As part of my experience on the Clipper Race I trialled a Iridium Go! Satellite phone and wifi hotspot device. My goal initially was to have a reasonable cost way to stay in contact with friends, family and work in case of emergencies.
As part of my experience on the Clipper Race I trialled a Iridium Go! Satellite phone and wifi hotspot device. My goal initially was to have a reasonable cost way to stay in contact with friends, family and work in case of emergencies.
After a month at sea, I thought it would be a good opportunity to introduce you to some of the ways of life on board a ocean rowing boat.
I ended the last blog saying Saturday was very uneventful, well I will wait to the end of the day in the future.
So I thought that the visit to the tuck shop in the fwd cabin would be the highlight of my Friday afternoon and was looking forward to planning when I was going to eat the treats over the coming week. ROSE and the ocean had different ideas.
The weekend was pretty stress free, I continued to coach Clément on his technique which as come on in leaps and bounds since he first started. On the Saturday evening we spent time each watch gazing at the stars and discussing all the travelling he has done over the last 5 years. He is a truly inspirational young Frenchman with strong values and determination to help others explore.
On Friday I decided to start the day with some humour and cheer, I heard the 10 min shout to get on watch so put on my clothes, grabbed my Red Noses (DJ Boogie and Dr Nose). I put on DJ Boogie because I am always wearing headphones listening to the great Spotify playlists you have shared with me. Niall opened the hatch door to come off watch to see me with a red Nose (I will leave you to imagine the Irish commentary).
At Lunchtime on Tuesday 21st we organised the watch change, Niall had come up with a process of how this should happen with the least impact to the team. Fortunately for me it had no impact other than getting to spend the afternoon with my new watch buddy Clément. For the others it meant a combination of 2hr watches followed by 1hr off then 1hr on and then back to 2hr and 2hr off in the new watch.
The added bonus for Niall was he was upgrading accommodation to the fwd cabin and Clément downgraded to the aft and sharing with Ralph.
Clément and I are both new to rowing, let alone ocean rowing, so spending time with Niall and Ralph was invaluable to get coaching from them both in the last two weeks.
We started our watch off with Clément taking the first seat and leading the pace, this gave me chance to see his natural style and gauge how we may both need to adjust to row efficiently together. Surprisingly we both had similar styles and were off to a great start, whilst only managing 3knts, our timing was quite in sync. During the watch I found out that Clément had never rowed solo during any time on the boat so had not found his own rhythm, but instead mimicked a combination of Ralph and Niall's. We decided to use the time during this watch to try out different things so he rowed solo for 10 mins, then I rowed solo and then we rowed together. He also mentioned that he has only ever had a fee pointers from Ralph and Niall but never knew the techniques that he should to trying. We then decided to go back to basics and just rowed with our arms and looking at the recovery period along with the stroke length. Once we had that sorted we then introduced using our legs. The first two hours we really stormed and formed as a team.
The next watch didn't start too well, due to an accident within 30 seconds of sitting at the oars. Only the day before we were saying there is very little to injure you on a rowing boat. We forgot the tripping hazards. Ralph was walking from the fwd cabin to the aft and as he went to step over my stationary oar he tripped on the line securing the water containers to the boat. His body weight land on my oar and bent my knee backwards. It felt like I had been hit with a wrecking ball and I burst into uncontrollable tears with the pain. Accidents happen and it was no-ones fault but I could have done without another injury. So I had 2hrs of rowing to do and just got on with it, rowing without bending my legs.
I thought of the quote from my brother-in-law sent in an email from 12th March.
‘It will hurt. It will take time. It will take dedication. It will require will power. It requires sacrifice (you will need to push your body to the max). There will be temptation. But, i promise you, when you reach your goal, it will be worth it.’ - Ben Howes
During the session I was thinking of home, then there was a magical moment when the wind was blowing the sea spray off each oar stroke and rainbows appeared. This made me think of the card from my mum gave me when I left on this journey and it was as if she was right beside me willing me to Row on.
Later in the afternoon we were visited by dolphins who were very active leaving torpedoed shape trails through the waves. In the evening I was very grateful to just relax and each 2hr off period I just slept.
