Winding Down

Posted on Jan. 20, 2012, 2:41 a.m.

Well everyone, I think my story is coming to an end as this will be my last blog for a while.  I posted some photos of the finish a couple of days ago and I will post more photos and hopefully some video over the weekend.
Cheryl and the girls left for home this morning and I leave tomorrow afternoon.  The boat has been stripped cleaned and repacked.  We tow her to Bridgetown in the morning and load her into a container heading back to the UK.  She was going to Canada but it looks like I have 2 or 3 interested parties looking to buy.  It will seem very strange selling her, but my feeling is that it will slow me down from taking on any more crazy challenges for a while.
 
Sunday and even the 53 days before are starting to feel further and further away now. Back to minus 25 degrees Celsius at home tomorrow which will be a shock.  I will be very busy from now to June with work and who knows after that.  I would like a quieter summer then the last with less focus on training, however, I am looking forward to sculling on the lake, just not six hours a day.  I love the dawn rows with the mist on the lake and the Loons calling in their unique way. I also need to get a good years running in as I didn’t realise that rowers have saggy bottoms.  It’s all that sitting down I guess, so hopefully the running can correct this.
 
A few days on land and all my sores, aches and pains are melting away, soon there will be no sign of the row visible on my body.
 
I think it will be a while before I come to terms with how my journey has affected me. On the emotional front, it has been a roller coaster of a week.  I need some time to reflect and then I can decide what if anything is next.
 
Some Statistics
 
• My distance over ground (distance rowed) on average for the trip was 51.2 nautical miles per day.

• My distance made good on average for the trip was 48.85 nautical miles per day.

• I am the 75th person to row the Atlantic East to West.

• Now the following statistic shocked me and I am waiting for verification.   If you exclude east to west crossings from Senegal (which are much shorter), I have the 2nd fastest crossing time in a standard rowing boat as approved by the ORS.

• I put on 12/13 lbs before the trip and lost 18 lbs.

• I am still working on calories consumed but believe I averaged about 3250 per day plus 1000 in weight loss.
 
Could I have done better? Yes, I believe with a little more time with the boat before departure and a little extra knowledge I could.  If you consider that one additional mile per day knocks a full day off the trip, I am sure a second attempt with similar weather conditions could be 3 to 5 days quicker. However, no point in what ifs.   I am quite proud of what I achieved and don’t intend a second attempt any time soon.
 
It just remains for me to say thank you to everyone who followed my story, sent messages (I will reply to all this week’s messages over the weekend) and contributed to the charities.  It has been an incredible experience to share my journey and I have been surprised and touched by all your comments and encouragements.  The best part of everyday at sea was definitely reading all the messages.  It always made the last session of the day easier to focus on.
 
So a massive thanks to all.  Anyone with any questions feel free to ask.
 
I will close with this:
 
I undertook this journey to show my kids that no matter how large a challenge you face, with good planning, research, preparation and application, you can achieve anything you put your mind too. The surprise has been how many other people my journey has touched.
 
It proves that:
 
Ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things!
 
I am living proof.  I am a 49 year old guy (only just!), 5'7'', weighing 140 lbs (not your typical rower). Two years ago I had open heart surgery and I have Rheumatoid Arthritis.  I had plenty of excuses and faced many opportunities that would have let me drop the project but I persisted and eventually I rowed an ocean totally unassisted. 
If you want to know what I think after 53 days at sea, it is that everyone should go out and find their own Ocean and conquer the challenge, whatever it is. The feeling of completing something you thought unachievable is the real extraordinary thing about what I have done.
So off you go, find your Ocean and no excuses!
 
Thanks again for following.
 
(For the radio buffs, yes below is the Hollywood joke).
 
So for the final time.
 
John
 
Over
 
&
 
Out
Note from Cheryl:
For all of you who made a donation and entered the Competition to guess how long it would take John to Row the Atlantic Ocean. We are going through all entries and will post the winners no later than Sunday night.  Please note that John’s official time to cross the Atlantic was 53 days, 3 hours and 42 minutes.

How strange to be back amongst the human race!

Posted on Jan. 19, 2012, 3:08 a.m.

A little more talking on the balcony of our apartment.  By this time it’s starting to dawn on me, from what Cheryl is telling me, that I really have had a lot of people reading the blog, following and cheering me on and that the journey has touched a lot of people. 

 

So the thing I was looking forward to most now was a shower and a good rest. The shower when it came was sheer bliss, cool fresh water just pouring over you.  It has to be one of the best feelings in the world.  If I could have slept standing up I would have stayed there all night. 

 

Now I also had the chance to check out all the sore bits (nothing that sore really) in the huge bathroom mirror that I hadn’t been able to see on the boat. My bottom, which is not sore now but has been through a rough ride, is in pretty good shape.  All the salt sores are drying up nicely so the medical care I took on board worked well. However, they leave pretty impressive marks in the skin and my behind does resemble the skin of someone who has died of the plague. I have some wounds on my feet from the foot straps that will take a few days to heal and my sun burned lip, other than that I am in great shape.

 

Shower and inspection over, I slipped into bed, nice clean sheets, no salt, nothing moving, brilliant. The next thing I know it is 6am on Monday morning.  The very best sleep I have had in the last 20 years.  I just don’t remember anything.  It was a real deep well earned slumber that I will remember for a long time.

 

I was up early as I had wanted to go for a run just for Grumpy Mike, but my legs were really not steady enough. I crept out of the apartment at 6.15 am and went for a walk.  My legs definitely struggled but it was nice to be able to wander about.  I hadn’t really thought about it much, but I haven’t walked more than a couple of steps on deck for over 7 weeks. It is really pleasant here in Barbados at that time of the morning and I really enjoyed all the activity going on.  Lots of people going to work, just the hustle and bustle of real life. Back for breakfast, ice cold milk on some cornflakes, simple but delicious.

 

Everyone is interested in the boat and how, why I took on this challenge. My big challenge now is cleaning the boat up and having her shipped home. Spent most of Monday doing this a part from a couple of hours on the beach with the kids. She is in great shape, needs a little touching up but still looks like new. I think she may be going back to the UK.  I had thought I would ship her back to Canada as there is a California to Hawaii  race in 2013 that would fit in with my year.  However, it looks like I may have a buyer in the UK, so if I sold her quick, it may stop me from committing to something stupid in haste. Two days later we have all the kit cleaned and ready to go back on the boat, she is all cleaned out and looks good.  Tony is sorting out transport and by Friday she should be in a box waiting for the ride back across the Atlantic.

 

Had a few congratulation phone calls, did a phone interview for one of the papers back home that has been following the journey and the day was gone. We had a lovely family dinner on Monday evening and the talk continues until it was off to bed again.  As you will have gathered from the blog posted on Tuesday, I didn’t sleep as well as I was up early. We left early morning to go feed a troop of wild monkeys we found out where they roosted at night a few years ago and if you catch them as they are getting up for the day, you can interact with them as long as you are careful.  So we did that, then had a walk on a nearby beach and came back for breakfast.  The rest of the day was really about sorting kit and deciding what goes where, UK, Canada or the bin.

 

I have had lots of messages on the web site (all of which I will reply to by the end of the week) and the last couple of days, I am starting to realise that my little adventure (really done for quite selfish reasons) has turned into something that has touched many people. I am still trying to process the actual trip but also now the interest it has generated. While at sea, one of my favorite times of the day was last thing before my rest (won’t call it sleep) reading my messages and writing the blog. The messages really kept me motivated, the more people I knew were watching the more I wanted to keep pushing and doing well. I am extremely grateful to everyone that sent messages and good wishes, news and jokes. I have said it before, but I really felt connected to everyone despite being in the middle of the Atlantic. So thank you to everyone for taking time to follow my journey and to send your wishes.

