The Voyage: Roz Savage
World Ocean Day: Launch of The Blue Project
08 Jun 2007, Woodside, California

Today is World Ocean Day - no, not yet another excuse dreamed up by greetings card companies to generate more profits and more landfill. Ocean Day is an opportunity to focus on the oceans, to appreciate their importance, and to take action to preserve them for the future.

This particular Ocean Day also sees the launch of The BLUE Project by renowned British yachtsman Conrad Humphreys. Their tagline is: It's COOL to be BLUE, and they are enlisting various sportspeople to help promote their message. I am honoured to be one of their BLUE Ambassadors.

So what does it mean to be BLUE? Here are some COOL ideas for starters. I am going to celebrate World Ocean Day by taking my plastic, paper and glass to the recycling banks, and buying some energy-efficient lightbulbs.

Happy Ocean Day!

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A Show of Determination
07 Jun 2007, Walter Hays Elementary School, Palo Alto

Yesterday I gave two back-to-back presentations at Walter Hays Elementary School in Palo Alto. I had been invited there by one very determined little lady, Jet Mante, pictured here (right) with me and her friend Hannah (left). CBS were there to record the event.

Jet had been at my presentation in Menlo Park a few weeks ago, and decided that she wanted to help me in my Pacific bid. So she sent me a proposal.

She had hit on the brilliant idea of asking her friends to pledge the money that they would have spent on goodie bags (usually plastic bags containing plastic toys and novelty items, given out at the end of parties - and probably largely ending up in landfill). Thus they would be reducing their use of plastics - helping the environment - and also helping me. She asked if I would speak at her school if they raised enough money. So a target was set.

Progress at first was slow, and I was caught in a quandary about what to do. I thought it was important not to lower the target - real life isn't like that - but I also know from bitter experience how difficult it can be to meet fundraising targets.

I was trying to figure out a way to make it work, e.g. by suggesting that we could lower the target if she managed to arrange some media coverage, but in the meantime Jet had stepped up her campaign, determined to deliver on her promise. She is made of stern stuff. Here is the update I got from her a few weeks later:

"Last week I was at fundraising tables before and after school all week to raise money for your trip. There were usually two students at the tables, sometimes more. We also had two posters at the tables: one was an informational poster, it contained pictures of you, and information my friend Hannah and I found on your website. The other was a chart showing how we were doing against the goal you had set us. To attract attention we also used the P.A. system, talked to students, and talked to the principal. In the end we raised $1,121.88."

This total eventually rose yet further, to over $1,200.

I gave the presentation at the school yesterday, to 450 children in two sittings. Last week I spoke to 900 schoolchildren at Kennedy Middle School in Redwood City.

There is something faintly terrifying in being regarded as a role model for the next generations, but I try to live up to it as best I can. Parents and teachers come up to me afterwards and tell me how "inspiring" my presentation was, although what I might be inspiring anyone to do, I dread to think....

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Erden Eruc - Bon Voyage
07 Jun 2007, Tiburon, California

On Tuesday morning Erden Eruc paddled out under the Golden Gate Bridge and paddled westwards. Next stop, if all goes according to plan, is Australia.

I was at Erden's launch party the previous Thursday, and had hoped to be at the launch itself. I turned up in Tiburon on Saturday night, the scheduled departure time, but the weather had other ideas and the start was postponed to Monday.

I have to confess that my eagerness to see Erden's departure was not purely because I wanted to wish him luck. I also wanted to see how he reconciled the many competing factors that determine the best time to leave.

1. Tide: a strong ebb tide gives up to 5 knots of extra speed, but the water can get brutally rough where the ebb from the Bay meets the coastal current. So it may be safer to leave on a neap (weak) tide rather than a spring (strong) tide, or at slack water rather than full ebb.

2. Wind: there is almost no chance of getting an offshore wind, although in the middle of the night there may be a slight offshore breeze as the land cools.

3. Visibility: but of course, in the middle of the night, I am less likely to see if I'm about to be run down by a big container ship, and they can't see me.

4. Media: nor is the middle of the night a very media-friendly hour.

5. Moon: it would be nice to leave under a full moon to light my first few nights, but this is when the tides are at their strongest. See point 1.

Erden left from the Corinthian Yacht Club, on the north shore of San Francisco Bay, at 7pm on a slack tide. He rowed to Horseshoe Cove, where he stayed for the night, and then paddled out under the Golden Gate Bridge the following morning.

I can't find any update as to how he is getting on. There is no recent news on his website. If anybody can advise....

Meanwhile, I am assembling my own team of advisers - weather gurus and tidal experts. Hopefully they will come to a unanimous decision on the best time for me to go, and the best place for me to leave from, which is another issue in its own right.

[photp: me with Erden at his launch party last week]

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Psycho Rower
06 Jun 2007, Woodside, California

As I am paddling across the Pacific, I will be the latest lab rat for Dr Neil Weston at the University of Portsmouth, UK. He wants to investigate the effects of solitude and stress on individuals in challenging situations. He's already studied a number of yachtsmen in the Velux 5 Oceans round-the-world yacht race, and is now doing a supplemental study on me.

Originally the plan was that I should start doing the daily psychological questionnaire a couple of weeks before the launch, but yesterday I got this message from Dr Neil:

"Having read Fogle and Cracknell's Atlantic Ocean Rowing book, I think it would be a good idea for you to start completing the questionnaires from a month before the start of the event (i.e. as soon as you can from this point onwards). Clearly many stressors surface in the month running up to the start of such endurance events so I think it would be useful to monitor these mood changes."

I think this is academic-speak for "You're entering the Crack-up Zone. Start the study now, because life is about to get interesting..."

[photo: discovering yell therapy in mid-Atlantic, 11th Feb 2006]

P.S. Once the WatchKeeper Project section of my website is launched towards the end of this month, you will be able to view the results of my psychological questionnaire online, and judge for yourself how sane (or otherwise) I am. I think it would be interesting to have a control experiment in which an office worker fills out the same questionnaire, and we see which of us is the more stressed...

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