28 Jun 2008, The Brocade
The last part of my mini-series on a day in the life of an ocean rower. Today - nights. Or more specifically, sleeping, or what passes for it on the ocean.
Back in 2000-2001 I lived for 18 months in New York's Greenwich Village (West 11th and Bleecker, if you want to know), regularly commuting between there and London. Something about all the transatlantic travel disrupted my body clock, and I became quite the insomniac. Although more recently my ability to sleep has improved, the insomniac years have stood me in good stead for ocean rowing.
In New York, rather than toss and turn and fret about not sleeping, I would either go out to a local 24-hour diner and observe the exotic side of New York life (not an option here, more's the pity!) or I would stay in bed and relish the feeling of resting, rather than focusing solely on sleep and my lack thereof.
I try to do the same on the ocean - to regard my time in the bunk as time of rest, rather than time of sleep. It's good just to have the break from rowing, and to get the weight off my backside. Because sleeping here is not easy. No matter how snug my waterproof, fleece-lined sleeping bag, sleep on a constantly pitching boat is at best intermittent, and at worst non-existent.
When the waves are at their roughest, it is like trying to sleep in a fairground dodgem car - every few minutes another dodgem will slam into me with bone-jarring force, bouncing me off my bunk and into the air. And even on the calmest of nights it is noisy in the cabin, with the water sloshing around the rudder just inches away from my head.
I have noticed over the last few nights that I have started to develop immunity to the slamming waves. Even though I am a light sleeper, I have occasionally woken up during the night to find that although it is quite rough, I've been asleep for a couple of hours at a stretch.
Just another one of those things that I have adapted to. But already I'm looking forward to adapting back again, and to feel cool, crisp cotton sheets against my skin on a bed that doesn't move.
A huge thank you to Rich Crow and the guys at Spectra Watermakers, who really, really did their best to help me get the watermaker up and
running again. Unfortunately when I opened up the feed pump, it was pretty obvious that it had pumped its last. A crucial component , that cannot be replaced or improvised, had corroded away beyond repair. We have now done all that can be done for the patient. Resuscitation has failed, the last rites have been read, and the watermaker will now truly rest in peace.
In hindsight, I should have opened it up immediately after the swamping and flushed it out with fresh water and WD-40 to prevent corrosion. But not much point in dwelling on that now.
Reserve water supplies and hand-pumping, here I come.
[photo: the corpse in extreme close-up - that frayed end near the middle of the photo is supposed to be connected to a wire. No connection, no water.]
Thank you for all the suggestions about attaching the waterpump to rowing seat, oars, etc. Great in theory, not so easy in practice. Believe me, I think about little else while I am rowing, having rather a vested interest in this - plus I know my boat better than anybody else with the possible exception of Rich Crow.
The configuration of the hand pump and the configuration of my boat make it very hard to attach the hand pump firmly enough in order to exert the required amount of pressure from the seat, and the oars do not move in a sufficiently consistent plane (because of the rough water) to work the pump without breaking it. Plus I would have to disassemble the setup every time I stop for a break from rowing.
I will continue to ponder on it, and although I know you're all dying to help, it would be really hard for you to hit on a solution without knowing either my boat or what tools I have on board.
I really do appreciate all your concern - it's nice to know you care - but may I suggest that you devote your mental energies instead to thinking how you can economise on your own energy consumption and do your bit to help save the planet!
Many thanks to all who continue to send messages of support and encouragement.
Special hellos to Mariya (oh, roll on Hawaii!!) and Richard Shillito - yup, as they say, a bad day on the water is better than a good day in the office!
27 Jun 2008, The Brocade
Further to the watermaker issue, somebody suggested that maybe I should abandon my voyage. With apologies and all due respect to that person, this really made me smile.
As I said in the podcast yesterday morning, this is not like a big city marathon, where I could just decide, "Hey, this isn't going so well, maybe ocean rowing isn't the sport for me after all" - then pull over to the side, stop running, and catch a bus to the finish.
Abandonment of my voyage simply is not an option. Apart from the fact that I am too stubborn, too proud, and too determined to quit, abandonment is logistically almost impossible - because even if I decided to quit, that still leaves me and my boat bobbing around about 500 miles off the coast of America.
I would not call the Coast Guard, partly because I am beyond their reach, but mostly because they exist to assist those in "immediate and grave danger", not to help hapless adventurers who swamp their watermakers.
Nor would I want to call on other vessels for help - I got myself into this situation, and it is down to me to get myself out of it.
And even if anybody were able to pick me up, they probably would not be able to salvage my boat, which would then become yet another piece of flotsam polluting the North Pacific (as well as being my only worldly possession of any value, and my means of making a living).
