Talofa Samoa!

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The team arrived in Apia, Samoa at 8.40pm UK time on Sunday 1st November.  After 96 days at sea since departing Hawaii, Laura, Emma, Natalia and Lizanne have stepped ashore and are celebrating the end of a long and arduous but highly successful second leg of their Pacific row journey.  More blog updates will follow from Samoa over the next few days while the team resupply Doris and Meg joins them replacing the lovely Lizanne for the final leg to Cairns, Australia.  Thank you so much for your support on the way in to Samoa and throughout.

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Leg 2, Day 96 – blog of the armchair psychologist!

UPDATE:
Under 30 miles to go!! We can smell Samoa…
Wooohoooooo! 

Today’s guest blog comes from the wonderful Keith Goddard, our team psychologist.  Thanks Keith!

Blog of the armchair psychologist

It seems a long time ago that Laura and the crew wrote a blog about me (Day 43 June 25th) and a lot of water has passed under the ‘boat’ since then! At the time it was lovely to hear how much the guys valued the work we have done together, for me, reading such things always makes me feel slightly uncomfortable! So asking me to write a blog about ‘me’ I think is just plain revenge for all the tasks I asked of the girls over the years! Not to mention the ‘review’ emails despatched from my sofa whilst they are on the water! Nice one girls, like what you did there!

Blog 43 highlighted how and when I got involved so I won’t bore you with that again here. Needless to say it seems like a long time ago.

For those of you who don’t know already I’m Keith Goddard (@ZeusLtd) the team psychologist. By background for those of you who are interested I’m both an Occupational Psychologist and a Sport & Exercise Psychologist. The combination of which probably makes me reasonably qualified to work on a project such as this. Which really is three projects: getting the boat on the water (long project!), keeping the boat on the water (getting longer project!!), life after Doris (who knows how long project!). More of all that in a while.

So apart from professional credentials, why did I get involved? Well as you’d expect from a psychologist’s answers generally, it’s not simple but not complex either. The not simple part is that there are sooooo many reasons why you would get involved in something like this, the not complex piece – well it’s interesting and it’s there, oh and it’s not simple! The uniqueness of the challenge was an obvious hook for me, I was, I have to say intrigued by people wanting to spend so long in a bath tub (sorry Doris) with three other people for months (now I’m a fan of ‘celebrity get me out of here’, but this expedition takes things up a notch – clearly there are other reality shows available on other channels!). I could have looked at partnering with an Atlantic crossing crew, but one, the opportunity hadn’t arisen, and two, well the Atlantic, really?! (“sorry” to all those that have done such an enormous challenge!). The fact that the crew had not ventured into ocean rowing really appealed too. (The me bit…) It reminded me of when I applied to do the Marathon des Sables and people asked “Have you ran a marathon?” Keith: “Errm, no. But why would I bother with a marathon when I could do six across the desert!” So when I heard Laura’s idea and story, clearly it was going to get my attention! As we chatted in the early stages it became clear that it was going to be somewhat of a unique challenge from an applied psychology perspective, the skills required to plan, organise, lead, fund and create interest in getting the boat to the start line were going to be quite different from those required to keep the boat, the individuals and the team together whilst on the water. Before that we have to get 4-6 willing volunteers!! Post Doris’ adventure, well that’s another story!

At that point there were no charities involved, so the interesting turn of events that has partly kept me so involved for this long was the choice of charities. Having at a very early age lost my mum to breast cancer the choice of BCC resonated with me and seemed fortuitous, being ex-military from many years ago, WWTW also chimed. But I have to say whilst these gave me extra resolve to help get the boat on to the water, it was the resolve of Laura and the clear passion and focus for what she was trying to do that also kept me in the project. Then came Emma, different but of equal resolve to push the project forward. Many others that have come and gone along the way. Then came Nat and Izzy who individually brought different dimensions to the already different crew! Then more latterly Lizanne and Meg, again two very different characters to each other and to the rest of the others. And so began the next challenge – keeping a crew of different characters ‘rowing in sync’ in getting the boat (still not called Doris at this point!) on the water, and then being able to switch mode to keep the boat – sorry, Doris – on the water. I recall the frequent conversations in the early stages: do we go for the same types of people, all different, or a bit of both! These were interspersed with conversations about ideal row routines/shifts, sleep patterns, project management skills, career chats, team effectiveness, leadership, corporate engagement…..the list goes on! All of which served to confirm that the project was complex in its whole, as well as considering simple things like recruiting and developing the crew to be effective at managing boredom whilst maintaining key critical boat routines (should have recruited a Barnacle Bill!). What has always been against us is time and money! But that’s probably a different story or blog!

