29 Jun 2008, The Brocade
.and sometimes I just sits. Today I have mostly just sat - and that in itself is a rare treat. For anybody. The world is an increasingly hectic place, and we all seem to be so busy, busy, busy doing I'm-not-sure-what - that just sitting and doing nothing is a dying art. I certainly can't remember the last time I did it. Maybe one Sunday afternoon in 2005, I think.
I rowed for a couple of hours this morning against a headwind from the southwest, but as the day went on the wind freshened to the point where it made more sense to put out the sea anchor and wait for this uncharacteristic wind (caused by a weak low pressure to the north of me) to change.
So it turned into a very unusual day - a day when it made no sense to row, but the conditions were calm and the deck was a pleasant and safe place to be. The sun was shining and the air was warm, so I was wearing nothing but a baseball cap. Unexpected visitors are not a hazard out here. And I knew the phone wouldn't ring because it was turned off.
I felt calm and pleasantly alone in my watery world - it seemed as if I had the whole ocean to myself. The water gurgled companionably along the sides of my boat, and a soft breeze lifted the British red ensign flying from the roof of the aft cabin.
I pottered. I tidied the forward cabin, aired my sleeping bag, put some sprouting beans to soak. I pumped water at a leisurely pace while I listened to Bill Clinton telling me about his life in his alluringly croaky southern tones.
And betweentimes I just did nothing. I sat, and looked at the sea, and the sky, and the clouds, and the sun. Not a thought in my head, except how deliciously peaceful it all was.
[photo: tonight's sunset, photographed from inside my cabin where I am sitting typing this blog]
As you might remember from my World Oceans Day blog, The BLUE Project (for which I am a BLUE Ambassador) is asking people to make BLUE Pledges - something that you are going to do to make your life more green (or blue). Like using only reusable grocery bags, or using a reusable drinks mug for your coffee shop visits, or reducing your carbon footprint by 5% over the coming year.
This is all part of a concerted campaign to support the Marine Bill currently going through the UK parliament, but the pledges are not restricted to UK citizens. After all, we are all connected by the oceans!
The deadline for pledges is 14th July - just 2 weeks away. Please, please, please make a pledge. All the pledges will be printed out on big boards and presented in support of the Bill. We are aiming for a total of 100,000 pledges - so please do your bit and move us one pledge closer to our target!
And get all your friends and family to make pledges too. Again, I stress that this is open to people of all nationalities. Go to www.theblueproject.org and click on the Make a BLUE Pledge button. I'm going to keep nagging you about this every day from now until the 14th, so you may as well get it over and done with and do it now!
Thanks to all who have been following my blogs and podcasts, and have written in to let me know. You know the saying, "I want to be the person my dog thinks I am"? Well, I think I want to be the person some of you think I am - your kind comments and your faith in me really help keep me going when I have my moments of doubt. I will do my best to live up to your expectations!
Special thanks to Nevada Bev, for reminding me that being in over one's head is the best way to find skills you never knew you had! And for mentioning Bolinas - a town that has a special place in my heart (hello Aenor and Melinda!).
Position Sunday evening: 29 41 87N, 125 19 62W.
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.