This is the invigorating thing, and also the scary thing, about oceans and any other vast wilderness. Once you get yourself out here, you really have nobody to rely on but yourself. No matter what happens, you just have to figure out how to deal with it.
On the ocean, there is no emergency exit!
[photo: the TomTom GPS from my car is rather confused to find itself in the middle of the Pacific.]
Today I had phone conversations with Rich Crow, who did most of the work on my boat, and with Kyle at Spectra Watermakers. They have promised we will get my watermaker working again. Their optimism has proved contagious, and my hopes have revived. Conditions should be calm tomorrow, so I plan to try out their new suggestions then. I daren't get too excited, in case it doesn't work out, but if it does, not only will I be totally ecstatic about regaining my self-sufficiency (and the facility to wash once in a while) but I will be so damned proud of myself for overcoming my fix-o-phobia where the watermaker is concerned.
Conditions today have been getting calmer as the day has gone on. Grey sky, grey sea. It tried to drizzle a couple of times but generally failed. Not enough rainwater to bathe a flea.
Katharine Weber - New Leaf in Half Moon Bay sounds exactly like my kind of store. I will be sure to drop in there the next time I am in the area. HMB is a great place - that's where I did a photo shoot with Elena and Aleksey , who took some fabulous black and whites.
Thanks for comments from Tod, Allen Bussell (I think you're right - it's knowing I don't have the choice that makes me crave some different foods!), Loree Burns (hope the strategy worked with the picky eater!), Roger M, Jon S, Conrad (well done on the 5% weight loss! The Square Mile Run - I remember it well!) - and a special hello to Aenor, who has faced battles tougher than mine, and is a great inspiration.
- and all the regulars! (you know who you are.)
Good to see Marine Track on board again!
Lastest position from Roz: 29 42 24N 125 31 63W
26 Jun 2008, The Brocade
Today I ran a performance test on my emergency standby watermaker. Maybe it should have been a clue that the guy in the picture on the instruction booklet is sitting in a liferaft, and that the watermaker is called the "Survivor 06" (message to Chris Rosamond - yes, the one you hoped it wasn't!).
This contraption really is designed just to keep you alive, and assumes that you have nothing better to do all day than sit in a liferaft, pumping water and praying for rescue.
It took me an hour of pumping to produce a meager 600mls (20 oz) of water. And it really didn't taste too great.
The good news is that, unless there has been any leakage or spoilage in my water ballast, I should have enough water on board to keep me going for 30 days before I have to resort to the Survivor 06. By then I would hope to be well on my way to Hawaii, and a resupply (hopefully of better-tasting water) may be viable.
I was feeling quite pathetic about the situation until I reminded myself that there are people in Africa who have to walk hours to the well every day to get water, and their water is probably even worse-tasting than mine. And my situation is only for a couple of months - theirs is for life.
You can always find somebody worse off than yourself.
[photo: the Katadyn Survivor 06 watermaker, and the fruits of my labours]
A rough day out here on the ocean, and progress westwards has been slow. But steady.
Big thanks for donations from Craig Meyer and Edward Mellon - much appreciated.
Responses to questions about the watermaker: seems my "oomph" theory was way off. The batteries (according to my battery monitor) are in fine fettle, up to 13.5V each. So the problem is either in the connections to the feed pump or in the pump itself. Conditions today have been too rough to open up the hatch without getting even more water inside, so further investigations will have to await calmer conditions. These are forecast for the weekend - along with some possible rain showers. I will have my buckets at the ready!
As to resupply, we are working on some possible leads. I am unwilling to ask for assistance from passing commercial vessels, due to the difficulty of physically getting water from their vessel to mine without them running me over, so we are focusing our efforts on smaller leisure vessels.
Thank you for lovely encouraging messages from Diana Schultz, Currin in NZ, ah, Greg Louderman, Dana Clark, Chris Martin, David B, Pippa, Carsten, Betty, Niles Gibbs (love the parable!) and Dora.
Happy also to hear from Aleksey, Elena, Konstantin, John H, Nora Levine, Michael Surran, Rob, Chris Rosamond (alas, it's the 06!), Micah and Roger Finch.
I have had quite a number of people keen to help Roz in her present situation without a working watermaker. Enquiries are being made to yachtsmen to see if anyone would be willing to take her some water about two weeks from now. I do hope that we get a response. However, we need to stress that the situation is not so critical that it needs intervention. Roz does have a professional support team who are constantly in touch with her and each other. Please do not be tempted to take any unilateral action as you would create further problems for Roz and restrict the support team's options. Roz also asks that no large ships should be asked to respond to her enquiry about a re-supply of water. Also, no container of water larger than two and a half gallons.
Please use the contact details on this website if you have any suggestions that might be helpful. Thank you for your interest in Roz's venture.
