The Voyage: Roz Savage
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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Day 19: A Day in the Life
19 Dec 2005

19 Dec, 05 - 18:31
Latitude: 25° 45' N
Longitude: 24° 16' W
Miles from La Gomera: see
Miles to Antigua: 2098
Miles in last 24 hours: -8

Ocean rowing? Nothing to it matey. Based on the last 2 days it seems to involve a lot of lying around on one's bed, listening to the stereo and eating chocolate. Bit like being a teenager, but with (marginally) less angst.

In the absence of more scintillating news, I thought about talking you through the contents of my 14 hatches (I'm serious! It's quite interesting, I'll have you know) but decided instead to talk you through a day in the life of an ocean rower on anchor. Maybe the hatch-by-hatch rundown would have been more interesting after all...


Getting light. I prise myself off my bunk (backache) and turn on the chartplotter and wind instruments. Wind still from the south, lost another 2 miles overnight. Swear, and go outside to take a look around, check the sea anchor, sow some more chickpeas, and use the bedpan.


Get a lovely text from my ex who, after 11 years together, probably knows me better than most.

'gd thing is ur at yr best when things get tough. xx'

Not sure if he is right, but it sounds like the kind of person I'd like to be, so I choose to believe it and BE it. Reminds me of the quote by George Bernard Shaw: 'Life isn't about discovering yourself. It's about creating yourself.' I don't know if I was a tenacious and determined person at the start of this, but my word, I will be by the end.


Read my book, Brian Keenan's 'Four Quarters of Light' - about Alaska so a nice change of scenery. Eat chocolate. Would never eat chocolate for breakfast at home, but ocean rules apply.

Call Mum to find out how the other crews are getting on, or not as the case may be. Seems all us tail-enders are doing odd little wiggles on the chart and going nowhere fast. Very impressed by performance of race leaders All Relative. Storming!


Fire up the camping stove to boil water for my Mornflakes porridge. Put the rest in a flask for later on. Sit on deck to eat, getting the occasional soaking from a wave. Frown at the wind and waves from time to time but they refuse to take the hint and continue to come from the wrong direction.

Wash up, wash myself, make the bed, generally tidy up.


Make some phone calls to try and address some financial issues that would seem pressing if I were on dry land, but seem nigh on irrelevant out here. Fail to get through to anybody. Leave some messages and tick it off the To Do list.


Run watermaker for half an hour, which should be enough water for 1-2 days. Recharge camera and satphone batteries while there is some hazy sunshine.


Mum texts through some more messages from people who have emailed me. Seems a lot of people find what I'm doing 'inspiring'. Fantastic, heart-warming and encouraging to know this - it makes it all seem so much more worthwhile to know that people actually CARE about what I'm doing - although what it is I may be inspiring them to do I have no idea. Presumably not row an ocean.


Read more of Alaska book. Listen to more of Hitchhikers' Guide on CD. Doze a bit. Periodically check backwards progress (regress?) on chartplotter and write up logbook. Eat chilli rice with extr peas and sweetcorn and a Wholebake 9 Bar for a late lunch.

...And I suspect the evening will bring more of the same.

The forecast is for the wind to move around to the north some time tomorrow, so we should be able to up anchor and get going again.

Woodvale bill the Atlantic Rowing Race as 'Wave after Wave of Adrenaline Pumping Adventure'. If it were all like the last 2 days I'd be asking for my money back. But no doubt all too soon things will kick off again and I'll be looking back on this lazy hiatus with fond nostalgia.

P.S. Thanks to all for messages, especially Sam K and Tiny who have already been here, done this, got the blisters. Tiny - I passed on your regards to matron (Tiny's term for the big bustling waves that give you a drenching). She returns the same, and sends you a big sloppy one in the ear.

Wind: 20 kts from the south
Weather: wind and rain
Sea state: moderate to rough
Hours rowing: 0

Atlantic Row Part 1
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Day 18: Mid Ocean Mooching
18 Dec 2005

18 Dec, 05 - 19:15
Latitude: 25° 39' N
Longitude: 24° 24' W
Miles from La Gomera: see
Miles to Antigua: 2090
Miles in last 24 hours: -7 (yes, MINUS 7)

It is 10.30 on a Saturday night shortly before Christmas. If I were a normal person I might be in a pub having a drink with some friends. But I happen to be me, and so I am lying alone in a small ocean rowing boat about 500 miles off the west coast of Africa.

The wind is against me, so the sea anchor is out to stop me being blown backwards. I am in my cabin, lying on my bunk.

The cabin is about the width and length of a double bed, tapering down to about 18 inches wide at the aft end where my head is. At its highest pont the cabin roof is a little under 3 feet high. It is cosy yet not quite comfortable. Lying is less uncomfortable than sitting.

