The Voyage: Roz Savage
Day 61: Of Toasted Mars Bar Sandwiches And Sporting Glories
30 Jan 2006

Oxford Lightweights

30 Jan, 06 - 20:39

Q from Caroline Haines: Before this, what would you regard as your greatest achievement?

A: Strangely, for someone who doesn't think of herself as sporty (just ask anyone who knew me in my schooldays!) the contenders for Greatest Achievement are all sports-related. Maybe that's precisely why - I have to exert mind over matter to make myself do these things.

The winner would have to be being selected for the stroke seat of the Oxford Lightweights for the race against Cambridge in 1989.

The previous year I'd rowed in the reserve boat for the heavyweights, Osiris, so I'd had some good coaching. But to be selected I would have to lose about 15 pounds and maintain if not improve my fitness, so over the summer vacation I dieted and trained diligently.

The autumn trials went well for me, and I managed to keep the weight off despite a few lapses of self-control (a few of us made the calorific discovery that toasted Mars Bar sandwiches are heaven on a plate) and I was over the moon to be selected for the stroke seat, which some would say is the most important seat in the boat.

I remember looking in the bathroom mirror and thinking, 'Hey, you're Ok. You're stroke of the Oxford Lightweights. Wow.' Big-headed? Maybe. But I felt I'd thoroughly earned my place. It was a good feeling - to set a goal, work hard for it, and achieve it.

The other contenders for Greatest Achievement would be the New York Marathon 1998 and London Marathon 2001. What attracted me to the event was people saying, 'You will learn things about yourself during a marathon'. I never really did, except that marathons are deeply unpleasant and make your toenails drop off.

3000 miles across the Atlantic, on the other hand, while also being deeply unpleasant, really does let you get to know yourself. Does it ever!

Calling all ocean rowers: speaking of nails dropping off, my fingernails seem to be slowly parting company with my fingers. Is this normal? Help!

Other stuff:

I was rowing along this hot afternoon when there was a strange sensation on my skin - familiar but almost forgotten. It took me a moment or two to remember what it was... Could it be... No, surely not... A breeze! Picking up nicely now. Long may it last.

Texts: thanks to Barbara McNulty from Andark, Paul Nicholson, Margaret and Bob (would be v nice if Chris's dad is right, but the weather seems to be so unpredictable this year!), Snowy (well, I did use a broken oar to make splints, but it was my idea first!), HHS (v happy to hear about massage place in Antigua!), Fran (really good to hear from you), Bill Rowlands in Libya, DB.

Rita Savage PS: Roz' father believed that a man's legs were made just long enough to reach from the car seat to the accelerator. He could hardly believe that he had fathered a marathon runner, but was very proud of her achievement.

For GPS position, race position and miles from La Gomera, see

Wind: E, 3-15 knots (estimate)
Weather: sunshine
Sea state: calm ealy, moderate later
Hours rowing: 12

Atlantic Row Part 2
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Day 60: The Longest Day
29 Jan 2006

Mr Croker's Finest - Magic Bendy Oar gets the chop

29 Jan, 06 - 20:41

Today has been a very long day. 28 hours long, to be precise, because today I switched over to Antigua time.

So what did I do with my extra 4 hours? - just what lots of other people would be doing on a Sunday afternoon - a bit of DIY (If I don't do it, nobody else will!)

Today was the ideal day to cash in my bonus hours, as a small but significant list of maintenance tasks had been accumulating. And on a day when there wasn't a breath of wind nor a cloud in the sky to relieve the strength of the tropical sun, it was marginally better to spend the hottest part of the day on deck doing DIY than sweating away at the oars.

So I spent 4 hours busily bottom-scrubbing (getting rid of barnacles), replacing washers on rowing pins, padding my rowing seat, sponging out bilges, and most importantly, strengthening my oars.

The last round of oar repairs had been done in less than ideal conditions - 20 foot waves and 25 knot winds - so it was high time to improve on them. Magic Bendy Oar was today relieved of guardrail duties - it was so broken it was useless even as a guardrail - and hacksawed into pieces to make splints for Splintered Loom Oar. The timely discovery of a whole unused reel of duct tape, combined with these splints, plus the boathook, have given me much more confidence in my starboard side oar. Given that it's mostly blind faith and duck tape holding it together, this matters.

I've fashioned a new guardrail out of a length of rope, with some spare plastic piping as a cover, and a length of Mr Croker's finest oar as a stanchion. Much more satisfactory than an oar with a big bend in the middle.

So now when the stronger winds come (oh, please, lord, let them come!) I will be ready.

Note: I will leave my iPaq on GMT, so the time stamp on my dispatches will still be UK time. Also, I will now post my dispatch after my second rowing shift rather than the third, so it will still come through at around 8.30 or 9.00pm GMT.

Texts: thanks to Andy and Emer (sorry to hear about the rib - hope better soon), Rachel Smith, Margaret and Bob, John T (don't worry so much - if I want to ignore your questions, I will!), Sandi, Tim Ratbag (Milne cam through, thank you - like it!), Martin T, RHW (loved your message - thanks).

Rita Savage's PS: knowing Roz as I do, I am very impressed with her DIY ingenuity. Before she left she did say that she hoped she would be able to cope by finding practical solutions to problems. Well done, Roz!!

For GPS position, race position and miles from La Gomera, see

Wind: E, 3-5 knots (estimate)
Weather: sunshine and cloud
Sea state: dead flat and never-ending
Hours rowing: 12

Atlantic Row Part 2
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Day 59 Fishy Business
28 Jan 2006

Preparing to operate...