So what do I do? A question many people ask, sometimes with a wry small on their face (or a step back when they hear the word psychologist!), to get the full picture you may need to read the book when it comes out! But here’s the abridged version….I’d probably pause, go and make yourself a cuppa/glass of wine (clearly as long as it is within your weekly allowance for a healthy lifestyle!).

As a ‘performance psychologist’ I work on the basis that behaviour or performance derives from a combination of the ‘person’, the ‘role’ and the ‘environment’. So the starting point is getting clarity and establishing a deep and broad understanding of each of those three elements. The less obvious factor in here is ‘team’. As mentioned above, time and money were a challenge throughout, so planning was crucial. Having done some basics on planning and organising (I am known as the planning tyrant!) with Laura and the crew, I suggested that having a look at ‘best year yet’ may help the guys in running the project. Tick, one less thing off my list, delegation! One of my key principles as a practitioner and especially for this project was striving to create self-sufficiency and sustainability for the crew as a team and as individuals. So if I don’t hear too often from the girls on the water, I’ve generally done my job before they got on the boat (if they’ve done their homework!)! However, as some of the crew will probably tell you out of my ear shot, this generally meant me not giving them the answer, but the tools and questions to ask to get the answer for themselves! How very frustrating – yep! Think I may have over played that card at times: ‘Keith – we just need you to tell us what to do here!’ was heard more frequently at the start of the project and way way less before Doris and her cargo set sail. Testament to the girls’ ability to take ideas and tools and make them work for them.  Underpinning much of the later work, especially when we had a full crew, or the first full crew (another story!), was team values (SPIRIT). For me this was going to be key to getting the boat on the water but way more importantly, keeping the boat on the water, and in fact one was great preparation and practice for the other. So we discussed an approach to developing a set of team values and what they should look like in order for them to work – developing green and red behaviours against each of the values. We know values create how it ‘feels’ to be around people or in a culture (or in a pink bath tub (sorry Doris!) bobbing around in the big blue sea), but they need to be lived, practiced and people need to be called out on them, rather than the values just sitting on a piece of paper. Hopefully the girls are living the SPIRIT whilst together!

One of the key difficulties was consistency of crew members and getting the ‘right’ people – see earlier comment (same/different; motivated & able etc.). But actually, as the amount of conversations we had around this proves, just finding people that want to do something as way-out as rowing an ocean, never mind the Pacific, is a challenge in itself. This is before we get to ‘can they do it’ and also do I want to spend 6 months plus in a pink bath tub (sorry again Doris, oh and she still wasn’t pink at that point!) with them. We had a number of false starts at getting people into a potential crew and over the years some of these came and went for various reasons. It has been interesting to see this unfold; you are looking for quite a specific ‘animal’ to complete this challenge, a bit like hens teeth! Right time of life, right time in career, relationships, able to financially support themselves (on bread and water at times I’m sure!), want to be at sea for a significant period, be in a potentially hostile environment, the list goes on and this was largely made worse by the lack of major financial sponsorship and the associated certainty the project was a goer. So back to consistency! Whilst I guided the guys in getting a good process in place to recruit potentials and help them with what they should be looking for and how to measure this in selection, it was ‘personality’ where I had a lot of input. We used the NEO PIR as our personality measure of choice, seen as the gold standard tool to measure accurately personality traits. I’ve been using this for years and know how predictive it is and how insightful it can be. We had a core set of criteria that we looked at everyone on and fed that into the overall mix for selection. In the early stages selection was mainly looking at these core criteria, further into the project we then used NEO to consider team fit for later potential recruits, as we already had crew members in place. So similar or different debate again?! Personality is not everything, a person’s values, experience, expertise and intellect all combine to make the ‘person’, and these were all added to the mix for selection. After an initial filtering selection centre (where self-deselection was a key factor) we also threw into the mix a bit of ‘stress testing’ the potential crew members, both to look at them individually under endurance conditions, including sleep deprivation, and also how they integrated into a team. Thanks to Martin and Matt at Fieri for providing the Brecon Beacons experience! Again self-deselection was key here.

