04 Jul 2008, The Brocade
After yesterday's rant about the environment and human irresponsibility, I was going to write a low-key blog about how I train for an ocean crossing. But then I was brought up short when I saw this eloquent and moving email sent to me by a friend in Oregon. I haven't had time to ask for her consent, but I hope she won't mind me passing it on to you. She is a wise and wonderful woman, and her words really resonated with me. I hope you enjoy them too. Happy Independence Day!
As I think about the 4th of July and how we, in the US, will be celebrating our "Independence Day", I can't help but think about you rowing the Pacific and how you symbolize true "Independence". You've taken on a challenge that to you is "real" and rather than just talking about what you're going to do "someday" you're doing it and with that you're helping to make people more aware of the ocean, the environment, plastic, green products and the fragileness of life itself.
Most of us are afraid to leave our security, be it physical, material or mental. We hold on to things, possessions as well as ideas and thoughts, that we know to be disruptive and often destructive, and yet they're familiar and so we cling to what we know, what we've done. We repeat patterns that work both physically and mentally to destroy us, in small ways or big ways.
Rowing the Atlantic and/or the Pacific might be a bit more of an adventure than many of us want to take on but reading your blogs and your sharing your day to day life, whether it's pleasant or life threatening, can remind us of what it is like to live in the present and how simple our needs can truly be (being able to drink water daily as we want it without being dependent on one piece of equipment to make it for us and the importance of water daily is life itself).
I thank you for helping me to be more aware of life itself and the preciousness of what I have and being reminded that it is within me to change the things that I know to be harmful to me, ideas, eating, interactions.....so many things. Each day truly is an opportunity for a "new beginning" and being open to what comes our way and perhaps reacting in a new way and from what is presently happening, rather than from pictures of how things have been or what I think someone else expects of me, opens up doors to new possibilities, not only for me, but for those that I interact with as well.
So daily, as I read your blog, I not only wish you well and safety, I also wish all of us "Independence" from whatever it is that holds us back!
Strange weather here today. At one stage, all around me I could see grey clouds close to the horizon, while I was bathed in glorious sunshine and above me were the wispy cirrus clouds (hopefully a signal that I am getting close to the trade winds). At times I ran into the grey clouds, which settled in around me like a San Francisco fog. When this photo was taken, the sun and the fine drizzle interacted to produce a faint smudge of a rainbow, its colours muted.
Rowing-wise, an excellent day. I've now passed 127 degrees west, and the trade winds are getting closer! Woohoo!
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In answer to some concerns, Blue Pledges are FREE!! You don't have to pay a thing - in fact, most Blue Pledges will save you money because most things that are good for the environment are also good for your wallet. So do it now!
Go to www.theblueproject.org and click on the Make a BLUE Pledge button.
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I've received a load of questions that we're going to cover in the podcast tomorrow (you can listen live at 10am Pacific time, or download the podcast at your convenience). Jeff King, Joan in Atlanta (and thanks for your Blue Pledge!), Michael Faulkner, Ray Davis - listen in!
Alison C - thanks for your message. You've got it figured - one day at a time. I just try not to think about too much outside of my boat - if I thought of all the days between here and Hawaii, or all the places I would rather be, it would drive me nuts!
Jenny - thanks for the reassurance on the wildlife front. If you haven't seen Jenny's comment, she wrote: "the ocean is a very huge place, wildlife is not abundant throughout all over it, but in certain hotspots. The ocean is dynamic minute to minute as you well know and oceanographic processes affect food distribution. you happen to be crossing a great desert to Hawaii where likely sightings will be slim unless you cross over a seamount. I bet you will be a landing area for seabirds at times! take pics, such a cool opportunity to share with the world what truly is pelagic."
Again concerning wildlife - Pippa, I see birds often, but so far no landings on board the Brocade. At least once a day a couple of birds will come and circle my boat - often one flying clockwise while the other goes anticlockwise. Not always the same birds, but usually this same pattern of behaviour. I always say hi!
Carol - don't worry too much about the Marinetrack position sometimes getting out of date. I send my position to my mother and my weatherman twice a day, in addition to the MT reports - and I don't move so fast that the positions go out of date!
Dick deVries - am aiming for Waikiki Yacht Club, but I'll take whatever dry land I can hit!
Dana - no worries. I haven't seen them, but I suspect that I might have been sympathetic!
Ben Eadie - thanks for your kind message. Definitely a vacancy in that department, and I'd love to talk when I get back to dry land. Thank you!