Wednesday was a new day and the goal was for Clément and I to really start performing as a team. As a boat we had been making great progress and achieving about 76Nm over a 24hr period. Calculating this against our virtual pace boat with a target of 45 days for the crossing we were now 4hrs ahead when we hit the 1/3 complete milestone. Over the day Clément and I manage to keep the boat moving at between 3.5 to 4knts so we're pleased with our combined efforts.
Thursday started off really tough with the ocean feeling like treacle, strangely though the boat was still moving at 3.5knts. We had cloud cover for the first time which made the sunrise quite spectacular. We saw a fishing vessel for the first time in 4 days, I was starting to think we were the only boat on the ocean for a while.
So I mentioned previously that I had not had a comedy moment, well that changed just after lunch, I had eaten my Chicken and rice followed by Apple crunch and custard (Yummy). Then Niall said why don't to share out one of those large bars of Milka Chocolate (with peanut and caramel). I replied great idea and just before my watch started I thought well I will just eat my allowance in one go. About 5mins into my watch the world went into slow motion, every stoke of the oars, as the boat went over the crest of a wave. Even when people spoken to me. This went on for about 2hrs and after discussing it with Niall we concluded I had a sugar high due to not eating much sugar in the last week. Whilst the feeling was fun to begin with I don't want to experience that again so from now on I will keep up with the Mars a day to help work rest and play.
There were two other highlights of the day, firstly the epic random 8-10 meter waves that appeared in the 2-4 meter swell. We managed to surf the wave and hit 9.2knts in a rowing boat!!!
The second was about 23:00 when it was pitch black, we were doing about 4knts when we then hit a squall, at this point normal people would get waterproofs but we just powered through with the feeling of the fresh rain water hitting my skin and making me feel alive. 10 minutes later it stopped and my watch was over, what a way to end the week. Other than a few aches here and there, we are all fit and focused on the next half way milestone that we should achieve by Tuesday next week.
I am off to bed now but please remember whilst I am taking the time to recover there are others that need our support. Please can you find the time to spread the word and show your support by making a donation to one of the charities I have chosen to support.
Our next goal is to reach the 1100 mile waypoint by 06:00 on Wednesday 22nd March. If we achieve this then we would have completed 1/3 of the crossing and have a target ETA of completing in 47.5 days. Let's all cross our fingers and wish us luck!!
Quite a lot has happened on board Rose.
Wednesday 15th about 18:00 we arrived at the Canaries, a key milestone (waypoint) on this passage. The crew were in high spirits, and seeing land again after 9 days at sea was an odd feeling. Our skipper Ralph referred to it as "seeing a Christmas tree from the sea". The sun was setting and the island was glowing, all the lights twinkling made it look very enticing. I however was fixated on the boat speed of 5.2knts that we were achieving with the support of the current.
Niall and I both had one key objective at this milestone and that was to pick up 4G passing the island so we could reset our offline Spotify date counters. The thought of not being able to have music for the last 15 days of the trip would have been unbearable. With that goal achieved we had another 30 days to listen to the amazing playlists friends and family had put together, please have a listen to a few on the website and see what you think.
Like any other situation in life where people are not connected to the World Wide Web for more than 24hrs we have withdrawal symptoms, so the off watch both then logged on and spent the next few hours starring at their phones. The on watch were secretly hoping there was still signal when we finish the watch.
Clément has been learning the rules of the ocean with coaching from Niall. Watching for vessels on the horizon and identifying them by the lights, checking the AIS and also getting to grips with the VHF lingo.
Thursday 16th at 09:00 marked the 10 day milestone we set to reach the canaries by and we were extremely pleased we achieved it with the time we had to spend on the sea anchor due to the storm.
We started to row away from the Island and had a beautiful sunrise to see us off. We were making good speed and I used the opportunity to call a few friends and family to check-in on life back home.
Whilst checking in with my business partners I managed to get an unexpected motivational peptalk from Terrafirma's fabulous channel partner Alan Thorogood at STL Group. Big thank you to everyone at STL for your support ❤️.
We tried to say goodbye to Canaries but the shadow of the island combined with the currents and headwinds meant we were only able to make between 0.8knts to 2.0knts of boat speed. It was like the island had a huge grip on the boat and wouldn't let us leave. We had a strategic decision to make, do we A) head slightly east to get out of the current and shadow of the island and then south to pick up the trade winds or B) continue the exhausting battle. So we took A) the longer route but it was an amazing feeling making the boat go faster, overall we feel we lost about 5 hours (~15nm) progress in the right direction. Later the conditions improved and we had a visit from a pod of dolphins.