As well as for team selection we used NEO extensively for individual development and for team development, initially to raise awareness, but then to deepen individual and team development. It gives a window into how someone might behave in a given context (role & environment). The team all shared their own questionnaires with each other and this both increases and accelerates awareness of self and others, but as importantly the act of sharing very personal information builds trust, which is crucial to this type of challenge. It also reinforces and embeds the team values. We also used ‘hot button’ exercises for the same reason. I worked individually with the girls on identifying and then developing areas we thought might be key to their individual performance leading up to the row but also whilst on the water. Effective team working and leadership were a key focus to getting the boat on the water and this was also a good practice ground for the skills that would also be needed on the water. However, there were other more specific skills that would be needed for the crew to cope personally with the extraordinary challenge they were about to embark on. So we tried to focus much of the individual development and skills into one point of reference: PESs as they are attractively known! Each of the crew’s Performance Enhancing Strategies (PESs) are their own personal ‘tool kit’. These look at the range of ‘states’ they may need to be in at different points in the day, the week, the stage, and the row overall. For example, how does someone relax quickly enough to get to sleep after a gruelling roller coaster of a 2 hour shift on the oars, equally how do they quickly wind themselves up to get themselves to quickly perform on the oars after sleep and being woken in the middle of the night! Also when people may not be at their emotionally strongest, how do they bring themselves back to a place of personal strength. In order to be effective in these states/zones; a range of strategies have been developed, all tailored to the individual’s preferences and needs. For example, learning to breath correctly and using it to arouse/de-arouse oneself is a basic must have! Not to mention it being the one thing we can control the majority of the time (aah the old ‘controlling the controllables!’). More specific tools are: generally a large, broad and varied music collection; a vivid and eclectic range of images (static and motion); the ability to be in the moment regardless of what is happening around you; the various positive mental scripts and thought reframing for the range of negative messages you might have in your head and be talking to yourself with; using touch stones that have high emotive relevance to us (for me my wedding ring when completing the MdS was a key touch stone, which got me through painful days (I lost 5 toe nails!) in +40C temperatures!). These are just some of the strategies that the crew will have individually developed prior to the row (don’t forget GSOH and also a smattering of optimism! – which they all have in spades!!). But then they will have refined their PESs into Hawaii based on their learning in leg 1 of which were or were not working, and are probably reviewing during the current tough phase to ensure they are effective for leg 3. Reflection, both individual and team, is key on a challenge of this sort. For those who like to know the science/evidence base of such strategies we used CBT, mindfulness, imagery & visualisation, many stress management techniques (e.g. STOP & BOPP), arousal control, self-efficacy development, individual motivational needs, realistic preview (What ifs), reflective practice, team cohesion (task and social), team effectiveness, conflict management, problem solving. I could go on but probably for another time!

Whilst on the water my role is slightly different to pre row. Essentially if Tony is ‘Uncle Tone’ then I must be ‘Auntie Keif’! Joking aside whilst fortunately we do not need to talk too often, myself and Tony are the crew’s first port of call (sorry for the pun!) if they need guidance or support. Tony being the key contact having frequent and regular contact with the girls to keep the boat going in the right direction; my role I guess is to support the girls individually and collectively to keep the inside of the boat rowing in the right direction. Another aspect is that we have developed clear communication plans for each of the crew and their families, so if quick critical decisions need to be made there is generally no doubt in who should be talking to whom and who decides what and when! Some of this is also liaising with Carver PR.  So in some respects I perform a communication buffer/conduit as well as being another pair of eyes on critical practical decisions that may have an impact on the crew or families; it also frees Tony up to get on and do the practical stuff rather than worrying and spending time ensuring everyone is in the loop. But on a more regular basis I keep in touch with the guys and monitor how they are doing generally and help them work through any specifics that may crop up (we have a weekly review system that’s a bit like a barometer). Support can be as simple as regular email contact (daily quotes to keep their calendar metronome in sync and also as a motivational lift, and obviously so they don’t think they have escaped from my wittering!), to helping them work up their plans pre and post transitions through Hawaii and Samoa (not forgetting StB) – planning tyrant here again, did I tell you about ‘planning for the worst and hoping for the best’?!

Key to the progress of the boat and transitions has been working with Lizanne and Meg to try and get them up to speed with the prep the rest of the crew have had! An accelerated programme for them both, but without the added developing together and bonding time the crew has had – tough gig for them in the lead up to joining the crew with limited personal contact with the girls ahead of leaving SF. Skype is a wonderful thing! However, I did miss my 7am free Lattes (payment in kind!) and lovely lunches at the Hare and Hounds with the whole team, but needs must when you’re on a tight time frame.  It was working with Lizanne and Meg that you suddenly realise how much work the crew has done to prepare themselves for the row and how many assumptions there are that need to be made explicit for Liz and Meg. Lizanne had the additional challenge of not being UK based, so credit to her for preparing ‘geographically dislocated’! Team values, hot buttons, boat critical what ifs, personal what ifs, hopes and fears, team dynamics & cohesions, the individual personalities involved, PES development and the underlying skills, not to mention the more functional elements of being part of Coxless Crew!

Key to all of the above are the family and friends of the crew and hopefully some of the pre meetings have made the journey easier for you, the silent heroes of the row (a strong community now). I cannot imagine what response I would give if Eloise says in 20 years or so time that she’s going to row an Ocean or climb Everest! So, as much of an inspiration for me is to be part of the extended support crew called ‘F&F’ (family and friends) – hats off to you guys! Can’t move on without a special mention of Ella, who is another unsung and silent hero of CC!

