Day 33 – Monotony and chunking!

Natalia Cohen By

Day 33 – Monotony and chunking!

There have been and will continue to be many challenges that we face out here in the mighty Pacific. I’d say one of the main forms of adversity of ocean rowing, due to the 12x two hour shift patterns that are continually repeated, is the monotony of it all. Every time you awake from a rest shift to get back out onto the oars for your 2 hour row shift it feels a little like groundhog day.
Luckily we had previously considered this issue and as some members of the team need variety more than others (clearly obvious from our personality testing we had done), and so we have a number of ways to try to disguise the monotonous way of life out here.

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*Team dynamic
Every 4 days or so we change rowing partners. This is a great way to mix things up a bit. As each of us is really different, so our team dynamic changes with a rowing partner swap giving instant variety.

*The shifts
We rotate rowing position every shift so that when you are in the front position you are in charge of steering and then the next shift you move to the back rowing position etc
The view from the back seat is the back of the front rower and the view of the front rower is the front of the aft cabin bulkhead and cabin.
We have a plan pre rowing shift what we want that shift to be and options include music listening, story telling, silence, reflective or a mix of any of the options.

*The sleeping positions
The 2 rowers resting are usually both in the aft cabin. We do a head to toe sleeping arrangement and even that we vary. Each shift we will rotate the position that we lie (facing the stern of the boat or facing the deck) as well as sleeping bags and pillows!

As we have now audited and rationed our food, we know exactly how many of each type of meal there is remaining. We make sure that we all eat the same number of each meal and it makes sense to eat a different meal each day until the rotation begins again.
There is a good variety generally with our freeze dried food including spaghetti bolognese, shepherds pie, savoury beef, chicken korma, beef curry, macaroni cheese, scrambled egg, beef and potato hotpot, vegetable noodles, sweet & sour chicken, beef stroganoff and chilli con carne.
We have breakfast, desserts and we also have our daily snack packs which are all slightly different.

*The sea
50 shades of blue!
I never knew sea blue had so many subtle differences but when you spend 12 hours of every day staring out at it, this begins to become noticeable.
There is also the forever changing sea state which makes the days varied.

*The sky
When not an overcast and continuously grey sky and pitch black night, (which we are having at the moment), the ever changing cloud formations never cease to amaze me. Rowing shifts change between dawn, day, sunset, nighttime with a starry or moonlit sky and this offers variation.

*Enjoying the journey
We each write a blog. Every day would soon become monotonous but every 4 days is very manageable as we rotate between the four of us and we all love sharing our journey with you. That’s what this is all about. Sharing the highs and the lows and dealing with all the challenges we have and will have to face – together.

*My personal passion is photography and although I was unable to bring my own personal SLR camera, I am still making an effort to capture as many moments out here as I can. Trying to be creative and come up with a variety of different types of shot definitely keeps me on my toes.
In case you’re interested I also seem to have adopted a strange habit of speaking in different accents daily – so that also keeps me highly amused.

The big picture of this expedition is overwhelming. We’ve already been out here 33 days and are still a long way from Hawaii. We have a very very long way to go to Cairns and thinking about that is daunting.

It’s all about breaking things down into bite sized manageable sections or ‘chunking’, as we call it. It’s all about the chunking!

Stroke by stroke
Shift by shift
Day by day
Week by week
Leg by leg

We attempt to stay in the moment and not project too much into the future or worry about how long we’ve been out here already and how long we still have to go.
Instead we concentrate our energies on what food we will eat, what speed we have just reached, the story we are listening to, the way the sea moves, the sensations in our hands, bum, hips etc
As we have mentioned before, all we can do is control the controllable and make it through the journey stroke by stroke and day by day. Mentally, this is what will make it the easiest to deal with.

We can imagine that this chunking process is the best way to deal with the changes and challenges that present themselves when recovering from injury or illness. We have so much respect and admiration for the women who are supported by our charities and are reminded constantly of the daily battles that they have to face. This is a huge part of our journey. A journey of our own discovery into how the mind works and how to make positive change when faced with adversity. Ultimately we want to share the stories of all women fighting breast cancer and the women fighting to create a new life after being injured at war with Walking With The Wounded.

