06 Aug 2008, The Brocade
One of the things that has really impressed me about the comments and messages I receive is just how good some people are at putting themselves in my place, identifying with my issues, and understanding my life. Considering that most people have never rowed across an ocean, or even seen an ocean rowboat, this is quite a feat of imagination and empathy. Even though I'd spoken to dozens of ocean rowers before I did the Atlantic, I'm not sure I'd formed as clear a mental picture of what it would be like as some of you have achieved..
So, to provide even more information with which you can furnish your mental image of my boat and everyday life, I've decided to do a short 3-part series of blogs about the Brocade, her layout, and what I keep where.
So if you can't imagine anything more boring that the contents of my lockers, come back later!
Part 1: The Cockpit
I am no artist, but this photo is of my attempt to sketch the layout of the rowing cockpit - the middle section of my boat. Overall the cockpit is about 8 feet long and 5 feet wide. This diagram is drawn from my point of view as I'm rowing, i.e. facing backwards, so the stern cabin would be off the top of the picture.
The curvy thing that looks like the Lone Ranger's eye mask is my rowing seat, mounted on a rectangular platform, which coasts up and down on its two runners (the long rectangles). Above it you see my two rowing shoes, which are fixed to the boat, with the compass mounted between them. The compass has a battery-operated backlight for use after dark - red, so it doesn't impair my night vision. On the side decks to either side of the rowing position are mounted the riggers and oarlocks for the oars, and small cleats for the rudder strings.
Just beyond my feet is a grabrail screwed to the deck. This is the one I appropriated as a makeshift cleat for reeling in my sea anchor. It also bears a bracket where I mount the Seacook stove for boiling water.
Footwell: contains liferaft (lashed upright against cabin bulkhead), jerrycan for water, and all-purpose bucket. Also contains 100 lb of lead, sealed into a compartment below a false bottom. Also often contains large amounts of seawater in rough weather. I must have bailed it out about 30 times so far. I will definitely be reinstating the electric bilge pump during the Hawaii layover!
Locker 1: Grab bag (to go with me in liferaft if abandoning ship - contains spare GPS, VHF radio, water, chocolate, flashlight and all kinds of other useful things) Lifejacket Portable bilge pump
Locker 2: the galley locker Beans for sprouting Bags of dinner foods currently in use (freeze dried peas, sweetcorn, kidney beans, expedition meals - I sit on the liferaft and assemble my meal in a thermos mug while the kettle is boiling) Lighters for cooking stove Sauces, herbs, spices Spare mugs, food containers, etc.
Locker 3: empty
Locker 4: freeze-dried expedition meals
Locker 5: Ropes Lifting harness Mask and snorkel
Locker 6: Bags of jerky Bags of freeze dried vegetables which I add to the freeze-dried expedition meals to boost the veg content of my diet
Locker 7: Watermaker
Locker 8: Bucket Cleaning materials Trash Items to be recycled And another 100 lb of lead under a false bottom
Above decks, the seed sprouter lives in the top right corner, in a string bag secured to the boat by a karabiner and tucked under the side deck.
Bathroom facilities (bedpan) live top left, again tucked under the side deck
The sea anchor (sponsored by Zillion TV), along with its ropes and buoy, lives in the bottom left corner.
I have two canvas cockpit bags attached to the gunwales to either side of the rowing position - one for snacks and the other for items that might be needed urgently - marine flares and an air horn to attract attention of a ship that might be about to mow me down.
And that little area, no more than a few square feet, is where I spend most of my waking hours. As I row I face the aft hatch, which takes up most of my field of vision, so my eyes wander from compass, to liferaft, to hatch - and frequently up to the red ensign flag fluttering from the cabin roof, which shows me clearly which direction the wind is coming from.
After 103 days looking at this view on my way across the Atlantic, and 73 days so far on the Pacific, I've got to know it pretty well!
Position at 2145 5th August Pacific Time, 0445 6th August UTC: 23 32.422'N, 143 40.657.
Today has been as fine a rowing day as I could ever wish for. After a squally start the skies cleared and the wind settled into a helpful ENE direction, kicking up a good swell that has been gently propelling me Hawaii-wards. The rowing has been comfortable - no more battling across waves - and the temperature perfect. I've asked my weatherguy to order up more of the same.
After taking so long to cross the first few degrees of longitude, I'm now crossing off another number on my whiteboard every couple of days. It is very, very satisfying.