I’m nearly done, promise, stay with me……..it would be hugely remiss of me not to mention the team behind the team that is behind the team (crew). My wife Helen has been a stalwart of support over the years of the project, never a raised eyebrow to be seen when I got back from a team meeting 2-3 hours late – yes, Laura can talk! (sorry Laura!). Then little Eloise, my now 2.5y daughter (no you’re not climbing Everest!) who can now name all the girls and Doris, who is pink, and also knows ‘Izzy has left the boat!’ She will only realise later in life how much of an inspiration she is to me, even at 2 ½! Helen knows how much of an inspiration she is to me, but probably doesn’t think she is! I have trekked with her in some very odd and challenging places, she continues to show me what bravery is! Base camp Everest with full blown tonsillitis, Mt Meru with a parasitic friend (I’ll save you from the detail!) etc.

So why am I involved with Coxless Crew and why do I do this!? 1. Because it’s there, 2. Because it’s interesting, 3. Because what they are trying to achieve goes far far beyond rowing and ocean, 4. Because everyone has a Pacific to cross and working with those that want to try is a joy and inspiration! Especially for those that have to fight or strive for the opportunity, 5. Finally, because I have a family and friends that support me in my mad ideas and adventures and want to go on the journey with me!

Thanks to the Coxless Crew for inviting me to their party! Thanks to you for reading what started as a Blog and is clearly at least one chapter of my book yet to be written!

One final thing. For the many people that read the Coxless Crew’s daily blogs and may feel they do not have anything to say or contribute, next time you read one, drop them a note, just to say hi and I’m with you – you may think it’s a drop in the ocean! But at the other end, the splash will engulf them!

Au revoir.

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Leg 2, Day 68 – Team Update

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Day 68 – team update

68 days is the time it took us to reach Hawaii from Santa Barbara, so any additional days from now on, will be the longest we’ve been at sea for. Our estimated arrival into Samoa is late October so we still have a few more weeks left out here before we get to landfall. With that in mind, I’m sure many of you have also done the maths, but we have reviewed where we are and what our timeline is looking like. Needless to say, we have been less than impressed with what the outcome was after speaking with Tony about future conditions and estimated speed of travel considering our history to date. If we can leave Samoa prior to 1st November, then we originally would aim to reach Cairns by mid December. This is based on a westerly current and easterly winds. Considering our last 2 legs have gone less favourable due to lack of trade winds and the ITCZ currents, our estimated time of arrival has been extended by 3-4 weeks for both legs. Therefore, our predicted arrival into Cairns if we continue to travel at the same pace, will be closer to the 1st of January. Nearly 3 months after we had planned! This news has impacted us individually in different ways and for different reasons, so we thought we’d share with you those thoughts…..

Laura: To see in black and white that we may not reach Cairns until the New Year and will have to spend Christmas out at sea, was fairly upsetting news to me. This was for more than one reason. Firstly, Christmas with my family is always special but in particular this year I have been looking forward to and planning since I stepped onto the boat. It has been a source of thought for me when on the oars, thinking of where we’ll be, what presents to buy my family, the amazing food to look forward to, seeing my lovely aunts/uncles and cousins, my niece’s first Christmas she’ll remember at the age of 3 etc. I’d been on email with my folks as they’d suggested we may spend it at my brothers this year for a change, as his house has just been built and Isla my niece would be great to see at Christmas. I’d also been co-ordinating my friends and my brothers friends for a New Years Eve celebration. Thinking that both our groups of friends would come over to our parents house in Cornwall, for a NYE house party. I’d even thought of what food I’d make and the games we could play. Christmas on Doris will certainly be a memorable one but also no doubt emotional to be missing home sweet home.
Secondly and my biggest concern since the delays started to happen, is my work. As you may now have all realised, I love my job and the athletes have always come first for me when I’m at home. So doing this row feels extremely selfish and particularly when the timing is so poor just prior to Rio. Having a responsibility to my team at home I know I’m letting them down and causing them so much hassle with not being there at such a crucial time. At the same time I can’t let my team down on the boat either. So my responsibilities feel torn. What is the right thing to do? What is the ‘what if?’ With either option. Fundamentally there is no choice. We’re out here and after 4 years of preparation to get here, there’s no way I’m walking away with just 3months left to go. However I’m coming to realise that it comes at a cost most dear to me and the biggest sacrifice to let my work down and possibly affect my chances of supporting the athletes through to Rio. Suddenly the sense of enjoyment on the last leg, I fear will feel tainted by the guilt of not being back home for work.