Due to the heat and effort required to stay hydrated we ran the water maker for too long and ended up depleting both the batteries on board to less than 20%. This meant we had water but limited power to run the other electrical systems. We shut off as much as possible to give the solar panels chance to recharge the batteries.
After a frustrating Thursday we felt that Friday being St.Patricks day we were due some good luck, this was not the case...
Niall was given the bad news first, there was no Guinness or Irish whiskey stowed away for this special occasion.
We then had a spot of excitement when a few hundred meters container ship changed course directly for us. As it approached within 200m the person on the bridge waved at us and then proceeded to bear away back to his original course. What a joker!!
Then later in the afternoon conversations moved to food, over the last 10 days we had noticed a large dent had been made in the chocolate supply on board. It appears that our Skipper who is not able to smoke at sea has a sweet tooth instead, also Clément has been rationing himself to only 3 chocolate bars a night.
So Niall the enforcement officer calls for a stock check and issued the allowances for the next week. Lets just say it was about 5 mins before valuing of each item and trading started. We are not worried because if all else fails we have about 4000 energy gels to keep us going.
Despite these daily trials and tribulations the morale is very high, I guess because our on board jester Ralph keeps us amused by rubbing energy gels all over his body instead of sun tan lotion. It must be a faster Dutch way to consume energy.
From a rowing perspective in a day we
- Row 12 hours,
- Sleep 8 hours,
- Eat 2 hours,
- Do other tasks for 2 hours
Daily tasks include:
- Taking comfort breaks
- Doing the laundry (weekly)
- Cleaning the Solar Panels
- Producing 30 litres of water
- Tidying up the rubbish
- Reviewing the weather
- safety checks
- Checking emails and replying to you all at home
In terms of health on board
Ralph - as mad as ever and in denial about his nicotine withdrawals.
Niall - the old man sat on his inflatable cushion, nursing aches and pains but full of Irish cheer.
Clément - young and healthy other than a few bottom sores.
Colin - sea legs have been found but have pulled a muscle by trying to move the ocean rather than the boat, now rowing with one arm whilst resting the other.
Last night was the most magical yet, we finally started to head west and the moon had set so we were in total darkness other than the stars and some cloud cover. The ocean was still calm, so much that it felt solid. As you pulled the oars through the water if you made a mistake with your stroke the boat felt like someone hit the brakes.
When moving you feel like you are on a rollercoaster in the dark. Then you spot the way the Navigation light hits the phosphorescent in the water. We were gliding through the water with stars and the sea sparkling, the whirlpools from the oar stokes glowing as they flowed behind the boat. It is the moments like these that make the tough times insignificant.
So I will leave you with a quote left on board rose
"You don't have to be great to start but you need to start to be great" - Hana
Thank you for all your support and please take the time to read more about the charities I am supporting as part of this challenge. It would mean a lot to me if you could show your support for those less fortunate than ourselves.
The Night of Doom
Well what can I say... after we set off on the 6th March due to being delayed by weather it looked like we had a clear passage to the canaries. We knew that if we could make it there in 9 to 10 days then we were on track for a good record attempt.
The first 6 days seemed to match the forecast and I thought it would be sensible to start getting some updates from fellow mission warrior Charlie. So on 13th march the email arrives (Re: Weather warning sunday/monday/tuesday).
"Looking at Windyty and other sources it looks like this bad weather will peak around 2100 Monday and ease off over Tuesday with wind in the 10-15 kts range by midnight on Tuesday. It should continue to decline on Weds morning and bottom out at a around 10kts of wind from the north. It will pick up again in the afternoon and loiter in the 10-15 range (with minor gusts) for the next couple of days."
The only issue was the weather had already hit us early. I checked other sources we had and it seemed to reflect the same so we felt confident we knew what was coming, little did we know.
The sea state built to 6m swell with 25knts of wind from the north. You could say this was great because we had good VMG pushing us on course at twice our normal boat speed. After two watches on deck in the wind and rain Niall and I agree as passengers we should pull in the oars and get into the cabins.