 

I think it is going to take a long time to work out what effect the journey has had on me. I am starting to get over the last 6 mile thing as we were examining the GPS track yesterday and it looks like the weather would have beaten anyone.  I was actually closer to shore than the way point before it all went wrong, so should have been protected from the wind but obviously weather conditions on the day did what they did.  I think it will take me some time to come to terms with how it has affected those around me.

 

I am going to finish for now, I think my last blog will be on Friday and I will try to keep that light hearted.

 

So for now

 

John

 

Out

Arrival at Port St Charles

Posted on Jan. 18, 2012, 11:52 a.m.

Once I actually got to Port St Charles and pulled up by the yacht club Cheryl and the girls were already ashore. There was quite a group of people gathered to greet me, some I knew some I didn’t. Tom (a 2009 pairs rower) had some friends in Barbados who came along and there were some of the race crews families there also. Now the strange guy on the boat, I thought it looked a little like my nephew but I never got that close to the boat, I was bobbing up and down, so were they and this guy had a huge bushy beard.  I thought it could have been one of the race rowers who got in 12 hours ahead of me who blagged a ride to see me finish.  It turned out to be my Nephew who had booked a last minute flight.  It was brilliant to see him but he shouldn’t have come in disguise, his beard looks great actually (not according to my girls, in fact they wouldn’t let me grow a beard on the trip and I had to come back clean shaven). Anyway, we tied up the boat and it was time to step ashore, a large super yacht was honking its horn for me which was a very impressive sound.  I knew I had to be careful because I have heard many stories of guys hopping off the boat only to find their legs don’t work on land and they fall flat on their face.  Now I am not great in public situations, I am still trying to process the last 5 hours or so, I’m exhausted, emotional because I can already see Libby crying because she can’t cope with her emotions and all I want to do is hug the kids and Cheryl and collapse in a corner.  Lots of cheering and clapping and I step off the boat (my little world where I have grown to feel very safe) and just stand for a moment and try to take it all in.  What a sight I must have made!  I am nearly back down to a decent running weight (134lb) so looking a bit skinny. I did have a shave on Saturday night but the mirror broke a few days ago so I’m not sure how good that was.  I have quite a good suntan, but sitting down in the sun for just over 7 weeks I have white stripes across my belly where the skin folds when you sit (I am also browner on my right side than my left).  I got a sunburned bottom lip which was swollen and looks strange.  I must have looked a real sight to behold.  I politely stood and took the applause and before I knew it I was hugging the girls and even got a kiss from Cheryl (not on my scabby lips though).  My legs, which coped quite well at first started to wobble as I climbed the stairs to the main ground level.  It was like trying to walk after a few too many on a Saturday night.  Your brain really does readjust to the different environments and forgets the old one.  It has to re learn that the ground beneath your feet is not constantly moving.  I got up the stairs and did all the thank you’s and hugs.  Strange!  People you have never met before wanting to hug you.  I was for that 10 minutes a minor celerity I guess and they may be looking for some of that to rub off on them.  I’m afraid all that rubbed off was salt.  The strangest thing about all of this was that after so long on your own at sea (despite feeling more connected to everyone than before) is that all the talk and hustle and bustle kind of overwhelms your senses.  I was glad when Tony pulled me away to go and fulfill my customs obligations.

 

So it was a short walk to customs and the leg weaving continued.  Climbing the stairs in the building was a real challenge.  Little did I know that was easy compared to coming back down them later.  We had to fill lots of forms and visit 3 different offices.  In my Saturday preparations I had pulled all my documents together such as boat papers, departure papers from Mogan, insurance,  my passport and secondary ID and put it in a quick to grab spot in the cabin and I had grabbed it on my way off the boat.  One up for organised John in customs!  In the customs room I realised I had forgotten my glasses.   I now can’t read any of the dozen forms I need to fill in, what a berk!  So Tony reads all the questions out and we use a little team work because I am definitely not walking all the way to the boat and back to get my glasses.  All the officials were great and very understanding of my confused state of mind. That done, we returned to the Yacht Club, still lots of people asking questions and looking at the boat.  All amazed by the skinny, foolish guy who set out to sea in a rowing boat having never been to sea in his life.  We spent the rest of the afternoon having a really long lunch at the Yacht Club.  My favourite thing was the crunchy lettuce in the Caesar salad.  My food on the trip was good but you forget how good fresh crunchy salad tastes, delicious, followed by smoked Marlin absolutely lip smackingly delicious.  Ice cold fizzy drinks, what a revelation, not luke warm water (which seemed OK when on the boat).  Unlike me (?)  but they couldn’t shut me up all afternoon as I was talking about nearly capsizing in a cross sea, the wildlife, the things that drove me on etc.  It was great to be back with family and friends.

 

Then came a little challenge.   I had to get back on the boat and row to the dock in front of the apartment were we are staying in.  The wind was blowing and after my experience in the morning I must admit I was a little nervous as the marina is full of multi million $$$$ yachts.  I didn’t want to go clattering into one of them.  In the end it was pretty simple, the girls came along for the ride, Libby looked forward and steered me clear of obstacles and within a couple of minutes we arrived safely. We emptied the boat of critical equipment and left her unmanned for the first time in 54 days.  By this time it was starting to go dark, we tied the boat up and I climbed out, fortunately Tony knew to stay just behind me, the dock foot way was quite narrow and he grabbed me just early enough to stop me taking an early bath. It would have been the perfect calamity to end the day on.

 

From this point I will finish up in my post arrival blog, posted tomorrow.

 

So for now.

 

John

 

Out

Tuesday 17th January

Posted on Jan. 17, 2012, 1:28 p.m.

 

Well here I am at 3 am (local time) sat on the balcony of our temporary home in Barbados. Can’t sleep (why the heck not) so I thought I would start a wrap up blog of my wild adventure. 

 

It’s in three parts, last 36 hours of the row, arrival and post arrival. 

 

(I have just finished the 36 hour blog, decided it is a bit long so I will post it alone and add arrival and post arrival tomorrow). Photo’s and video’s will be up later today.

 

The last 36 hours of the row were quite eventful and even painful. On Friday we had good winds in the morning and all looked good for steady progress to the finish. However by late morning a local weather system had developed and it rain, then it became very calm quite quickly. I struggled on as best as I could but for 6 or 7 hours it was really hard work and very slow progress.  It looked for a while like it would add 24 hours on to my arrival time, add to this it was quite cold and drizzly it was a tough afternoon. Rowing into the evening session got even harder and colder.  About 10:00 pm (GMT) there was a large down pour and for the first time on the trip I took cover in the cabin.  I was trying to work out what to do and was even considering quitting the last session half finished, getting some sleep and hopping the weather improved over night. I looked at my GPS and there were three odd miles on the DTG so I decided that I couldn’t just give up, that I needed to row these 3 miles however long it took. When the rain stopped, out I went and started plugging away.  About 30 minutes later I felt a warm poof of air on my face, 3 or 4 seconds after that the flags on the antenna were standing straight out, the swell arrived and I was doing 3.5 to 4 knots. I guess the local weather dampened down the general weather, passed by and then the general weather returned, amazing. I rattled off a quick 5 miles, set my drift and went to get some rest. 

