Leg 2, Day 52 – The Senses

Natalia Cohen By

Day 52 – The senses

We had our longest continual rainfall in the Doldrums. A torrential downpour began and only stopped 12 hours later…

Ask anyone who knows me well and they will confirm that I don’t enjoy being wet. Furthermore being cold and wet is possibly one of the quickest ways to bring out the worst in me. Rain is one of my least favourite things. Well…at least the rain in the UK that is.

There is a reason why I left Manchester nearly 20 years ago and the grey sky and constant drizzle were definitely up there amongst the deciding factors.

Yet out here on the almighty Pacific, I’m learning to embrace the rain.

On this leg of the journey, it can offer huge respite from the heat and is a great way to refresh the body. We watch the squalls heading our way. It’s usually a grey, ominous cloud and a wall of water heading in our direction or just an incredibly dramatic dark cloud formation that suddenly appears next to or above us.

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The wonderful thing about the rain is that it evokes all your senses.

Sight – In the Doldrums what seems to happen is that just as the squall hits, the sky looks very dramatic, then the downpour flattens out the water and the colours all turn monochrome. The droplets dance on the water’s surface and the waves form a layered effect similar to that of misty mountain ranges stretching out in the distance as far as the eye can see. It’s an incredibly beautiful sea state.

Sound – You can hear the rain hit the hood of your jacket, peak of your baseball cap or the deck of the boat whilst rowing and when inside the cabin, the pitter patter of rain drops on the roof makes you feel all cosy and cocooned.

Smell – The smell of rain on hot boat is not too dissimilar to rain on hot tarmac. The other smell that the rain brings is that of freshness and a clearing of the air.

Taste – Rain water is so beautifully sweet especially compared to our usual desalinated water. I always a open my mouth wide, stick my tongue out and lift my head to the heavens, to catch a little rain when possible.

Touch – Now that the temperatures are higher, we are often wearing bikinis/sports bras during the day and wet weather jackets with shorts at night, so the rain can be felt directly on the skin. The light rain tickles our bodies but when a heavy squall passes through, the drops prick our arms and legs like sharp needles. It is, however, always good to have a fresh water shower from the rain to clear the salt build up and our skin always feels smooth and clean after a good soaking.

I’m not sure if it’s because we are surrounded by nature or it’s because we can live so completely in the moment, but it seems much easier to draw upon all your senses during any and every activity out here. Compared to the usual distractions and mental noise you find in city life, there is definitely more opportunity for mindful and meditative states to be felt here in isolation from fully observing our senses. It’s easier to go deeper into the sensations that arise from the senses we feel and for me, I feel as if my senses are heightened while on Doris.

Just for a moment, enter our world…


Everything on Doris. Four women. All equipment on the boat.
Our view – the ocean’s varying sea states and the rich wildlife she holds. It’s easy to lose yourself in the colours and textures of the water surrounding you and the cloud formations and colours of the sky above. For all of us, this staring out into the vast expanse of ever changing Pacific everyday, is our main form of mindfulness.

So basically when we’re not looking at the ocean and the sky, we’re looking at each other and everything on Doris. We also have books and photos for visual stimulation.
Colour variety we get from our clothes and from the sunset and sunrises.
I would say the main colour that we miss more then any other out here is green.


The oars pulling through the water is one of the most distinctive sounds of this journey.
The ocean – from the crashing of waves to the deep silence.
The wind – from a gentle whisper to a powerful howl.
The wildlife – from the distinct sound of whale surfacing and spouting out its blowhole to the squawking birds and splash of a jumping fish. The boat – the water-maker, the autopilot, the rudder and the waves lapping against the side of the cabins. There are many creaks and random noises that we are now accustomed to on Doris and if there is any new sound heard, it is investigated fully.
Four women – the voices and laughter that drift into the cabin from the pair on the oars or that waft out to the oars from the pair in the cabin. There are also a multitude of bodily sounds!
Personal iPod – audiobooks and music create a great auditory distraction.
Satellite phone – nothing quite like the sound of a loved one’s voice. We have an opportunity to chat to our families once a week wherever possible.


