The Voyage: Roz Savage
Day 11: Wild Saturday Night
11 Dec 2005

11 Dec, 05 - 19:11

Latitude: 26° 06' N
Longitude: 22° 19' W
Miles to Antigua: 2205
Miles in last 24 hours: 6

Sid the sea anchor was a dirty stop-out and stayed out all night. Me, I stayed in my cabin, apart from one desperate foray to the cockpit, scrabbling around on all fours to retrieve various items that were making a bid for freedom. I managed to haul in a jerrycan that was dangling by a bungy cord over the side, and rescued 2 buckets and a pair of trainers that were floating around in the flooded footwell. The only escapee was a bumper size pot of Boots baby wipes (my toilet paper) last seen bobbing off in the direction of Greenland.

Yup, it was a Saturday night to remember.

I'd finished a rowing shift at 1am, and noticed the wind had moved round to the south. Bad news, when that's the way I want to go. So to stop me being blown in the wrong direction I put out the sea anchor - a fabric parachute 12 feet in diameter that is let out on a long rope from the bows of the boat. It grabs hold of a big fistful of water and stops the boat going too far the wrong way.

The next time I woke up it was about 3.30am and blowing a storm. Waves were crashing over the boat and we were pitching every which way. I stuck my head out the hatch and was greeted with a blast of wind and a scene of devastation. I put on my waterproof as some token protection against the elements, clipped on my safety harness, and did what I could to restore order. I paused briefly to note the wind speed - 22 knots at that moment, but I'm sure it was gusting more.

In hindsight I suppose it was a scary situation, but I didn't notice at the time - I was too busy to be scared.

With everything stowed I retreated for the night while the wind continued to blow. At one point the whole boat tipped 90° - I found myself lying on a leecloth instead of my mattress, and all sorts of things that normally live on the right hand side of the cabin were later found in unlikely lodging places on the left.

Today the wind has been gradually easing, but is still coming from the wrong direction, so Sid the sea anchor is still out partying. I've been taking it easy, enjoying the extra recovery time for my shoulder. I had to call Tiny to make sure I was justified in not rowing today. It felt weird to be doing so little. Those who know me well on terra firma will vouch for the fact that sitting doing nothing doesn't come easily to me. It seemed inappropriate to be discovering my lazy side in the middle of a race. But Tiny gave me the reassurance I needed, and gave me a suitable anecdote of a round-the-world yachtsman (whose name I didn't catch). 'Racing', he said, 'is an insult to the ocean', and with that he carried on past the finish line, did another half lap of the world, and went to visit some friends in Tahiti.

Wind: 22+ kts last night, now about 5 Weather: sunny, overcast later
Sea state: rough, very rough at times
Hours rowing: 0
Hours sleeping: 10
Thought for the day: Surprise yourself every day with your own courage (Denholm Elliott)

Atlantic Row Part 1
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Day 10: No Lose Situation
10 Dec 2005

10 days at sea, and you too can have hands like these - calluses coming along nicely

10 Dec, 05 - 20:39

Latitude: 26° 08' N
Longitude: 22° 16' W
Miles to Antigua: 2211
Miles in last 24 hours: 26

There are some days out here when wind and waves seem to be conspiring to make the rower's life easy. Today was not one of those days.

Oily calm seas and barely a breath of wind. I was very aware that I'm going to cross this ocean stroke by stroke.

The rowing was monotonous, so I had plenty of thinking time. I've been re-evaluating my objectives for this race.

Originally I hadn't planned to race at all - I just wanted to get my own boat and bimble off into the sunset. It was a very simple, very pure concept, but faster than you can say 'sponsorship drive' it started to accumulate other people's agendas, ideas and objectives.

I was offered Sedna, on the condition that I take part in the race. Simon Chalk started me on the competitive thing when he said to me, 'In this boat you could beat some of the solo guys.' At that point there were 5 solo male entries. Now there is only one - Chris Martin, former international oarsman. So no slouch, as he is currently proving.

Then there were other people encouraging me to aim for a specific time target or a record. It was all very flattering and great fun and I went along with it. I do still aim to do a good time, and will be rowing hard to make it happen, but I need to keep the time objective in its proper place in my scale of priorities.

