01 Aug 2008, The Brocade
Today has been a good day on board the good ship Brocade. I've passed a significant milestone, and I now have a clean bottom (!).
The wind dropped this morning and the ocean was relatively calm, so I made the most of the opportunity to scrub off the strip of barnacles that I hadn't been able to reach from the cockpit. Even though conditions were favourable, I always feel vulnerable when I go overboard, so I stripped off and hopped in before I had a chance to think about it too much. (This strategy works well in all kinds of situations - e.g.bungy jumps, breaking bad news, going for a long run - really anything you want to get accomplished but don't relish the task itself.)
It only took me a few minutes with my paint-stripping tool to evict my unwanted hitchhikers - and then about twice as long to struggle back over the gunwales and into the cockpit, but I succeeded eventually and inelegantly.
So I now had a nice clean hull - and a bath into the bargain. Both very good for morale, so even if the removal of the barnacles only has a marginal effect on boat speed, the energy boost from being shipshape again may have added a fraction of a knot to today's progress.
This afternoon, to my great satisfaction, I passed 140 degrees West. I can't say exactly why I place so much more importance on this milestone than on the half-way mark. Maybe it is because I have marked up the lines of longitude on the whiteboard in front of my rowing position - 4 columns of 9 numbers, and 140 degrees lies at the bottom of the second column, i.e. halfway as far as longitude goes, ignoring latitude. And because these numbers are in front of me all day, every day, they are my way of measuring my progress. Anyway, it felt really good to cross that number off my list - and celebrate with an extra Larabar in addition to my daily ration.
And even better, I discovered I had made a mistake in my rolling averages - my rough-and-ready way of estimating an ETA - and the error was in my favour. This was very good news. It made me think back to the disheartening day on the Atlantic when I had the opposite experience - discovering I had mis-plotted the position of Antigua by one degree, giving me an extra and unexpected 58 nautical miles to row.
So I'm feeling very cheery this evening and am starting to daydream of arrival in Hawaii - but I can't afford to let my guard down or slacken off my oaring efforts. When I did the Atlantic there was a crew of two unfortunate men who capsized a mere 180 miles from Antigua. The boat refused to self-right and they had to be rescued.
It ain't over til it's over!
Position at 2200 31st July Pacific Time, 0500 1st August UTC: 24 01.838'N, 140 10.624'W.
Rick Shema (Weatherguy) describes Roz now as a "three digit midget" - she has under a thousand nautical miles to go! 992 nm. another cause for rejoicing.
On to the messages..
Sindy - an offer of a massage and/or spa day? You read my mind!! There is nothing I would love (or need!) more when I get to Hawaii. Although I pity the poor beauty therapist who has to confront my unwaxed legs, unkempt hair, and callused hands!
Mike - funny to think of you listening to the podcasts while mowing lawns - your world is so different from mine! You green, me blue.
Thanks to Gregg for a great message. That would be wonderful if you would post a printout of my blog at your work station. You never know what effect it might have on somebody.
Hi also to Bev, DogsDontPurr, Keizo, Gregg, John, Kirk (I already get up before dawn - but will try to remember to look out for the meteor shower on the 12th.)
And a special hello to Minette and Daisy - Minette, you would not be proud of my grooming at the moment. I have never felt so Savage in my life!
Click here to view [513469*Day 68 of the Atlantic Crossing%b] 6 February 2006: Black Monday - another broken oar.
31 Jul 2008, The Brocade
Mum has now written two guest blogs on this site - now I'm going to turn the tables and write about her.
She has had a lot to put up with over the last 4 years (or last 40 years, some might say). It was August 2004 when I decided I was going to row across the Atlantic. This news would probably never be welcome to any loving mother, but my timing was especially bad as my father had just had a stroke and would die six weeks later. He had been a hale and hearty seventy-four when struck down, and it had come as a shock to all of us to lose him so swiftly.
Mum and I may well have become close anyway, in the aftermath of Dad's death, but once she came round to the idea of my ocean-going adventure, the project itself helped to bring us closer still. She was my most stalwart supporter during my voyage, the one person to whom I could pour out my heart through all the ups and downs, the doubts and fears, the trials and tribulations, and know that she would carry on loving me and supporting me regardless.
We were a close family as I was growing up. Mum and Dad were both Methodist preachers, so we moved house every few years. It was tough on me and my younger sister, being torn away from our schoolfriends each time we moved, but it did engender adaptability, self-sufficiency and independence, and also forged strong family bonds.
But then once I left home to go to Oxford University and then to start a career in London, I saw less of my parents. They often lived far away, and I had a busy urban life. It was only when I went through my radical mid-life change of direction that I became closer to them again, maybe looking to them for clues as to my own identity and life purpose.
