NOTE: Before we get into this, I apologise for the grammatical errors contained within this blog. Writing on the laptop whilst rolling from side to side in the hot cabin is a task within itself..I have had to leap out of the cabin to vomit whilst writing this, so please look past the primary school spelling mistakes.
The date today is the 27th December 2013 and the time is 20.03, this means its been 23 days, 7 hours and 3 minutes since the start gun went off in La Gomera. Wow, thats a surreal thought, and as I sit here typing in the mould infested cabin (coffin), I cannot believe its been that long and that we are still going!
So where should I start? Maybe from the beginning… So lets begin with race start, didnt go exactly to plan..we had envisioned a speedy start to keep up with the other crews, however within 2 minutes we realised our autohelm (boat steering for non boaties) was faulty, and so our boat was turning in circles, unable to establish a bearing, our brand new compass was also faulty, which meant for us we were unable to row! Not great for a 3000 miles rowing race, however after an hour in the hotbox of a cabin trying to fix it, we decided to just crack on and row using hand steering and the compass on my iphone and fix it the following day. Hmmm what a nice little plan that should have been, however by the evening of Day 2 we found ourselves on para anchor being smashed about in a storm, in which the whole autohelm unit became completely detached…So back to rope steering it is then for the whole trip!
To say the weather hasnt been kind is a fair statement, after an intial storm on our 2nd/3rd day, we set off rowing again, making good progress and catching up on the other crews only to land ourselves back in which can only be described as the Depths of Mordor..yep our poor little rowing boat and 2 little girls inside it literally were thrown about like ragg dolls in this massive ocean, the sound and force of the waves hitting the boat was just incredible, the power of the water is unbelieveable and something which makes me have great respect for the ocean.. and so for the next 48 hours we got bashed about inside the cabin, landing ontop of each other with each wave that hit the boat…
The next couple of weeks to be honest are a bit of a bleughhh, we’ve been beyond unlucky with the weather and unfortunately due to our intial hold up, have been caught on the back end of a huge low pressure system, which has made rowing almost impossible..So we had too options give up or just stick it out..we choose the latter. If your wondering what unrowable seas are like, then picture our rowing boat trying to travel in a straight line, however you have 10-20ft waves coming from all angles smashing you from one 180 degree angle to the next, no daggerboard, no compass bearing, and at times its gets so confused we completely loose our GPS configuration..thats what we are trying to row in and the conditions have yet to change in our favour.
NOW we have the boring weather business out of the way,I wont give you a day by day account because frankly that would be really really boring (Trust me the days spent on para anchor were beyond dull..just think sleep, ipod, sudocream and snacking) but rather Ill tell you some stories about daily life whilst rowing the Atlantic.
Food. Good god its awful. The first couple of days myself and hannah struggled to eat anything,we were both so tired, we literally just managed to row, sleep and drink water. But soon enough the hunger pangs started, so we thought lets devour some tasty freeze dried meals, yumm just the thought of it makes my stomach curdle. So heres your choices girls for the next 2-3 months, beef shephards pie, spaghetti bol, curried beef with rice, chicken and vegetable pasta, mild chicken Korma…pick anyone of these tasty delights and it sits in your stomach like a brick, its so calorie dense it leaves a film of paste in your mouth and no matter what meal it is, its appearance is somewhat similiar to cat vomit, which makes trying to to chew it in a rocking airless cabin, just rank. Thank god for snack packs is all im going to say, for the past couple of days my breakfast has been a mars or twix bar followed by some other chocolatey delight..sounds a bit grim I know for breakfast, but the freeze dried porridge is a whole other story and I dont think I will be able to hack one of those for a long long time.