Emma: Like Laura I also found it hard to hear confirmation from Tony what we had started to realise out here on Doris, that we are very likely to still be out at sea at Christmas. Like Laura I had been holding on to Christmas at home with all of my family as a reward for completing the row. It also concerns me that if we arrive in Cairns around that time that it will disrupt Christmas for the rest of my family as my mum will be coming out to meet us when we arrive in Australia. To be honest also the monotony and boredom of life on Doris is beginning to wear me down. Rowing has always been my happy place and out on the oars on Doris has always been where I work out my frustration or claustrophobia but in the last couple of weeks I have been finding the hard rowing with little gain in speed or distance incredibly frustrating and have been struggling to enjoy it. The thought of an extra 3 months of this doesn’t excite me. However our journey will not feel complete until we reach Australia and it is good news that our weather window has not yet closed and that this is still a possibility. I have no doubt that we will pull together as the strong team that we are and enjoy a unique and special festive season, support each other through the difficult times and appreciate the magical moments that the ocean provides.

Natalia: I’m not going to lie, the news of the new predicted arrival date into Cairns disappointed and frustrated me. Although the experience and lessons from the almighty Pacific have been incredible, I don’t really want to spend extra time out here! To be honest, I’d already been thinking that at the rate we have been going, we would probably end up spending Xmas on Doris. So, when the news came from Tony, it was not really a huge surprise and made hearing it more manageable. The positive news for me was that because of the change in usual weather patterns this year due to El Niño, our weather window has been extended and it is still possible to make it all the way to Cairns safely. If there were to be problems outside our control with the weather, then there also are a couple of islands that we could head to if necessary. What I think is the most important thing, is that there is still an opportunity to successfully complete the journey. We’ve worked too hard to not be able to make the best attempt we can.
Although the thought of spending another 3 months on the ocean doesn’t exactly fill me with uncontrollable excitement, I do not have a job that I have to get back for or any other pressing commitments. My family are still my main concern and spending time with them over Xmas would have been wonderful, but also a luxury, as they are used to me being away during this time of year. I suppose I am fortunate in the transient and ever changing lifestyle that I have chosen, as it has allowed my family to expect me to be somewhere other than home in December, and if it so happens that I am with them, then that’s a bonus!

Even though there are many days out on the ocean filled with so much frustration and monotony, there is also so much simplicity and beauty. I don’t want to forget that this is a once in a lifetime experience and these moments all need to be savoured, even if there are more of them than originally anticipated x

Lizanne: My journey on Doris ends in Samoa where the wonderful Meg will jump aboard to complete the last leg of the row. Our arrival into Samoa has been delayed by about a month, which has not been a surprise to me as I’ve kept a close eye on our progress and already suspected such a delay. My commitments when we get back to reality are also work related and the delay has naturally complicated things. I have been trying to imagine what it would be like to spend an extra two months out at sea after reaching Samoa, and my hands start to ache at the thought. It is a testament to their strength of character to witness how the girls are dealing with the prospect of rowing for longer than anticipated. Emotions have wavered, however these amazing women have already joked and conjured plans about what they can do to break the monotony and make it a very memorable Christmas and New Year. Knowing this lot, they will certainly not fail to amuse and entertain each other. Part of me wishes I could join them.
However…. My Christmas wish for them all is to be reunited with their families, cosy by a fire. I have been inspired to row even harder for the remainder of our journey in attempt to speed things up. We have become a family on the boat, so even though I won’t be on the boat physically, I will still be living every day with them on the ocean.

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Leg 2, Day 62 – Prepping for Pancakes

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Day 62 – Prepping for Pancakes

There’s a saying in Afrikaans that goes “n boer maak n plan”. Quite literally that means “a farmer makes a plan”, although it’s not referring to literal farmers but locally a ‘boer’ is a word describing Afrikaans people and so is referring to the resourceful nature, persistence and perseverance of the South Africans. I perhaps shouldn’t be talking like this seeing as the rugby World Cup is going on and I heard SA lost to Japan?!! But alas, it’s a small saying that has big impact. It has been poignant in my life as I’ll generally look for ways to adapt when life throws a curve ball.

I don’t mean to bore you again with the same news, but we are STILL going West, and we desperately need to make some headway South very soon. The current and wind has been relentless and is making every rowing shift difficult as it feels like we’re rowing through treacle.

“Control the controllables” Keith, our sports psych always says, so in attempt to lift the mood I dug out our ready made pancake mix and baking tray. During my reflective time on the oars recently I have been contemplating two things; what I’m going to do with the fish when I catch it, and what the best way would be to make the pancakes. It’s important stuff!image1 (13)

So onto the making of pancakes a couple of days ago. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, here’s how it went…

Needed:
Two Tupperware
Three plastic sporks (or whatever utensils you have)
Baking tray
Jet boiler
Readymade pancake mix
Water
Nutella (essential)
Oil (we used the almond oil that collected at the top of our almond butter)

This is best done on a scorching hot day when your rowing partner has got to write their blog as there will be limited movement and disturbance in the cabin… Thanks Emma,

Preheat baking tray to (as hot as it will get) degrees by leaving it out in the sun, on the side opposite to where the waves are splashing.