Clément and I shared the fwd cabin and Niall and Ralph were in the aft cabin. We had VHF radios to stay in touch. For the next 18hrs we were being smashed in all directions by rouge waves which knocked the auto helm off course, this resulted in Clément and Niall jumping on deck to row whilst Ralph and I reset the auto helm and agreed the next best course angle based on the changing wind and wave conditions.
As the storm continued to build, the auto helm had enough and we also had decided we needed to get some sleep so we dropped the sea anchor, for those who don't know this is a parachute looking piece of equipment that pulls the boat into the wave at about a 35 degree angle to keep the boat from going backwards. The deployment did go quite to plan so I ended up on the bow of the boat (clipped on) and holding Cléments hand whilst I leant into the sea to untangle the sea anchor from the bow line whilst being hit by waves.
We then climbed back into the cabins and tried to sleep for the next 12 hours. On the 14th once the swell settled to only 4m and wind dropped to about 16kntswe pulled in the anchor and got back under way. We all could not wait to get back on the oars and make some progress, all pleased to be safe and thankful that Rose stood up the the might of the Atlantic.
So we now have written on the cabin wall "the weather forecast is never right".
Well we are back in a stable sea state and glorious sunshine, just missing the GnT's :)
Saturday 11th started off with a beautiful sunrise making the clouds in the sky a fiery red. At this point we had settled into the watch rotations and they were working well.
10mins to the second hour of a current watch either Niall or I would shout to both cabins to give them a wake up warning. This would then happen again with 5 and 2 minutes to the watch change.
Once the watch had changed the off coming watch would make a meal by boiling water in the jet boil. We always have hot water in flasks from the previous watch to prepare meals and we are just boiling more for the next watch. The meal preparation and eating takes about 15 mins.
Then the tricky bit of making sure you have been to the loo (bucket or bottle) depending on what you needed.
Once complete it's off to the cabin to get approximately 1hr 20mins sleep.
This was all going perfectly until the 17:00-19:00 watch when we received a weather warning from multiple sources, batten down the hatches was pretty much the summary from now until possibly Tuesday. The wind speed started to pick up and the sea state changed from calm toBF3 in a matter of 30mins. We went from wearing pants to foulies.
We were about to realise what a small boat in a large ocean really feels like.
Niall was already suffering with pressure points on his backside and using an inflated pillow for comfort when rowing.
Clément has some salt sores on his backside and sore hands.
I got hit with sea sickness despite wearing a anti sea sickness patch.
All we know is it going to continue to build and get worse. Despite everything we are still smiling and looking forward to getting through the next few days. Niall was over the moon with the 9.8knts of boat speed.
Colin and the team are staying strong through these tough days. Be part of their journey and make a huge difference to one of Colin's chosen charities.
Friday 10th was quite a relaxing day, the sea state was calm and there was no cloud cover making it blistering hot. It made it feel like a 2hour watch was much longer as the sun zapped the energy out of your body.
We managed to maintain about 4.2knts of boat speed for most of the day and this was in the right direction to the south.
During the day we took some time to do a deck tidy and found a few flying fish had become residents on board rose.
Niall has been coaching from the start of the journey on my rowing technique and I am coming on well. I am now able to keep the stokes in time and not dig my oars in too deep. When you get it right the boat glides along beautifully.
We decided to experiment with the watch rotations so that each person could at least once a week have a 6 hour off watch period. This means that once an evening one of us has to row solo whilst the other 3 sleep. Niall did first to trial the process. I then had the opportunity to row the 01:00 - 03:00 shift solo. At first I was nervous but after 30 mins I put on my headphones and turned up the music. The time then flew by along with the boat maintaining a 3.2knts single handed. At points just watching the reflections on the oars can be mesmerising, along with the chainlinks in the ocean which are created during your recovery stroke from droplets hitting the sea water.
We finished the day by treating ourselves to a another locker of meals which gave us a new selection of menu options, now including salmon and broccoli pasta, spagbol and chicken fried rice.
You can support Colin on his incredible journey by giving what you can to one of his chosen charities.
The two graveyard watches this morning were extremely tough. The weather had changed covering the ocean in thick fog, we had approximately 250m visibility. As I came out of the fed cabin it felt like a scene from pirates of the Caribbean and I was expecting Jack Sparrow to appear from the fog.
Things were going well and he had just started to sleep when Ralph started shouting get up, get up.
