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Atlantic Row

Iridium connected everywhere

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.

Life on the sea for a month

Life on the sea for a month

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.

Journal update 3rd April

Journal update 3rd April

I ended the last blog saying Saturday was very uneventful, well I will wait to the end of the day in the future.

Journal update 31st March

Journal update 31st March

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.

Staying motivated

Staying motivated

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).

Every cloud has a silver lining

Every cloud has a silver lining

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.

Almost 1/3 complete

Almost 1/3 complete

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!!

The night of doom

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 :)

Day 6 - Getting into a routine

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. 

Day 5 - Calm before the storm

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. 

Day 4 - Cold, damp & dull

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.

Day 3 - Turtle Rescue

Things were going well and he had just started to sleep when Ralph started shouting get up, get up.  

Day 2 - Milestones

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.

Atlantic Row Update - Press Release - 4th March 2017

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.

Atlantic Row Update - Boat Preparation Week

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.  

Atlantic Row Update - The story begins

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.