HELLOOOO! To Gus and Cathy. Nice to know you're following. Be warned - I plan to give you a shout next time in London, and would love to see you for dinner. Errr, you're paying! ;-)
Ron in Texas - thanks for the kind message, and for the great quote: "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." (Ambrose Redmoon). By that definition, I will admit that maybe I do have some courage.
Eric Krueger - a chance to dance? Not really - would probably fall overboard!
Special hi to Sinead in NZ. Think of you often, facing your first Dunedin winter. Lots of love - and stay warm! And a special thank you to Cousin Russell for his message too.
Position Friday evening: 28 25 593N 127 02 628W
Nautical Miles rowed yesterday: 25.06
Click here to seeDay 41 of the Atlantic Crossing 10 January 2006
03 Jul 2008, The Brocade
My friend Eric has a theory about human emotional development. He reckons we all reach a particular age, and development stops there, so even though our chronological age increases year by year, a part of us remains forever fourteen years old (or whatever).
Generally I'm rather sceptical about the theory, but it struck me during a thoughtful moment recently that collectively we humans seem to be stuck somewhere in early adolescence when it comes to the environment.
Part of the process of adolescence is to push the envelope, find out what you're capable of - and what you can get away with. And often the only way to find out how far you can go - is to go too far.
And maybe, as humans, we have pushed it too far, without really thinking through the consequences. We seem to have got rather carried away with our ability to conquer nature through science and technology - genetic modification, pesticides, the automobile, and so on. And now that the side-effects of our "progress" are starting to become apparent, we are reacting in a less than mature way.
What does your typical teenager do when they realize they have done something wrong? And is it any different from our response as a species? Continuing with the example of climate change.
Denial: It wasn't me, I didn't do it. ("We can find no link between human activity and global warming.")
Or belittling the significance of the damage: It was a stupid vase anyway. ("Great! Warmer summers! What's the problem?")
Or blaming somebody else: They started it. ("We're not going to sign this treaty if you won't.")
Whereas in fact the more mature response would be to accept responsibility for our actions and their consequences, and figure out how to limit the damage before it gets any worse.
Idealistic? Maybe. But I for one find it embarrassing that we are not responding in a more mature way to the biggest crisis we have ever faced. It is time we stopped behaving like spoiled adolescents and faced up to our responsibilities towards the planet. Or history will not be impressed.
That's my environmental rant for the day!
Conditions still calm and reasonably pleasant for rowing. A good day at the oars. I was listening to the audiobook of "Seabiscuit" about the racing horse, which led to some faster-than-usual paddling during the nail-biting race scenes!
Hello and thanks to all who are sharing my adventures via the blog or podcast. Especially big welcomes to the newbies..
To Aly Roland in Alabama, a 3rd-grader who is being homeschooled. Aly, you go faster in your kayak than I do in my rowboat - well done! I dream of doing 3 miles per hour. but I suspect my boat is a lot heavier than yours. Mine weighs about 2000 lb. I don't usually wear a lifejacket (although I think maybe you should) but I do wear a harness if it gets rough, and clip myself onto the boat. And I haven't seen any sharks yet - and if I do, I just hope that if I leave them alone, they will leave me alone too!
BLUE PLEDGES - 10 DAYS LEFT TO ACT!
I hear from my friends at the Blue Project that lots of people are signing up with Blue Pledges, including a growing number of Americans. Thank you!!
If you haven't yet done so, please go to www.theblueproject.org and click on the Make a BLUE Pledge button.
BE COOL, BE BLUE!
Position Thursday evening: 28 47 76N, 126 37 41W
Nautical miles done yesterday: 21.34
Click here to see Day 40 of the Atlantic crossing January 2006.
02 Jul 2008, The Brocade
Some people may be labouring under the misconception that I possess some kind of bravery, or courage, to do what I do. The truth of the matter is, I don't think I am any braver than the next person. I just have a good capacity for not thinking about the things that might scare me.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not like an ostrich, with my head in the sand, assuming that if I can't see it then it can't hurt me.
But I do all my worrying before I set out, while there is still something I can do to address them. I write out all my "what if" scenarios - anything from the boat catching fire to a bout of depression - and identify what I would do, and what items I would require to do it with. Most of these contingencies are covered by a huge first aid kit, a good set of tools, a selection of marine flares, and standard marine safety equipment. Oh, and a list of useful phone numbers.
Then, once I've written out my lists of Bad Things, I try not to think any more about them.
