The Voyage: Roz Savage
Sneak Peak Blog: Dogsledding
19 Dec 2007, Ely, Minnesota

One day, I would love to trek to a Pole - North or South, or even both. But like many women I have a tendency to cold hands and feet. And I've read enough polar adventure books to know that frostbite is a very real danger for even warm-blooded males. So in the interests of establishing my chances of coming back with all digits intact, I decided a good first step would be to go on a dog-sledding trip as a hopefully enjoyable introduction to the big chill.

Wintergreen Dogsledding, based in Ely, Northern Minnesota, offers a positively balmy climate compared with the polar regions - only minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 29 Centigrade) the first night I arrived there - but at least it would be a first dipping of my toe in the waters (ice?) of cold-weather survival.

There were 5 of us in our group, the first of the season. We were split between 3 sleds, the two-man sleds having 5 dogs apiece, and the one-man 'zip ship' being pulled by 3 dogs. I am not a real 'dog' person, never having been remotely tempted to stop and coo over other people's pets in the street, and I had also heard that these sled dogs could be unruly, wild, strong, and very smelly. So I was apprehensive about how I'd handle the canine aspect of the project. But in fact I was surprised by how comfortable I felt with these dignified, powerful Canadian Inuit dogs, in some cases with a bit of husky or labrador thrown into the mix. Like Andrex, they are soft, strong, and run very, very long.

We quickly got to know their individual characters - bold or timid, leader or follower, noisy or quiet - and to respect their outstanding ability to run all day and then sleep out of doors in subzero temperatures. They seemed born to run - as soon as they were hitched to the sled they were raring to go, straining at their harnesses - so although we were taught that 'Hike' was the mushers' word for 'Go' it was usually entirely superfluous. As soon as the sled was unhitched from its post they were off and running as if their lives depended on it - which, of course, in an Inuit environment, was literally true. In a harshly cold environment there is no time to be sentimental about dogs - they had to earn their living by being good sled haulers, so through natural selection the gene lines that have survived are those that can run long and hard.

Having said that, they can't do it all themselves, and dogsledding is far from being a passive activity. We were often breaking trail, being the first sleds to go where only a pair of snowshoes and a snowmobile had been once before, so the terrain was often lumpy and the sled would get snagged on trees. Then we'd jump off and push the sled over the obstacle or haul it out of the undergrowth. It was a good workout, and that plus our cozy Wintergreen gear ensured we all stayed warm.

So what did I take away from the experience? Memories of beautiful Christmas-card scenes of paths winding through the snow-laden trees... the knowledge that if properly clad I can survive in moderately cold temperatures without my extremities freezing off... a set of outdoor clothing on which the unmistakable and probably not socially acceptable scent of husky dog still lingers... and an eagerness to get back there and do it again as soon as possible.

[photo: me mushing]

P.S. I know I was meant to be taking the month off, but just couldn't resist the urge to share this.

All the best for whatever you're celebrating this December, and I'll see you in '08!

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See You Next Year!
03 Dec 2007, Billings, Montana

This blog will be taking a break for the month of December, to return renovated and rejuvenated in January 2008.

To be sure that you get notified when the blog restarts, scroll down a couple of times on this page, and on the right you will see a small box labelled "Get Updates By Email!" Just enter your email address, click Subscribe, and follow the simple instructions. It takes about one minute in total. And you have the option to unsubscribe at any time, which you may want to do once the blog starts posting regularly again.

There will be changes afoot on this website, and possibly even the occasional stealth blog if I really can't manage to kick the blogging habit, if only temporarily, so you may still want to drop in from time to time.

Meanwhile, there will be plenty to keep you entertained with the crews currently competing in the Atlantic Rowing Race, which started yesterday. See the latest race positions on the official race website (you may recognize the rower riding the foaming wave in the picture at the top), and follow the links from the site to find out more about individual crews. Many of them are posting blogs.

Until we meet again, have a great December, and I look forward to seeing you next year!

As an aside...

