Life on board: "a surreal existence"
We’ve had another update from our determined boys, who are now approximately 5 days from the finish line!
They've been on quite the journey, and we're excited to share with you the most heartfelt update about their journey to-date. Let’s make sure we continue to send our love, support and best wishes to help push them through these last few days.
In their own words:
As we approach what is hopefully the last week of our crossing, amid all the salt, sweat, blood and tears, we have been reflecting on the environment which has been our home for over a month now.
In its very simplest form, we are just two blokes sat in a boat in a never-ending sea of water, and anything we catch on camera or on video falls short of capturing some of the experiences out here.
During our crossing, particularly at night, we have felt truly humbled. It is very hard to explain but when you are sat rowing in a tiny open topped boat and you look up, you see the most clear and incredible sky, chock-full of stars millions of miles away. When you look left or right and you know there is no land for thousands and thousands of miles; when you know that the water below you is approaching 5 kilometres deep; and when you are rowing at 2 knots and you see a shooting star that tears across the sky at God knows what speed and which literally lights up the entire sky for a second... you really do feel like a tiny, insignificant, spec on this planet, but incredibly lucky and privileged to see this part of it. We have mentioned her beforehand but she has become a firm part of our crew now - a little bird (who we have named Elle, since our boat number is eleven.. for those who like Stranger Things… a bit dorky we know…) has followed us - and I’m sure any fish sat below us - for nearly 2,500 miles. She literally turns up every day to say hello, sometimes hovering only 5 feet from us sat on the oars – we are convinced she is in reality all our family and friends coming to check in and say hello and we hope she flaps alongside us when we row into English harbour.
We have also not seen any other humans (apart from the support yacht for 10 mins) for over a month. We have had a couple of close calls with big tanker ships charging along at 15 knots in the middle of the night who we’ve had to radio as to ask politely not to plough into us, but apart from that, it has been just us!
It is a surreal existence given that too much of our time at home is usually spent faffing around on our phones and social media - apart from a few updates in emails we have received, we really have no idea what is going on in the world outside the Atlantic, which has been in all honesty quite nice - especially the lack of any news on President Trump! The lack of sleep is really playing havoc with us too. When you sleep in the cabin, you are never fully asleep, as you have had to consume more food than your body wants and there is always part of your brain aware that you need to be up and ready for the next shift. At the moment it is too hot to sleep during daylight hours so we’ve had to adjust by going on about 3 - 4 hours sleep every 24 hours.
It is remarkable that in 33 days, neither of us has missed or indeed been late for a shift - this has been integral to life on board. Both knowing that we are in this challenge together, all the way, and that turning up for your buddy, whether it’s being on time for a shift or just giving them a fist pump when they've had a bad session and reminding them that we WILL finish this, is the most important and has been the most important part of this entire journey so far. Cleaning the hull of the boat is also an interesting experience - going beneath the boat, the water is the kind of emerald blue that we have never actually seen before - it's incredible. The amount of critters attached to the bottom of the boat is amazing - we just use a car windscreen scraper to get them off - having seen a 12 foot shark a week ago however, the job is now done as quickly as possible...
Food on board has not really been a highlight to say the least... frozen dried food (essentially 800 calorie pot noodles) are not the most exciting - however we have added everything imaginable to them to make them more bearable (notably, twiglets to the beef stroganoff... a real treat). The food is, at the end of the day, essential fuel for us. It now seems bizarre that for the first 72 hours of the crossing, initial seasickness meant I (Seamus) could not keep down any food or water - I would just be vomiting anything I consumed off the side of the boat while sat rowing day or night ... the waves crashing over the boat helped with the cleaning it up. Now, however, I can eat an 800 Kcal meal, several energy bars and still be hungry! Due to the massive swells we had during our first few weeks, our watermaker kept playing up as air bubbles would get stuck in the system - luckily Paddy, being an absolute hero, would stick his head into the bowels of the boat, while the boat was being thrown around, to fix it each time we would need to make water. We get through about 20 litres of water every 24 hours and that still never seems to be enough… The batteries in the boat get hammered by the watermaker and if the sun is not out to charge them through the solar panels during the day, we have to manage our power very carefully. This has meant that we have had to foot steer our rudder a lot of the way - this has led to some pretty gnarly blisters all over our feet but has left us in a good position to be able to use our auto helm for most of the last part of our journey. One element we have encountered recently is mid Atlantic squalls - these are basically massive isolated black clouds which bring torrential downpours. They are also scary, with up to 40 knot winds from random directions. These come out of nowhere and we’ve recently been getting at least 3-4 of these per night, while it has been pitch black dark (the moon only seems to come out for 2-3 hours of the night to give a little bit of light). It is just a question of braving it and trying to hold the boat on its course. We must have had over 20 occasions when huge waves have just engulfed the boat which is pretty terrifying (especially when at night and you don't see but only hear them approaching). But thankfully these boats are pretty sturdy and once you bail the water out of the footwells, you just have to straighten yourself out and keep on rowing.
We previously spoke about some of the big swells and baptism of fire we had out here - it is difficult to describe the walls of water we, and probably the entire fleet, have encountered out here. They literally have been the size of buildings at times - both Paddy and I have definitely had moments where we have never been so scared. At those times, you realise just how much at the mercy of the elements you really are and that nobody actually conquers the Atlantic when they row across it - the Atlantic merely lets you pass through - if you're lucky. Having said all this, we constantly remind ourselves that any hard day we have out here doesn't even compare to the situations that the people that both our amazing charities support experience every day – this drives us to push through and gives us more strength than anything. I know we say this all the time but every single message that everyone has sent to us out here has genuinely helped us every day - thank you - those messages mean a huge amount. Thanks to everyone for their donations to our amazing charities so far - please do keep on giving as every penny makes a huge different - it may seem like a cliché to say but it really is true. We both are going to keep driving ourselves to that finish line in Antigua and we cannot wait to see everyone and can hopefully celebrate finishing the final leg of Saddle Sand Sea with you all very soon. Love from the Atlantic. S and P