03 Aug 2008, The Brocade
No, this isn't a story about releasing a whale (that's Free Willy). It's a blog inspired by the audiobook I was listening to today - Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo. At first I mistook this book for a very lightweight story about a few ordinary people and the trivia of their lives in a small American town. But the book has really grown on me, especially since I figured out that it's actually about free will - the power we have to take control of our lives and determine our own destinies.
Various characters in the book have limited their ability to exercise their free will, allowing themselves to be controlled by carnal urges, circumstances, parents, spouses, friends, bosses, behaviour patterns learned in childhood, or in the main character's case, what he calls a "stupid streak" - he knows even while he is doing something that it is stupid, and what the consequences will be, but despite his awareness he seems powerless to stop himself from doing it.
It made me think deeply about my own actions and reactions, and how much they are conditioned responses to old stimuli, rather than being well thought out and rational responses to situations. My own kind of stupid streak.
But it also made me realize that this is yet another reason why I am drawn to rowing across oceans - when you do something so totally outside of normal life, it somehow frees you from those tired old behaviour patterns because all the stimuli are so utterly different. It allows you to redefine yourself in some way, discovering strengths you never knew you had. It breaks old habits and allows new ones to form. It's an opportunity to drop character traits that are not helpful and develop some that have lain dormant.
Out here, totally alone on my life capsule of a boat, I have almost unlimited power to exercise free will. The challenge, of course, is taking back all those positive new habits and maintaining them back on dry land, back amongst the same old stimuli. That's the hard part..
I'll leave the last word to the eminently quotable George Bernard Shaw:
Life is not about finding yourself. It's about creating yourself.
Position at 2140 2nd August Pacific Time, 0440 3rd August UTC: 23 47.518'N, 141 17.011'W.
The last shift today was fantastic. Almost fun. For the very first time since I left San Francisco I was able to row straight downwind, the wind and swell going my way. The wind, which usually roars in my left ear, went quiet as it was blocked by the bulk of the aft cabin. The red ensign flag, which has fluttered every which way during this voyage, flapped cheerfully towards me. The boat felt light and easy to row. More of the same, please!
Messages: thanks for all the suggestions about ladders, steps, etc for getting back on board after barnacle-scrubbing expeditions. Let me just clarify. I already have grablines all the way around the boat which give me a good leg-up into the cockpit. The challenge then was wriggling my way around the oars - main and spares - which are stowed at the sides of the cockpit, doubling up as guardrails. I could, of course, have moved them out of the way before entering the water, but it was easier to leave them where they were. It probably only took me a couple of minutes to get back on board - it just seemed longer because I had the video camera running and wanted to get to it before a wave did.
Christopher wanted to know if the podcast will continue in Hawaii: we will do at least a couple after I arrive. Leo is hoping to be there for the occasion.
Hi to Bob and Eva - the dehydrated buckwheat crackers are fantastic! My favourites.
I will look out for the raft JUNK. It would be amazing - although unlikely - if we were able to have a mid-ocean rendezvous. Do they have communications equipment on board? Do they know I am out here?
Karyn - I didn't think to bring shampoo formulated for saltwater. My priority was to bring organic. But maybe I'll try that in saltwater. At the moment I'm just trying not to think about my hair. Baseball caps are wonderful things.
Hi to Chris Bone of OceansWatch. Hope to hear more about Vanuatu!
And thanks to everybody else who has written in - and those who haven't, but have been following the blogs, podcasts and Twitters. It really is heartwarming to know that so many people are interested in following my adventure and my random ramblings. Thank you!
Click here to view Day 70 of the Atlantic Crossing 8 February: Message from Monty - the school teddy bear accompanying Roz on the voyage. This time she has Chirpy the Robin with her. (See June 3rd 2008 for picture.)
02 Aug 2008, The Brocade
Or is that at 140 (degrees West)?!
I am 40 years old. Old enough to know better than to go mucking about on oceans, you might think, but evidently not. And I freely confess that this is not exactly what I thought I would be doing at this age. The 16-year-old me would probably have envisaged the 40-year-old me as being married, living in a nice house, having a couple of kids and probably being back at work in some high-powered City job.
The 16-year-old me would have been shocked and appalled that I might be homeless, with no steady income, and no possessions to my name but a small silver rowboat. But as John Lennon said, life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.
There was a formative moment for me when I had been working for Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) for about 6 months, and wanted to move into a different subdivision within the consultancy. "Oh no, you can't do that," I was told. "All your experience is in this area. It's rather late to change your mind now."
Already typecast at the age of 21? It didn't seem right.
In fact, the people I most admire, the ones who appear to have got the most fun and fulfillment out of life, they all seem to have had several incarnations in one lifetime. They had tried all kinds of things, relishing the challenge of reinventing themselves - no matter what their age.
So that's what I hope to do. For now I am an ocean rower using my adventures to campaign for the environment. For the future. who knows? Time for plenty more reinventions yet!
Position at 2140 1st August Pacific Time, 0440 2nd August UTC: 23 58.612'N, 140 42.568'W.
Conditions were calmer than forecast today - wind almost non-existent this morning, heralding a hot afternoon with only the barest wisp of wind. Only this evening did it start freshening to something more respectable - I have no problem accepting a bit of wind assistance!
Chris Martin: a question: you said "Give it some beans" the other day, and now that phrase is stuck in my head and it's annoying me because I don't know what it means. Well, I know what it means, but not why beans means what it means. Know what I mean?! Why beans?
Antti - best wishes for your wedding, and for a happy future life!
Rod - glad the pecan pie is fuelling some serious workouts!
Well done to all the greenies - Rochelle, Dana, Karyn, Peter, Gene, Humphrey - and especially Roger. Great story!
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Click here to view Day 68 of the Atlantic Crossing 7 February 7 2006: The Rhythm of Life - a day's routine.
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.