Bottoms and toileting. One of the first questions people used to ask when I told them about the row was ‘What about going to the toilet?’ hmmm yep the ‘toilet’ aka a bucket. For some reason my body has decided to develop the weakest bladder known to man, Hannah on the other hand has a bladder of steel and can hold a wee in for days (which is very useful in a storm), hmm nope not me I literally need to pee every 2 hours on cue. Whatsmore the bucket acts as some sort of suction unit and takes some force to remove it from my bum which whilst being thrown about in a storm is like something out of a slapstick movie….and erm can get messy.One thing that has shocked me is the state of Bottom. Holllllllllly hell, its like a teenage acne dreamland, covered in sea sores, rashy. Its incredibly painful and itchy but ive been sudocreaming daily and its just about holding up..just.
Capsizing. Yep its going to happen, but 23 days in we’ve had a few near misses but not a full roll. The first one was a half capsize and I was flung into the water, but grabbed hold of the safety line in time to not lose sight of the boat…sounds scary, its not really, infact it happens quite a lot…There you are just merrily rowing, dreaming of rum punches and washing my hair and WHAM random side wave decides to smash into the boat, not cool. The other one happened was more like 3/4 roll and unfortunately we snapped a blade/oar in half during that one, but dont worry folks, we have spare blades, so all hope is not lost.
The ocean is incredible, and as ive mentioned earliar so powerful. During the day you can see the waves rolling towards you like a block of concrete, each wave towers over the stern of the boat and you find yourselves staring into a 20 ft wave not knowing whether your boat with float over the top or whether its going to land on top of you (invariably the latter). At night its very different, you cant see them, but you can hear them…all will be very quite and you start hearing this building sound like a deep murmour that gets louder and louder as it approaches. I thought the waves would scare me, but they don’t, once you accept you are a very very small part of the Atlantic, the fear ceases to exist, and it just becomes part of daily life.
Animals and other visitors. To date we have seen birds, dolphins, fish (big and small) and 1 whale…thankfully no sharks just yet. I however brick myself everytime they come near the boat and more often then not my intial thought is that its a massive shark comiing to attack and eat me for its dinner…I usually call for Hannah to come out of the cabin because ive seen a single black fin about 10ft from the boat and its a SHARKKKKKK..she then comes bounding out and about 20 seconds later about 3 ft from the boat a whale surfaces and sprays water at us…this story is almost an exact replica of what happened with the dolphins, minus the spraying.Hannah loves the animals and sees them as a good luck sign, im a bit more weary and prefer them to keep their distance no matter how ‘friendly’ they are meant to be. The whale was cool though, I’ll admit that, it continued to show off for a further 15 minutes next to us doing little splashes jumps and other whale gymnastics…although I cant work out if it was a friendly show or an aggressive act, either way I live to tell the tale. We currently have a little swallow type (dont know the exact name) bird that has followed us for about 5 days now, it gets closer and closer with each day and im just waiting for the morning when it perches itself on our safety line and we can feed it oatcakes and fruit and nut mix.
Human wise we have had one visitor so far, on Boxing day evening at about 7pm we noticed a large white sailing boat heading straight for us quite quickly.They didnt have their identification system turned on which was slightly annoying, however I put a radio call out to all white sailing boats within the area to be aware we are an ocean rowing boat and to change their route. 2 minutes later a french man replies, saying he is coming to see us..he sailed over to us, we had a chat over the VHF, he thinks we are mental and couldnt believe that two young girls were out in the ocean all alone, but took some pictures of us and sailed away at an enviably faster pace then our little boat.