I also deliberately choose not to think about: - how far away I am from dry land (once I'm out of sight of land, it could be 20 miles or it could be 2000) - how deep the ocean is (you can drown in 2 inches of water - so never mind that it is 2 miles deep - all the strange and potentially dangerous creatures that may lurk beneath the thin shell of my boat..
Actually, in connection with the last, I have been quite disappointed not to have seen more wildlife. On the Atlantic I didn't see much either, but there was at least the occasional turtle, and lots of flying fish. Here on the Pacific, apart from birds (which I see most days) I haven't seen another living thing since the bizarre sunfish on 3rd June.
I know the fish stocks are collapsing and many species of sharks and whales are on the brink of extinction, but surely we haven't killed EVERYTHING?
[Photo: in the absence of more interesting wildlife, you'll have to make do with a picture of a Savage]
Relatively calm conditions at the moment, with winds coming from the NNW. Slow but steady progress at the oars.
And hellos and thanks to all who have written in. Special mentions to:
Paul Nordquist for the story about the drunken Swede who tried to row home from Denmark. Not a bad effort for a 78-year-old!
Gordon Christie - good to hear from you!
HSS for the words of encouragement - and the riddle. And I am proud to be associated with your funny old kettle saved from landfill!
DON'T FORGET TO BE BLUE
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BE COOL, BE BLUE!
Position Wednesday evening: 29 01.118 N, 126 14.694 W.
Click here to see Day 39 of the Atlantic crossing 7th January 2006.
01 Jul 2008, The Brocade
You might be surprised to see a blog about Antarctica written from a rowboat on the Pacific, but one of the real joys of audiobooks is the way they suck you into a different world - and today, for me, that world has been the South Pole, 1914-16.
It's been a long day's rowing, but has passed relatively pleasantly because I've been listening to The Lost Men, the story of the men who were enlisted to support Shackleton's attempt to be the first to cross Antarctica. Their job was to sail to the opposite side of the continent from Shackleton's primary team, and set out from the Ross Sea to deposit caches of food and fuel for the last third of Shackleton's journey.
As it turned out, the whole expedition was a spectacular failure in the finest British tradition, following on from Scott's noble but fatal attempt to be the first to the South Pole (the Norwegian, Amundsen, beat him by a month, and Scott and his men died on the return journey). Shackleton didn't make it to the Pole, or indeed, even onto the continent. And the support team fell into disarray, with half-baked plans and lack of leadership leading to delays.
What the two teams had in common was intense hardship, many of the men spending a total of two years in Antarctica, enduring harsh weather, starvation, malnutrition, frostbite, 24-hour darkness, and uncertainty as to whether they would ever be rescued. The Ross Sea party, particularly, seem to have suffered - when they were eventually picked up, they were almost feral, stinking of seal blood and blubber, and speaking strangely.
There was no way for the teams to communicate with each other, or with the outside world. Nobody would know if they had succeeded or failed until they returned. Or didn't.
Listening to this sorry saga made me feel very humble, and frankly, like a bit of a wimp. On the Atlantic I felt pretty sorry for myself at times, with all my oars broken, as well as my stereo, camping stove, and ultimately my satellite phone. But at all times I had enough to eat and drink, was warm enough, and even after my phone broke my team could follow my progress via my locator beacon. And it was only for a mere 103 days.
So it was good to be reminded of a time when explorers really were pushing the boundaries in a way we can't even begin to imagine now. They were seriously hardcore. Respect!
[If you're interested in reading more about my Atlantic crossing, we're going to start doing a series of links: "This day on the Atlantic.". Mum will be adding the links to my blogs, as I can't do it from here, so there may be a time delay of a few hours between this blog first appearing and the link being added, due to the time difference.]
John in Reno - I would love to tell you more (or show photos of videos) about what I am seeing and observing, but there really hasn't been anything apart from sea and sky, and that wears a bit thin after a while! I haven't seen any wildlife since the sunfish a few weeks ago (apart from a couple of birds). Nor have I seen any ocean debris, although I have been looking out for it. Rest assured, if and when I see something interesting, I will duly report.
Rachel - so after the first 10 days you had no electricity at all on your Atlantic crossing - wow! I'm in absolute luxury, then! You're almost in the Shackleton league.!
Marty U - if you're interested in the weather, check out my weatherguy's blog. I can't see my website from here, but I think the link is on the right of this page.
Special thanks to Chris Martin for the words of encouragement. (fyi, Chris was the only other solo entry in the Atlantic Rowing Race 2005.}
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Day 38 of the Atlantic crossing
Position Tuesday evening: 29 16.235 N. 125 55.485W.