19 Apr 2005, 27 48' N, 25 59' W
Having reached this stage of commitment to the Atlantic Rowing Race - the sponsorship drive well underway and significant amounts of money already invested - it would have been severely embarrassing to find out that I'm a thoroughgoing landlubber with a snowball's chance in hell of surviving an ocean crossing.
However, I am happy to report that we are now six days out from Cape Verde - I can no longer remember a life when floors and beds and tables were horizontal, and when my day didn't consist of 2 hours on watch, 6 hours off - and I'm loving it!
For the first couple of days I was shadowing Russ's watches while I learned how to steer a course. Then I was promoted to watch leader, and allowed to take the helm on my own. Luckily there isn't much to crash into in the middle of the ocean, so my rather erratic early steering attempts managed to avert disaster. I've learned a lot in a very short time, and would like to think I'm now reasonably competent. Sails and sheets and halyards are still a mystery to me, but they're not relevant to my Atlantic row so that's not too much of a worry.
A prime objective of my time on Steamy was to find out if seasickness was going to be a problem. Happy to report that after a bit of queasiness for the first day or so, my stomach seems to be quite reconciled to being thrown around in rollercoaster fashion for 24 hours a day. Appetite unaffected - in fact, I'm feeling rudely healthy in the pure Atlantic air. Apart from a number of very impressive bruises sustained while I was still finding my sea legs, I'm in fine physical fettle and relishing life on the ocean wave. Roll on November!
15 Apr 2005, 150 miles north of Cape Verde
Imagine trying to sleep in a washing machine full of gravel, standing on a creaky floorboard, in an aeroplane going through serious turbulence. That's the best way I can describe what my first night on the open ocean sounded and felt like.
I soon realised this was going to be very different from my previous sailing experiences, in Australia and Thailand, when we would moor up in a sheltered harbour and be gently rocked to sleep by the waves. Steamy steams on, 24 hours a day, our crew of 4 taking shifts at the helm, while the rest sleep as best they can.
Surprisingly, I slept rather well. The other good news is that I haven't yet been seasick, and haven't been fazed by getting out of sight of land. These are things I needed to prove to myself BEFORE I got to the start line in November. It could have been rather embarrassing to discover that far down the line that ocean rowing really wasn't the sport for me after all...
11 Apr 2005, Palmeira, Cape Verde Islands
I´ve moved from my winter´s endurance training into a very enjoyable phase of my preparations for the race - ocean familiarisation. For the next 6-8 weeks, home will be a Sigma 38 yacht called Steamy Windows, on passage from the Cape Verde Islands to the UK via the Azores. This is a perfect opportunity to get my sea legs, check I don´t suffer from seasickness, put my navigation theory into practice, learn about marine technology, and generally get used to life on the ocean wave.
Before I left, I staggered through a final hectic round of meetins with potential sponsors, in the optimistic hope that financial matters will progress in the right direction (i.e. net IN-flow) during my absence.
Then I picked up the rucksack I´d packed in Leeds over a week, several counties and one house-move ago, and headed for the airport. I´ve been reluctant to fly every since I found out about the huge environmental impact, but there was no other way to get to Cape Verde in a realistic timescale.
Arrived on board Steamy at 2am last night - Russ skilfully managing to get one exhausted new crewmate and her rucksack down the rickety jetty and into Steamy´s tiny dinghy, in the dark, without mishap.
I crawled into my cabin, wondered how I was going to sleep with the unaccustomed movement of the boat... and that was my last conscious thought before falling inot a deep and much-needed slumber.
06 Apr 2005, Kensington
Diana Hoff is the only British woman to do it solo. Her husband has done it twice. Her daughter tried to do it, but had to be rescued after two weeks. Do what?
Row the Atlantic, of course.
Fresh (or distinctly otherwise) from my latest round of torture, I mean testing, with the sports science lab in Hatfield, I hastened to London to meet the Hoff family on the eve of departure by the two senior Hoffs to compete in the Marathon des Sables.
After this and my meeting with Rosie Stancer yesterday, I'm feeling much more informed about the unique challenges and rewards facing endurance athletes, and well and truly inspired to persevere in my endeavours to join their ranks.