When we feel that things are getting a little monotonous, all we really need to do is remind ourselves that this journey is finite and then draw strength and inspiration from all the women that we are honoured to be supporting x



  1. Andrea Herr says:

    Dearest Natalia

    What a fantastic post!!
    I’m so enjoying reading them every day and following your incredible journey!!! Being with you in spirit, through all your trials and tribulations, challenges and victories, I feel so honoured to share this journey with you.
    You all amaze me more, each and every day!!
    Keep on ‘chunking’ girls!!
    Sending love and hugs. xxxx

  2. The saying Mind, Body, Spirit most aptly describes this, but what is interesting is how your research before starting this epic adventure is really now paying off.

    I believe that the first part of the trip affects the body, now you’re facing the next stage which is affecting the mind.

    But never lost your spirit for wanting to keep going to pull this off you’re tough ladies, I can imagine you’re tired but believe in what you’re doing, believe in what you’ve done!!

    We all believe in you 🙂

  3. Juan says:

    Natalia!!!!!!!!!!! Hola linda!!! Me imagino que dentro de tus acentos que usas en el día… Estarás usando uno como el mío!!! Hehehhehhehe ahora lee todo esto con mi acento…. Hehehe es mucho más divertido….. Además seguro que te va a gustar un poco de sangre latina TIA!!!! Pues como andas buey?? Se que estas de puta madre!! Y se que lo vas a terminar como una reina que sos!!! Todavía me acuerdo cuando te había llegado el mail diciendo de esta oportunidad…. Y yo me dije… oBVIO que lo vas a hacer!! Si a vos y tus hormigas en el Cuuuu no te paran nunca!!! Seguí así linda!!! Vas muy bien!!!! Te quiero mucho! Y un gran besote desde unas de tus casas más lindas…. Cape Town… 😉 xxxxxx

  4. You are all doing an amazing thing. I love reading your blogs daily and just wish you all well.

  5. Karl says:

    You gals are more than rock stars! You continue to out due yourselves. Fantastic post today and I am so happy for your excellent progress, nearly half way and your big mileage days of late.

    You are rock solid, impressive, inspirational and living the dream.

    Is it getting warmer yet??

  6. JG says:

    Wow! Best daily distance yet. Following wind at last, 2kts and on the edge of the 134 Easting. Great management of tedium by ringing the changes in everything for everyone. Amazing how the minutiae become so important in maintaining a mental balance in these situations. I imagine that Terry Waite practised similar theories during his years of kidnap.

  7. Barney says:

    Great post Natalia, very very interesting for the landlubbers amongst us. I am a numbers person and I would be salivating at the extra nm’s you did yesterday. Do you feel the difference on the oars when you do 48 nms compared with a day when you do 24 nm? Do you ever get that feeling of cutting through the water as in a shell or is Doris just too heavy?

  8. Alastair says:

    Inspiring and great to read the daily updates from a wee boat on the ocean. Technology is amazing that it enables almost real time updates from such a place.

    Re speaking in different accents, have you tried singing in different accents?? Surprisingly difficult!

    On yacht deliveries (crew of 3, 2 hour shifts) the afternoon watch is 3 hours – it changes the watches around, you get either a longer kip or a longer work session. 3 hours may be too long a session at the oars though (but not in your kip I’m sure!

    Row well!

    • Robert says:

      Most yacht deliveries take a lot less time than the girls are going to be at sea, but you’re on the right track. The girls need at least 6 hours off. What they do on watch is up to them. As they have the luxury of 2 rowing unlike a solo rower they need only row with 1 oar each, which helps if your trying to propel a ton of boat through choppy water.

  9. Antonia says:

    Well said Nat; you draw inspiration from others- we draw it from you. I hope blue skies are ahead for you all soon. Thinking of you all. x

  10. Ladies I read your blog every night before I go to bed & it’s so inspirational and positive. When I saw the title included the word Chunks I was intrigued. What a great read. So glad the winds are becoming more favourable and you are making faster progress. Keep on rocking! Love to all

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