Day 52 – Rowing with SPIRIT

Emma Mitchell By

Day 52 – Rowing with SPIRIT

We have mentioned our team values in many of our blogs as they are something that we work to on Doris on a daily basis. Strength, Perseverance, Integrity, Resilience, Inspiration and Trust make up our team SPIRIT. Before we left the UK we blogged about these values and what they meant to us, however I have been reflecting on exactly how we are living these values and what they actually look like on board a 29ft ocean rowing boat.

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Strength – The strength of our team and supporting each other in those moments when we are feeling less strong is key to life on Doris. Physical strength is also obviously important when rowing for 12 hours a day and committing to this rowing in a positive way when we are feeling tired and achy is another type of strength. Physical strength has extended recently now that we have started to develop bums,session claw hand and loose our grip strength. It is getting harder to open and close the hatch handles, Nat can no longer get the SD cards out of the cameras or open the charging port on the iPad and my responsibilities on board have extended to the important job of opener of Laura’s chocolate pudding.

Perseverance – We have had to channel a lot of perseverance since we left San Francisco with unexpected stopovers, adverse winds and currents and over 30 days of rowing at less than 1knot. We are all pretty good at never giving up and searching for a solution to the problems we encounter. Perseverance also rears its head in other day to day activities such as the daily snack pack rummage. Nat is the queen of the rummage pulling out more and more packs from the hatch in the belief that somewhere in there is the snack pack of her dreams. We are also persevering on a nightly basis in our mission to save as many flying fish as possible. During the night we end up with literally up to a hundred small blue dragon like fish landing on our boat. Sometimes you hear them flapping around and you rush to try to pick them up and drop them overboard in time. The other day in one two hour shift 4 fish landed in my lap, one hit me in the head and another on the shoulder. I think I managed to save 3 of them. After the distress of the first morning seeing Doris look like a flying fish graveyard we are all working hard on our fish saving skills. Alan our autopilot also deserves a mention here as he is currently persevering at trying to hold us on a bearing now that we have slowed to a painfully slow pace again stuck in a northerly current.

Integrity – Out in the Pacific when sharing a 29ft space with three other people there is no room, for being anything other than your real self. It is refreshing to be completely open and vulnerable with the rest of the team and see how this contributes to our effectiveness as a team. Likewise there is no room in our cosy home for any unsaid pebbles in shoes or hiding your feelings about things. The work we did with Keith before leaving the UK got us used to giving feedback to each other and receiving this feedback in an open manner. In our occasional moments of annoyance things are aired in the open and then we move on straight away with no hard feelings or grudges, trusting that our team is still strong. It makes life so much simpler and is definitely something I will try to carry over into the real world. On a weekly basis we complete a situation report to send to Keith where we rate things like physical, mental, health and sleepiness as well as reflecting on anything that is keeping us up at night. This gives us the opportunity to discuss any issues we are going through either as a team or individually.

Resilience – When discussing before the row what resilience meant to us as a team we came up with reliability, a can do attitude, never giving up and a belief that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Again we have had plenty of situations so far which have required all of these characteristics. I add to these the ability to keep our sense of humour no matter what the ocean can throw at us. I’m sure I’ve said this before but I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much, as consistently as we have out here on the Pacific. It is obvious that the mood in our team remains positive and we are all committed to completing what we have started.

Inspiration – During our journey so far we have all drawn inspiration from a number of areas. Our BAM wall is one of these and in any low moments a trip to the fore cabin to lie back and look up at the hundreds of names of people who are supporting us inspires all of us to get back out there on the oars. The work of our two amazing charities Breast Cancer Care and Walking With The Wounded and the resilience of the people who they support is also a huge inspiration to us and we are proud to be able to give something back to them through our fundraising efforts. Similarly our ambassadors have all inspired us through their achievements and leave us knowing that you can never achieve anything without hard work, dedication and a belief in your end goal. We hope that by sharing our journey through these blogs and later with our documentary we will be able to show people that you can achieve anything that you put your mind to and inspire them to take on whatever challenges are thrown at them.

Trust – Out here on the ocean we are each other’s main support network and together are our own little ocean going family. For our team to work so well it is important that we trust each other fully to take responsibility for our roles on the boat and to take care of ourselves. On a purely safety basis this is obviously important but equally we trust each other enough to know that endless help and support is right there if needed and that we can rely on each other to do what we say we will. Other forms of trust on Doris include the trust in our boat that she can surf the waves and take care of us in big seas. Trust that the jet boil will work and allow us to cook our meals every day. Trust that all of our electronics and communications equipment will continue to work. Probably most importantly, trust that there are some things that happen on Doris that will stay on Doris, for example photos of shower time!!



  1. Dawn says:

    I have nothing but admiration for you girls. Stay strong and calm seas xxxx

  2. Ray Penhaul says:

    You girls never cease to amaze me, such strength in everything you all do, makes me feel sorry for poor old Alan the Autopilot, no wonder he broke down in the initial stages of the row, probably frightened to death!! but seeing how you are really getting on with the job and the way you’re all dealing with day to day life he’s behaving himself and like us full of confidence in you all!!.

    ps: Must ask Keith the physcology behind calling the autopilot Alan and not Anneka!!

  3. JG says:

    Great Blogpost Emma. How you find time with sore fingers to write so well amazes me. What you have on board of course is a microcosm of a perfect society. It is living proof of how people who are different can live in perfect harmony when they work at living together, understanding themselves and each other and developing the relationship. If only it could be rolled out to the rest of the world what a different place it would be. It seems that one of the key catalysts is a common adversity uniting people. Hence the way of life that was developed at home during the two world wars. In your case the adversity is the Pacific Ocean, it’s currents and weather. You have a perfect formula and will win. Behind you all the way.

  4. Carla says:

    What a nice blog to see values in practice. Hats of to all of you!!

  5. Jim Andrews says:

    Another fantastic report. Your description of your values was deep and meaningful and magnified the trust and understanding essential to the team. As a complete stranger, I could not be more proud of your efforts, your individual famillies and friends must be overwhelmed. Stay safe. XX

  6. Mike S. says:

    As we have all noticed you girls have amazing spirit. You would not be human if you didn’t have low moments but it obvious you have the attitude to deal with them. You are Fisherman’s Friends, never liked them myself.

  7. shona says:

    In awe of you guys, look forward to reading every post.
    laura,-so immensely impressed with all your and the teams hard work! can’t believe Doris is nearly in Hawaii! she’s come along way since I saw her shell back a couple of years ago.

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