 

Went out a little early to do some catching up so the mileage posted at 9:00 am GMT was respectable.  All day Saturday was a superb rowing day.  I think I had about 67 miles to go to hit North Point in day light.  I needed about 25 - 30 miles left, so when I turned in I would drift 13 - 15 miles and then row the rest through to sunrise. Conditions were so good it could quite easily have been my 70 mile day that I had tried to achieve a couple of times. I was doing 11 + miles for each 3 hours at the oars (with what felt like minimum effort)  and drifting a mile + in the half hour break.  I took an hour for my lunch, an hour for my dinner and still ended up in the mid 20’s after my three new day sessions. I took the opportunity to tidy up the last few things that needed doing on the boat.  I prepared my anchor in case of emergency when I arrived close to land and cleaned and polished so the boat looked good on arrival. I set my course then before I turned in for some rest, I settled down in the cabin and was going over my arrival plan.  Laying out my clean clothing for my arrival (yes I had saved some clothing through the whole trip so I looked semi respectable when I stepped off the boat), checking my way points in the GPS and letting Tony and Cheryl know where I was and confirming details for the morning.  In the hour this took, I had drifted 2 miles.  I went to sleep after setting my alarm for 2 hours later. I woke, checked my heading (OK) and I had drifted nearly 5 miles.  At this rate I would drift to Barbados before it was light.  I sent my progress report to Tony and Cheryl. Tony replied, I think you need to put out the drogue to slow progress, I really didn’t want to do this but said I would monitor and do so if I didn’t slow down. I ran another two hour, drift, sleep, alarm and another 5 miles. I really needed to be in control in the morning so I needed to row at least the last 10 miles.  It was 3:00 am (GMT) so I had 7 hours until first light.  The drogue had to go out, so out I went on deck and sorted that, it slowed me to 3/4 of a knot (still fast pulling the drogue) and laid back down. I think I got about 3 hours sleep through the night with most in the first session as I was pretty exhausted, a little in the second session, but the rest of the night I was just laid resting, too excited and worried about going off course to sleep. 

The new plan was to row from about 7:00 am GMT but I had drifted so far I had to put this back and ended up starting at 8:30 am. Cheryl, the girls and Tony were due on a boat at North Point by 8:30 am local time so that gave me 4 hours to row 10.7 miles. I didn’t want to be early and they missed me so I took it easy. By this time I had shouted Land Ho a number of times as the lights on Barbados were clearly visible from the middle of my night. I had some tweaking to do with my course but once underway for the entire 10 miles I never strayed more than 0.03 of a mile either side of my bearing. I arrived 10 to 15 minutes past the 8:30 am (pace judgment not what it once was) and was surprised I had not seen the boat with the welcoming party on.  I passed my North Point way marker showing 00.00 on my navigation deviation reader, so exactly on course, I’m really proud of my heading control over the entire trip.  With no auto pilot I kept a pretty neat straight line the whole way. 

 

All of a sudden, Tony, Cheryl, the girls and some guy with a big bushy beard (more on him shortly) appeared on the boat over the top of a swell. I really hadn’t realised how large the swell was until I saw this huge, powerful motor yacht struggling to cope, amazing site.  As they got closer (never that close) I stowed my oars, stood up and very unlike me, started pumping my fist in the air, shouting at the top of my voice “I just rowed across an Ocean”,  “I just rowed across a B****Y Ocean”, they couldn’t hear a word but it felt absolutely amazing.  After all the doubts, frustration and hard work it finally felt like it had all been worth it. It was great to at least see Cheryl and the girls, we tried shouting but it was not easy to communicate, I realised that I needed to sit down and get rowing as we were not quite home yet.

The longitudinal degree that North Point sits on is considered journeys end so I had officially crossed the Atlantic Ocean, in a rowing boat, unassisted and solo.  Mission accomplished, tick it off the list, “what’s next?”. Not quite, I still had 6 miles to row around the corner to Port St Charles.  My ambition was a land to land unassisted crossing, step on the boat and off the boat with no help in between, easy, right? Just rowed 2600 nautical miles, only 6 to go.

 

Back to the oars after the blatant self congratulations, 3 waypoints to guide me in, stay on course, two hours and the hugging can begin. I started to head around the corner and past Harrison’s Reef, still dead on course.  All of a sudden the boat pulls across the back of me indicating for me to head out further from land. Now you have to understand I have not seen another person for 53 days.  I’m emotional because of reaching the Island, can see Cheryl and the Girls but can’t touch them or really even speak to them yet. I see all these arms waving on the boat head out, head out, I assume some local knowledge means we have to deviate from our programmed way points, so I follow instructions and head out a little. Now at this time the boat goes in front of me, am I following them, do I return to my way points, it’s a nightmare in a rowing boat having to look over your shoulder all the time because you loose your rhythm on the oars, loose direction, can’t really see anything as you have a massive blind spot. So I follow as best as I can, we get past the reef, I can see the cement plant which I have to pass close by over my shoulder only 3/4 of a mile away, it’s only 1 1/2 miles from there to Port St Charles. The boat by this time is between me and the land, we are out of the big North Point swell, I am still a bit confused as to what my heading should be but assume all is well. Tony indicates I need to start heading closer to land, so I do. At this time the boat cuts behind me and I realise it has been sheltering me from the wind a little. The wind that has helped me all the way across the Atlantic is now pushing me off shore.  My GPS is telling me I am 0.2 of a mile off my track (about 360 yards) so I just need to get 300+ yards closer to shore and all will be well. The wind comes in strong, prolonged gusts, in-between blowing about 10 - 15 knots, gusts must be over 20 knots. As I try to make progress to shore my GPS is telling me I am getting further away from shore. 

 

Two and a half hours I tried rowing into that wind.  I had rowed the 4 hours to North Point, not taken a break, so I was now at 6.5 hours with no rest, no food and pulling absolutely 100% on every stroke. I would make 5 or 10 yards as the wind eased, then I would see the wind coming across the water and while still sowing it would push me back 15 or 20 yards. Approaching 3 hours I can feel the power draining from my body, starting to feel light headed, not even any water on deck. I know if I grab a bottle from the cabin, by the time I am back at the oars I would have lost another couple of hundred yards and the cause would have been lost. We assess the situation, options are, drop anchor and rest for a while (still in 70 feet of water but possible) but the wind won’t change direction, be towed to the finish or be towed in shore and finish under my own steam. Now you need to understand at this time all I am thinking is “the whole thing is a right off if I accept any assistance”. I’m sat in the boat, exhausted, head bowed feeling like my arms are about to explode trying to make a rational decision, impossible. I try one last time but after resting for a couple of minutes and trying to start up again I realised that I just didn't have the strength required to move the boat at all. The only sensible (safe) thing to do was get help, we agreed the boat would tow me the the now 450 yards inland that I needed and I would then finish under my own steam. This we did, there were a couple of steering incidents on the way, the boat is great at sea but never try to slalom in an ocean rowing boat. 15 minutes later I am pulling into Port St Charles, dazed and confused, not knowing whether I have succeeded or failed the fist pumping “I have crossed an Ocean” speach some 5 hours ago. Still, two days later while I’m sat writing this, I haven’t really processed what happened, did it wreck the trip, should I have tried again etc. etc. 

 

However, in the spirit of the way I approached the good and bad days all through the trip, what has happened has happened, move on and do the best you can on the next day.  I did officially cross the Ocean but didn’t achieve what I set out to achieve. It will take me some time to decide how I really feel about the whole saga of the last 5 hours.

 

For Now

 

John

 

Out

 

Terra Firma

Posted on Jan. 16, 2012, 5:30 p.m.

Weight 134lbs (normally 142, left at 152).

 

Best thing about yesterday – Hugging Cheryl and the Girls.

 

2nd Best thing – Eating crunchy fresh food.

 

Worst thing – Last 6 miles of the trip.

 

Wildlife – all the humans – all a bit too much!!!

 

Sleep – 9 hours, no interruptions, no adjusting the steering, nothing going bump in the night.

 

I thought I would do a short post while eating breakfast (Cornflakes with ice cold milk and coffee that stays in the cup) this morning and I will do a more detailed entry about the last 24 hours and my other thoughts about being back on land later today.

 

First thing to do is to thank all the people who have supported me in this adventure, all the messages (I will respond to all the messages received in the last few days as this week progresses) were great and kept me motivated through the whole trip. Tony who’s experience I’m sure saved my life a few times, kept me safe and gave Cheryl the sense that I was not totally isolated. Most importantly of all, Cheryl and the girls for being 100% behind me for the last 4 years, they have been unbelievably patient with me and I am eternally indebted to them. Thank you one and all.

 

It was a strange day yesterday, from having to ease up on Saturday so I would arrive in daylight, to getting into trouble with the wind 2 miles from home and taking 3 hours to cover the last 1.5 miles, to being surrounded by people and not quite knowing how to handle all the attention. What do you say when you step off a boat having just rowed an Ocean?