Thanks for all the messages. Some special mentions: Deirdre - thanks for telling me about the buttery croissants and brioche. Huh. Envious, me?! Looking forward to catching up with you on your lovely boat when I get back to California. John - thanks for the facts and figures. My weatherguy works in nautical miles, but maybe I like statute miles better - the numbers are bigger! Too bad I may not see JUNK. I was hoping to scrounge some water. Bottled?!! Steve and Sky and Nomadness - congrats on the maiden voyage! Have a great time - and I hope our courses intercept soon on dry land if not at sea. Jim - tbanks for the encouraging words about the treats in store between here and Hawaii. Hi to Michael and everybody else at Brocade. Thank you for your ongoing support. And thanks to Sandi, Chris, and all the others who are willing me on with their cries of Go Roz!
Click here to view Day 73 of the Atlantic Crossing 11 February 2006: At Sea Nobody can Hear You Scream - frustration.
05 Aug 2008, The Brocade
Today we have a second guest blog from David Helvarg, founder of Blue Frontier Campaign and author of 50 Ways To Save The Ocean. My row is a project of the Blue Frontier Campaign, and I look to David as my expert on all matters marine. I invited him to write a piece about the unnecessary pollution caused by plastic water bottles, and he has kindly obliged with this very informative yet entertaining blog.
DRINK LIKE A FISH - JUST NOT OUT OF PLASTIC
Next time you hoist one to Roz or some other ocean champion make sure it's not from a plastic bottle.
80 percent of all marine debris comes from land-based sources, while 60-80 percent of that debris, and 90 percent of floating debris, is plastic, and as we know, floating plastic bags are dead ringers for endangered sea turtles' favorite snack food, jellyfish.
It was during World War Two that rayon and plastic were first synthesized to replace cotton and rubber that were then in short supply (the Axis powers were occupying key production lands). Rayon reached its apotheosis with the Aloha shirt that Roz will find many of her friends and supporters wearing when she gets to Hawaii. Plastic on the other hand has become a global plague.
I'm not saying that various kinds of plastics don't make for good aircraft and boat skins, sail cloth, IV bags, prosthetic body parts, bathtub liners, also boogey boards and flak jackets (I have one of each). Some forms of plastic are so useful as metal substitutes that I'd argue we shouldn't be wasting our limited supplies of oil producing greenhouse-generating fuels.
Unfortunately with oil companies like Exxon-Mobil and Shell having grown into the largest industrial combine in human history we're burning more fossil fuel than ever even as plastic has become so cheap to manufacture that over 90 percent of it is wasted as throw away packaging including everything from single-use grocery bags to designer brand plastic water bottles.
Here's a back of the (recycled) envelope calculation I've done. Every year the world's oceans are stripped of about 100 million tons of living biomass to feed the global seafood market. Most of this does not go to feed the world's hungry, but goes to the restaurants, supermarkets and fast-food joints of developed nations where it's appetite not hunger driving the slaughter that's taking fish out of the sea faster than they can reproduce. At the same time we manufacture about 200 million metric tons of plastic stock every year. If half of that eventually finds its way to the sea that means we're replacing living organisms with toxic polymers on a pound per pound basis. Jeez, how long can that go on?
Along with the oil and gas used to manufacture hundreds of billions of disposable plastic bags and bottles we then burn even more oil transporting the heavy weight of water. We burn bunker fuel, the carcinogenic dregs of the petroleum process, to ship containers full of bottled water across entire ocean basins from places like France and Fiji to places like California and Australia. Compared to that, rowing alone across the Pacific with a water maker aboard your small boat seems eminently sane.
While about a billion people still don't have access to clean, potable water, people who do are spending up to $7.00 a gallon for the alleged health and lifestyle benefits of spring water, geyser water, desalinated deep ocean water (Mahalo Water from Hawaii that's mostly marketed in Japan) and filtered municipal water (from Coca-Cola and Pepsi). Or you could turn on the tap and get that same municipal water for about one tenth of a penny-per-gallon (that's 3.78 liters, Roz). Personally I drink Coke. If I'm going to spend that kind of money I want lots of beet sugar, citric acid and caffeine thrown into the deal.
So now here's the good news. There is a rapidly growing global movement against throwaway plastic. From places like the small town of Modbury in Great Britain it's spread to China, Australia, South Africa and 15 other countries that have decided to ban single-use plastic bags.
In California, the State's Ocean Protection Council has just come out with a report on marine debris that says fast-food outlets and coffee shops should not be allowed to distribute polystyrene cups and containers, that supermarkets and other retail stores should have mandatory recycling or else ban single-use plastic bags. It points out that bottles (glass or plastic) with redemption fees of as little as 25 cents are rarely if ever found in beach litter.
There's also a bill in the California State House AB 2058 the "Plastic Bag Waste Reduction Act," that would implement a minimum fee of 25 cents per single use plastic bag no later than 2010 while still allowing local municipalities to charge higher fees or, like the city of San Francisco, ban the bags outright.
