The Voyage: Roz Savage
Day 23: Happy Birthday to Me!
23 Dec 2005

The birthday girl - in her birthday suit, naturally!

23 Dec, 05 - 20:09

For GPS position, race position and miles from La Gomera, see
Miles to Antigua: 2088
Progress towards Antigua in last 24 hours: 10

Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday dear Rozzie
Happy birthday to me!

My birthday got off to a mixed start. I'd been up rowing half the night, trying to evade these forecast southwesterlies, so was hopeful of some good news when Radio Solent rang for an interview - they always give me an update on my race position - so was slightly crestfallen to find out that Move Ahead had indeed moved ahead and overtaken me again.

But on the upside, Radio Solent were having a Christmas party in the breakfast studio (apparently including Cdr Mike Pearey - my man in the Navy - hello there, Mike!) and the assembled throng gave me a fine rendition of Happy Birthday, so that soon cheered me up, as did a birthday card from my mother and a present from my friend Pauline, plus various birthday greetings sent by email and relayed by Mum. Thanks to all!

After that it was down to business as usual... with a special guest appearance this afternoon by a whale. I haven't seen much wildlife so far, although I sometimes go into zombie mode when at the oars, so it's entirely possible that dolphins, sharks, whales, turtles, albatrosses, mermaids, mermen, et al have been doing triple backflips and dancing the cancan just yards away from me and I haven't noticed.

Anyway, the whale made sure I did notice him by blowing loudly to announce his presence. I looked round and saw a pointed dorsal fin and sleek black back arcing through the water about 20 yards away from me. He surfaced and blew a couple more times, and then no more. Looking in my guide to wildlife of the North Atlantic - so far lamentably underused - I would say he was probably a pilot whale. It was good of him to stop by to say happy birthday - it certainly made the day special.

Other stuff:

Thanks for further suggestions re the camping stove. Rather than work myself into a lather of frustration trying to fix it, I've decided to abandon it and concentrate on a workaround solution. It's actually been fine the last couple of days eating food that has been left to rehydrate for a number of hours (yummy chilli prawns with beansprouts tonight), but if I do want hot food I will try to fashion a solar cooker out of a survival blanket. I think there's one in my sailingunlimited survival pack, but have been too busy rowing to investigate so far. Thanks, Penny, for the black spot suggestion. Superb idea, and I know other rowers have used it successfully, but unfortunately I left my black spot at home...

I recorded an interview with BBC South Today. I believe it's due to be forecast tomorrow, Christmas Eve, if you happen to be in the region.

Rita Savage's PS: I think Roz meant broadcast in the paragraph just above this. She has weather forecasts very much on her mind, as once again the weekend promises ill winds.
Grateful thanks to the many people who sent emails to her today for her birthday.I have told her about them. The Iridium link does not seem to be functioning as it ought, so if anyone sent text messages they may not have got through. Thank you for the support you are giving her in prayers and messages.

Wind: 3-5 kts from the northeast
Weather: sunny and hot
Sea state: calm
Hours rowing: 12

Atlantic Row Part 1
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Day 22: A Race Against Time
22 Dec 2005

Richard and Jan Uttley - bit different from the scruffy boatbuilder I thought I knew...

22 Dec, 05 - 19:37

Latitude: 25° 17' N
Longitude: 24° 24' W
Miles from La Gomera: see
Miles to Antigua: 2088
Miles in last 24 hours: 10

Just a quick dispatch tonight. I've got a deadline to meet, so rowing, eating and resting are currently taking priority.

Shame, because it's my birthday tomorrow and I'd hoped to have time to chill out and treat myself (although treat myself to what I'm not quite sure - options somewhat limited), but now it looks as if I'll be rowing, rowing, rowing. Time and tides (and winds) waiteth for no man (or woman).

I have to get as far south as possible before Christmas Eve. Ideally down to 24°N, but that would require me to cover 100 miles in 2 days so it seems a tall order.

The wind, which at the moment is behaving impeccably and blowing at 10kts from the northeast, is due to change to a southwest headwind on Saturday. So if we're going to avoid the third consecutive Saturday night of Sid the sea anchor going out to party, I need to get a move on and skedaddle down to 24 North.

I've made decent progress today - not necessarily towards Antigua, but away from trouble. So if you were wondering why my track on the chart has suddenly taken a sharp left turn, now you know.

Other stuff:

Thanks to Anne Quemere for her message of support. Anne, at the moment it looks like your Atlantic solo female record is safe!

Thanks to Richard Uttley, boatbuilder and classical music afficionado, for the great photo of himself in dinner jacket for a night at the opera. You DO scrub up well! Glad you enjoyed Madam Butterfly.

Happy Birthday to Shaun (Billy) Bolster, you old scoundrel, and to Pete Goss.