Day two started with a 5-7am row with a sun stunning sunrise ☀️😎. We also had quite a bit of other traffic crossing in front and behind us, it is quite nerve racking waiting to see if the container ship 🚢 has spotted you.
9:00-11:00 was the first watch of the day and I was feeling anxious but also excited.
Technautic Atlantic Challenge: Ocean Rower, Ralph Tiujn, will team up with the 4 Nations rowing team in an attempt to break 4 world records. On Monday 6th March Ralph sets off with the team, embarking on his fifth ocean crossing and 3rd crossing of the Atlantic. The team will row on the ocean rowing boat “Rose”and will comprise of 4 rowers from 4 different countries. The crossing departs from Portimao in the south of Portugal and 45-50 days later will arrive in South America in the town of Cayenne, French Guiana. He hopes to break the current World record of 50 days and 10 hours.
Friday 24th February 2017 I woke up early with a realisation that today was my last day in the UK before leaving for Faro Portugal. I was feeling quite anxious mainly because I had not packed anything and still wanted to meet family and friends to say goodbyes.
2017 started well with my first goal of running up Snowden on New Years day complete. I thought the year was all mapped out with my 32 week training programme to get to the start line of the Gore-tex Transalpine run on 2nd September 2017. Little did I know that a few days later whilst planning for my snowboarding trip to St.Anton, Niall who I have never met before was drafting a life changing facebook post. This was posted onto the Clipper Race Yacht Club group and I had not seen it until two friends Tatty & Lucy decided to nominate me as a candidate.
We have sailed over 2,600 miles and have just over 3,000 left since the addition of the 1,000 miles due to the race course extension.
We are in the West Mariana Basin in the Philippine Sea heading for Batan. The course extension has caused some mixed emotions on the boat and made Happy Hour slightly less happy. Overall the moral on the boat is good and we are still in a race mode focused on working are way up the fleet. Port watch have our own competition to see who can get the best boat speed and with the excellent downwind spinnaker coaching on the helm from James and Nicholas, I feel that I could be in with a chance of being on the leaderboard.
After the crew spending the last two weeks discussing the weather you will be pleased to know we are now in the Northern Hemisphere, Neptune paid us a visit on the happy hour following the Equator crossing. The weather conditions are improving so hopefully the odour will become less funky. I can't believe that I would look forward to my days on surface wipe down so that we had a pine fresh smell on board rather than the salt sea dog sweat odour. The crew are now using the fresh water shower which gives you at least 10 minutes relief from the itchy skin and turns you into a walking air freshener.
Each crew member on watch is required to perform duties each watch change, some are nicer than others for example the log gives you time each hour to check the course, explore the charts and come down out of the sun. On the opposite scale you have the bilges and heads which require you to get down and dirty with the boat but there is a real satisfaction when the task is complete.
This week Richard and I won the Delia award for a breakfast treat of pancakes with maple syrup and a after eight (dinner) treat of Weetabix soaked in maple syrup, baked for 10mins and then coated with melted Nutella and dark chocolate, sprinkled with coconut and left in the freezer to set. Thank you to all the crew for your votes. Next request has been for fruit scones.
On the sailing side we have had a number of exciting days caused by some silly mistakes but after spending a week in the doldrums we were happy to be active again. After pro-actively spotting a rip in the clew of our medium weight spinnaker we dropped the sail but it got tangled in the anti-wrap net.
Once this was down we launched the heavyweight but the final checks prior to hoisting missed a thumb not in the active sheet.
We hoisted and then the boat heeled over and was heading for a broach when we blew the tack. Unfortunately this ended with another rip in the tack of the heavyweight. So we switched to the Yankee 1 and spent our off watch time repairing the sails. Our legend of the week award goes to Denise for spending hours sewing the sails back together.
Now I have settled into the watch system and found my sea legs it is great spending time in the evenings on the foredeck gazing at the stars and depending on the watch timings you see different constellations. The most common ones are Orion, Gemini and Pegasus (plough or big dipper).
At happy hour today we will be putting the clocks back so we will be moving to UTC + 9 hours. Signing off now for some more helming and trimming to make the boat go faster!
Love to all at home supporting us on the race :)
Footage of the CLIPPER 2015-16 ROUND THE WORLD YACHT RACE