The Voyage: Roz Savage
Day 11: Feel The Fear
Roz Savage
04 Jun 2008, The Brocade

Last night I felt afraid. I was reading the weather forecast from Rick Shema, my weatherguy:

"Wind and sea conditions likely to increase to gale force (Force 8) late on Jun 4th or early June 5th. Winds to 40kts and seas steadily building to Force 10 conditions (for seas) on Jun 7th."

The prospect sounded terrifying. My insides knotted and Fear started running around inside my head like a madman, waving his arms wildly and wailing, "We're all doomed!" in a high-pitched cry.

The Voice of Reason stood off to one side, waiting for Fear to quieten down enough so he could make himself heard. Eventually Fear got tired of doing laps of the inside of my head and started to wind down like a clockwork toy. Reason managed to get a word in.

"Look," he said in his calm, strong voice, "this weather isn't even happening yet, and you're already in a tizz about it. Let's look at this objectively.

"OK, so we've never been in a Force 10 before, but we've been in some pretty bad weather and we know this boat is seaworthy. If we just stay in the cabin most of the time, and clip on to the boat when we have to go outside to go to the bathroom, we've got a good chance of coming through this in one piece.

"And besides, we have no choice. We're out here now. There's nowhere we can go, and no way we can avoid this weather. We're just going to have to tough it out. But we can do it if we keep our head and stay calm. Just DON'T PANIC!!!"

So this is where I am now. I'm not looking forward to the next 3 days, but that's just the way it is.

Fear comes from our sense of self-preservation: when we get into a situation we've never been in before, Fear starts freaking out - NOT doing this thing has kept us alive so far, so why change now?

But just because you've never been in a situation before doesn't mean it's going to kill you. And just because you HAVE been there before, doesn't mean it WON'T kill you. So although fear can be a useful indicator saying, "don't go there", it can also be excessively cautious, warning us against anything at all that is unfamiliar. So it has to be balanced against reason and, of course, the spirit of adventure.

Meanwhile, the daily practicality of dealing with this situation is very mundane. Unlike sailors, who have to run around on deck attending to halyards and sheets and suchlike, there is really nothing at all I can do on deck at the moment, and my best survival strategy happily coincides with my natural instinct - to curl up into the foetal position, strap myself to my bunk, and ride out the storm.

So I spend most of my time inside my very small cabin, wriggling around in my red sleeping bag like a big red grub in a chrysalis, waiting for the time when I can emerge back into the outside world. I doze, nibble on snacks, listen to audio books and write my blogs. And try to keep the Fear under control.

Other stuff:

I am worried about the watermaker after finding its compartment flooded yesterday. This morning I ran the watermaker for a few minutes and it seemed fine. But this afternoon it suddenly stopped after about half an hour, and wouldn't restart.

I've spoken to Darren at Spectra Watermakers and he has suggested a couple of possible solutions, but I can't do either of them while there are waves crashing over the deck every few minutes. I will have to wait for the weather to calm down.

Meanwhile, I have done what I can to prevent swamping the watermaker again. The water must have come in around the edges of the hatch lid, which is partly submerged when the footwell fills up with water, as tends to happen in these wet and wild conditions. I've got some proper marine sealant, but it needs a dry surface, and in any case would possibly glue the hatch shut if I can't leave the hatch open while it dries. So for now I've taken my panacea for all ills - Bag Balm - and daubed it generously around the o-ring and the edges of the hatch. It's not much, but it's all I can do for now.

[photo: view from inside the cabin as a wave crashes across the deck]

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Day 10: Loneliness of the Long Distance Rower?
Roz Savage
03 Jun 2008, The Brocade

Someone has written in to ask whether I get lonely at sea. Strange though it may seem - no, I don't. Not in the slightest.

I'd like to think I'm as sociable as the next person in normal life. I certainly enjoy being around people, and always seem to find myself among the last few diehards left at parties, having somehow forgotten my earlier resolutions to "just drop in and get an early night".

But when I'm on the ocean life is very different. Socializing simply isn't an option, so I don't even think about it.

Maybe one reason for my self-reliance is that when I was growing up my parents moved around a lot. They were both preachers in the Methodist church, and tended to move every five years or so. My younger sister and I were always the new kids at school, so I always felt a bit "different" - my accent would be different from the other children's, and my parents didn't have a "normal" job.

My response to this situation was to be fairly quiet and introverted throughout my schooldays. It wasn't until I went to university that I started to come out of my shell and enjoy social situations.

So I can be either - extrovert or introvert, sociable or unsociable, gregarious or solitary. It's useful to choose which to be, as the occasion demands. For now, I am very happy to be on my own. But you can be sure that (if all goes according to plan) when I arrive in Hawaii, I will be up for a VERY big party!

Other stuff:

Panic today. I opened up the hatch to the watermaker (see photo above) so I could replenish my stocks of drinking water - and found that the hatch was full of water. The watermaker was almost completely submerged. It is a complicated piece of electrical equipment, and does not take kindly to being swamped. I bailed it out as fast I could, and it seemed to run just fine today - but if water has got into the pump, it could be just a matter of time before rust sets in and it grinds to a halt.

If that happens, I do have a backup manual watermaker, but it takes an awful lot of pumping to make enough water for a day. For now I am keeping everything crossed and hoping that the watermaker survives. Having got this far, I am very reluctant to return to dry land to make pre-emptive repairs.

