muscles that we had when we launched…have sadly disappeared.
This was expected but personally I never knew how quickly it would happen.
If you don’t use it, you lose it, so as we are only using a very select group of muscles out here, the others are wasting. Again, LP will go into more detail regarding this and all the varying exercises we need to do to ensure that we stay as conditioned as we can given the unique environment we are living in.

Other – The strangest things are happening to our nails! They have white marks beginning to run down from the nail toward the cuticle. Possible calcium deficiency but they seem to be improving somewhat the drier we remain. –

Hands – we’re not doing too badly here. We all have nice calluses developing on both hands at the base of our index, middle and ring fingers. These are rock solid and make putting suncream on our own faces and bodies an interesting process as it feels terrible!

– Skin This has been constantly peeling/flaking away on our hands and on some people’s feet. This makes clothes washing interesting as all our relatively clean clothes are covered in our dead skin from our hands as we wring them out before drying!
We need to be careful to maintain good hygiene routines to help prevent fungal and bacterial infections which are a constant risk with the wet conditions. I fear that this may increase the further west we travel and the hotter and more humid the weather becomes.

– Bums – Angry bum has already been mentioned and we’re happy to report that since we have been drier this has improved dramatically. There can still be issues with chaffing and we need to be aware that the situation with angry bum can revert quickly as soon we are getting splashed again and have to move back into our wet weather gear all the time!

– Sleep deprivation

– Sun damage

Once again…it’s fascinating to see what we usually take for granted…
Standing straight on solid ground
Being still
Having the space and capacity to exercise, stretch, and work all areas of the body and have a variety of movement…

Regardless of the adverse conditions we find ourselves in here on Doris, in the middle of the almighty Pacific, it is truly amazing to witness first hand how adaptable the body actually is.
I have no doubt there will be more physical challenges ahead…but together, as a team, we will share, face and overcome them x


Day 40 – Row time, nap time, row time, nap time…

Emma Mitchell By

Day 40 – Row time, nap time, row time, nap time…

Beep beep, beep beep! Beep beep, beep beep! Probably my least favourite sound on Doris is the sound of the alarm waking us up after a far too short sleep ready for another shift on the oars. So much so that I regularly hear it in my dreams and wake up in a panic thinking we are late getting ready. Sleep deprivation seems to confuse me a lot and I have woken all of the other girls up multiple times thinking we need to rush and get ready only to be told to go back to sleep. Poor LP got woken up by me twice last night and is probably glad we have swapped pairs again today.

The alarm triggers an automatic reflex to put our heads back under the sleeping bag and fall back asleep and it is with great reluctance that we start getting ready. Trying to leave the lights off for as long as possible and dress by the glow of the chart plotter we attempt to put as many clothes on as possible without sitting up or leaving the sleeping bag. Putting on leggings in a sleeping bag is a skill we have all developed. Once thermal layers are on it is time to take a deep breath, extract ourselves from the sleeping bag and reach for the wet weather gear. This usually requires switching on the lights to identify who’s is who’s and therefore is accompanied by squinting and groaning. If the wet weather gear is dry this is not too painful. When it is sodden from the previous shift it makes me want to cry. Finally socks, shoes and life jackets have to be put on before exiting into the cold night air. The person in the front rowing seat gets a 10-15min show at the end of their shift watching this performance. It is comical to watch as what seems like getting ready quickly inside the cabin looks painfully slow from outside. Often a person will sit looking at an item of clothing or shoe for a good 10 seconds before figuring out what to do with it. Conversation is usually limited to ‘here’s your jacket’, ‘can you pass my socks’ and ‘thanks’ as we drag ourselves slowly into wakefulness. Occasionally exhaustion gives way to mild hysteria as someone gets stuck in their jacket or gets their head stuck in the leg of their leggings trying to put them on as a top.

Once on the oars we have a variety of strategies for staying awake. On a clear, starry night 2 hours passes quickly with the beautiful scenery. When we are battling with wind and waves this acts as a distraction. However there are also plenty of shifts where I struggle to keep my eyes open and stare longingly into the cabin where the other two are sound asleep. I swear I have actually sleep rowed before waking up with a start with no memory of the previous 20 minutes. The dawn dance helps as does telling stories but the best part of any night shift is re-entering the warm cabin and getting into the sleeping bag ready for another nap. Remembering to set the alarm before we snooze, the cycle starts again.