Some people have expressed an interest in seeing more environmental information on this site. This will be forthcoming as I crank up the ocean awareness mission in the run-up to my Pacific row next May/June. But I have held off on blogging regularly about the environment for this simple reason: I am not directly involved in environmental action myself right now, and I am reluctant to report second-hand stories from the press. I know from personal experience that a press report is rarely 100% accurate, and I do not want to perpetuate journalistic errors. I prefer to write directly from what I have seen or heard with my own eyes, or have at least heard from a reliable source that has seen it with THEIR own eyes. It is important to me to maintain the factual accuracy of this site, so that my readers know that they are getting the truth - or at least, the truth as I see it.

There WILL be environmental information here, but only once it has been drafted and approved by various respectable and respected organizations that can vouch for its veracity.

I hope that you will understand and respect this policy of truth.

Thank you.

[photo: waving goodbye for now - and I'll see you next year!]

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The Ripple Effect: Big Changes from Small Beginnings
30 Nov 2007, San Jose, California

A few months ago I blogged about Rebecca Hosking. After seeing the devastating effects of plastic pollution in Hawaii while she was making a TV documentary there, she returned to her home in the small Devon town of Modbury, determined to make a difference. She persuaded local shopkeepers to stop giving out plastic bags, and Modbury became the first officially plastic-bag-free town in the UK.

It seems that from this small beginning the ripples have spread, and many other towns have been in touch with Modbury, wanting to know how they, too, can do their bit to help solve this insidious problem.

Click here to see the latest update on the story.

It just goes to show the power of the individual to make a difference. So don't be tempted to think that the environmental crisis is so hopelessly huge that anything you do is but a drop in the ocean. That one tiny drop can send out ripples in ways that we cannot even begin to imagine, growing in strength and speed until there is a veritable tsunami of positive change.

[photo: Rebecca Hosking]

[P.S. My own news: I arrived in San Jose, California, last night, to give a presentation today for Brocade, my title sponsors. Compared with the 900-strong sales conference a few weeks ago, this one had a relatively small live audience of a couple of hundred, but was available to another 2500 or so via live webcast.

My theme on this second anniversary of the date I set out across the Atlantic? Facing big challenges, how to keep going when the going gets tough, and recognizing that getting outside your comfort zone is (duh!) uncomfortable - but that the good news is that when you feel that discomfort, you know you're doing the right thing, because you're stretching yourself and pushing your limits.]

Click here to find out more about Brocade and their green credentials.

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Atlantic Rowing Race 2007
29 Nov 2007, Whitefish, Montana

Two years have now passed since I set out to row solo across the Atlantic, as a nervous novice ocean rower - and it is time for the biennial race to launch once again. The Atlantic Rowing Race 2007 will start on December 2, from La Gomera in the Canaries.

22 boats are signed up to compete. Although of course I wish all the crews the very best of luck for a safe crossing, I will be taking a special interest in these particular boats:

In the Fours class, there are two crews that include people who set out in the 2005 race, but in that war of attrition were sabotaged by forces beyond their control - capsizes, sinkings, a back injury, and a shark attack. Out of the 26 boats that set out in the 2005 race, 6 did not make it to Antigua. But not to be deterred, these hardy souls are back for a second try. They epitomize indomitability and determination, and I send them heartfelt wishes for better luck this time around. They are:

Bobby Prentice and Colin Briggs (UK, aged 54 and 62) in Moveahead II - sank in 2005

Emily Kohl and Sarah Kessans (US, capsized in 2005), Jo Davies (UK, back injury), and Tara Remington (NZ, shark attack) in Unfinished Business

And elsewhere in the fleet:

Peter Collett - an Australian solo rower, who I met last year in England.

Lin Griesel and Rachel Smith - who I met at the Boat Show last year on the stand of Simrad, who sponsor both them and me.

Elin Haf Davies and Herdip Sidhu - two British nurses who had their boat fitted out, as I did, at Dolphin Quay Boatyard in Emsworth, England.

Angela Madsen and Franck Festor - who I met in La Gomera two years ago, and have stayed in touch with ever since. I featured Angela on my website back in April this year.

I encourage you to follow the race via the official website, and keep the crews in your thoughts and prayers.

And a final message to the crews themselves - wishing you fair winds and following seas - and a request that you bring all your litter back to land rather than disposing of it overboard.

Marine Debris 101

[photo: Moveahead II in La Gomera. Picture courtesy of Woodvale]

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