28 Jan, 06 - 20:35

I had just gone out on deck for the afternoon shift when something dropped, apparently out of the sky, and landed at my feet.

'Eek', was my first thought (or words to that effect).

Then I saw it was a small but decent-sized flying fish.

'Supper', was my second thought.

I briefly toyed with the idea of throwing him back, but he'd injured himself on the inbound flight and was bleeding into the footwell. I reasoned he was a goner anyway - if I threw him back he'd soon get eaten, and if anybody was going to eat him it may as well be me.

I couldn't bear to watch his death throes, so I went to do my rowing shift and sang loudly to myself to cover the sound of the frantically flapping fish in the footwell. Eventually the sounds subsided and I braced myself for the next stage of the operation.

I've never gutted a fish before, and my knife was pathetically inadequate, but I seemed to make a reasonable job of it. There wasn't much left by the time I'd cut off his head and 'wings', but not to be deterred I tied a cord around his tail and hung him up to dry.

I have no idea how long you're supposed to dry a fish for. Hours? Days? But I thought if I left him overnight he'd probably get soaked in condensation and go slimy, so towards sunset I unstrung him and prepared to eat my first home-dried flying fish.

The flesh was still more like sashimi than dried, but it was a nice firm texture, tasted good although not a strong flavour, and I've suffered no adverse after-effects. And it made a nice change to eat something that didn't come out of a packet. So I can declare my first Atlantic fish supper a success.

Tiny - love getting your texts, always a cheering mixture of encouragement and sound advice, from someone who knows. Especially cheered by your opinion that I am now unlikely to join the 100 Day Club - estimable though its members are, I have no desire to be one of them. I hope to prove you right. But conditions today have been oh so still, and progress oh so slow, it is sometimes hard to believe that I will ever get there at all!

Thanks also to Rachel Haining (photos are tricky, especially when both hands have to be in picture! 2 small tripod mounts and a 5 second self timer my only aids. Good luck in Turin), John T (glad you liked the dispatch - honesty sometimes takes some courage, but would be a discourtesy to my readers to be otherwise), Caroline Haines, Jeff, Duncan (avoiding other boats while asleep? Fingers crossed and hope for the best, mostly!).

Rita Savage's PS: Another batch of Sponsored Miles:
Tanya Savage 1467; and before long: Cliff Butters 1492; David Laycock 1494; Brian Yates 1499; Mark Hankey 1500.

There have been many nice comments about Roz' daily dispatches. The one I like best is: "just want to say how much we are enjoying your blogs (Chris' too - funny how solos write the best ones) and wish to send best wishes and support." (R&P Stagg) Chris Martin's website is

For GPS position, race position and miles from La Gomera, see

Wind: E, 8-12 knots (estimate)
Weather: sunshine and cloud
Sea state: moderate to calm
Hours rowing: 12

Atlantic Row Part 2
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Day 58: Cheerfully Miserable
27 Jan 2006

Grinning and bearing (baring) it.

27 Jan, 06 - 20:37

Last night I finally admitted to myself that I am not enjoying this. I'd been so determined that I would enjoy it, it has taken me until now to admit that I was wrong. (There then follows usual litany of whinges - oars broken, food cold, bed wet, shoulders aching, stereo kaput, flapjacks finished etc etc etc.)

But it's OK.

In fact, when I made this honest admission to myself, I felt as if a weight had been lifted from my weary shoulders, the burden of pretending to myself or anybody else that this is fun.

Because it doesn't matter. I am still achieving my personal objectives out here, and whether I am enjoying it or not is irrelevant.

In fact, it is even a good thing that I am not enjoying it. My mountaineering friend Sebastian, who was killed by an avalanche in Peru in 2003, once said, 'The greater the suffering, the sweeter the summit'. If I was finding this easy and fun, the ultimate sense of achievement would be less.

This row has already pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of enduring. For the most part I have found it unpleasant, uncomfortable and exhausting. It has taken every ounce of my resolve and determination to keep going. When I arrive in Antigua (God willing) the knowledge that I struggled and still succeeded will sweeten the final accomplishment a hundredfold.

I figured this out at the start of my night shift last night, and spent the rest of the three hours cheerfully hating every moment.

Other stuff:

Of course, as soon as I decide it's OK not to enjoy this, I catch myself almost having fun. The wind picked up this afternoon for an enjoyable few hours, a turtle came to visit, and there was a lovely rainbow. Maybe it's not entirely horrible after all.

Thanks for texts from:

Marina and Ben - wonderful news. Congratulations on your engagement!

Natalie - thanks for the nutrition advice. Fear not - still a couple of hundred Wholebake 9 Bars, which are probably better for me anyway, as higher in protein. No nuts, alas - error!

Tebays - yes, What Colour Is Your Parachute didn't list ocean rowing as a potential career! Good to hear from you.

Also Guy, John T, Mike Dunsmore, Victoria, Tim Ratbag, Susan Clarke, Candy, Margaret and Bob (thank you!), Penny and Rich, RJA, DB, Mel, Clarkie, AJ, Sandi (looking out for that flapjack-bearing pigeon!), Mark Reid.

For GPS position, race position and miles from La Gomera, see

Wind: E, 8-12 knots (estimate)
Weather: sunshine and cloud
Sea state: moderate to calm
Hours rowing: 12

Atlantic Row Part 2
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