Another month or so has passed and things continue at a frantic pace. Days keep flying by and things keep jumping out to test us, but we keep persevering. As I have written before, with the majority of these larger challenges, getting to the start line is half that battle, if not more. A number of the people we have spoken to, about rowing the Atlantic, have highlighted this and say that part of the enjoyment of the row, is the simplicity of it all. All you need to focus on is rowing and making sure you look after your body.
The last month or so has been tough with a few blips here and there, but overall feels like we are heading in the right direction. We completed the well-trodden pilgrimage to see the water maker guru, Jim at Mactra Marine down in Weston-Super-Mare. We spent a seriously helpful few hours down there, learning about all the equipment we have on board and the potential issues that might pop up. At first all the equipment looks rather technical and complicated, but is reassuring to learn more about it and to see that overall it is a relatively simple bit of kit. The water maker is the most critical piece of equipment on board, so ensuring we fully understand it and know how to fix it is key.
Following our session with Jim, we headed all the way back to Burnham-On-Crouch to spend more time on the boat. The aim was to do a couple nights on the boat, to continue to get comfortable with everything and also start really nailing the various routines and procedures we need to master whilst out in the Atlantic. As we set off we noticed that the winds were somewhat high, but having looked at the forecast these were due to reduce a little, so we decided to head off. The first few hours on the water felt great, we were churning through the miles with some assistance from the wind and tides and both felt strong. Unfortunately, however this quickly turned. About half way through one of my sessions I started to feel really nauseous and the winds that we expected to die down, were not. We made the call to turn around, so as not to be blown too far off shore. About halfway through my rest time my body decided enough was enough and I had to be rather violently sick into the designated bucket on deck. This was not much fun, it also became quickly apparent that with only one person rowing, trying to fight the tide and wind was very much an uphill struggle. In these situations, you wish you could just say stop, go back to a comfy sofa and relax, but unfortunately that was not an option. As such, we made the call to row together to help each other out and have a fighting chance of getting back closer to land. What followed was six to seven hours of exceptionally tough rowing, especially given the setting sun, which makes everything a bit more eerie and demoralising. We did finally get close to land, dropped our anchor and were able to relax for the first time in a while. It was a exceptionally tough and at times stressful, but gave us both the confidence that if we need to put in a shift like that whilst out in the Atlantic, we can. When things are going well, it is easy to get complacent and situations like this keep you in check and are a constant reminder that you are at the mercy of the elements and you must respect them.
Having managed to get a bit of sleep, we headed back to the marina, as we had planned to meet up with the ocean rowing legend, Charlie Pitcher. Charlie’s has set the record for rowing the Atlantic solo and his company, Rannoch Adventure, also built our boat, so he is a great person to meet and learn from. We spent a really useful couple of hours with him covering a whole load of different topics about life on the boat and how to make yourself fast. He re-iterated the point that it is all about having a really clear routine on board and making sure you are looking after yourself. You can be the physically strongest crew by miles, but if you don’t look after yourself, your bodies will soon start to breakdown and seriously slow you down.
Following our chat with Charlie, we set off for another big session. We were both initially quite nervous heading out, having had the experience the evening/night before. We planned a route which would have some tough sections, but be more aligned with the tides, so as to not unnecessarily tire ourselves out. There is a high chance we will come across some adverse conditions in the Atlantic, but the key thing is to understand when it is time to dig deep and push on, and when it is sensible to go on the para-anchor (a big parachute which does under the water and stops us drifting too badly the wrong way) to conserve energy for another time. This is something we are getting better at, but continue to learn. Our route took us further offshore than we had been before and through a gap in the sand dunes along the Essex coastline near to Frinton. It was really good to get further out and at times really have nothing on the horizon except water, which will be our view for quite some time! We also got up close to all the wind turbines, which are somewhat captivating to look at and somehow make the 2 hours fly by. We turned back to head back home as the sun was setting and had a good row during the night, before dropping anchor again for a couple hours shut eye, so as not to fight the worst of the tide. We got up the next morning rejuvenated and plied with caffeine, from a few sachets we had acquired from a hotel recently and heading back to the marina. Despite the tough times we were both really happy with our few days on the water and are looking forward to the months ahead! It is sure to be stressful and unbelievably busy, but somehow we have got this far, so are determined to push on through.
You can keep track of how we are doing in future editions, where we will be writing about the build up to the final event of our Saddle Sand Sea series, the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. We hope that you have enjoyed the journey so far and keep track of us in the final push to the finish.