The Voyage: Roz Savage
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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Day 7: Soul Surfin'
07 Dec 2005

7 Dec, 05 - 20:50

Latitude: 26° 32' N
Longitude: 20° 37' W
Miles to Antigua: 2299


It's a pain. It's only a pain. It's only an inconvenient physical sensation. Pain is good - it lets me know I'm alive. Love the pain!

No sorry, it's not working. Pain is... A pain. And I wish the one in my right shoulder blade would go away.

I suspect it's tendonitis - it's got that grating feeling, the same as I once had in my wrist when I was rowing at Oxford. So I've been taking anti-inflammatories and painkillers for 2 days now, but the pain is still there.

It isn't good, after clawing my way back into contention with Chris Martin, to imagine him pulling away again.

Of course I've considered whether this problem is a showstopper. But I realised there's no way this setback will make me quit. Worst case scenario is that I have to stop rowing and drift for a day or so while it gets better. But giving up is not an option. Apart from anything else, if I quit now they'd have to destroy my boat so it wouldn't be a hazard to shipping, and there ain't no way I'm going to allow that to happen.


Life has a good sense of humour. Ironically, this has probably been one of my best days in terms of miles covered. The wind picked up to 12 knots in the right direction and I've been surfing the waves at about 3 knots, compared with my usual sedate 2 knots. Best of all, it's required almost no effort on my part - I just dip the oars in as I ride the waves to keep the boat on course, not needing to put any strain on my injured shoulder.

Late this afternoon I spoke to Lin on the support vessel Aurora, for advice on maximum dosages of painkillers (good news is I can up the dosage to one every 3 hours, bad news is that at that rate I'll have run out of dihydrocodeine in 4 days). As well as medical advice, she told me Chris is only 8 miles ahead of me - so I'm not dead and buried just yet.

Thanks to people who have sent messages of support to my satphone - ocean rowers Mark M and Sam K, thanks to you especially. I was being really cautious about handing out my number, as I thought I would find texts too distracting, but in fact they've given me a huge boost at this rather difficult stage. Thanks again.

Reap what you sow

On a totally different subject, I've been growing my own veg. I ran out of fresh food a couple of days ago - supplies limited due to constraints of space, weight, and preparation time - so I've implemented my seed-sprouting plan. Put your chickpeas or aduki beans to soak for a few hours, rinse and place in your seed sprouter. Water twice daily, and 2 days later you have fresh, crunchy beansprouts. Great with a splash of soya sauce.

Apparently ancient Chinese mariners used to do the same on long voyages to avoid the scurvy.

As Rob Hamill (Kiwi ocean rower) put it - it's nice to have some food that's life-enhancing rather than just life-sustaining. And food doesn't come much fresher or healthier than this.

Wind: 12 kts
Weather: sunshine and cloud
Sea state: rolling swells
Hours rowing: 12
Hours sleeping: 6
Mantra for the day: steely resolve
Lyric for the day: No one said it would be easy/ but nobody said that it would be this hard

Atlantic Row Part 1
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