 

I was elated though at completing what I must admit was a crazy thing to take on, not quite sure what to think or say.  I met a couple of the race guys this morning and they look as dazed as I feel so I don’t think I am alone.

 

Had a shower last night, bliss, If I could have slept standing up I would have stayed in there all night.  Went for a walk this morning, didn’t feel up to running Mike as I am  still too unsteady on my feet.   I will try again in the morning.

 

Lots still to do.  The boat has got to be prepared for transport so after a morning of relaxing, I need to get going on that so we can all go home.  Home,  somewhere I have not seen since the first week in November, all very strange.

 

That’s it for now, by the morning I will have posted lots of pictures and hopefully some video and done a real blog entry.

 

John (now a bonafide Ocean rower)

 

Out

John Beeden has arrived!

Posted on Jan. 15, 2012, 11:01 p.m.

Admiral Beeden has arrived

Despite the wobbly legs, chapped lips and callused hands, he is in great spirits, good health and full of stories.

I'm sure there are a few more blog postings in him.

 

He passed the Official Finish Line at 8:32am local time and arrived in at Port St Charles after an extremely tough row down the west coast. 

 

Read his blog tomorrow.

 

Cheryl

 

Note From Cheryl

Posted on Jan. 15, 2012, 9:36 a.m.

Day 53

 

Thought I would drop everyone a quick note to give a last minute update. 
I'm sorry yesterday's blog was quite short.  John didn't have a lot to say, mainly because he was very focused on his job for day and that was to row towards Barbados, stay on course, stay safe and make good decisions, plus he just spilt his food all over the cabin during our phone conversation. 
SMS Message received throughout the day from John:
Day 53
1530 GMT - 48 miles to go
2300 GMT - 27.2 miles to go
0100 GMT - 22 miles to go
Day 54
0730 GMT - Drogue out 
Distance to go - 11.2m, should be 8.30 local time when I arrive at North Point. Prepare kids for fun ride, bring a bucket, rough seas.. 50 ft north of course
Stayed on Drogue till 8.30 GMT, will struggle to keep boat under 3 knots in the wind 
I had the alarm on my phone set for 5:45am as we are getting on a boat at 6:30am local time to head up to North Point. John's SMS Messages were keeping me awake as the phone would beep when message received, plus I think
I'm just too excited and nervous to sleep anyway.
Spoke to John at 5:15am local time. He was in good spirits, getting excited to see our boat as he approaches North Point. He advised me that the swells are big, so we all need to take sea sick tablets before we step onto the boat and I need to bring a bucket!  Don't like the sound of that. 
John's ETA across the finish line will be around 8:30am local time in Barbados, Sunday morning.  Please note that John could have arrived earlier then this projected ETA, however a decision was made to slow down so that he wasn't arriving into Barbados when it was dark.
Once he crosses the finish line tomorrow, he still has 6 1/2 miles to row until he can dock the boat and step onto land at Port St Charles, Barbados.
When I spoke to John yesterday on the phone, I asked John what he wants when he finishes and his response was 'A large glass of something fizzy like sprite and a months sleep'.  I will arrange the fizzy drink but not sure about the months sleep.  I might give the guy a few days, however once that is up, he is back on 'Dad Duty'. No time for slacking. 
Please click on this link to see a live webcam of Port St Charles  www./portstcharles.com/webcam_window.php?cam=3     If you time it right, you  just might see John row into the harbour. 
   
I will do my best to post an update on John's finish soon as possible.
Cheryl

 

Land Ahoy, well almost!

Posted on Jan. 14, 2012, 3:11 p.m.

Day 53

9am this morning, I had 68.8 nautical miles to go.

After yesterday’s rainy start the next session was quite good. Heavy cloud cover and the sun didn’t come out all day. Stopped for a break and when I started back for my 3 hour session, the wind picked up and I struggled to control the boat. This lasted for 1½ hours and then things started to ease. One hour later it was completely flat calm. I spent the next 5 hours fighting the calm conditions and rain storms. By 11pm I was starting to get depressed at the thought of spending another full day at sea. I had to take cover from another massive rain storm and thought about quitting and going to bed. Decided to do 3 more miles, after 15 minutes, again it was flat calm. I then felt a warm gust on my face. Seconds later, the flags were straight out and the wind was 25 knots. I was quickly doing 3½ – 4 knots easily.

I did a little extra last night so that I would start today with just 24 hours to go.

Can’t see land yet, but I’m ready to shout ‘Land Ahoy’.

There will only be one posting today from me, unless Cheryl can get back on the internet with any additional news.

As for my arrival tomorrow we will post my finishing time and a few notes afterwards. From now until I arrive, I need to concentrate on staying safe and making the right decisions as I don’t want to end up on a reef or needing assistance to get me into the harbour.

It is my intention to be at North Point (actual finish line by 8.30am local time). From there I have to row down the coast to Port St Charles. Approximately 4 miles which will take me a couple of hours to where I hope to step off this boat without falling on my face because my legs are wobbly.

John

Out

 

Down to my last 1/4 of Terry's Chocolate Orange

Posted on Jan. 13, 2012, 1:39 p.m.

Day 52 Blog

Yesterday rowed 60.8 nautical miles, leaving me with 125.7 nautical miles to go.  Day 52 at sea should see me go under the 100 miles to go marker.  The 60m was ather nice after 4 or 5 days of hard going.  Weather forecast for today was good, so I expected the same, what was I thinking. Last three hours produced 8 miles and I'm stuck in a big storm.  It's been more like a wet November in Sheffield then being 25 miles north of the Barbados Latitude (or simply put 125 miles to go).  I've had wind, no wind, howling rain and drizzle.  I felt like pressing the escape button this morning but couldn't find it.   I hope the weather sorts itself out so I can get back into a groove and make up for lost time.

I didn't feel like I ate enough yesterday as I was a little light headed last night.  Making up for it today as I started breakfast with two bowls of porridge and I'm looking forward to my curry for lunch.  Sad news that I have now run out of all sweet treats apart from 1/4 of a Terry's Chocolate Orange.  Good thing this trip isn't going to take me 90 days.

As for my health, the muscle I've torn or pulled, is still killing me. All the rocking and rolling doesn't help.

Only one entry today as my media team is travelling to Barbados today. 

Messages:

Tom B - If you feel the need to do a Solo Row, I know a good boat for sale!

Mario, Maria & Juliana - Thanks for your support. I'm sorry you can't be in Barbados.

Lisa (From Evan's Class - Finland) - The trip should take me about 54 days. I'm eating freeze dried food that I hydrate with fresh water. I'm also eating (or was until I finished it all) lots of chocolate and biscuits).  Curry is one of my favourite meals.  I should have some freeze dried food left over and if I do I will send some to your class.

Steve R - When you have a drink for me, don't just have one, have at least 2, then lye down on the settee so I can get some sleep!

Bonnie - I don't have a chair and I'm not good at singing.

Nicola - I agree Nicola. When I paid off my mortgage I thought I would be debt free for the rest of my life. Not so now.

Note from Cheryl to Steve - I know it is sad that John can't drink alcohol, however there is good in this. It means that I always have a designated driver for when ever I have a glass or two!

Note from Cheryl to all - Not sure why John is complaining about the weather. Todays weather in Kilbride, Ontario: Rain, freezing rain, snow, temperatures plummeting, slippery driving conditions, brisk winds, -3 degrees C, feels like -9 degrees C.

Too Tired to Think!

Posted on Jan. 13, 2012, 4:11 a.m.

Day 51 - PM Blog

Today has gone pretty well. The swell has come together and I was rowing over 3 knots by the end of the day.  I'm set up for good mileage for this 24 hour period and if the weather is like this tomorrow, I might just have 2 days left in the scorching sun. What a relief after the last five days of hard work and rotten weather.