Christmas day. I don’t think I will ever remember a less christmassy christmas day then the one spent on the rowing boat. It starts like all our days do, with peeping our heads out of the cabin to check out the conditions, only for it take a couple of minutes for the realisation to set in that we are rowing the atlantic and that the conditions are still against us…its so frustrating and incredibly depressing because with each morning we both have this positive happy vibe that ‘today will be the day we continue to row non stop’ only for each morning to have that dream smashed into pieces..maybe the morning I wake up and think ‘I cant do this anymore’ will be the day when it finally lets up. The next 10 hours were spent non stop rowing and hand steering, until finally at 6 O’clock we resided to the cabin to call family and open our christmas sacks. In the months leading up to the row I would envision how emotional it would be to call my family on christmas day, I thought it would be the most awful phone call in which I would cry because I was so tired and hated rowing so much, and missed being at home for christmas. The truth was it was none of those things, in fact if anything I found it was the opposite.It was as usual my dad hogging the phone and just a firing 20 questions at me, which after 10 hours straight without food or a break, the last thing i wanted was a 15 minute question round. I never found out if my brothers were ok, my grandma or my mum, what they had done or anything about what life was like at home and I ended the phone call short, too tired and not wanting to get angry. Hannah rang her parents and sister and had a much more relaxed family chat, whilst I opened my christmas sack. MY GOD, I have never been happier to open up a selection box of cadburys chocolate bars, Its now the 29th of december and im finishing writing this blog and of course,Ive eaten them all. Hannah too opened up a bloody great treat box made up of creamy fudge, pretzels, chocolate, NUTELLA SACHETS (oh the envy!!!) and gingerbread cookies,never in our lives have we both been so happy to open up those packages, and never has cadburys chocolate tasted so delicious. We ended christmas day with a little karaoke session, in which we danced and sang to Michael buble and Top 20 christmas hits, turned the lights off and had a disco with our flashing santa light and covered ourselves in tinsel. We filmed every second of the whole show, and all I can say watching it back now 4 days later, is we look like we’ve off our rockers, still we’ve both not laughed like that in a long time, so bring on the crazy!
Daydreaming and torturing ourselves. After a while at sea, when you are sick of your itunes playlist, the food and even the snack packs..conversation undoubtedly turns to listing all the things you want and obviously cant have. For instance, food (90% of our conversations), ‘How good will it be to shower’ (mentioned 5 times on average each day), ‘Good god, I cant wait to have a wax’ (atleast twice daily), I cannnotttt wait to have clean bed sheets that aren’t damp (Happens each night before sleeping). I don’t know why we do it to ourselves, yet everyday at about 3pm, when the hunger pangs start but you can’t hack eating another ‘Tasty beef stroganoff’, we start listing all the meals we miss, and cant wait to eat when back on dry land. Here’s a shortened list:
Cheese on toast with Lea and Perrins (With Heinz Tomato soup as a added bonus)
Both Mums sunday roast.
Pancakes, bacon and maple syrup
Nachos, chilli and fajitas (with cheese, sour cream, guacamole in order to qualify)
Fish and Chips
Hannahs Chicken and Banana, grape and mayonaise sandwich (sounds interesting, however Hannah protests its a winner)
Lasagne with salad
Brian Morgans Mussels and Lobster (+homemade lobster sauce)
Alan Morgans Calamari and/or sausage rolls
Marks and spencers Prawn sandwich (a nostalgic sandwich that reminds me of driving down to Abersoch with my mum each summer.)
Fresh fruit and vegetables.
Mash potato and gravy (or chips, gravy and cheese!!)
…..Just to name a few, trust me theres plenty more.
So theres a few stories to help build a picture of what our adventure has been like so far….I promise to write one in a weeks time and tell you some more. All thats left to say is please dont worry about us, or wish we could be back on dryland too much. Please don’t, because there has not been one day so far where I would choose to not be here. Things are not going to how we had planned them to be, that is for sure, however we are still here in the race when others are not as fortunate, and we are giving it everything we have. As a team, myself and Hannah are shocked at how strong a unit we are, each day we laugh together, fix something together or in more recent times steer the boat for each other…There is no one else I could have done this with.
I don’t know how many people will read this, or what life is like back on dryland..its been nearly a month without internet, phones or facebook (gawd!), and we have little idea about the support back at home. We hope despite the setbacks we are still making everyone at home proud, and its in some of the darker moments we hold on to why we are out here, who we are doing it for and are thankful that we still have the opportunity (regardless of how tired, sore and frustrated we get) . Hannah hates the phase YOLO, and I agree in its acronym form its a horrible word, however you do only live once and so we are just going to get on with it….
STAY SAFE CRAZY KIDS…we miss you all terribly. Lauren X