The 7th of January was another rocky, stormy day. I was on the oars during my 1pm-3pm shift, and Hannah was hanging out of the aft cabin, trying to see if we could makeshift something to fix the autohelm. Alas, we could not, but when she appeared out of the stern cabin she said ‘ There are so many Barnacles on the boat..we need to get them off, have a look’. Intrigued by the elusive Barnacle, I leaned right out of the after cabin, peering to the side of the boat.
OH GOSH THE HORROR. The water line of our boat was covered in clusters and groups of huge suckering Barnacles, it was like something our of ‘Alien’. I quickly retreated back into the cabin, but that was it, I could not get the image out of my mind. For the next 16 hours, I itched continuously, unable to sleep through the night shifts, and waking myself up with daydreams of Hannah falling in the water, only for when I pull her out she is covered head to toe in the suckering, slimy moving Barnacles. To say I had ‘Ants in my Pants’ is an understatement. By 11am the next morning, I could take no more. It wasn’t a calm day, in fact far from it, but it was sunny. So I called for Hannah to pass me the surf leash, scraper and goggles. Giggling, Hannah filmed me, as I stripped off and lowered myself in the water…I had a few sneaky glances to check I was alone and scraped them off! We were lucky though, we have copper coated anti-fouling on the hull of the boat, which means they cant stick there, but still there was enough on the water line for me to spend 15 minutes scraping them off. ERGHHHH just typing this has sent me into an itching frenzy.
Hallucinations are beginning to set in also. After a couple of weeks or so, you learn to cope with the tiredness but things start to go bump in the night. Occasionally we hear chattering, or men’s voices, at times it sounds like someone is whispering your name but you cant locate the voice. My most recent and most vivid hallucination is when I see Charlie Chaplin riding one of those 1920′s circus bikes, with the huge back wheel. He rides past me on my right hand side, towards the stern of the boat, gives me a wink and then just disappears. He then repeats this act every 5 minutes during my 1-3am shift, but more worryingly it has started happening during the day also. I know it cant be real, how could it be? For one, Charlie Chaplin is dead, its also impossible to ride a bike on top of the water, and where does he disappear too after he reaches the stern of the boat? Perhaps we sounds as if we are going crazy, who knows, maybe we have? But you have to see the funny side in everything out here, and not take anything too seriously. You have to laugh, or else you would cry.
Night-times can be lonely, there are points in the night where me and Hannah are like passing ships, grunting one or two words to each other during the change over. It’s hard, and I find myself longing for the day hours where we chat to one another, share stories, problems or our favourite conversation FOOD! To get over this we have started to talk to each other in stupid voices throughout the night, putting on our poshest of accents, congratulating each other on completing their shift. It sounds stupid but it makes all the difference to keeping the spirits high. I have also taken to singing to Hannah in my best Heather Small accent ‘ What have you done today to make you feel proud?’, I sound nothing like her, in fact I sound constipated if anything, but Hannah gives me a bemused smile, and I know she deep down likes it.
The ocean is full of rubbish, that is one sad fact. More often then not, we see bags of rubbish floating past us, car exhaust pipes, parts of boats, wrappers etc. We have also seen a message in a bottle, about 15 ft away from the boat at 4pm..how great it would have been to open it and read that letter, but realistically it was probably a crisps packet shoved into a plastic drinks bottle, and so we live with the dream that it was some romantic love letter, maybe even for us? Aside from that, the most random thing to see was a green witches fancy dress finger, with a painted red nail. WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? It was so funny to spot, of all the things to float past us in the ocean, if I had to choose, that would be the most random.
Visitor wise, we are not alone. We have two 3ft electric blue fish with florescent yellow fins that live under our boat. They are ballsy little creatures, always appearing when you’ve been to the toilet, or chasing your oars when your rowing. They are beautiful though, and I like that. I smacked one on the head with my oar the other day, just to test how scared it was. It loved it! It followed my oar for about 10 minutes after that, speeding up to it, backing off for a little bit, playing cat and mouse. Flying fish are a bit of a pain though, and they stink also. At 11pm the other night, I had a bang on the window and ‘LAURENN’..a bit dazed I opened the cabin door and Hannah went ‘ I’ve just been smacked straight across the face, but I cant see by what!..’ hhahahah I started to laugh, she did not look amused, I think it was more the shock of it then anything else. I turned on the lights, and there was a flying fish, jumping about all desperate to take a breath, but with a cheeky grin on its face, proud to have hit Hannah bullseye on her cheek!
The nature of the challenge makes it hard to envision the future. There are days when you cant see past the next week, or even the next 2 hours. It seems never ending, and because you live 24 hours of the day, there is no break between time. I thought the row would make me dream about my future life, not at all. More often than not, our dreams are of nostalgic value. I find myself reliving memories or situations I have not thought of in years. We are both very similar in that sense, sometimes when the conversation (usually food) is exhausted, we will both fall silent set in our own memories or dreams. One of us will usually break that silence to tell the memory whilst the other one will laugh, or smile and then will share their day dream too. It really is one big trip down memory lane, a bitter sweet experience between memories of growing up, past relationships, family members that have passed away or situations where perhaps you feel disappointed in yourself, or could have acted differently.