There are certain traits of my parents that I can now see in myself - and maybe it's a sign of maturity, but now, rather than being horrified by any similarities, I am generally proud of my genetic inheritance. Mum gave me my wanderlust, tenacity, and "justdoitiveness". She has these in spades. From Dad, my love of books, an ability to dream big, and his mantra: "Whatever you do, put your whole heart into it."
But what I thank Mum most for is her unconditional love, and her willingness to support me in whatever I choose to do. I don't have children myself, but I imagine it must be very difficult to stand by and watch a daughter who seems to "have it all", throw it all away to row a small boat across oceans. Not only has Mum refrained from interfering, but she has supported me all the way, somehow fitting in her shore manager duties around her own busy life.
I am very proud of her, and honoured to be her daughter. I can't wait to see her in Hawaii.
[photo: Mum takes the weight off her feet on a luggage cart in Las Vegas, May 2008]
Position at 2130 30th July Pacific Time, 0430 31st July UTC: 24 01.945'N, 139 35.290'W.
The last couple of nights have been very bouncy, making sleep fitful. But the wind seems to be decreasing slightly tonight, so I hope to catch a few more zzz's. I've actually been surprised that I've got as much sleep as I have - when I wake up the boat is being slapped around quite energetically by the waves, and I can only presume it's been like that most of the night, so it's been a miracle that a light sleeper like me has managed to get any sleep at all - although I guess I've been pretty tired after a hard day's rowing!
Thanks for the great messages - always a good way to round off my day, when I retreat to my cabin and pick up my emails.
Sarah O - always a pleasure to hear from you, especially - happy, bouncy emails! Please pass on my huge thanks to your mum for the socks. They were FANTASTIC in the early, chilly stages of the row. Deep joy. HSS - sorry to hear about your lettuces. One good thing about the ocean - no slugs and no bugs! Chris Martin - congrats on moving over to Good Energy.
And to anyone else in the UK - if you haven't already, moving to Good Energy (or similar) surely has to be the easiest ever way to reduce your carbon footprint. You know it makes sense!
I am sure there must be similar schemes in the US, for buying your electricity from a company that uses only renewable sources like wind and sun. Any suggestions or recommendations? Post a comment and I'll put them up on the blog.
Click here to view Day 67 of the Atlantic Crossing He Who Would an Ocean Rower Be - reply to those envying Roz.
30 Jul 2008, The Brocade
Today I saw a piece of debris - not a lot, just a flat piece of painted wood drifting by about 15 feet from my boat. I have been asked if I've been surprised not to see more debris than the two or three pieces I've reported - and the answer is no, not really.
The first reason is that while I row I have a (relatively) great big cabin in front of me, blocking most of my view. I can of course look out from the sides of the cockpit, but that tends to muck up my rowing (as any crew rower can tell you, you're not supposed to look at your oar!) so I tend to keep my eyes on the compass between my feet, and for much of the day I'm lost in the world of my audiobook. So there could be all kinds of exciting things going on alongside me, and I'd be totally oblivious.
Second, I'm not in the worst part of the ocean for debris. The North Pacific Garbage Patch, allegedly the size of Texas, is north of my current position in the centre of the North Pacific Gyre - the "eye" in the huge circulatory system of winds and currents that spans the Pacific north of the equator. I knew before I set out that if I found myself in the middle of the NPGP something would have gone horribly wrong with my navigation!
But the third reason is the most worrying. The last time I saw pollution in the ocean was on a dead calm day. The surface of the water was as calm as a millpond. And there, drifting around near the surface, like motes of dust in a sunbeam, were tiny pieces of unidentifiable flotsam. They definitely weren't animal, vegetable or mineral, so they were almost certainly manmade, and very likely plastic.
It's these tiny little bits and pieces of plastic that are the insidious invaders in the ocean ecosystem. Small creatures mistake them for food and eat them. The plastic can't be digested or excreted, so it sits in their digestive system, leaking its deadly load of toxins into their bodies. These small creatures get eaten by slightly larger creatures and so on up the food chain, the plastics and the toxins accumulating at every stage.
Until we get to the top of the food chain - humans.
My father was from Yorkshire, and they have a traditional song there called On Ilkley Moor Baht 'At (meaning "without a hat") - which follows this logic (with huge apologies to all Yorkshirepeople for losing the accent and flavour of the original, but I'm trying to make it comprehensible to all): If you go on Ilkley Moor without a hat, you'll catch your death of cold. Then we shall have to bury thee. Then worms will come and eat thee up. Then ducks will come and eat up worms. Then we shall come and eat up ducks. Then we shall all have eaten thee.