Wild Life - Not much on this front except the two little fish that seem to be living under my boat.

I'm currently being tossed all over the cabin, in fact I might be feeling a little sea sick.  My side is killing me under my rib and this tossing about isn't helping matters.

I've not got much to say to night because I'm just too tired to think of anything else. I promise more tomorrow.

Messages: (Sorry I can't answer them all.  I can assure you that Cheryl has read all of them to me as my laptop isn't working.  My phone bill will cost me a fortune but it is well worth it).

Sandy - I won't be celebrating my birthday early, in fact I don't want to be turning 50. Can I put this birthday off and be 29 again?

Mike (Grumpy) - Don't worry Mike, I'm not going soft, still very much focused as I'm winding up for a BIG finish like Haile Gebrselassie when he ran two 13:11 5ks back to back to get the World Record of 26.22 for the 10,000m.  Just how much money is riding on my efforts?  I hope I provided good discussion in the Wellington tonight (or last night if you are reading this on Friday).  Hello Sheffield!

Linda B -  I'll take rowing over Zumba any day. You wouldn't want to see me dance, in fact I don't dance.  Many thanks for the support from you and your family, It is so appreciated.

Terry Farrow - Laugh all you want, they say it makes you live longer.

Paul B - Thanks for the advice, I'm used to falling flat on my face so no need to worry.

Jean - It's a small world and are you calling me crazy?

Evan, Isha, Alex & Class (Finland) -  There will be a few people in Barbados waiting for me, my wife Cheryl, my two daughters, my support guy Tony and my nephew along with a few other people.  The temperature in Barbados is around 29 Degrees Celsius during the day and the water temperature is around 27 Degrees Celsius.  I will pack the boat up and ship it home and then I will fly back to Canada.  The biggest fish I saw was around 8 feet long.

Too Tall Tony - The actual finish line is North Point, however once I pass North Point I still have an hour or two of rowing to get to Port St Charles which is on the West Coast of Barbados.  There will be a small welcome crew to greet me, in fact I hear they have rented a boat to come out and meet me when I'm a few miles from North Point.  I've put an order in for a Flying Fish Sandwich.  Unfortunately I can't drink alcohol due to arthritis medication. A nice cold beer or a glass of bubbly would be lovely!

Tom B - Pleased to have earned the Sea Title!  Hope you didn't have withdrawals from the Dot Watching today as Tony was flying to Barbados. Call in sick and catch a flight to Barbados would love to buy you a beer for all of the support you have given me. 

Before I sign off, I just want to say LAND AHOY  (sorry Rich!)

John  (Admiral Beeden)

Out

Sorry to all of you Dot Watchers!

Posted on Jan. 12, 2012, 2:40 p.m.

Day 51 - AM blog

For all of you dot watchers: Tony is travelling to Barbados today and as my tracker is broken, you will need to wait for Tony to arrive so that he can manually enter my position onto the map once he has access to the internet.

9:00 am (GMT) 180 nautical miles to go.
12:20 pm (GMT) 177 nautical miles to go

Overnight the wind has picked up and will continue to do so.  I'm hoping to see winds at 20 knots.  The swell is not huge but it's starting to build. Another 12 or 18 hours of wind being absorbed by the water should make for really good going for the next 40 - 50 hours. 

I was disappointed with yesterday's mileage, however considering that I rowed into a east/northeast current head on, it could have been much worse.  I'm looking for 3 solid days to keep on track for my arrival into Barbados sometime on Sunday.   The strange thing here is that I'm traversing across a north or north east current which is the equatorial current running into the island.  No big deal for rowing but because the swell is cutting across the current as well, it creates a weird Bob & Yaw, which is quiet violent and throws you about the boat.  So everything from cooking to putting cream on your bottom is a major challenge.

By the way I can almost smell that flying fish sandwich.

Will update with more news later tonight.

John

Out

Note from Cheryl - For all of you writing to John telling him to enjoy a nice cold beer once he arrives, unfortunately he won't be drinking any alcohol due to his arthritis medication. Poor guy, I guess his support crew will have to have a few drinks for him.

Only One Thing On My Mind!

Posted on Jan. 12, 2012, 12:24 a.m.

I missed today's target which was to get under 200 nautical miles to go before I turned in tonight.  This is just another reminder that the only thing I have control over is the amount of effort I put in each day.  I have no control over the wind, the current, the swells and what ever else is out there.  It was all going swimmingly for the first five hours this morning. I then ran into a cross current which made the next six hours the hardest of the journey so far!  I struggled to do 1.5 knots for three hours.  I usually row between 36 - 40 miles from 9am until I break at night.  Today, I only managed about 33 miles for this period.

It was virtually windless for most of the day and the temperature on deck was 47 degrees. Massively uncomfortable.
 
Up to three days ago, I would have said that my body was coping very well. Today I feel like I am falling apart. Perhaps that is because the big 50 is approaching.  I think I have torn a muscle on my left side at the bottom of my ribs and my arthritis has been acting up a little. In the morning my hands and elbows are sore but bearable. I've also developed a few small salt sores which can be quit painful and I've been thrown about on the boat that I have a number of small cuts and scraps all over. 
 
Now that I'm getting close to Barbados, I've been getting lots of advice to take a moment, enjoy the solitude, soak it all up, reflect on what I have achieved, slow down and smell the roses and so on.  Throughout the journey, I have been enjoying the solitude, I've been soaking up the moments and I have reflected on what I have been doing.   I don't plan to slow down or take a moment because the only thing on my mind is Barbados.  There are lots of reasons, not least of which I need to stop Cheryl accumulating brownie points or I will never be able to pay my debt.  She is going to be milking this journey of mine for a while! 
 
I am desperate to see Cheryl, Georgie and Libby. I am desperate for a shower. I am desperate to sit with a cup of coffee and not spill it down my chest. I am desperate for a bed that doesn't rock. I am desperate for all those other things that you take for granted at home.
 
I'm keen to post the best possible time to row the Atlantic. I know that it is not important to anyone else but it is important to me.
 
I'm hoping that the wind forecasted for tomorrow arrives so I can get my head down and make up for today.
 
Now that I'm getting closer to Barbados, will someone order me a Flying Fish Sandwich please!
 
Messages:
 
Randy - I don't care how many naked ladies are behind me, I'm not going backwards, I just want to get to Barbados.
 
Jean - I would have offered the birds some of my biscuits if I had lots more, however because I was down to the last few, I hogged them all for myself.
 
Evan & Class - I decided that I wanted to do the row when I saw two guys finish after they rowed the Atlantic back in 2001 when I was on holiday in Barbados.  As for my weight, I put on 14 lbs before I started the journey, knowing that I would lose weight.  I think I have lost about 14 lbs, so I am back to my normal weight.
 
The Wright Family - I am taking one day at a time, however I just want to get there!

Tom - Thanks for the great advice.  I'm really looking forward to the wobbly legs when I step off the boat. Can't wait to get back and tell you more. Really appreciate your support to both Cheryl and I.

John

Out

 

Timing is everything!

Posted on Jan. 11, 2012, 6:45 p.m.

Day 49 I rowed 56.5 nautical miles, finishing Week 7 with a total of 402 nautical miles to the good. No wonder I'm tired!  At the start of Day 50, I have 237.3 nautical miles to go.  I'm hoping to go under the 200 nautical miles to go today. Yeah!!!
 
For those interested in the Atlantic Rowing Race, apparently I rowed further yesterday then the boat JJ (crew of 1, rowing assisted sailing boat, you know the one I'm talking about).
 
