09 Jun 2006, Christ Church, Oxford
What a nice surprise, when something arrives on budget, ahead of schedule, and exceeds expectations.
I was living in my old college, University College Oxford, for much of June, and it seemed like a good opportunity to get my Atlantic blade painted up, as there are signwriters in Oxford that specialise in that sort of thing. But I was chatting with an aspiring ocean rower, Sarah Outen from St Hugh's (conspicuously bald, having just shaved off her alopecia-stricken hair - watch out for her in ocean-rowing circles), and she recommended that instead of the signwriters I should go to the Clerk of Works at Christ Church.
So I tracked down Karl Lemar, blade in hand. This was one of the two oars that lost its spoon on the Atlantic, and at the time I'd chucked it in the forward cabin, already thinking it might make a good trophy. I'd then whiled away several rowing shifts designing a suitable symbol in my mind, but when I tried to draw my design on paper I couldn't manage to make it look right.
So it was rather a half-baked idea that I presented to Karl. 'Err, well I think I'd like the yin and yang symbol in the middle, and a compass, and a couple of crossed oars, with maybe a dolphin and a rose in there somewhere.'
Turned out Karl was no stranger to the sea himself, having spent 25 years as a submariner, and although he was a man of few words, I got the impression he was pleased to help.
Front of blade
Detail on back of blade
I am very impressed and extremely pleased with the results. He'd brought all the elements together with far more artistic flair than I'd managed in all my hours of pondering. I've already booked him in to do the Pacific oars - although hopefully those spoons will have to be cut off rather than being severed by the force of waves in mid-ocean.
Back to life, back to 'reality'
Huge apologies for recent silence... and I don't even have the excuse of a non-functioning satphone now. My feeble excuse is that life has been hugely hectic and a logistical nightmare - on my boat everything I needed was within 23 feet, but back here in England, and without a home to call my own, it has been a challenge to get myself to where I need to be, on time and suitably clothed. There have been times when I've yearned to be back on my little boat bobbing around in the big blue, when life was relatively simple.
I got back to England on Monday and spent a couple of days with Natalie, my old rowing friend-turned-nutritional therapist, in Emsworth. I popped down to the Dolphin Quay Boatyard to catch up with the guys and let Richard Uttley, boatbuilder extraordinary, know just how well Sedna had performed.
Now I'm back in London for a few days before I cross the Atlantic yet again to give a speech in New York. While I'm not recognised in the street here the way I was in Antigua, there is enough media interest to make life interesting. In the last week there have been various newspaper and magazine interviews, and I've been on BBC South and Channel Five News - the latter fortunately was on the day of the fundraising party on HMS President (courtesy of Cdr Mike Pearey and the Royal Navy) so I was able to turn up still wearing my studio makeup, i.e. looking significantly more glamorous than usual.
The party was a great success, raising more than ?5000 for the Prince's Trust, thanks largely to the magnificent efforts of our guest auctioneer Mr Nick Bonham from the famous auction house.
In the midst of all this activity I'm struggling to keep that little kernel of serenity and strength that I tried to nurture in the latter stages of the row. When I was in Antigua I looked back on the race and wondered which was the dream and which was the reality, and similarly I now find myself wondering which was the real Roz - the one I finally found out there on the ocean, or the one who seems to be re-emerging now I'm back on dry land. I'm desperate not to forget all that I learned out there, but this will be at least as big a challenge as the row itself. But if I do forget, then what was the point of it all?
(Apologies for lack of photo - for some reason the dispatch interface won't accept my photo selection. Technology - pah!)
|Atlantic Row Part 4||
20 Mar 2006
Together with the flare on arrival day.
Roz is very kindly allowing me to do another dispatch! When I went out on the RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) we met up with Roz 4 miles out of English Harbour, and her first words were "We did it!" The hug had to wait until she was ashore; until we had tied up the rib and forced a way through the crowd of people, with the lighted flare.
What I really aim to say is how much we appreciate the welcome and help which we received on Antigua: local Antiguans, English people now living on Antigua, and people we met aboard yachts just visiting Antigua. From beginning to end they have been so enthusiastic and generous that it has been an amazing and wonderful experience. We could not have managed without their homes, phones, computers, hands, advice, knowledge, generosity, interest, fenders, buckets, boats, cars etc etc. Just saying thank you is hardly adequate, they all deserve medals!
Both Roz and I have also been overwhelmed by the messages of congratulation by email, and also people who live on the island recognizing us as we gone about our business, stopping to have a word and shake our hands.
Some of my earlier dispatches were full of 'thankyou's, and here we go again, but we are SO grateful for the comments and interest shown by so many people. It has been a fascinating experience for me - when I wasn't worrying about Roz!
