27 May 2008, The Brocade
Today I rowed out over the edge of the continental shelf, and into the deep ocean. This is an area especially rich in marine life, and I was delighted to see about a dozen whales at various times - surfacing to spout sprays of water from their blowholes.
But even better, at one point I found myself totally surrounded by dolphins, arcing and leaping through the waves. Some were even jumping clean out of the water, as if jumping for joy on this glorious sunny day.
My camerawork is a bit wobbly a) because my boat is very tippy, even on a calm day, and b) because I was rather over-excited!
25 May 2008, The Brocade
I'll keep this blog brief, as I haven't quite got my sea legs yet and tapping on the keyboard makes me feel queasy.
Last night, at a few minutes to midnight, I pushed away from the dock at the Presidio Yacht Club and rowed out under San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.
That makes it all sound very easy. In fact it took me a ridiculous amount of time to row the very short distance from the club to the bridge. The tide was supposed to be "slack", but it still seemed to be coming in pretty forcefully and I was rowing hard just to stay still.
But as with many things, you put all the hard work in and then when the time is right it suddenly all comes good and you make rapid progress. So after about half an hour of going nowhere, the tide finally turned, I passed under the Golden Gate Bridge, and rowed out into the darkness beyond.
I rowed all night, and apart from a one-hour nap I've been rowing all day. Conditions this morning were perfect - milky calm and wonderful. But during my nap the wind picked up, and this afternoon has been a battle into a headwind coming out of the west. Tonight I've put out the sea anchor to try and preserve the progress made so far, and I hope not to be blown back too far while I sleep.
It feels strange to be back on the ocean. I almost can't believe this is for real. It was such a last-minute scramble to get ready in time, i didn't have much time to think about it.
Now I am out here, and it is familiar but different. On the one hand it is easier, because I've rowed an ocean before so I don't have that self-doubt that I suffered from on the Atlantic. But whereas on the Atlantic there are helpful winds from the outset, I've got a 200-mile battle (at least) before the winds come around behind me and help me towards Hawaii.
But hey, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it!
Thanks to those who came down to see me off last night. Thanks especially to David from Blue Frontier who bought me a selection delicious breads to supplement the ship's rations!
No, I am not talking about the conspicuous features of the silicon beauties on the Las Vegas Strip - but rather the blight of Disposable Cups.
I am in Las Vegas for the EMC2 conference, at the invitation of my title sponsors Brocade. Today when I went to a coffee shop in search of my morning caffeine hit, I did as I usually do and presented the barista with my trusty metal mug, and asked that it be filled with my beverage of choice.
"Sorry, we can't. Hygiene regulations."
"Casinos in Nevada. We can't put your drink in your mug. Germs."
"They're MY germs. I'm quite happy with them, really."
"We can put your drink in one of our plastic cups, and then you can pour it into your mug."
"But the whole point is not that I want to drink out my mug, but that I want to avoid using a disposable cup."
I apologized to the barista for taking it out on her, when clearly she was only obeying the law. I considered not having a coffee, which would probably have been the best solution for my health as well as for the environment, but instead decided to use my caffeine-induced surge of energy to build up a fine head of steam, and then use my righteous indignation to generate some action.
I have consulted with David Helvarg of Blue Frontier Campaign, and we are looking at launching an online petition to create incentives for people to use reusable mugs rather than disposable cups - possibly a charge or a tax on disposables.
It appalls me when I see the number of plastic, paper and styrofoam cups leaving from coffee shops, and I imagine those quantities multiplied up across all the thousands of Starbucks and other coffee shops across the world, every day of the year. That is an awful lot of landfill.
Now that the anti-plastic-bag movement is gathering momentum, it's time to move on to the next target...
Generally I attempt to maintain an attitude of Zen calm in the face of life's ups and downs. The Atlantic taught me, among many other things, that things are rarely as good or as bad as they seem, so there is no point getting too excited about the good, or too bent out of shape about the bad.
But this last week has tested my Zen serenity to its limits. Last weekend there was a short-term financial crisis that seemed to threaten my expedition - or at least my ability to pay the satphone bill (on which my blogs, videos, and podcasts depend). On Monday the money appeared.
Mid-week it seemed that some crucial pieces of kit had gone missing. After a sleepless night they were finally unearthed in an unexpected corner of the hangar where my boat is stored.
On Friday a friend and I baked in a California heatwave as a we laboured to get various bits of electrical equipment working, including the location beacon (which sends back my position to this website), the onboard camera system (needed so I can record footage for our environmental documentary) and my stereo (needed to keep me sane!). I won't say we "failed", as I was quite rightly reminded by comments on a previous blog that the f-word is simply a matter of interpretation, but I can safely say that we didn't succeed. And all other forms of assistance had dried up.
Then yesterday the cavalry arrived in the shape of Rich Crow, the helicopter engineer who worked on my boat last year. He knows the electrical system better than anybody else.
He was grumbling like mad as he crammed his frame back into my tiny cabin to investigate the problem, but he swiftly traced the likely cause to a battery that had run so low over the winter that even the bright sunshine hitting the solar panels could not bring it back from the dead.
So each and every crisis has caused its fair share of despondency, only to be resolved the next day.
Funny how help turns up just when I need it, and a timely reminder that life has a way of looking after me. So why worry? Be happy!
[photo: Rich Crow manoeuvres the Brocade outside the Hayward hangar]