Wildlife - I have three pairs of birds following the boat.  The Cormorants visit me every morning and every night and have done so from about 800 miles to go.   I have another pair that I think are called Manx Shearwaters and they have also been following me for a similar distance.  If this is the right name for this bird, here is some interesting facts:  These birds can migrate over 10,000 KM (6,200 mi) to South America. Some will follow fishing boats or whales to take scraps (although I'm not a fishing boat or a whale). Their primary technique for feeding is diving and some species dive as much as 70m underwater. So, spectacular birds to watch.   At around 600 miles to go, I had a Long Tail bird join me. At about 400 miles to go, this Long Tail bird was joined by another and became a pair.  I'm enjoying the Long Tails because they are very acrobatic however they look so cumbersome, in fact, they look like they could just fall out of the sky.  Saying this, I watched one dive into the Ocean and it caught a fish, so they must know what they are doing.

This morning I had a baby Flying Fish about 2 inches long, jump out of the water on the starboard side of my boat, skimmed past my face and landed back in the water on the port side. Lucky little fellow.

I've been struggling to hold my course due to a NW wind.  As I drift overnight and during the morning session, I was pushed 2 miles south.  So I work hard after breakfast to go North and get back on course, only to receive a SMS Message from Tony to say Go South!  Now if I had received this message earlier, it would have saved me 2 hours of hard rowing!

More news later.

John

Out

Day 49 - Part Two

Posted on Jan. 11, 2012, 12:42 a.m.

I'm finishing 7 weeks at sea with another tough day. The wind was not cooperating today which meant that my mileage was just painstakingly slow. I'm hoping that the wind will swing around tomorrow and help me out.  On top of that, it was so hot today that it nearly killed me.

Wild Life - One Dorado swimming along side the boat. It was between 7 - 8 feet long. Hopefully I caught this guy on the underwater camera. Unfortunately I won't know until I can get the laptop working again.  There are several fish that have been swimming under the boat tonight. I'm thinking that they are Flying Fish.  Perhaps I can catch these guys on camera because you all know that I won't be going in for a swim to check it out until I get to Barbados.

 

Messages:

Mike (Grumpy) - Jan needs to get a World Atlas and not just a UK Road Atlas. Also, I'm the lightest I've been for 10 years so with a bit of training, your pace will need to be a bit better then 8 1/2 minute per mile.

Olivia R - Happy 15th Birthday! How did you get to be so old?

Chantel - I've enjoyed the peace and quiet and many know that I like my own company. Not looking forward to having to socialise as it may be a bit overwhelming at first.

Colin - Don't worry about no biscuits on board. I've found some dried cake and have poured my coffee into that.

Nancy & Jean - I'm not sure about being tougher and as for medals I will award them when I get back, however I might add that Cheryl will be milking my journey for some time. I think I'll be paying for this for a long time.

Mark M - Thanks for following.  I understand that you are sharing my story with the students and that Libby may possibly present to the Grade 6s.  Perhaps when I get back and catch up on my sleep, I could come in and talk to the students.

Romano - If I'm at mile 22 of a marathon, I could be close to hitting the wall.  Digging as deep as I can.

John H - Would love to chat to you about your travels around the world.  I know I should be focused on the moments that are left on this journey, however it's all about getting to the finish line because I am so tired, all I want to do is get to Barbados and put my feet up!

 

Message from Cheryl - If anyone is wishing to join John's welcome party in Barbados, please let me know. Either email me or send a message via the Contact Details on John's website so I can include in our planning.  Now that the competition of how long we think it will take John to row the Atlantic has closed, I can confirm that we expect John may possibly arrive around the 15th / 16th January.  We will contact the winners of this competition within 48 hours of John completing his journey.

 

Disaster on Deck!

Posted on Jan. 10, 2012, 1:16 p.m.

Day 48 rowed 56.5 nautical miles. Starting Day 49 (7 weeks at sea) with only 292.5 nautical miles to go.

588 hours (approximately) at the oars!

Having a problem with the inverter and can't charge the laptop. Extremely frustrating.  I will speak with Cheryl twice a day and give her my updates and she will post my blogs and give me any messages.

Grumpy of Waterthorpe, if you spot any errors in the blogs, please do not hesitate to contact my editor directly. You have her details!

Major disaster as I've run out of biscuits.  I ate the last packet of ginger biscuits on Saturday, the last packet of jaffa cakes on Sunday and the last packet of lemon creams yesterday. I was trying to save the ginger biscuits for last but had no control.  No biscuits mean top speed to Port St Charles, Barbados.

More news later.

John

Out

Telephone Blog for Day 48 at Sea!

Posted on Jan. 10, 2012, 2:19 a.m.

I spoke with John early evening and he advised me that he is struggling to get his laptop going, something to do with the battery not charging up. Therefore, today's blog was dictated over the phone.
 
Finished Day 47 at 9am (GMT) this morning rowing 56.4 miles, leaving me with 349 nautical miles to go.  Day 48 should see me going under 299 nautical miles to go.  That is if I can manage rowing another 50+ miles for today. I'm not sure if I will or won't manage the mileage. It is hard work today, it's hot and I'm exhausted.  Did I say I was tired?
 
Wild Life - Six 18inch fish swimming by the boat. 
 
Now I'm sure there have been some incredible sunsets while I've been rowing the ocean, however most evenings I have my back to them.  Tonight as the sun went down, the moon came up and was red, then yellow and then silver. It was an incredible sight as I have never seen a red moon before.
 
Messages:
 
Alexander Public School / Mrs Kellerman - I'm sorry I haven't responded to the last set of letters that were sent to me. I have read them and will respond when I finish. Perhaps when I'm sitting on the beach!  Thank you for all of the letters and the support.  It means so much to me.
 
Jon B - Welcome to the modern world! Nice to receive your tweet!
 
Mike (not Grumpy) - I'm 100% focused, I just have to coax a few more miles out of me.
 
 
Message from Cheryl - Just a quick note as John's blog isn't too long today. Thank you to everyone who has been following John,  to those of you who have donated to his charities and to everyone for their wonderful messages. John has 6 or 7 days left and after speaking to him today, he probably needs those messages of support more then anything. Please keep them coming. Hopefully he will get his laptop powered up again, however if he doesn't, I will speak to him and read him the messages.

On another note, as John comes to the end of his adventure, eventually his daily blog will cease as well. For those of you who are panicking about going through withdrawal from following the dot, reading his blogs, checking twitter or his daily log, please do not send him any other challenges (such as the ones he has received to row the Pacific, Dakar Rally and so on) in the hope that he keeps on writing.  Perhaps we all need to start thinking about what challenges we would like to undertake in order to fill the void when his daily blog stops.    
 
 

Whale Watching

Posted on Jan. 9, 2012, 12:39 a.m.

Just one thing to report today as I'm struggling with battery power and John power.
 
Saw 4 incredible whales today, absolutely amazing.  They were only with me briefly but it was still a rare privilege to be so close to such incredible creatures in their own environment.
 
I was toiling away mid afternoon, the swell was quite large and as it moves towards the boat it picks you up, but before that, it’s like a large wall moving towards you.  As a swell rose behind the boat, I saw a massive shape appear in the face of the swell.  The sun was really bright and the Whale was cruising in the swell, I guess doing what I’m doing, using the free energy.  Must have been 30ft at least, he/she looked green but I’m pretty sure that was just the water.
 
I obviously grabbed the camera but by that time the Whale had slipped by the boat and I couldn’t see it any more.  I switched off the camera and then two more appeared, one slightly smaller which arched out of the water and they both sailed on by.  I looked in vain for them or more, but nothing.   So it was back to the oars.  An hour later the same again, a swell came towards the boat and in the face of it was a huge Whale.  This one must have been 40ft at least.  And that was it, each incredible encounter lasted 8 or 10 seconds each .
 
That will have to do for now.
 
I will catch up on messages tomorrow.
 
John
 
Out

The Atlantic is in charge!

Posted on Jan. 8, 2012, 12:49 a.m.

55 nautical miles yesterday.

Shooting stars – one (I must have won the lottery by now)!

Hours at the oars today – 15!

Well the last 24 hours have been a slap in the face for me and anyone else who thought I was going to continue knocking in 60 nautical miles a day and whistle through the last 500 miles.

