A few people have raised the very valid point that putting extra weight in my boat will slow me down. Fans of Rob Hamill's book, The Naked Rower, will recall that he was obsessive about keeping excess weight to as little as possible, taking only the bare (!) minimum of personal items and even dumping food overboard when it became clear that they were going to finish sooner than expected.
By adding up to 100kg (220lb) of lead to my boat - the equivalent of a pretty big passenger - I will undoubtedly be slowing down the boat. However, the effect on my daily mileages may not be as great as you'd think. These words from Phil Morrison, the boat designer:
The extra weights (50kg or 100kg) will increase the whetted area and hence the drag by 1.8% and 3.5% (we can ignore the other forms of resistance at the speed you will be moving). This amounts to 0.9% and 1.7% decrease in speed for the same power input. That equates to 0.6 mile per day for the worst case, assuming you can manage around 35 miles a day. It may be possible that the extra stability will make the boat easier to row and you'd get that back in practice, who knows?
So I think I can live with that as a percentage. My priority for the Pacific, which is not a race, is to have a good time, rather than make good time.
On the Atlantic I made life difficult for myself by being impatient to get across. In fact my original goal had not been to compete in a race at all, but simply to have a big adventure and hopefully learn a few things about life along the way - and to share that adventure and those life lessons with anybody who might be interested.
So if it takes me a few extra days, but those extra days are good days, then I don't mind.
Remind me I said this when I've been eating ocean rations for 4 months!!
My friend Steve Roberts - gonzo tech-head and veteran of an epic 7 year recumbent bicycle tour - sent me a link to this article from the LA Times, reporting "A Primeval Tide of Toxins" that is affecting the world's oceans. Apparently runoff from modern life is feeding an explosion of primitive organisms that is killing larger species and sickening people.
And another friend, Sinead - she of the New Zealand tramp trip - put me onto this BBC article, saying that only about 4% of the world's oceans remain undamaged by human activity.
The two in combination make for horrifying reading, and clearly show the ocean pollution is not just a problem "over there" - it's going to affect us all.
This is what we are hoping to convey in the documentary we are making, using my Pacific row as the anchor (so to speak) for a film about the impact humans are having on the ocean environment, why it matters, and what we can do about it.
If you are interested to find out more about our project and live in the Bay Area, we are having an event in Sausalito on March 30th, from 4pm to 6pm at 71 Liberty Ship Way. My boat will be on display, and there will be presentations by film producer Bill Chayes, David Helvarg of the Blue Frontier Campaign, and me.
Entry is free, but must be booked in advance by email to email@example.com. And the event IS a fundraiser, to raise the seed money we need to get the project started, so come prepared.
Or, if you don't live in the Bay Area but would still like to help us get this important environmental message out there, please contact Jodi Macmillan on this same email address.
Or buy David Helvarg's book, 50 Ways to Save the Ocean, to find out what direct action you can take.
We can still save the oceans, but the clock is ticking...
Many thanks to all who have come up with ideas on where I can obtain lead shot - and also to those who have pointed out that it is an "enviro-nasty", with bad effects on fish, water, and potentially me.
I would like to point out that the lead would be basically "sequestered" - encased in resin, in a sealed compartment in the hull, so it would not come into contact with anything at all.
So in fact I would be taking an enviro-nasty out of circulation.
I've had a large number of suggestions, but have not had time to make the necessary phone calls to follow up. There is just TOO much going on at the moment, and only one of me!
Does anybody have, or know where we can find, between 100 and 200lb (50 and 100kg) of lead shot? Preferably in the Bay Area, as weight-based postage costs could be prohibitive!
Today I was obsessed with weight - not mine, for a change. This was the weight of my boat. I took the Brocade and her trailer to a public scale in Hayward as part of my investigations into how much ballast I need to add to avoid last year's capsizing problems. This is a VERY high priority for me, as capsizing is really rather painful, and definitely not conducive to either a successful crossing or a good night's sleep...
At the end of the weighing exercise, these were the scores on the doors:
Total weight of car + boat + trailer = 8,400lb
Car = 6,020lb (yikes! but it does have most of my worldly goods in it too...)
Trailer = 625lb
So boat = 1,755lb (or 796kg)
This was with most but not all stuff on board. Still to come: Pelican cases of technology, some food, and assorted spares.
Also not included was water ballast, and I would expect to take 75 litres, i.e. 75kg of water.
Once these are added, the total weight will be about 921kg (2,030lb).
And there are the oars to take into account. These were probably a major factor in the capsize. They are heavy, and have to be stowed high on the boat because there is nowhere else for them to go.
I have two oars with lead cuffs, and two without. Weights are:
With cuffs: 13.6lb (6.2kg) x 2
Without cuffs: 10.6lb (4.8kg) x 2
Making a total of 22kg (48lb). This compares with the carbon fibre oars that I had last year, which were about 3.6lb each (1.6kg). So the new oars are THREE TIMES as heavy as the old ones - but all the old ones broke, and I'd rather have 4 heavy oars that don't break, than 4 light oars that do.
I have now sent all this information to the boat designer in the UK so he can finalize his calculations of the amount of ballast I need.
Problem is: we are struggling to find lead shot, which would be the ideal way to add ballast to the odd little spaces under the hatches. Apparently everybody uses cartridges these days rather than shot. We could use concrete, but this will be harder to weigh before putting it into the hull.
Hence my plea. Do please get in touch via the Contact form on this website if you have a solid suggestion as to where we can source some lead shot.
[photo: proposed changes to the skeg of the boat]