I'd been too busy of late to check on the progress of the Rames-Guyane solo rowing race from Senegal to French Guyana. But I checked it out this morning, and am delighted to see that Sophie Mace, the only woman, finished in fourth position. Well done, Sophie!
Of the fifteen starters, 7 attempts were abandoned, 2 competitors were unplaced, and 6 completed the course. Sophie finished on 7th January, after 50 days at sea and covering 2300 nautical miles. Compared with my 2550 in 103 days, this is awesome! She clearly rowed like a maniac, and/or had some great weather conditions.
Respect. All power to her elbow!
I've driven nearly 700 miles in the last 3 days in my new yellow truck, affectionately known as Quackers, and he's doing a great job. He's coped with temperatures down to minus 11 Fahrenheit (minus 24 Celsius), snow, ice, torrential rain, and bright sunshine. But - is he environmentally friendly?
Well, no. Not friendly. Not even relatively neutral like my much-loved VW campervan Priscilla, who ran on LPG. But in my defence, he's the best of a bad lot when it comes to American-available vehicles that are capable of towing a 1200lb rowboat.
Ideally, I would have bought a hybrid or a diesel that can run on biodiesel - but a hybrid was too expensive and biodiesel is not widely available - and American un-bio-diesel is not as clean as its European equivalent.
So I had to settle for the best miles-per-gallon I could find amongst 4x4 pickups. And the Ford Ranger was as good as it got - claimed to get 22mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. According to my figures so far, I reckon Quackers has averaged just over 20mpg, which is not great but it's not too bad compared with many American gas-guzzlers.
So my conscience is prickling, but I did the best I could within the constraints of what I need to do and how much I can afford. Let's call it pragmatic environmentalism. The main thing to remember is that every little bit helps. If only everybody would be conscious and do their little bit to help (by using public transport rather than driving, or driving rather than flying, and choosing the most environmentally friendly car that fits their lifestyle, for example), all those little bits would add up into a very substantial global difference.
Magnificent scenery en route from Oregon to California...
Getting all my ducks in a row...
And the happy driver.
I am on the road again, on my way down to San Francisco. Yesterday I loaded up my beautiful new and very yellow pickup truck (bought at a bargain price - probably because there are very few macho truck-driving types who want a rubber-duck-yellow vehicle) and headed south. It was a beautiful, clear, crisp day as Quackers and I drove over the snowy pass past Mount Hood and on down to Bend.
Last night I stayed with Molly Mac (mother of Hawaii Mariya) in La Pine. We are hatching a plan for me to do a presentation here in May as a fundraiser for Search and Rescue. It was minus 11 degrees Fahrenheit here last night (minus twenty-four degrees Celsius) but we were snug and warm in front of the woodburning stove.
Today I am heading back out into the cold and the snow (grateful that I have four-wheel drive) to drive down to Chico in California where I have a meeting with someone I met through my old Oxford college - we will be discussing my environmental message for the Pacific row: drawing attention to the issue of plastic debris in the world's oceans.
I am working on an approach involving various nonprofits and government agencies, with the goal of using the publicity around my row to raise awareness of this large and rapidly-growing problem. The plastic debris doesn't just kill wildlife and contaminate fish and shellfish - it fundamentally alters the ocean ecosystems which will ultimately affect the health of the entire planet.
Can I save the planet? Of course not. But through my rowing I can do my bit to help.
This is extremely inconvenient. The high tide is at the wrong time of day.
July is the best time of year for me to row out from San Francisco across the Pacific, as the prevailing winds then sweep me along the coast rather than onshore, but I had hoped to make the most of a strong ebb tide to shoot me out of the harbour like a ball out of a cannon.
This could add up to 5 knots (or about 6mph) to my boat speed - a significant difference when I usually move at a sedate 1-2 knots. There is an important safety issue here -the extra speed would help me get quickly away from the coast before the wind comes along and shipwrecks me on the shore.
So I took a look at the tide tables for July. The best ebb tide is on 2nd July, two days after the full moon. The drawback is that the tide turns at the unsociable hour of 1.25am, with the maximum flow out of the harbour occurring at 5am.
I had fondly imagined a grand departure under the Golden Gate Bridge, accompanied by a flotilla of rowboats and yachts and (obviously) throngs of media. Leaving at some godforsaken hour of the night is a less mediagenic prospect.
So I have to choose: a faster, safer departure at night, or a departure spectacular during the day? Or maybe I should have a big party and, like a solitary newlywed leaving for honeymoon, launch myself off into the darkness at the party's end...