Once all your utensils and ingredients are set out to take up most of the space around you in the small cabin, taste the Nutella just to make sure it’s still ok…

Scoop a spoon full of almond oil with spork 1, avoiding the almond butter and pour onto baking tray and spread out evenly over middle section of tray. Leave in the sun to heat for about 10mins (if you’re time conscious like we are). Ideally longer would yield better results.

Into Tupperware 1 put a few scoops of pancake mix, add water and mix until you have desired consistency. Seeing as we won’t be able to get the heat up very high a thinner consistency is advisable as to avoid a thick uncooked middle. Check Nutella again, still ok.

Fill the jetboil with a cup of water and turn it on waiting until water starts to boil. Bring the heat down to a simmer and place the jetboil underneath the baking tray to allow the steam to heat the tray further. Once it’s hot, pour some pancake mix onto the oil covered area of the tray.

Once the pancake mix is spread out into a thin layer with spork 2, cover it with Tupperware 2. This creates a kind of ‘greenhouse effect’ around the pancake mix which will act like a steamer.
(……and you thought you’d never use all those science experiments at school!!)

Test pancake readiness by prodding with finger. If it separates it’s not ready yet.

To remove pancake from baking tray, use a Coxless Crew postcard. It’s a perfect spatula size and wonderfully thin which causes pancake to stay intact.

No need to flip the pancake as it has been steamed from the top already. With spork 3 apply toppings. Nutella still ok? Yep, still fine.

Topping choices:

  1. Nutella (thank the stars for Nutella)
  2. Almond or peanut butter with Nutella
  3. Dried fruit with Nutella

Sadly I burnt my leg with the hot water during my science experiment which meant that the rest of pancake day will resume on a different day when the sea state allows. Leg is fine, stuck it in the sea and it has been wrapped in cellophane like a chicken fillet for the past few days, all fine now.

UPDATE:  I’ve been learning a bit of Spanish from a podcast and Nat giving me lessons. I’m back on the oars with her which means lessons resume. Vamos!

Lizanne x

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Leg 2, Day 55 – The Equator

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Day 55 – The Equator

Emma: We finally crossed the equator at about 3.30am this morning. The Southern Hemisphere greeted us with squally wind and rain but took enough of a break to allow us to toast to Neptune with the bottle of rum which a friend Paul from the Hawaii Yacht Club gave us especially for that purpose. It feels like a big milestone reached to be finally halfway both on this leg of the journey to Samoa and also on the expedition as a whole. We planned to have a couple of hours today to celebrate but the weather is still squally so we had to make do with eating dinner together in the rain and then postpone the rest of the festivities until Neptune sends us some more favourable conditions. Now the countdown is on to Samoa and then Australia. Here’s to following winds and favourable currents!

Lizanne: Yay!! Very happy to have crossed the Equator! I’m incredibly grateful that we have made it this far all healthy and happy. Here’s to a speedy/smooth sailing/wind on our backs second half. I’m not sure what we expected, but torrential rain, stormy clouds and swarms of birds in the distance wasn’t on the list; once again it leaves us paying respect to the ever changing ocean. We were planning to swim across the equator, which I’ve been dreaming of for weeks, but due to our arrival being in the pitch black night, the unfavourable weather, and the fact that we’ve been followed by a shark for the past few days made this a 3 times NO!Regardless of weather, it’s been a special day as we have reached the milestone that means we are edging out of the doldrums. We can finally start entertaining the thoughts of fresh fruit and that first shower!

A toast to Neptune, cheers!

A toast to Neptune, cheers!

Natalia: Reaching the equator was an amazing landmark for all of us. Wooohoooo! We’re over half way now and that means that we can begin a new mental journey. Although the picture perfect, still water and blue sky was not sent our way, Neptune ensured that we will never forget his power for providing change and unpredictability in his almighty ocean. The numerous downpours stopped us carrying out our special social time plans, so these will be resumed at a later stage. We did however have a great, if brief, toast to Neptune in the early hours with my all time favourite spiced rum, then today we sat in the rain, ate a communal lunch and toasted again to the ridiculous equator conditions with our fruit pot deserts and ‘Happy’ song by Tetra C2C feat. Derek Martin! A special thanks to Jay for having the unique idea to sponsor us with 4 songs to be played at this pivotal point of the journey. The other 3 will be played when we celebrate for real in the coming days. Watch this space and bring on Samoa…

