Day 10 – Ladies glow, men perspire, horses sweat….?!

Emma Mitchell By

Day 10 – Ladies glow, men perspire, horses sweat….?!

I think the quote goes ‘Ladies glow, men perspire and horses sweat’. I can categorically state this to be untrue! Aboard Doris we most definitely sweat. A LOT! Yesterday on the oars with Lizanne I was reminiscing about the last time I consistently sweated this much. During my PhD I had always promised myself that when it was finally completed I would reward myself with an adventure before settling down to a proper job. As such in January 2013 I headed off to the jungles of Belize for 12 weeks to complete an expedition leader training course. A group of 9 of us (with me being the only girl) lived in hammocks and completed courses in wilderness medicine, incident management, survival skills and water safety among others, as well as trekking through the jungle and completing an 180 mile canoe race (the most time I’d ever spent in a boat at one time before getting aboard Doris). It was awesome fun and my first true experience of the simplicity of expedition life. I had only been back in the UK for a week when I found out about the row and the getting a real job using my hard earned PhD was quickly replaced by planning a Pacific crossing in a 29ft rowing boat and getting a job I loved working for True Adventure a company who organise school expeditions. This job lead me to the rainforest again, this time the Amazon in Brazil with 7 Qataris and a film crew (this is a whole other story!) Anyway to get back to the point I was thinking about the stark differences and yet strong similarities between sweating on Doris in the middle of the worlds largest ocean and sweating in the jungle.

Exercising in heat on Doris involves being on the deck of the boat where you are exposed to the burning sun. We have to be so careful to lather on the factor 50 sunscreen and cover up during the hottest part of the day and our feet get singed if we exit the cabin in bare feet in the middle of the day. Luckily the breeze outside usually makes this less uncomfortable than spending time in the cabin. In the jungle exercising leads to dripping in sweat and is accompanied by being bitten by copious mosquitos and sand flies. Being sweaty and itchy is very unpleasant! However since you are mainly under the cover of the trees sunburn is much less of an issue although sunscreen is still needed. On Doris sweating sunscreen into our eyes leads to tears and inability to see to steer whereas in the jungle this is replaced by mosquito repellant to the eyes. In the jungle I became a pro at wiping the dripping sweat off my chin onto my shoulder as we dug holes for football goals or lugged palm trees along narrow tracks. On Doris I am leaning to embrace the sweat dripping from my eyelashes as I try to blog in the cabin.

Sleeping in the heat on Doris involves being inside our small cabins. In the jungle it involves being in a hammock. I personally find my hammock incredibly comfortable to sleep in, much more so than Doris. It also has the benefit of being a solo sleeping arrangement. On Doris if you move too much from your allocated sleeping position you find yourself pressed up against anothe sweaty rower who is radiating heat. Also in a hammock you know that any pool of sweat you find yourself in is your own… Both of these sleeping arrangements involve a lot more movement than your standard bed, something that I am not adverse too except in stormy conditions aboard Doris where we find ourselves slammed into the walls or each other every time you nod off into dream land. The night times in both the jungle and on the ocean do offer relief from the heat of the day although getting up to row every 2 hours is still not my favourite thing. To be honest middle of the night incident management scenarios in the jungle weren’t either.

Food sweats were something we got used to accompanying every meal in the jungle. We had a very limited selection of food and depending on whose turn it was to cook determined how good it tasted so we added chilli sauce to almost every meal. Aboard the good ship Doris we try to leave hot meals to cool for as long as possible, then sit on our towels to absorb the sweat as we try to think cold thoughts while eating. The meals that don’t require boiling water have quickly become everyone’s new favourite and we are hiding our chocolate stash in the hatches below the water line in an attempt to stop them from completely melting.

The wildlife out here on the Pacific is pretty special and we count ourselves lucky that we have seen so much sea life and so many birds keep us company. However the general background noise is the lapping or crashing of the ocean depending on the conditions. In the jungle there is wildlife everywhere you look and the night time chorus is ridiculously noisy. If you can avoid the biting wildlife safely inside your mosquito net one of my favourite things was being woken up by the sound of howler monkeys in the trees above me. On board Doris I have a ‘sounds of the jungle’ track on my iPod for the moments I find myself needing some time out from the ocean.

Although you couldn’t get two more different extremes than the jungle and the ocean the joy of both is the simplicity of life when you take away the stresses and worries of normal life and learn to exist with only what is really necessary. Mindfulness and living in the moment are things that I struggle with in real life where I am much more likely to overanalyse and overthink situations. However when at one with nature in these wild and beautiful places is it easy to sit and watch the waves or listen to the noises of the jungle and I hope that when we finally reach Cairns and return home that this is something I will be able to take with me. I wish I could send you all a tiny slither of the feeling of watching the colours of the sunset reflect on our bubble of the Pacific or rowing into the path of the moon but for now you’ll have to make do with reading about it.

UPDATE: this morning we had an interview with Radio 5 Live from the ocean and were suprised and very excited to find our 6th team member Meg also on the line! Such an awesome suprise and great to catch up with her. We are still waiting for the appearance of whales or phosphorescence on this leg but we have seen some new black and white stripy fish and have been watching the frigates diving for fish today.



  1. Andy says:

    Dr Mitchell you are an amazing woman; I am sure the ‘real’ job offers will be flowing in when you return. That said, are you sure you want a ‘real’ job? Professional adventurer sounds good to me x

  2. JG says:

    Thanks Emma – nice read that. I imagine that the main problem at sea level is the high humidity. I spent some years living in the desert and I found a simplicity of life similar to that you have described on the ocean and in the jungles. The desert is simpler still. Very hot but dry – perspiration is gone in a trice and dehydration is a real threat. No insects apart from big yellow furry camel spiders and the occasional desert fox. I found it comfortable to deal with and the only time that I was uncomfortable was in the 98% humidity of the coast on the rare visits I made there. Even now, 20 years later, I still hanker after the peace, tranquility and simplicity of that desert life. You should try the desert some time; by what you have written here I know you would love it. Take care – you are all making great progress.

  3. Fantastic Blog! I am looking forward to meeting you sometime Emma. Keep on sweating! xx

  4. Well it concerned me the mental hardships you’re all facing, by the way is it cold at night?

    Well I infer the ‘Oven’ you’re in and are slowly broiling like Brussels sprouts, but any victory, small or whatever is a positive to take, and tomorrow is another day closer to the finish line!!

    Sub-hydrometric cooling does sound like a good way to save your goodie bags 🙂

    Bet Bear Grylls is worried you’ll all get your own survivalist TV show!!

  5. Jim Andrews says:

    Another interesting blog thank you. It will be interesting to know the effect this adventure will have on your bodies, weight loss etc. Are you sure the birds you are watching are Frigates?, I understood that Frigate Birds aren’t waterproof, daft though it sounds. A friend in Tobago “Porridge” went to great lengths to explain to me that they are very reluctant to enter the water as they do not produce enough oil to waterproof their feathers. They survive by stealing the catch of gulls. Also they are rarely seen more than a hundred miles from land as they have to land to roost. I hope he wasn’t spinning me a yarn? Stay safe. XX

  6. Helen says:

    Great blog, as ever. One FAQ I keep asking myself and doesn’t seem to be on your website, is hiw do you create fresh water? I assume you’re not transporting it across the ocean. Do you manage to desalinate enough seawater to replace all that sweat?

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