Everything passes through a sniff test on Doris.
The ocean – the smell of the ocean in the middle of the ocean is minimal. Most of the time we just breathe in fresh, pure air and there is no smell attached. We have however had times where we’ve smelt fish, oil (when coming into Santa Barbara and passed the oil rigs) and seaweed.
The boat – the rubbish bin, overheating electronics, fermenting snack packs, food being prepared, air freshener and the food hatches.
Products – talc powder, sudocreme, after sun, lip balm, washing detergent, soap, sun cream. Our sleeping liners, towels and clothes all have their moments of smelling pretty bad but with that great washing detergent that smells amazing, we manage to reintroduce a good scent after hand washing.
Four women – you would think that we all stink, but I can’t smell the others and although we sometimes think that we ourselves smell, no one else seems to notice each other. We do notice the smell of our clothes and the one thing we all agree on, is that our hair smells disgusting.


The ocean and the elements – feeling the waves splash, the wind blow, the rain fall and the sun warm or heat our skin.
The boat – we spend 12 hours of every day holding our oar handles. They feel smooth, grainy, slimy, wet or dry depending on the time of day and conditions. Depending on the state of our hands, holding these oars can also cause tendon pain.
Four women – we rub talc, sudocreme and sun cream onto our own bodies and sun cream onto each other. Our skin is wonderfully soft from all this moisturising, but the main thing felt when we touch our skin, are our hard callused hands.


The ocean – saltwater on our faces and on our water bottle lids from the splashes Food – our main meals are not the most varied or tasty if we’re honest. They are mainly a source of fuel and necessary daily intake of calories. Our snack packs on the other hand are a different story. This is the bag that packs a punch with a multitude of flavours. From the infamous oreos, to cereal bars, sweets, dried fruit, packet tuna, savoury crackers and the piste de resistance, the jelly beans. I am constantly amazed at how something so small can cause such a taste sensation. Guessing the flavour of each is a highlight of my day when a handful are found in a snack pack.

Sixth sense

We do all also have this wonderful intuition.
At nighttime if the stars or moon are not lighting our way, it is still sometimes possible to know when splashes are coming or rain is approaching as we seem to feel their presence or proximity.
We feel the moods of each other and usually without anyone saying anything, we can instinctively know that something is not right.

We’ve hit 00 degrees …Woooohhoooo…so will pass the equator any day now.
We were also visited by Fernando the shark today.

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  1. I never cease to be impressed by your awareness and sensitivities. You are all amazing and such strong characters full of insight, wit and humour. Watch out Mr Neptune! Stay safe. xxxx

  2. JG says:

    Last position on the dots is about 48 miles from the Equator. By Sunday I reckon you will be over it and then, by all accounts, the current will be in your favour. Hope so anyway. Social cohesion, mutual support and a strong awareness of the needs of others is a mark of civilisation of the highest order. If every human being on the planet practised these principles as you all do there would be no wars or famines. We were given this planet to live on. How we do that is up to the human race. I could go on at length. I believe our destinies are not ordained by some unseen power but by our own efforts. Human conflict and suffering is of the human races own making and it cannot blame something else by asking “Why?” Volcanic eruptions and hurricanes are about the only situations that cannot be controlled but we learn to deal with them because nothing can stop them. Fernando’s presence is a good reason to be careful about dipping in the ocean but you don’t need to have that pointed out! Keep safe enjoy the beautiful fresh water from the rain.

  3. pimo says:

    FYI – Rugby World Cup update:

    England beat Fiji 35 – 11

    Stay safe 🙂

  4. Jim Andrews says:

    What a fantastic description of your senses. I envy the opportunity to examine yourself so closely without distraction, it must be similar (but more interesting) to being on the Space station for 6 months? I wonder how you are all going to deal with parting company at the end of this epic journey? You will have grown pretty dependant on each other, I imagine? Only 95 miles more and you will have less than a thousand to go to Samoa (Who kick off their Rugby World cup adventure, against the USA tomorrow). Your progress is looking better and will hopefully improve even more after the imaginary line. Best wishes and stay safe. XX

  5. Robert says:

    Whatever you are experiencing, it’s not “The Doldrums”. Your speeds are abysmal, John is going twice as fast & there’s only one of him? If your speed drops below 2 knots through the water you need to figure out what the problem is? With a good following wind less than half the speed of an ocean rowing boat is coming from the exertions of the rowers. Your slow voyage to Hawaii came about because you did not take advantage of the winds, but fought them in the early part of the trip from Santa Barbara. From your present position you have to row across the SE winds to reach Pago Pago, think about it?

  6. Sue Ormrod says:

    Loving what you do, how you do it, and how you explain it to those of us who will never achieve what you have done already. Thank you! Go, girls!

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