Date - 31/12/15
Position - N22.47.226 // W24.15.353
There is one thing we got asked more than any others in the lead up to this row. What if the boat flips? I can now answer that question.
As we pulled up the para anchor to head west again on Monday, we were determined to put some good miles to try and make up for some of the lost time. We rowed 2 up for 9 hours on Monday and then headed straight into 2 on, 2 off throughout that night. Progress was great and has been ever since. We are aiming for 50-60 nautical miles per day in order to arrive into Barbados early-mid Feb. This puts our boat speed at an average of 2.1-2.5 knots.
This blog post was originally going to be about rowing at night, as it takes up the majority of our time on the boat, it only seemed right. Over the last few nights, it has been darker than expected, and is a case of guess work and comparing the different shades of black to determine wave direction and break point. As we swap shifts throughout the night, one person is on the left life line, and the other on the right, walking up to the rowing seat with harness on, sheepskin in hand with water and Spotify playlist ready to go. After both rowing or sleeping for 2 hours, the legs don’t really work like they are supposed to, so it looks a lot like 2 drunk old men crossing paths on the way home from the pub, stumbling over oars and clinging to the lifeline to get to the seat/ cabin.
Tuesday night was no different, it has been chilly at night so we are fairly wrapped up with beanies, tech coats (huge thanks to country and stable in Olney for those - they have kept us dry and sane!) and the head torch always on. I (James) took the seat for the 4am-6am shift (a great one as the next time your out the sun should be with you) and cracked on rowing. I was really enjoying the shift, getting very into the music and putting some shapes together whilst on the oars. speed was excellent and i was averaging about 3 knots.
At about 5.10am (it is still crazy dark but the moon does what it can) a big set of rollers was coming in. Next thing i know we are vertical with the water and skidding back down it in the wrong direction. A giant wall of white water came out of nowhere, suddenly lit up by the moon as the frothy sea glows way more than the deep blue and i barely had time to say "bollocks!”. I got completely cleared out, like being drop kicked by shaq, i was in the boat one moment and in the big drink the next. My left shoe stayed in the foot plate as i came out of it and went flying over the rail. It felt like being in a washing machine for 5 seconds and i kept thinking whilst underwater “relax - just don’t get hit by the fucking boat or its game over”. As i came up i was a couple of meters from the boat, no hat, no head torch and 1 missing shoe, jaybirds still in and blasting out some Rihanna (iPhone must of shuffled in the commotion) I clambered back on to the boat which had righted itself but she was full of water. I shouted to Tom to kick on the bilge pump amongst a few other words which he had already done having been for a ride himself inside the cabin.
We lost 2 oars overboard and all of our water bottles. nightmare.
Tommys account from inside the cabin:
Whilst enjoying the rare commodity of sleep, I was rudely awakened by a deafening noise and awoke to find myself face down on the ceiling of the cabin, my eyes met with the baby-like face of Justin Bieber as the calendar, along with every other item in the cabin joined me for a brief meeting upside down. Still half-asleep, I vaguely put two-and-two together and concluded we had been rolled. A brief moment of ‘Shit, I am in a sinking coffin and will surely never survive’ crossed my mind but was interrupted as the boat flipped back to its original position, yet another 2 foot drop back to the comfort of our mattress. A faint shout came from outside at which point I opened the door to find what looked like an intoxicated homeless man caught in the rain. One shoe, totally drenched and yelling rather undefinable words, Whittle stood on deck, knee deep in water and looking slightly dazed. A quick assessment showed he was fine, we weren’t sinking and the only thing we seemed to be missing were a pair of oars, a result in my eyes. We spent the next few hours bilging water and trying to navigate the boat through the darkness until the sun rose and we could fully assess the situation. A stark reminder of our size and vulnerability, but a good experience to have under the belt as we push forward.
We made it a priority once the sun came up to run standard checks on all the gear, so we went through the electrics, auto helm, steering plates and cabin to make sure all was in check and OK. All seemed well apart from the contents of the cabin which were thrown every which way. Even the snow globe smashed :(
Having picked ourselves up and dusted off we got straight back on it, pushing the nervous feelings to the back of our heads and continuing to make good progress to Barbados. It is the only way after all. We hope that is the first and last of its kind but can never be too sure with the ocean but it was sharp reminder of just how powerful it can be out here.
We want to send a huge Happy New Year to all friends and family, we will be thinking of you as we take in this once of a lifetime New Years eve beer!
May 2016 be the best year yet.
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