15 Dec, 05 - 20:11
Latitude: 25° 38' N
Longitude: 23° 51' W
Miles from La Gomera: see http://www.atlanticrowingrace.com
Miles to Antigua: 2120
Miles in last 24 hours: 29
Rowing conditions have been horrendous. Driving rain, gusting winds and enormous waves.
Fortunately I've been elsewhere. I've spent most of today walking the streets of New York. Not literally, of course, as I'm in a small boat somewhere in the eastern Atlantic, but in my imagination - what Ranulph Fiennes calls 'mind-travelling', which he does on his polar treks to keep his mind off whatever agonies he's currently putting himself through.
It's a technique I'd discussed with my old friend Briony Nicholls, who was number seven to my stroke seat when we rowed for the Oxford Lightweights in 1989. Bri is now training to be a sports psychologist, and we had a number of useful conversations about how I would deal with stressful or unpleasant situations during the row.
So today I took to visiting one of my 'happy places' - my old Manhattan haunts from when I lived in Greenwich Village for 15 months in 2000-2001 with my then husband. I adored the place, and have spent much of today meandering around galleries, stores, coffee shops, cocktail bars, blues clubs, restaurants and nightclubs, conjuring up the tastes and textures of sour cream apple pie, margaritas, sushi and BLT's, doing some imaginary Christmas shopping (surely the best kind), ice skating in Central Park, and generally enjoying festive New York.
When not in New York, I've been practising another psychological technique - giving myself a pat on the back, and some words of encouragement. A bit of self-adulation has a marvellously restorative effect on the spirits. I've been praising myself to the skies for being tenacious, determined, disciplined etc, for carrying on rowing when any sensible person might have retreated to the cabin for the day. The best thing about this technique is that the worse the conditions get, the more I can praise myself for my tenacity.
So all in all, feeling rather smug and self-satisfied this evening. Having said that, I wouldn't mind needing to be a bit less tenacious tomorrow, i.e. it would be nice if the weather improves. My hard-earned calluses are peeling off, and I'm more likely to suffer from trench foot than sunburn... I also need some solar power pronto so I can run the watermaker before the water situation becomes critical.
Wind: 15 kts
Weather: dark clouds, rain and wind
Sea state: rough
Hours rowing: 11
Thought for the day: In each of us there are heroes - speak to them and they will come forth.
(thanks to Rachel Smith for these words)
|Atlantic Row Part 1||
14 Dec, 05 - 20:42
Latitude: 25° 46' N
Longitude: 23° 20' W
Miles to Antigua: 2149
Miles in last 24 hours: 36
It's chucking it down. If you've been envious of my blue skies and sunshine the last couple of weeks, take consolation in the fact that the weather here tonight is filthy - big waves, gusting winds and pouring rain. Dinner was a rather somber affair - a hasty ready meal gobbled down while I cowered in waterproofs in a corner of the cockpit - a sad contrast to last night's glorious sunset and triumphant home-made (almost) prawn curry.
I'll take the high road...
A few people have queried my choice of route across the Atlantic - a very valid question. Broadly, there was a choice between:
1. a Great Circle route - the shortest route in terms of miles, and so named because if you were to imagine a circle around the globe around its widest part (assuming for now that the earth is a sphere), intersecting the place you're coming from and the place you're going to, then your route would be a segment of this great circle...
2. Trade winds route - the traditional sailing route, which involves heading south 'until the butter melts' and then heading west across the ocean. This is a longer route - probably by about 400 miles - but seeks to take advantage of the usually reliable trade winds that blow from east to west across the mid-Atlantic.
Both options have their pros and cons. I was given advice by all and sundry - varying from a world-renowned cartographer to a drunken Irishman in the marina in La Gomera. Although I don't get to see the Woodvale map of how the crews are progressing, I gather most of them seem to be going for the trade winds option, while I'm on the Great Circle route.
The ultimate reasoning behind my choice? A fairly arbitrary decision, really, loosely based on three reasons:
a) the trade winds apparently start further north than usual this year, owing to the Azores High also being further north
b) I'm lazy and fancied the shorter route
c) Sedna seemed to want to go this way.
Only time will tell whether my gamble has paid off... Which brings us back the thorny question of who exactly I am racing against. Just as I had made the decision to return to my original concept and row this my own way, happy in the knowledge that provided I get across I win the solo female class, I found out today that I've gained some ground on the back of the race fleet and could be back in contention.
We shall see. But racing or not racing, the priority remains to get across safely and enjoyably.
Wind: 15 kts
Weather: overcast and squally
Sea state: rough
Hours rowing: 11
|Atlantic Row Part 1||
13 Dec, 05 - 20:53
Latitude: 25° 56' N
Longitude: 22° 40' W
Miles to Antigua: 2185
Miles in last 24 hours: 17
Note from First Mate Monty
Thank heavens she's out there and rowing again. I normally have the cabin more or less to myself - when she's in here she's sleeping - but while the sea anchor has been out she's been mooching around in here and getting under my feet, erm, paws.