And that's what's happening with the plastic. We throw it "away" (except of course there is no such thing as "away") - and eventually it comes back to us on our plates.
Shopping bag chowder, anybody?
Position at 2130 29th July Pacific Time, 0430 30th July UTC: 24 01.189'N, 139 02.119'W.
Yes, I've crossed another line of longitude, and the milestone of 140 degrees West is just around the (metaphorical) corner. The Golden Gate Bridge is at 122 degrees West, and Oahu is at 158 degrees West, which puts 140 slap bang in the middle Westerly-wise. Exciting!
Meanwhile, I also have to keep an eye on my North/South-iness (latitude). So I'm still rowing across the waves from the NE, in a bid to stay on course for Hawaii. This makes for regular swamping waves. I've had to bail out the water from the footwell 3 times today, which is a bit tedious, but not as tedious as missing Hawaii would be!
Thanks for all the terrific messages of support and good humour. Thanks especially to: Deb Caughron for the donation - please say hi from me to all the teachers and students at Woodberry! John H - I am so impressed. 21 hours of beach cleanup done, 19 to go. I hope that other readers of this site will be inspired by your example! Karyn - no, I don't do celestial navigation. I know how, but the GPS is much more time-efficient. And the sun, moon and stars have been hiding behind clouds most of my time out here. Thank heavens for technology! Roger F - you read my mind! Already trying to figure out how I can look presentable on arrival when I haven't been able to get my legs waxed for 3 months. Jan - thanks for sharing your story about Ryan. I am so sorry for your loss, and admire your positive attitude. Also Caro, Bev, Robert, Laetitia, M, Ken (the ex-lurker!), Jan (will try to answer your question in the podcast Q&A on Saturday), Jim, Sharon, Russell and Gene.
Click here to view Day 66 of the Atlantic Crossing 4 February 2006: Tiny Little and Eddy Large - of wind and currents.
29 Jul 2008, The Brocade
One of the questions in Saturday's podcast Q&A has got me
reflecting on how my boat really is a perfect little unit of
self-sufficiency. The solar panels provide more than enough electricity
for my needs, if my watermaker was working I would have an endless
supply of water, and if I decided to fish I would have an endless supply
Even as it is, if I absolutely stuffed the boat to the gunwales, I could
easily pack enough food for a couple of years - I've got two completely
empty hatches, several others that have plenty of room to spare, and the
fore cabin is nowhere near full.
And by sprouting my own beans (see photo) I can produce enough fresh
vegetables to ward off scurvy, for very little overhead in terms of
space, time and water.
If I wanted to I could stay out here almost indefinitely - but it
wouldn't be much of a life.
But the take-home message from this, literally, is just how viable
energy self-sufficiency and low-impact living are becoming. As I
mentioned in the podcast on Saturday, solar panels have come a long way,
so the payback period is now sufficiently short to make them an
attractive proposition. A couple of examples:
- Mike Klayko, CEO of my title sponsors Brocade, is fitting solar
panels to his new house - not out of environmental concern (although
that helps) but mostly because it makes financial sense
- Even in supposedly rainy old England, my mother has solar panels
on the roof of her house in Yorkshire - not the kind that generate
electricity, but the kind that heat water - and they work a treat and
save her a substantial amount on her utility bills.
I've had surprisingly little sunshine out here on the Pacific, but even
on dull days, and even with the limited amount of space I have available
for mounting solar panels, I've got oodles of electricity. (For the
detail-minded, I've got 4 x 60W semi-flexible panels on the aft cabin,
and 2 x 30W flexible panels on the fore cabin.)
If I had a home, I would seriously be looking at solar power. And if I
had a home in a sunny place, I could even sell back my surplus
electricity to the power companies and make a profit.
Definitely there's good financial sense in self-sufficiency!
Position at 2145 28th July Pacific Time, 0445 29th July UTC: 24
08.209'N, 138 25.306'W.
A different perspective - here
is a blog written by one of the researchers I met as I rowed past
the Farralone Islands back in May..
And now (as they say on the TV) for some messages:
Robert - good luck! Be sure to check out the section on my website
(under Adventure) on How To Row An Ocean.
Markus - great to hear from you at last. I'd been wondering! Love to you
Oops, laptop battery about to go flat. Will sign off now so I can plug
in to recharge using all that lovely free electricity!
Click here to view Day 65 of the Atlantic Crossing 3 February 2006: Ocean Rowing and What it Does to a Girl's Looks - about weight and suntan.