So it's up to me how competitive I want to be. I'm the only solo female, so provided I make it to Antigua I win my class.

Given that it will be tough to beat Chris, I could aim at beating the slower pairs. I think that I am right in saying that if I were in this position at this point of the race in previous years, I would be ahead of a number of them. But we seem to have an exceptionally high quality field this year.

Or I could compare myself with previous solo female rowers. Tori Murden took 81 days, Diana Hoff 113 days, Peggy Bouchet 47 days (significantly shorter route, so not counted as the record) and Anne Quemere 56 days. That's it. If I finish, I'll be only the 5th woman to row the Atlantic east to west. Not a bad achievement in itself.

So I can choose to enjoy rather than endure - I would prefer that this be an enjoyance event rather than an endurance event. I came out here to learn about myself, and one thing I've learned is that I don't enjoy suffering. Yes, I could push myself through the pain and the exhaustion, and arrive in Antigua an exhausted husk of a woman. Or I can enjoy my time out here... and still win my class.

Difficult decision? I don't think so.

This may, of course, sound like sour grapes. I am happy to defend my point of view to anybody. Critics should have rowed the Atlantic or similar qualifying ocean.


Miraculously, my shoulder is 95% better. I'm off the painkillers and barely a twinge from it today. Relief.

Wind: 3 kts
Weather: sunny
Sea state: calm
Hours rowing: 14
Hours sleeping: 6
Thought for the day: Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should
(from Go Placidly, by Max Ehrmann)

Atlantic Row Part 1
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Day 9: Serenity Now
09 Dec 2005

9 Dec, 05 - 20:42
Latitude: 26° 15' N
Longitude: 21° 45' W
Miles to Antigua: 2237
Miles in last 24 hours: 31

I've spent the last two days feeling angry and frustrated. Why am I injured? Why am I falling behind the rest of the race fleet? Why is the weather not being more helpful? Why am I not enjoying this the way I thought I would?

I thought I was using the right mental techniques to keep myself going - reminding myself why this is important to me, visualising how I'm going to feel when it's finished, telling myself that nothing worthwhile was ever easy. I thought the techniques were succeeding - after all, I hadn't given up - but I still felt overwhelmingly negative.

Today I got a message from Bede, the mental skills coach from Gazing who I'd been working with. 'Keep the faith', he wrote.

I looked again at the laminated A4 chart they'd given me, which I'd velcro'd to the wall of my cabin. One word jumped out at me. Acceptance.

Aha, that tricky old chestnut. I realised I hadn't really accepted my situation. Inside I was still protesting that my injury was unfair, that it shouldn't be happening, instead of accepting that this is just how things are. I'm here, on this bit of ocean, with a dicky shoulder. No point complaining. It is just as it is. Until I accepted this there was no way I was going to make the best of the situation because I was still wasting energy wishing the situation was different.

There was no Hollywood moment as a result of this insight. The pain in my shoulder didn't disappear, the wind didn't start whisking me at 5 knots towards Antigua, no school of dolphins appeared to congratulate me on my new-found wisdom. But I did start feeling a lot less unhappy.

Wind: 12 kts
Weather: sunny
Sea state: moderate
Hours rowing: 12
Hours sleeping: 6
Thought for the day: A man is as happy as he makes up his mind to be

Atlantic Row Part 1
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Day 8: Rough and Tough
08 Dec 2005

8 Dec, 05 - 20:39

Latitude: 26° 21' N
Longitude: 21° 10' W
Miles to Antigua: 2268

I'll keep this brief. The sea has been rough today, and I'm feeling a bit rough too. I haven't been seasick, but I don't want to push my luck. My appetite has been conspicuous by its absence, with even tonight's cod and potato casserole failing to hit the spot the way it usually does.

The waves this afternoon were 2-3 metres high, which looks pretty damn big when you're in a little boat with your eyes about 1 metre above the waterline. It made the rowing quite interesting. I'm glad Mum couldn't see me - she'd only have worried. Me, I didn't have time to worry - I was too busy trying to keep the boat on course.

Feeling decidedly dodgy now. More manana.

Wind: 12 kts
Weather: overcast
Sea state: rough
Hours rowing: 12
Hours sleeping: 6
Thought for the day: the key to success is constancy of purpose (Disraeli)

Atlantic Row Part 1
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