I could tell you all about Hannah’s childhood, the rabbit that would steal food from her lap, the video tape of Hannah running straight into a wall and her dad’s commentary of ‘Oh Crumbs.’ Likewise she could tell you that Cheese and bean toasties have never tasted so good then when in Abersoch, or how Cold oats and hot water with honey will always remind me of my Granddad Les. We don’t know what triggers them, only that sometimes they are so real and vivid its hard to distinguish between past and present.
Does sudocream actually work? A question I didn’t think would have any great relevance to me. But no, the tub of white paste has yet to make any impact on the state of my festering bottom. Things have deteriorated from bad to worse. Gone are the days of just spotty and rashy, but my bottom is now one big raw blister, no skin, just raw chaffed tissue, that bleeds and sticks to each other. It is hard to write down just how painful it is without sounding melodramatic, but I can truthfully say that in the 24 years I have lived, to date it is the most painful things I’ve experienced. Note the to date, as I have yet to have children and I don’t want to jinx myself as I’ve heard some pretty shocking childbirth stories. One bonus is there are no infection signs yet, which I am grateful for. It makes rubbing surgical spirit into the raw blisters just about worth it!!
The daydreaming about food continues, and the longer we are out here, the cravings become more fattening. More so, they become more vivid, and occasionally we have both felt like we can actually taste the food. So we thought we’d share some with you, and who knows maybe we can offer some inspiration for what to cook for dinner tonight, or in honour of us!
Hot beef Baguettes (With juicy onions on crunchy white rolls.)
Fish finger sandwiches
Sweet potato fries with blue cheese dip and or Garlic Mayonnaise
Prawns with Marie rose sauce.
Toast with butter
Bacon/sausage sandwich with hash browns.
Rocotillos Banana and Peanut Butter milkshake
GBK chicken, cambers, cranberry burger
Chicken and Bacon club sandwich from Aberosch Deli
Sausage pasta bake with crisps on top
Shortbread Biscuits (Thank you Kate Hallett for starting that craving!)
Cadbury’s Flake bars..The closest I’e got to crying is when I finished my last chocolate bar from my xmas sack…distraught doesn’t cut it.
It feels like a long way still to go, but we look back now and we are halfway there, and we are still surviving and as strong a unit as ever. We are both shocked and grateful at the bond we have developed. In fact Hannah turned to me this morning and said ‘ I just can’t believe we haven’t had a single fall out, its bizarre. Why do you think it works?’..I just shrugged and told her its because I’m awesome, so be grateful and accept it. JUST JOKING. I don’t know why it works, but maybe its a combination of similarities and differences, that we both strive and push for the same thing but our approach is very different. All I know is that I’ve earned myself an infamous Hannah Hug and lifelong friendship rights (I filmed her on my ipad saying that I was a friend for life, so no backing out now Hannah!).
Lastly we would like to share some quotes that have helped us to keep going and made us gain perspective in the days when all you want to do is be sat at home, with a cup of tea..possibly eating cake. Put yourself in a life changing/ endangering situation and the quotes sound as if they were written for you.
“If you can’t fly then run,
if you can’t run then walk,
if you can’t walk then crawl,
but whatever you do,
you have to keep moving forward.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
A famous one, I know, but the days spent on paraanchor, or getting bashed about at sea, or even when we rowed for 18 hours straight just to try and crawl out of it- that quote helped me put it all into perspective, keep pushing and get ourselves out of hell!
“When you’re safe at home, you wish you were having an adventure. When
you’re having an adventure, you wish you were safe at home. ”
– Thornton Wilder
Those words are so true, back in normal life, we both craved this. I couldn’t wait to break out of mundane life. And now sitting here getting battered about at sea, all you wish for was to be back there. It helps us to remember not to dwell on the negatives, forget the pain both physical and mental and to enjoy it, live and embrace it. Because before we know it, we’ll be back on dry land, bored, craving the next big adventure. Dry land, there is a weird thought. We scanned through some of my first iPad videos the other night and seeing land felt so surreal. All we have seen now for 40+ days is a sphere of blue water and sky. At time it feels as though you are in a glass snow dome, and someone is just shaking it for a laugh, Your horizon is only 2-3 miles long and if I could think of something back on land to compare it too, it would be like a treadmill for rowers. You are just rowing on the same spot and the only way you know your making any headway is watching the miles on a computer screen tick down.
Everyday we get closer and closer, the pace might change, there might be points where we have to stop for a few hours, but everyday we get closer. Words can’t describe how much we miss home now, and we both are just so excited to see our family and friends on that Pontoon in Antigua (or back at home, depending on how rich they are!). One thing is for sure, no matter how slow or long this will take us, how many storms we will face, how many breakages we will fix, we will not give in, we will finish…..if not, we are both swimming to Antigua, pulling this bloody boat with our teeth.
All my Love,