From last nights strange current pulling me North to the SE wind that blew up late, it’s been even stranger since. I set my rudder to keep course over night while I drifted (not easy in a strong wind), did my chores and went to sleep.  I  woke at 2.30am, checked my course which was OK, we had drifted about 8 miles, rolled over and went back to sleep. Woke about 5am, checked the gps and we had only gained 1 more mile. Normally I do the last hour and a half of my daily 12.5 hours just before 9am (GMT).   I realised that if I wanted to achieve decent mileage for the previous day, I needed to get some extra time in. So I rowed for just under three hours, stopped a little after 8am and had some coffee / biscuit's  and my contemplation in the dark. This saved the mileage flop and got me back on track (or so I thought).

In the extra row it was difficult to get any real speed but I did move along reasonably easily. I started my 9am session.  About 15 minutes in, everything got slow and heavy, I was pulling away at the oars, full blooded legs, arms and back sculling and the boat was just inching forward. This lasted for an hour and a half.  No idea what it was, other than a rough current. As I ended that session the wind had started to ease, it wasn’t very strong in the first place.  I had my break and some porridge and started on session 3 of the day.  The wind virtually disappeared and the swell was evaporating.  Now I don’t mind these conditions because although the rowing is quite hard, it lets you get both blades in the water and you can with effort do above three knots. So I struggled on for 3 hours until my next break.

I thought the rest of the day would be the same but in the next session a small swell started to build going in my direction and a light breeze appeared and all was well. I thought my luck had changed. Take a break and get back for the night session.  15 minutes in and the wind starts from the NW (which is fine) but from no where, it gets up to 20 knots and starts messing up the swell.  In the last three hours the swell has run in three different directions.  The NW wind has come strong, disappeared and come back. Everything now seems to have settled down, we are drifting on course and the wind is modest – How long for is any one's guess.

It will be an interesting few days I think and at least the middle of next week before we can talk about when I will arrive.

 

Messages

Solitary Biker – No canopy (bit too much like a sail), just hat sunglasses and factor 30/50

Dave – No qualms about it ending Dave, 7/8 weeks of 12 hour days is enough.

Mike G – Good to hear from you Mike.  I have been thinking about the Big Dipper, I really think that Ecclesfield, Toffs lane, Bachelors and all the other great sessions were great preparation for this.  It is hard work but it’s more to do with application and you definitely had to apply yourself to all those sessions to get through them.

Mike (Grumpy) – Give me a break Mike, I need something to focus on so I can motivate myself. By the way I out rowed all but the sailing boat yesterday!!

That’s it for now

John

Out

 

 

Under 500 Miles To Go!

Posted on Jan. 7, 2012, 12:56 a.m.

Yet another 60 miler.

The race drew level with me today, the same distance to go at 9am.

Wildlife – saw a Cormorant this morning, other than my two Terns who still visit every day and a Longtail Bird that does the same, it’s the first bird I have seen since the seagull incident. I believe they are a sign you are getting closer to land.

Shooting Stars – one.

Under 500 miles to go.

Not a lot to report today.  Pretty quiet conditions, hot but moving along OK. The best bit of the day was this morning. I was laid awake early so I decided to get up and do my last hour and a half of yesterdays rowing early and have a longer break for coffee and a snack before starting the new day at 9am. Now these times are all GMT.  I finished rowing at 8am, so with the time difference here it’s either 4 or 5am (not quite sure). Anyway, it was still dark with a sky full of stars, the moon had just disappeared  so the ocean and sky line are as one and there was a light wind.  I switched off my head torch and sat with my coffee just listening to the swell ease past the boat and soaked it all up.  The peace was incredible!  Nearly worth the whole trip just for that 10 minutes.

Trying to get close to 400 nautical miles to go tomorrow.  I'm getting close now!!!

Messages

James – welcome aboard.

Tony – I've lost about 14 lbs – not sure on the public speaking.

Mike – Me competitive? never, just nice to show the young dudes us old guys still have some fight.

Tom – 60’s all the way, that’s what I say – yes it was your orange, very nice too, thanks.

John

Out

Note:  Please don't forget the competition. Info was posted a few days ago in the blog. Make a donation, Guess how long it will take me to row the Atlantic, Point to Point (Total number of Days, Hours and Minutes). Top UK & Canadian Guesses win great prizes.

 

So close but so far.

Posted on Jan. 6, 2012, 2:48 a.m.

62 nautical miles yesterday, not bad.

Passed 50 degrees West today.  Barbados is 59 degrees so another little landmark crossed.

47.5 degrees on deck (few), its hot!

Should go under 500 nautical miles to go by lunch tomorrow hopefully.

Wildlife – Saved anther Flying Fish today.  He hoped in the boat and I released him, he was about 3 inches long.  I didn’t realise how neat the pattern was on their wings until today.

Yesterday closed with the winds easing a little and me thinking it’s going to get tougher to do the big days. This morning, after a full nights sleep (apart from checking my course at 1am), I went out to a nice swell, easy winds and thinking it was going to be a pleasant day. Half an hour before my breakfast it all changed within about 10 minutes.  A vicious wind blew up and the water got choppy.  This lasted for about 3 hours by which time it was roasting so it has been an interesting day. I am a little short of where I would like to be but I think it will still end up as a decent day mileage wise.

Not a lot else to report for today, other than after my first good nights sleep in what seems like forever, I felt so tired, that for a while, I think my body found out what it’s been missing.  Oh and I was still 4 nautical miles in front of the race this morning.  Still amazed at how I have held them at bay.  They will pass me in the morning so I shall try and limit how much the pull away as best as I can. Not that it makes any difference, but it is just one more thing to focus on to motivate myself.

 

Messages

Chantel – happy to help in any way I can, drop me a note when I get back.

Jean – Don’t worry about the calories, you can have two ginger snaps for every mile you run, 14 miles and you can have a full packet!!!!

Solitary Biker – will let you know about the tracker when I find out the fault. You still just attach one end of the drogue line to boat, it just has less drag than with the drogue attached but help control the angle of the boat to the wind.

Amy – happy to help (I just ate a full Terry’s chocolate orange though so the help may not be that good).

Kelly – Thanks for the support – pass on my regards and hope they are coping OK, I think the weather that far back has eased now but was very challenging – all part of the adventure though as long as you treat it seriously and make good decisions. I will check out the site when I hit land.

John

Out

 

Note from Cheryl - Thank you for all the donations and for those of you who have entered the competition. If you have not entered yet, please do so soon. John doesn't have much time left on the oars. Please let me know how long you think it will take John to Row the Atlantic, total number of Days, Hours and Minutes it will take to go from point to point. Post your entry on the Contact Details Page. Good Luck.

 

Not Long Now

Posted on Jan. 5, 2012, 2:42 a.m.

End of week six at sea (42 days!!!).

423 nautical miles this week not bad for an old guy.

As I write this my GPS has just gone under 600 nautical miles to go – that means 2000 nautical miles rowed to the good.

I have been thinking about actually getting to  Barbados a lot today.  Another 10 or 11 days and it’s all over.  It seems like forever that I rowed out of the harbour at Puerto Mogan, a lot of water under the boat you could say.  Now with just over a week to go it all seems like a bit of a dream (not that I have slept long enough to dream much).

They say the two most dangerous times on a trip like this is departing and arriving (why isn't cleaning the bottom of the boat included?).  Land obviously presents many dangers, strange wind, currents, reef’s and the list goes on. Also, as I arrive in Barbados I will obviously be tired and excited and that’s when you make mistakes.  I will start planning a strategy with Tony over the next few days.

There are a few things to take into consideration.  The distance to go is actually to the longitude of North Point, which once I pass this, it will be considered I rowed across the Atlantic.  However, my real destination is Port St Charles, which is about 4 or 5 miles around the corner from North Point. This additional mileage will take at least a couple of hours, there are reefs to avoid, a cement plant with a large jetty and a couple of villages with fishing boats moored off shore.  So lots to think about. I have an anchor, chain and rope for the sole purpose of any emergency that requires me to stop the boat drifting, either on to the cliffs or reefs, lets hope I don’t have to use it.