Laura: Wow…… We have finally reached a momentous milestone in our journey, the equator! This to me is a pivotal point. To help me chunk the whole row, I have visualised the equator to be half way of the journey and half way between Hawaii and Samoa (even though it’s a little over for both). The fact we have reached half way excites me no end! To think we are now on the count down to home sweet home, which I have been thinking about since week 1 after leaving San Fran in April. Reaching the equator actually felt quite emotional, but this was short lived considering the conditions we were in and the timing of our arrival. The idyllic expectation was that we would arrive around 16:00 with blue sky and blazing sun, we would bask in the glory of reaching the equator and toast to Neptune before having a 2hr social as a team. Of course we have learnt by now that the Pacific can never be predicted and often will do the opposite to our expectations. So of course our arrival was 03:30AM not PM, it was pitch black, the seas were choppy, the wind was squally and there were torrential downpours – perfect! Our toast to Neptune was a momentary pause amongst the mayhem of the weather and gave us a second to appreciate where we were. With just the numbers of the latitude on the chartplotter to go by, there’s no lights, or flags, or marker buoys in the sea to note the equatorial line. So the whole process is very surreal albeit very cool too to think we are the first team of 4 to ever row across the equator!

UPDATE:
We reached the equator!!!! x

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Losing Sight of Shore – Sarah Moshman Blog

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Losing Sight of Shore – Sarah Moshman Blog

” You can never cross an ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of shore ” Christopher Columbus

Losing Sight of Shore will be a documentary created by Sarah Moshman about a Pacific odyssey in a 29ft rowing boat called Doris.

The amazing Sarah was introduced to us via Womanthology, an online magazine promoting and celebrating the achievements of women. After an initial Skype introduction between Sarah and ourselves we fell in love with her instantly. You cannot help but feel the pure passion that Sarah exudes and we could honestly not think of anyone we would rather have to tell our story to the world. She shares in our values completely and is one of the most inspirational women we know. She instantly become an integral part of the team and her smiling face at each stopover is almost as good as our first shower! Sarah is honest, compassionate, incredibly talented and we are happily leaving the sharing of this journey in her capable hands. Check out more information about Sarah below and the Losing Sight of Shore Facebook and Twitter pages to keep updated with the latest happenings of the documentary. Check out the trailer below!

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Sarah Moshman is an Emmy® Award Winning documentary filmmaker and TV Producer, but most importantly she loves to empower women! Growing up in Chicago, IL Sarah found her passion for filmmaking at an early age once she realized how the camera truly gave her a voice. She attended the University of Miami where she studied Video-Film and then moved out to Los Angeles, CA to pursue her dream of working in TV & film. Sarah worked in reality television as a field producer for networks like ABC, NBC, MTV, Lifetime and the Food Network. Documentary filmmaking has always been her passion, and it was in 2012 when she came up with the idea to create The Empowerment Project: Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things as a way to change the way women are portrayed in the media by traveling around the US and interviewing inspirational women from all walks of life. Sarah’s career has taken an exciting turn as she and her producing partner Dana Michelle Cook now have the privilege of screening the film and speaking in schools across the country about following a dream and not being afraid to fail. The Empowerment Project has won several film festival awards, two Gracies awards including Outstanding Directing and has screened over 100 times around the US and Canada. Sarah is thrilled to be directing her second feature documentary Losing Sight of Shore with the Coxless Crew who have set out to row the Pacific Ocean.

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Leg 2, Day 21 – Introducing The Wolf

