The Voyage: Roz Savage
Ocean Rowers Of The World - Unite!
11 Feb 2008, Hamilton, New Zealand

"I would hate to row across an ocean with you, you slave-driver!" I panted as I struggled to keep the pedals of my mountain bike moving up a rough hilly track outside of Hamilton, New Zealand. I was on a mission with Rob Hamill to pick up raw milk for the family breakfast.

It was Sunday morning and between us Rob and I had polished off two bottles of red wine the night before. With that cockiness that comes after too much alcohol, I had signed up to go on the milk run, and was now regretting it.

"You're nearly at the top," he called. "Just DON'T STOP!!!"

I replied with something unrepeatable.

But Rob assures me it was this competitive attitude that helped him and his rowing partner, Phil Stubbs, to win of the first ever Atlantic Rowing Race in 1997. They had no satellite phone, so were unable to get news of how the other crews were getting on - so in order to keep themselves motivated they competed with each other to see who could contribute most to the boat's mileage. You can read the full story of their trailblazing row in Rob's entertaining and well-written book, The Naked Rower - available here.

Agonizing bike ride apart, I had a fantastic time with Rob, his wife Rachel, and their three young sons. We had so much to talk about - on adventure, the environment, healthy eating, self-sufficiency, motivational speaking and book-writing, amongst other things.

But as I battled bravely with hill and hangover, I was really wishing that the conversation had not been quite so well-oiled with New Zealand's finest reds...

{photo: Fin, Rachel, Ivan, Rob, Declan and me]

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Cork On The Ocean
08 Feb 2008, Waiheke Island, Auckland, New Zealand

I spent last night with friends on a small island in Auckland Harbour. Waiheke Island is an alternative, green, beach community of about 10,000 souls. This morning at the weekly market I met a few of them, including author Mark Sommerset. He has written a charming children's book called "Cork On The Ocean".

I picked up one of his COTO bookmarks that seemed particularly appropriate. On it is written a short quote from his book:

"Don't be afraid," murmured the maid.
"Be happy the sea isn't flat,
for what is a high without a low?
Where's the adventure in that?"

This is very much on my mind as I prepare for my series of motivational speeches next week - taking my Atlantic experience and relating it to "real" life in a way that people will find useful, no matter what their challenges. My problem is not finding these "lessons learned" - it is narrowing them down to a one-hour presentation.

The ocean is indeed a wonderful teacher, and I loved the way that Mark's story presents this to a children's audience. His story is about going with the flow and making the best of adversity - useful lessons for readers of any age!

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Across the Pacific - the Easy Way
07 Feb 2008, Auckland, New Zealand

This blog post comes to you from sunny Auckland, New Zealand. I am here to do a series of speaking engagements for AXA Insurance - a demanding schedule of 7 presentations in 7 cities in 5 days. Motivational speaking takes a surprising amount of energy, so it will be an intense week - but it also GIVES me a lot of energy, in that kind of positive energy exchange between speaker and audience, so I am really looking forward to it.

Once the speaking tour is over, I will be taking part in the Lake Taupo Relay on the North Island, then heading south with an English friend, Sinead, to explore the South Island. We've booked to do the Routeburn Track - one of New Zealand's classic walks, through spectacular mountain scenery - which will be a real treat. I'll be posting some photos to my blog - so watch this space!

On a totally unrelated subject, here is some good news for the environment - the stunning success of the Irish tax on plastic bags, which within weeks had led to a reduction of 94 percent in the number of bags being used. Other cities, states and countries are now following suit. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a virtually plastic-bag-free world? Let's hope that one day history will record that plastic shopping bags were an unfortunate but mercifully brief episode in human progress.

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The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Sailor
01 Feb 2008, Woodside, California

Thank you for the marvellous responses to my last blog - about the film project. There have been some very helpful offers of skills and time, and some very welcome donations. Keep 'em coming!

Speaking of films, last night I gave myself a rare treat - I took time out to watch a film. "Deep Water" is the tragic story of Donald Crowhurst, an amateur sailor who decided to compete in the 1968 Golden Globe Round-the-World Yacht Race. Woefully under-prepared, he set out anyway, due to pressure from sponsors and media. His boat started falling apart almost immediately, and would certainly have sunk if he had continued on the race route into the hostile Southern Ocean. But if he abandoned the attempt, he would have to pay back all his sponsorship monies - which would lead to certain financial ruin.

So on the horns of this dilemma - death or bankruptcy - he came up with a cunning plan. He would hang around off the coast of Brazil, fake his race position reports, and then rejoin the competitors as they came past him heading back north up the Atlantic. But his plan started to fall apart when, one by one, the other competitors dropped out and he stood in serious danger of winning - meaning that his faked logbook would be subjected to the most rigorous scrutiny, which it would surely fail - leading to public disgrace and humiliation.

Through his deceit, he had put himself in a terrible situation - compounded by the mental strain of being alone at sea for 8 months. He could see only one way out....

What, you thought I was going to tell you the ending? No way!

You'll have to see the film. But be warned, it is VERY sad, made even more harrowing by the participation of Donald's family. Even after all these years their sense of grief and betrayal is palpable.

For me it was especially interesting to see a throwback to a time when going to sea meant an almost total lack of communication with dry land. When I was on the Atlantic I got some inkling of what they would have gone through, when my satphone failed a month before I reached Antigua. I was abruptly plunged into total isolation, without access to weather information, advice, or my mother.

Strangely, for me, this was the best part of my row. I became much more focused in the present moment, rather than becoming hopeful or despairing depending on the (usually inaccurate) weather forecast. I found a new kind of serenity that had previously eluded me.

But I only had to last a month without comms. Eight months could have been a very different story. It would take a strong mind to stay sane for such a very long period of solitary confinement.

[photo: me with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the winner of the 1968 Golden Globe Round-The-World Yacht Race, who donated his £5000 winner's prize to the Crowhurst family. Picture taken in Hamble, UK, last year.]

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