The wind seems to be in favour of the return-to-land option, though. I was able to row for about 7 hours today before the wind picked up again, and I am now sitting out another gale. The sea anchor is out and I am hunkered down in the cabin while steep grey waves crash and seethe around my little boat. And all the time, the wind is driving me back towards the coast. I just hope I have made enough progress west to avoid being pushed all the way back to California.

And one final thing: to clarify my comment yesterday about the external video camera not working. This is not a major issue, as I do still have the internal video camera, as well as a small handheld camcorder - so I am capturing lots of footage for our environmental documentary based around my Pacific row. I have at least two of almost every item on board - just in case - and cameras are no exception.

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Day 9: 95% ? Ready Enough
Roz Savage
03 Jun 2008, The Brocade

It was a mad scramble to get ready to leave on May 24th. I'd officially been standby since May 15th, but there were still various loose (and some not so loose) ends to tie off. I hadn't had a chance to do a full test on the camera system. An iPod of audiobooks on philosophy was still on its way from the East Coast. Stickers for the boat were being ordered but had not yet arrived. We hadn't done any sea trials since the extra ballast had been installed. The new website hadn't gone live yet.

And suddenly, when I received that phone call from my weatherguy on the morning of May 23rd, it was all systems go. Not exactly "now or never", but with weather you never know when you'll get another chance.

My first reaction to the weatherguy's phone call had been, "No, I can't - I'm not ready", my second reaction was to ask, "Am I ready enough?" And the answer was, "Not yet, but I can be by midnight tomorrow!" So I went for it. Everybody rallied to the cause and by midnight on May 24th I was ready.


I felt about 95% ready. I knew I would never feel 100% ready - perfection is rarely achieved - but 99% would have been nice.

But as things stand at the moment, I am glad that I took the calculated risk and set off anyway. As it turns out, the external video camera is not working, to the chagrin of my documentary producer Bill Chayes, but apart from that I'm managing without the things that had not arrived, and the Brocade is having the best possible sea trial of all. It may have helped that I tend to set a very high target. It may not be possible to get 100% of the way there, but 95% of a high target is better than 95% of a low target.

I think back on other projects that I've planned, that faltered and fell by the wayside because they didn't have a deadline. So I fussed over the plans, revising and refining, wanting them to be perfect. which, of course, they never would be, and so they never actually made it off the drawing board and into reality.

They say that: "Success happens when opportunity meets preparation". I don't know yet if my mission to reach Hawaii will be successful (although confidence is growing daily) - there are still many miles to cross and many weather systems to encounter - but I do feel glad that I was forced to take the plunge when that rare weather window opened up. There comes a point when you just have to take a leap of faith, knowing that although you could possibly be more ready, you're ready enough.

[Photo: the on-board menagerie: Squishie the dolphin, Quackers the duck, and Chirpy the robin. Chirpy says hi to the 4th graders at Cottage Lane School! I think he's bringing me good luck so far.]

Other stuff:

The gale force conditions subsided slightly this afternoon, so I was able to get a few hours of rowing. I've been amazed by the favourable direction of my drift the last 24 hours - making quite decent headway west, even though the wind was coming from the NW. I assume it must have been the combination of the set of my rudder and the deployment of my sea anchor. When I pulled the sea anchor back on board this afternoon in preparation for rowing, I found that it was in a right old twist, with the tripline all wound around the main line, and each of those then twisted around itself. It took me about an hour to sort out the tangle of lines. I'm just hoping that I haven't now lost that magical configuration that was taking me westwards!

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Day 8: Fat-Bottomed Girl
Roz Savage
01 Jun 2008, The Brocade

This year my boat put on 200 pounds. Quite an alarming weight gain, by human standards, but I was glad of it last night.

Just as I was finishing my day's rowing the wind started to pick up, whipping the waves into whitecaps and bouncing my boat around like a cork. In similar conditions last year I capsized 3 times in 24 hours - which was not fun and I wouldn't recommend it.

I made sure everything was either stowed away or tied down, and retreated to my cabin for the night. Everything sounds much louder from inside the cabin - the hull seems to amplify the din of the waves - so several times during the night I was woken by a deafening sound, convinced that the rudder had been torn off or the sea anchor had yanked its fixture clean out of the boat's hull. Strange how the imagination runs riot in the small hours of the night..

And every time I heard an especially large wave slam into the side of the boat I involuntarily braced myself for an Eskimo roll - as happened last year.

But I am grateful to report that I made it to this morning without sinking, capsizing, or even losing anything overboard,. This year we installed 200 pounds of lead down low in the hull, and now when the big waves come walloping in the Brocade seems to slip sideways rather than rolling over. Happy days!

The extra weight doesn't seem to keep the boat any more stable during the day, though - so today I've been forced to take a day off from rowing. If I was going downwind it would be no problem - I'd be whizzing along with the waves and making some impressive mileage - but it's impossible to row across such big swells with the boat rolling from side to side.

So I've been confined to the cabin for most of the day. The sun is shining and the sea is sparkling, but I've come back from each of my hasty forays to the deck soaked to the skin by waves crashing over the side of the boat, so it's safest and driest (dry being a very relative term) indoors, watching the spray fly against the round window hatch.

I seem to be drifting in a favourable direction, towards more helpful winds further south, so all is well with the world, and I'm happy that Brocade now seems to prefer being right way up rather than upside down - well worth the 200 pound weight gain on her bottom.

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