And Happy Birthday to me... Did I mention it's my birthday tomorrow? But don't worry if the card isn't in the post already - the delivery service out here sucks...

Wind: 10 kts from the northeast
Weather: wind and sun
Sea state: moderate
Hours rowing: 12

Atlantic Row Part 1
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Day 21: Ocean Rowboat Simulator
21 Dec 2005

21 Dec, 05 - 19:08

Latitude: 25° 44' N
Longitude: 24° 17' W
Miles from La Gomera: see
Miles to Antigua: 2098
Miles in last 24 hours: 3

To give you some idea of what it's like to be in a tippy little ocean rowing boat, try this...

1. Look at the top photo, and incline your head until the horizon appears horizontal (check out the angle of the deck).

2. Look at the second photo, and again incline your head until the horizon appears horizontal.

3. Now tip your head forwards through about 45 degrees...

4. ...and now backwards...

5. ...and now combine the above 4 movements in a random sequence, e.g. Left, right, left, forward, right, back, forward, back, left, right, left, right, back, forward. If you start to feel queasy you're doing it right.

For added authenticity get someone to chuck a bucket of cold salty water over you at irregular intervals.

This tippiness goes on, to a greater or lesser degree, all the time - during rowing, sleeping, eating, cooking (no longer applicable since demise of camping stove), live radio interviews via satphone (occasionally necessitating great self-control to avoid swearing), boat maintenance, writing up logbook... everything. I don't mind it especially, but I think I'll be quite glad when life becomes more stationary again.

Thanks to all who have sent suggestions on how to resurrect the camping stove. Unfortunately none of them have worked so far. But my dinner of cold prawns with omelette pieces and peas wasn't too bad. I'll live.

Good news - I am on the move again. The wind has moved around to the north, so at 1pm today I dusted off the oars and started rowing. After nearly 4 days on the sea anchor, I could just about remember how.

And finally, if you're in London and you read this before you leave work, pick up a copy of the Evening Standard on the way home. Apparently there's a fair-sized article about li'l old me.

PS: Race and weather-watching:
Between December 16th and 19th, only 8 of the 26 boats made any progress forwards due to the adverse wind conditions. Boats were blown backwards towards La Gomera between 1 and 24 miles each.
By 21st December, those further south were moving again, those further north and east continued to lose ground (ocean) up to 49 miles in one case. The last 6 boats in the listings between them lost 163 miles. At last the wind is shifting and they can begin to row again.
(Rita Savage, using data from

Wind: 20 kts from the north
Weather: wind and sun
Sea state: moderate to rough
Hours rowing: 4
Song for the day: Stuck in a Moment (U2) - like I was last week

Atlantic Row Part 1
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Day 20: The Day the Camping Stove Died
20 Dec 2005

Little thing, big trouble

Latitude: 25° 52' N
Longitude: 24° 13' W
Miles from La Gomera: see
Miles to Antigua: 2102
Miles in last 24 hours: -4

Christmas dinner, which was never going to be very exciting anyway, is now going to be not very exciting and... cold. For today my camping stove died.

The stove developed complications during a routine maintenance operation, due to a displaced pump cup, a missing page in the instruction manual, and a bad call on a 50/50 decision.

The result is that to get it working again I need to pull the plunger out from the pump... but the plunger is held immovably in place by a vacuum.


When things started to go awry I called on my guru for all matters concerning outdoor gear - my sister. She was able to put me onto a colleague who gave me the UK supplier's number. They very kindly offered to replace the pump if I could post it to them, but clearly this wasn't much help in the circumstances.

I strained at the pump until my eyes popped, but to no avail. I'll keep trying it on a daily basis, like a bullworker workout, in the hope that temperature fluctuations or drying out of the pump cup lubricant might release the vacuum's stranglehold. But I don't hold out much hope.

It was tough to know what spares to bring with me. Daft woman, you might be thinking, for under£100 she could have taken a spare stove with her. But then where does it stop? Spare watermaker, spare bilge pump, spare rudder, spare battery? Before you know it you've doubled your weight and your cost. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

So. Not ideal.

But not a huge problem either. Muesli, snack bars, sprouted seeds and biltong don't need cooking. Dehydrated food will be edible if left to soak for several hours, and as I reach the lower latitudes might even get quite warm if I leave it in a billycan on deck. I do have 3 or 4 of those self-heating meals stashed away somewhere if I get desperate for hot food.

At least this little drama distracted me from the fact that I've had to spend another day on the sea anchor, and it now looks set to stay that way for a while longer...

Wind: 20 kts from the south - still
Weather: wind and sun
Sea state: moderate to rough
Hours rowing: 0
Thought for the day: endure what can't be mended

Atlantic Row Part 1
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