Two weeks into my Atlantic row, and it seemed a good time to compile a list of my top-performing bits of kit to date, and offer some belated thank-yous. So here we have it:
Sedna Solo's Top Star Performers
1. Head torch: I have 2 Petzl torches, which have been invaluable since I never seem to have enough juice left in my main batteries to use the cabin light at night. Thanks to my sister for one of them, and to Tom and the ever-helpful staff at the Piccadilly Cotswold Outdoor for their advice on the other
2. Pentax camera (Optio WP): compact, waterproof, robust, fast and (so far, touch wood) reliable. £200 well spent.
3. Thermos flasks (Nissan): ordered from the States, as I couldn't find them in the UK. I've got one big tall one for water and a short squat one for food. I boil up just once in the morning and put the spare hot water in the tall flask. It's still hot enough by evening to rehydrate my dinner - I put my Commercial Freeze Dried ingredients with herbs and spices into the squat flask, add the water from the tall flask, and 5 minutes later I have dinner. Very tasty prawn curry tonight.
4. Heel-steering system: as designed and built by Richard Uttley at Dolphin Quay Boatyard. Works a treat. (Richard - the locking off doesn't work so well, as I can't get it tight enough. So I use the rudder strings for locking off, and that works just hunky-d.)
5. Ventilation holes and vent covers: again by Mr Uttley. Let plenty of air but no water into my cabin. Have only had to close the vents once, and that was during the Saturday night storm, but even then I'd left them opefor a while and no water got in.
6. Leecloths: Jock Wishart's suggestion, leecloths provided free of charge by Ivan at Arun Sails. Stop me falling out of bed and being thrown around the cabin in even the roughest weather. They make my bunk a safe and comfortable haven, much appreciated after a long day at the oars.
7. Grabrails and 2 rollbars: vital to have things to hang onto in the cockpit. The main 'rollbar', ostensibly for mounting antennae and nav light, also makes a great barre for hanging onto while I do my stretches.
8. Kettle: much safer than a billycan for pouring boiling water on a lurching ship. Purloined (with permission) from apartment in La Gomera.
9. Kangaroo skin gloves, by Kakadu of Australia: soft and supple leather gloves, without which my hands would be even rougher than they are.
10. Mother: invaluable. Mum is my first point of contact for race information, weather and general advice. She's also handling my email messages, bank accounts, website issues and other administration. And she's probably also doing 101 other things for me that she doesn't even tell me about. We can safely say that I wouldn't be here (or indeed, anywhere) if it wasn't for my mother.
If I have made anybody, male or female, self-conscious about the content of their messages, then many apologies. All support, encouragement, AND advice gratefully received, although in the case of the latter, I do of course reserve the right to ignore it and do as I damn well please.
Special thanks for some recent advice that has NOT been ignored:
- Achates, for his tip on sleeping on your back and letting the movement of the boat massage those aching muscles
- Patrick Pearson, for the Alexander Technique refresher, and reminding me to do my stretch routine after every shift.
And another apology
To people who have sponsored a mile of my row and have not as yet been mentioned, as promised, on my website. Afraid this got overlooked in the general busy-ness. So belatedly, here are the names of people who have sponsored a mile already rowed...
John Cuell, Paul Baynham, Christopher Adams, Ed Harrison, Geoffrey Parish, India Peary, Iona Peary, Elizabeth & Henry Burroughs.
Wind: 3 kts
Weather: sunny and hot
Sea state: gentle swell
Hours rowing: 8
|Atlantic Row Part 1||
12 Dec, 05 - 19:07
Latitude: 26° 06' N
Longitude: 22° 23' W
Miles to Antigua: 2202
Miles in last 24 hours: 3
One oar down, three to go
I thought I had emerged unscathed from the big blow of Saturday night, but I was wrong. This morning I realised that one of my oars is broken. Not broken in two - that I would have noticed - but splintered along its length in four distinct cracks, like a plastic drinking straw that has been trodden on.
Not a big problem - I've got 2 spares, although obviously by the time I'm down to my last oar I'll be having problems going in anything other than circles.
So I swapped the broken oar for a spare, which had been serving as a guardrail, and taped up the broken one with my boathook as a splint so that if I fall against the guardrail it won't give way.
The wind is still blowing the wrong way - the wrong way for my purposes, anyway. I tried rowing for a while this afternoon, but the best course I could make was a very slow WNW, which might have got me somewhere but certainly not Antigua. So I did what any self-respecting adventurer would do in the circumstances - stowed my oars, put Sid the sea anchor out to play, and went to wash my hair.
The had been a slight lapse in standards of hair hygiene. My body was acceptably clean, with regular bathing with sponge or wet wipes, but my hair had generally been stuffed under a hat and out of sight was out of mind.
It felt astonishingly good to get rid of all the tangles - feeling like a mermaid as I sat on deck, butt naked, combing out my tresses - and give it shampoo and conditioner using my nice-smelling and very eco-friendly Green People products (cue blatant plug for sponsor).
I have been receiving a gratifying number of messages via email and text, with words of support, encouragement and advice.
An observation - as a broad generalisation, and with notable exceptions - women tend to offer support and encouragement, while men offer advice. As I recall, this applies on terra firma too. Interesting.
A moment of pure tranquillity this evening - standing up on deck, hanging onto the roll bar behind me as we rode the rolling swells, looking towards the setting sun. Not another human being as far as the eye could see - just a couple of birds wheeling low over the waves. The gentle sound of waves lapping against the hull. Bliss.
Wind: 7-10kts, from the wrong direction
Weather: sunny and clouds
Sea state: swell, also from the wrong direction
Hours rowing: 1
Hours sleeping: 6
Thought for the day: A good scare is often worth more to a man [or woman] than good advice.
|Atlantic Row Part 1||