It is sticky and stuffy in here. I've got the hatch and ventilation holes closed in case the wind really blows up while I am asleep - this cabin is a buoyancy chamber that will help the boat self-right if it capsizes - so the only air comes through a ventilator installed in the round aft hatch above my head. Some nights I can see the moon and stars through this hatch, seeming to dance around in my little window on the sky as the boat pitches and yaws. But not tonight - it is overcast and dark out there.

There is a faint smell of chocolate and crystallised ginger from my snack packs, stowed in the lockers beneath the floor of the cabin. At first the smell used to make me feel hungry, but now I'm rather sick of it. My mouth is dry - I deliberately allow myself to dehydrate when I know I'll be confined to the cabin for a while, as it's a nuisance having to go out to the rowing cockpit to use the bedpan.

It is noisy in the cabin, in a soothing kind of way. The structure of the boat creaks and groans. The water laps against the hull, and swirls gurgling around the rudder which is just behind my head. When there is a gap in the gurgling I can hear the sigh of the ocean, and the breath of the wind.

The movement of the boat is different when she is at anchor. She twitches and strains like a terrier at its leash. She seems restless. We rock from left to right, left to right, and occasionally in a circular motion - up and over and around and down. Sometimes we'll get part way through one of these manoeuvres when the line to the sea anchor brings us up short, and we're jerked back. And once in a while one of those express train waves will steam in and sideswipe us and the whole boat will be knocked through sixty degrees.

I'm not scared. The sea is rough but Sedna has proved her seaworthiness in worse conditions than this. But I'm not relaxed either - even while I sleep my ears will be pricked for any unfamiliar sound, any signal that an oar or the ruddeer or the para-anchor has come to grief.

It's going to be a long night. I read for a while, then doze, dreaming of Jonah and the whale, then wake up, and it is still only 10.30pm. It doesn't get light until 8am. So I'm here, whiling away the time by tapping out my thoughts on my iPaq, its little screen the only light in my darkened cabin. It has just started to rain, pattering down on the aft hatch. I've started to yawn again. Time for another doze, lying braced between the leecloths on either side of my bunk. Thoughts blur onto daydreams blend into nightdreams. Time drags on.

P.S. I wrote this last night. Today has been spent on anchor. I have dozed, eaten, done a bit of maintenance and listened to Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy.

Wind: 20 kts from the south
Weather: windy, sun and rain
Sea state: rough
Hours rowing: 0

Atlantic Row Part 1
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Day 17: Bring Me Sunshine
17 Dec 2005

Rainbows - one in the sky, one on my Voyage logo

17 Dec, 05 - 19:50

Latitude: 25° 39' N
Longitude: 24° 32' W
Miles from La Gomera: see
Miles to Antigua: 2083
Miles in last 24 hours: 9

I awoke this morning to the sound of silence. No roaring wind, no crashing waves, no rain hammering on the cabin roof. Could it be real? I opened the hatch and peered out. Oh happy day.

I'd gone to bed last night in a thoroughly bad mood. Surely other ocean rowers had endured worse things than a couple of days of bad weather, so why was I not handling it with greater stoicism and fortitude? I was convinced I'd underestimated the scale of the challenge, or overestimated my ability to handle it. So I'd stomped off to my cabin (as much as one can stomp in a distance of 3 feet on a violently pitching deck), had cancelled all night shifts, and hoped that life would look better in the morning.

It looked as if my prayers had been answered. It has been a glorious day of rainbows, light breezes, and plentiful sunshine to power my solar panels. The watermaker was back in action this afternoon, and the jerrycans are now replenished. I had enough electricity to run the iPod for the first time in days. I was able to dry out clothes that had been draped damply around the cabin, making the walls stream with condensation. There has been the occasional downpour, but even those were quite welcome, cooling my skin and providing water for my sprouting chickpeas.

So all in all we were shipshape and bristol fashion, I put in a solid if unspectacular day's rowing, and life seemed to be on the up and up.

Except that as of 5pm Sid the sea anchor is out partying again - seems to be a regular Saturday party night for him - while another big low blows over. Apparently it's unlucky to get a big low in this part of the Atlantic at this time of year, and to get two in a week is unheard of. Once again the Atlantic Rowing Race fleet sits and waits.

Devil take the hindmost

Apparently I have overtaken two pairs, so am no longer coming last. But it's a marathon, not a sprint, so anything could yet happen...

Wind: 3 kts for most of the day, now too windy for me to stick my head out the hatch to check the instruments in case I get a soaking
Weather: bit of everything
Sea state: flat calm most of the day, now rough
Hours rowing: 6

Atlantic Row Part 1
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