Day 21 – Introducing The Wolf

As in previous blogs, I’ve wanted to introduce you to the key people beyond us crew of 6, the key people that without them this row would not be happening nor be the success it has been to date. Previous blogs have introduced Ella, Kirsten and Keith, so today it’s time to introduce Alex Wolf aka. ‘Wolfie’ ‘Al’ ‘The Teddybear’ ‘The task master’ ‘The Meanie’. As a Strength and Conditioning Coach, Al is accustomed to being called an eclectic array of names! Alex has become one of my very good friends, he is someone that I truly trust and highly respect as both a person and most certainly as a Strength and Conditioning Coach. At the time of me starting the row, Al was the Lead S&C coach for GB Rowing and had been for the last Olympic cycle into London 2012, meaning that the highly successful GB Rowing squad including the likes of Kathryn Grainger & Anna Watkins, Heather Stanning & Helen Glover, Alex Gregory and the Men’s 4, to name a few greats and Gold medalists at 2012, were all trained by Al and his team. Knowing that the countries best were kept well conditioned under Al’s watchful eye and structured programmes, he was the one and only person I wanted to approach about discussing how best to get our bodies resilient enough to take on the Pacific. Having personally never rowed before, this was my first question to Al – ‘I’ve got a year (which ended up being 3yrs!) to get our bodies in shape to withstand 6months of 12hours a day rowing, in variable conditions and rowing a 1tonne boat as a pair, where shall I start?’. To my surprise, Al offered his services and links to coaches at Imperial Rowing Club and later London Rowing Club which we were amazing support throughout. Alongside running the GB Rowing S&C programme (which is a full on schedule in itself with lots of travel involved), in the last 3 years of working with us, Al also completed a Masters in Nutrition, wrote a book and a number of articles and then also got promoted to Head of Strength and Conditioning for the whole of EIS (English Institute of Sport). Any precious spare time he had, he devoted to arranging weekends of testing/assessing us, training us on week nights after work, writing our programmes and monitoring our programmes. With the change in team from 4 to 6 in the last few months, Al has continued to liaise with both Lizanne and Meg so whilst we’re out at sea, he has had Skype calls and meetings with them both to set and monitor their progress. We have so much to thank Alex for, in particular I have him to thank for the 12kgs I gained before I started the row and if it wasn’t for that, then I would have been in a much worse state after 10days of sea sickness! I must admit though, after having spent 2 years of hard work gaining that muscle and fat weight, to lose the majority of it within 2 weeks of the expedition, was pretty disappointing!

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Photo Credit: Neil Irwin

 

However I am looking forward to returning to Sophie’s steakhouse with Al post row and repeating the challenge of polishing off a 26oz steak!
Emma recalls thanking Al for his secret adding of weights to the leg press to the near point of failure, he always has a knack of getting that last percent out of you even when you don’t think you’ve got it in you. I’m pretty sure Nats also thanks Al for forcing her to finish every scrap of food on her plate regardless of how full she felt, once again Al optimising every small nutritional gain.

So in a nutshell, Alex Wolf is loved by all the Coxless Crew and we are humbled to have had his support and expertise behind us in our preparations.

On a personal note, we have sadly just learnt that Alex’s dad has passed away suddenly and very unexpected in recent weeks. Our thoughts are with him and his family at this difficult time and whilst out here we will toast an isotonic drink and share a thought to the stars on the 29th August when it would have been his dad’s birthday.

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Last night in Hawaii

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Wow, this week has both dragged on a bit and passed by ridiculously quickly.
The sun has now set on our last day on land and we are busy trying to wrap up our lives on shore and store it away nicely for the next few months.

Our delicious packs of freeze-dried food finally arrived today so we spent most of the day playing Tetris with Doris, trying to fit everything we need for 2 month survival out at sea. Doris is a little magical. It is rather phenomenal what can fit into that tiny gorgeous little boat.

Liz had a go at testing out the hatches… “See, loads of space!”

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We promised ourselves a “last swim” in the Hawaiian waves before heading off, but in true fashion we only got home from a day of packing Doris at 10pm. So tomorrow morning first thing Liz and Laura will be putting goggles on for a proper stroke count.

Wrapping up our lives and trying to end it by tying on a bow, here are some things we’d like included in our “ideal last night”:

Natalia: A bubble bath and 8 hours sleep
Emma: Dinner with her gorgeous mum and enough sleep to be less tired when she departs Hawaii than when she arrived
Laura: Dinner with family
Lizanne: Watermelon and a long shower

Hawaii has treated us exceptionally well, and we are sad to say goodbye.
If anyone plans to row across the Pacific I highly recommend popping this place on the list!

We aim to leave tomorrow 28th July 11-12:00 midday Hawaiian time (22-23:00 UK time)

Tonight we will all spare a thought for our near-future selves and appreciate the comfort of a solid foundation.

Cheers Hawaii

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Aloha xx

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Team Bonding…

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It’s all about team bonding!

We had Skype chats with the utterly wonderful Ella in the morning and tried to thank her for all her incredible efforts with our social media while we were out on the ocean…but words really can’t express how grateful we are. Ella is a super star and we would not be able to share our story without her.

Next was a catch up with Andrew from New Level Results. It was great to reconnect and have the opportunity to introduce Lizanne to our Best Year Yet programme that we will all review during our journey from Hawaii to Samoa.

No team bonding is complete without the obligatory ‘jump’ photo, so we headed to the local park to spend some time watching the surf rolling in, laughing and doing some jumping!!

The evening was spent by doing some reflections over dinner and sharing each other’s hopes and fears for the row ahead.

The plan is to leave for Samoa on Tuesday morning, so tomorrow will be an exceptionally busy last day in Hawaii.

Time has flown and once again we will need to savour our last taste of fresh food, monophasic sleep and regular showers…! As difficult as it will be to leave the comfort and stability of land, we are ready and excited to begin our next adventure.

Let’s see what the almighty Pacific has instore for us…  x

 

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