Position Thursday evening: 30 01.171 N, 125 17.743W.
25 Jun 2008, The Brocade
Today, my favourite subject: food. But first, a favour. I want you all to really, really enjoy your food while I am out here. Appreciate its freshness, its variety, the fact that you can go to the supermarket and buy just about anything, you can even go to a restaurant and have something special. You can have ice cream and other frozen treats. You can have food chilled, broiled, baked, roasted, fried, saut?ed or steamed. In short, you can eat what you want, and I want you to cherish that as an honour and a privilege and not something taken for granted.
Don't get me wrong. I am not grumbling (well, not much). While I am on dry land I more than make up for the deprivations of the ocean. But while I am out here I do spend a disproportionate amount of time daydreaming about the joys of food and drink.
At the moment, my typical day's intake is as pictured in the photograph - from top left, and going clockwise:
Beansprouts - grown here on board the Brocade (bean mix provided by Sproutpeople)
Rawfood crackers - grains sprouted, pureed, and "baked" at low temperature to preserve the enzymes. Made for me by my friend Eva.
Larabars - yummy fruit and nut bars made in Colorado - with no added sugar, unprocessed, raw, non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy free, vegan and kosher. My favourite flavours are Apple Pie, Banana Cookie, Ginger Snap, Chocolate and Chocolate Coffee
Mixed nuts - cashews, brazils, almonds and pecans
Expedition meal - the one pictured is freeze-dried (so needs hot water added), but at the moment I am actually working through my preferred boil-in-the-bag varieties
There is nothing at all bad about this selection of foods. Most of them (with the exception of expedition meals) I often eat on dry land. It is just the monotony of eating the same things, day after day, that gets a bit wearing.
I had some fresh food when I set out - some delicious loaves of bread, avocados, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and a bag of carrots - but those are now a long-distant memory. With the benefit of hindsight, and if it hadn't been such a last-minute rush to depart, I might have packed a few more treats, with a bit more variety - canned fish, soups, oatmeal, maybe even some illicit sweet treats (a month out here and the sugar cravings still have not gone away). Ah well, I'll know for next time.
I've got plenty of food on board, so I certainly won't starve. And I do, of course, have my fishing rod if the need arises. But I have to say, I am VERY much looking forward to a fresh green salad and something that doesn't come out of a packet when I get back to dry land.
In the meantime, please do me the courtesy of enjoying your meals, knowing that it is not only the poor in Africa who would gladly swap places with you. Bon appetit!
Today I passed 125 degrees West. I truly hope this means that I will never again see 124 degrees from sea level. Conditions are rough and I'm having to row across the waves, so progress is slow, but any progress is good progress.
No update on the water situation. I am being frugal with my supplies, and hope to make them last as long as possible before having to use the manual watermaker. I'm really interested to hear that Alex Bellini has a manual watermaker connected to his rowing seat. I fully intend to investigate this option - might even be worth a trip to Sydney (one of my favourite cities) to see it in person once Alex has completed his crossing!
Some special thank yous to people whose generosity has now earned them a place in the scrolling banner at the top of this page: Paul Kroculick; Mark Reid; Stephanie Batzer, Wayne Batzer; Bob Mcgough; Danny Smith.
Thanks also for helpful comments from Jim, Dee Metzger, Clint, Fred, and John H.
Regarding comments on the watermaker, please be assured that I have had a number of calls with the manufacturer, and have exhausted all their suggestions. So no need for further speculations as to the cause - but thank you anyway!
And hellos to Roger (you have a solar-powered electric motorbike - cool! But do stay safe!), Louie Figueroa, Jennifer, Eric (I do have water ballast as well as lead ballast, precisely for that reason), Margo, John Palmay (it has got a bit warmer, but it really depends on whether the sun comes out or not), Gary (my gloves are made by Kakadu, Australia), Dana (I just realized today that it has not rained once since I set out - surprising!), Greg, Johnny Trucker, and Richard Will.
Signing off now from the big bouncy blue ocean.
PS from Rita.
I have had quite a number of people keen to help Roz in her present situation without a working watermaker. Enquiries are being made to yachtsmen to see if anyone would be willing to take her some water about two weeks from now. I do hope that we get a response. However, we need to stress that the situation is not so critical that it needs intervention. Roz does have a professional support team who are constantly in touch with her and each other. Please do not be tempted to take any unilateral action as you would create further problems for Roz and restrict the support team's options. Roz also asks that no large ships should be asked to respond to her enquiry about a re-supply of water.
Please use the contact details on this website if you have any suggestions that might be helpful. Thank you for your interest in Roz's venture.
Position Wednesday evening: 30 28 464N, 125 03 827W
Thursday afternoon: 30 11 959N, 125 12 064W