The Blue Frontier Campaign, along with other seaweed (marine grassroots) groups, has signed a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger asking him to support the bill and sign it into law. If you're a California resident please contact your State Senator and express your support for AB 2058. For information on how to do this go to the website of Heal the Bay, www.healthebay.org. For more general ocean updates go to our site at www.bluefront.org
Remember, each of us doing our part can take small but significant steps to use less plastic, to change the laws to reduce plastic waste and to make our societies more sustainable so that the seas around us can sustain their own wondrous diversity of life now and forever. As a friend of mine likes to say, "we do it one stroke at a time." And that's the Roz Savage lesson of the day.
Position as at 2210 4th August Pacific Time, 0510 5th August UTC: 23 34.989'N, 142 56.643'W.
A mixed bag of weather today. Squally this morning, with a few short rainshowers (but no significant amounts of water collected - the showers were too short). Then windy and sunny this afternoon. Another good day for progress. We luuuuurve those trade winds!
Thanks for all the messages of support, encouragement and advice. As I'm rowing later and later in the evenings (I row until it gets dark, and as I head west that time gets later) I'm starting to struggle to mention people individually in every blog, so will take a night off from it tonight. It's been a long day and my bunk is calling! But will mention individuals and answer questions when not feeling so tired..
Click here to view Day 72 of the Atlantic Crossing 10 February 2006: Thoughts on Reaching Triple Figures - less than 1000 miles to go.
04 Aug 2008, The Brocade
When I was on the Atlantic, an ocean-rowing friend of mine wrote to me about the "sweet water" - his term for the ocean conditions that are a bit like the sweet spot on a tennis racquet, when everything just comes together in a moment of perfection. Today I found the sweet water.
The wind picked up to a nice brisk 20+ knots from more or less the right direction, the sun was shining brightly, the blue waves contrasted gorgeously with their white foaming crests, and the rowing was good. I felt like I was flying along - and I crossed off another degree of longitude on my whiteboard.
But I won't get too excited about it, I won't, I won't, I won't. I keep telling myself.
On the Atlantic I fell into the trap, when things were going well, of assuming that they would continue to go well indefinitely - and of course they didn't. I ended up virtually becalmed for about two weeks, slowing my progress and delaying my arrival in Antigua.
So I'm certainly not taking anything for granted. I will enjoy these superb conditions for as long as they last, but will try not to get too despondent if and when they change and my rate of progress declines.
Oh but it's hard! I keep getting all excited and calculating my ETA and planning my celebrations in Hawaii, and have to remind myself that I've still got nearly 1,000 miles to go!
Position at 2150 3rd August Pacific Time, 0450 4th August UTC: 23 39.606'N, 142 06.388'W.
I've been really pleased with the way the new extended skeg on the Brocade has improved my ability to hold a course. After consultation with the original designer of the hull, Phil Morrison, I commissioned Nancy, a friend in California who is an extremely skilled carbon fibre craftswoman, to add an extra 5 inches of depth to the fin that runs along the bottom of the boat. It seems to have made Brocade much more responsive to the set of the rudder, both when rowing and when drifting. Definitely worth the investment. And a big thank you to Nancy for a fantastic job.
The death toll on electronic components continues. Today the rechargers for both my satphone and my iPod stopped working. This would be a total disaster... if I didn't have backup options. I can recharge the iPod from the USB port of my laptop. And it's the 12V (DC) recharger for the phone that has failed, but I still have the wall socket charger that I can plug into the inverter and charge on AC. Or else, with no phone, it would have been an end to my blogs! (Apart from the fact that, of course, I have a spare phone too...)
Unfortunately, the strong winds that made for a great day's rowing are not conducive to a good night's sleeping. I'm being jolted around in my cabin while I'm trying to type this blog. It's going to be a rough old night...
Thanks for the updates on JUNK's progress. I keep looking out for them! I am sure they will catch up with me soon - especially once they get into these winds that have helped me along today.
Special thanks to Sean in Australia - your lovely message was the icing on the cake of a very good day for me! Thank you.
Ken's question: my cabin is watertight, and for air I have 2 small vents that should be above the waterline if the boat capsized. But I tend to close them if conditions are really rough. And I haven't suffocated yet.
Thanks also to the Johns, Tim, Gene, Dana, Sharon, Jonathan, Ken of the RunnerDuck Review (thanks for spreading the word!) and to all the other people who enrich my ocean experience by keeping me in their hearts and minds.
Click here to view Day 71 of the Atlantic Crossing 8 February 2006: The Gloves are Off - serious effort.
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.)