PS Just a reminder about the Party/Charity Auction on Thursday 23rd: it would be great to see you there, but please remember that we are not issuing tickets: WE NEED TO KNOW if you are coming, and YOU need to bring photo ID because of the Royal Navy security rulings. Do use Roz' home page to send messages and/or payment. Thanks, Rita Savage.
|Atlantic Row Part 4||
Just outside English Harbour, Antigua, the welcome begins.
It's been less than 48 hours since I arrived in Antigua, and my feet have barely touched the ground, and after all this time yearning to get my feet back on solid ground too.
Right now I feel like I'm dreaming and that I'm going to wake up and find that I've got yet another day of rowing to do, but maybe I'll soon start to feel that this is the reality and it was the rowing that was a dream.
I still get occasional bouts of groundsway, but they're becoming less frequent. I've also still got the driving rowing rhythm going through my head - the beat that helped me get through the final days of my row, a constant repetition of affirmative mantras in time with my oarstrokes. It worked well in the boat but on dry land it's driving me crazy. It's over, I keep telling my brain, you don't have to row any more.
I've been on a constant high since I arrived in Antigua, overwhelmed by the warm hospitality of the people here, and flattered by the attention of media here and in the UK. There has been a constant stream of people wanting to come and shake my (still very sore) hand, and to congratulate me on my achievement.
If you didn't see the photo of my arrival added belatedly to yesterday's dispatch, check it out now. How big is that grin?! And it's weird to see how skinny I look - like a smile on a stick. I was able to weigh myself yesterday - 102lb or 7st 4lb or about 46kg - so I've lost about 30lb or 14kg on the way across. The Atlantic Diet - effective, but a toughie.
I've been catching up on some of the emails that Mum received during what I'm calling my Space Oddity period - the three and a half weeks between my satphone dying and my arrival in Antigua. Clearly there was a lot of speculation about what was happening, both with my comms and with my erratic progress across the ocean. There was a lot going on, too much to put into one dispatch, but I'll give a quick summary here.
17th Feb: satphone stops working. Suspect the connection between the handset and the antenna is shorting out. Peter Beardow at 7E had told me that ocean rower Dom Mee had this problem and they suggested he use a chocolate wrapper to fix it, but didn't say what sort of chocolate wrapper (foil or paper?) or what to do with it. Attempt all kinds of creative things with both paper and foil but no success.
Initially rather pleased to have total peace and quiet and solitude, an opportunity to find out who I am when I'm not being someone's daughter or friend or blogger, but as time wears on and the last miles prove to be fraught with problems, there are times when I wished I had at least access to weather and eddy information.
27th Feb: being pushed NE by eddy - ever further from Antigua
1st March: discover that I'd mis-plotted the location of finish line by 1?, so instead of having 197 nautical miles to go I still have nearly 250. Faintly depressing.
2nd March: make VHF contact with USS Pomeroy. Manage to get message to Mum and Woodvale to let them know that it's only the satphone that's died, not me.
4th - 6th March: at the mercy of wind and eddies, being pushed the wrong way. More yell therapy.
6th - 9thMarch: sea like a mirror, and hot, hot, hot. Rowing hard, feel like my brain is boiling in my skull. Ocean seems enormous, feel like I will never get to Antigua.
10th March: disaster. Had put out Sid the sea anchor to try and halt south drift. It doesn't work, and when I try to retrieve him the tripline fails - for some reason it's not deflating the parachute. Spend an hour hauling on the dead weight of a ton of seawater, tying a slipknot and securing it into a karabiner to preserve progress made. Get Sid within 20 feet of boat but now trying to pull upwards as well as across, strength failing. See passing ship and dash into cabin to get on VHF radio. While in cabin the tripline breaks altogether. More yell therapy. No way I can now retrieve Sid, as his main line is too thick to be secured into karabiner. During VHF contact asked the ship (the Boston) to summon Aurora.
11th March: stuck on Sid, waiting for Aurora. Finally have fantastic surfing conditions (albeit still pushing me south) but can't go anywhere anyway. Frustration. Aurora had given ETA lunchtime. Spend afternoon issuing increasingly forlorn pleas on VHF trying to contact them. Decide to take matters into my own hands - set up safety line across roof of forward cabin by lassoing the bow cleat and resolve to cut Sid's line first thing in the morning if still no sign of Aurora.
12th March: psyched up to go out across the cabin roof despite rough seas. Emerge from cabin to see Aurora nearby. I ask them to keep an eye on me and be ready to save me if safety line fails, then wait until first light and clamber out onto cabin roof, knife clenched between my teeth. Get halfway across then slide off curved roof into the sea. Safety line holds and I clamber back on. Succeed in cutting the line. Retreat to safety of the cockpit and start rowing.
13th March: up at 0400 to start rowing. By 0700 Antigua is in sight. Survive on caffeine and slurps of sugar syrup to fuel 10 hours of non-stop rowing to make it into English Harbour to an incredible welcome. I don't stop grinning for about 24 hours. I've done it.
|Atlantic Row Part 4||