Counting down the days, rowing as hard as I can!!!!

Messages

Steve – R2R are great guys, I did my survival at sea course with them.

Sandy – Chance would be a fine thing.

Jodie, Charlie, Calin and Liam – I try my best to keep to a tight course, no need to waste what little energy I have.  You are right though, the map doesn’t show the whole story.

Tom – I think I was still 10 nm ahead this morning, they should get me today.

That’s it

John

Out

 

 

 

How Long Will It Take John To Row The Atlantic?

Posted on Jan. 4, 2012, 7:57 p.m.

Charity Competition OPEN 
I'm sorry that the charity competition link is not up, however the competition is OPEN.  For anyone who wants to enter, please read the rules below and post your entry under the contact details page. 

Check it out!
All who donate (or have donated) can enter the competition, you won't want to miss out.  Work out how long it will take John, make a donation and then enter the competition. Make your donation now, then go to the Contact Details Page, complete your name, email address and under subject enter Contest. Under message, enter how long you think it will take John to row the Ocean (total days, hours and minutes).  Please note that we will verify how much you have donated on line to the number of ballots you fill out.
 
Charity Competition
 
Guess how long it will take John to row solo across the Atlantic and arrive in Barbados. 

In order to help raise funds for John's chosen charities, we have a little competition to encourage donations and to keep you following his progress.  This competition will be open to anyone who makes a minimum donation to either of his chosen charities, UK Charities (Team PB which is Prostate Cancer & Breast Cancer Care) or the Canadian Charity (Toronto General Hospital, Peter Munk Cardiac Centre).
 
The competition will start with 2 guesses for every £20/$20 donation made.  As it will get progressively easier to more accurately predict when John will finish, the nearer he gets to Barbados, the number of guesses per £20/$20 donation will reduce from 2 to 1, once he passes the longitude of 51⁰W.
 
When John is:
East of of 51⁰W you will get 2 guesses for every  £20/$20 donation
 
When John is
Between 51⁰W and 56⁰W you will get 1 guess for every  £20/$20 donation
 
Once John is passed 56⁰W the competition will be closed, you may still guess but you will not be eligible to win any prizes.
 
To see where John is, go to his website, click on Track My Progress. A map will pop up and if you click on the yellow balloon, it will show you his Longitude and Latitude.
 
Each guess must include the number of days, hours and minutes you think it will take John to row across the Atlantic from point to point.
 
If for example you donate (or have already donated) £20/$20, then you will get 10 ballots if John is East of 51⁰W or 5 ballots if he is West of  51⁰W, so the more you donate the more ballots you get. 

 


For the record this competition is based on:

The total time (Days, Hours Minutes) that it takes John to row across the Atlantic from Puerto Mogan to Port St Charles.
Completion of the row will be when John touches land at Port St Charles, Barbados, assuming no tow is required.  Should John require a tow to get into Port St Charles because the wind's against him once he's rounded North Point, Barbados, John's finish time will be based on the time that he crosses the line of longitude of North Point, Barbados. This line of longitude officially qualifies as having crossed the Atlantic.

 

We are running two competitions, one for the UK and one for Canada. Reason being is the prizing which is on offer.  

Prizes
 
UK Competition:

 

The winner who guesses the closes number of days, hours and minutes will be the winner of a VIP Shopping Voucher for Adidas, a value of £500 to spend at any Adidas Store

There will be two runner up prizes for the 2nd and 3rd closes guess.  These winners will both receive a VIP Shopping Voucher from Adidas. a value of £250 to spend at any Adidas Store 

 

Canadian Competition:

The winner who guesses the closes number of days, hours and minutes will be the winner of Four Premium Tickets to see the Buffalo Sabres Versus Montreal Canadian in Buffalo, NY on February 17th at 7:30 PM.  Face value of $672US or $168 per ticket.  These tickets are considered Premium Tickets with seats located in the lower bowl.
 
The 2nd closes guess will win Two Tickets to see the Toronto Raptors Basket Ball at the Air Canada Centre. At time of publishing this contest, the tickets were not available, therefore the date for these tickets is to be confirmed but will be for a February or March game.
 
The 3rd closes guess will win Two Tickets a NFL Game. At time of publishing this contest, the tickets were not available, therefore the date for these tickets is to be confirmed for the 2012 season.

Thank you for your donations & Good Luck!

Keep It Safe!

Posted on Jan. 4, 2012, 2:42 a.m.

Yesterday 60 nautical miles again

I could (with luck) get to 600 miles to go tomorrow evening.  This would mean 2000 nautical miles to the good rowed (I need time to work out the actual miles rowed).

Wildlife – save another baby FF today – other than that because the weather is so big not seen much else.

I have upped my food intake today.  I just noticed all the weight (14lb ish) I put on has gone, so no reserves any more.  It’s been hard cooking the last few days.  I've managed one hot meal a day at least and the rest is junk or sports / energy food.  I had my 4 or 5th cup of coffee of the trip this morning.  It’s tough making it but even tougher drinking it.  With the boat bobbing all over you stand little chance of transferring the coffee from the mug to your mouth. So like all things on this trip I have developed a strategy.   I make my coffee, 3/4 fill the mug, take a full pack of ginger nut biscuits, dip each biscuit and eat, repeat until all the biscuits or the coffee have gone.  Perfect, no spillage and I get two of my favourite things!!! (note: when I finish the trip I will keep it to 2 or 3 biscuits as there is about 1400 calories in a full pack).

I mentioned Tony a few days ago and never came back to explain who he was. As I said in the previous blog he is probably the single best decision I have made in the planning of this venture. Originally when this was a pairs crossing, Hugh and I had intended to do the race, however when other commitments forced his withdrawal and I decided solo was the way to go, I couldn't see much point in the race as I really wanted to do the whole thing independently.

So you need to understand that I have no prior sea going experience, I sailed a few dinghies when I was a kid but that’s about it. I realised therefore that I need help and advice in some form or another. I can’t remember who pointed me in Tony’s direction but it has definitely worked out for the best.

I believe he worked for the Chay Blythe Challenger company who started the race and also worked for Woodvale when they took it over. I think it would be hard to find anyone with more knowledge of the rowing world.  Combine this with his Ocean sailing experience and his calm level headed approach, he has been an invaluable asset to my trip. From helping with kit lists, suppliers, departure and destination locations, debunking false information, local port requirements plus he has a vast knowledge of what is required. Most importantly, while I am at sea, Tony is in daily contact regarding weather, current data etc. but he is also my land based emergency coordinator.  If anything should go wrong, Tony would liaise with the coast guard to facilitate a rescue.  We also have an excellent emergency and communication plan. This not only makes me feel safe but Cheryl knows I am in good hands.

So, although it is a solo crossing (and I shall be taking all the credit), it really is a team effort.

Here is some other info:

Tony is a freelance Event Manager, specialising in small craft trans-ocean expeditions and races. Trading as Ocean Pursuits, Tony is Ocean Yacht Master qualified and has a background in sailing and yacht management. For over ten years Tony has been greatly involved with the sport of ocean rowing and has gained considerable knowledge and experience from involvement with four Atlantic Rowing Races, two Indian Ocean Rowing Races and from helping numerous independent ocean rowers. Looking ahead, as well as continuing to provide support to independent rows, Tony is also planning an organised row from California to Hawaii in May/June 2013. Tony hopes to have a website to promote this event up and running soon.

If anyone out there is thinking of doing something similar, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him as a perfect partner to keep you on the right track and more importantly keep you safe.

 

Messages:

Steve – I try and put the same effort into every day, the mileage is a result of, as you point out weather and currents, I mentioned quite a while ago that the poor 40 something days are probably harder than the 50 something days, but in an effort to pace myself I try hard in every session without overdoing it.

Brian W – Your words inspire me Brian, can`t wait to tell you all the unbroadcastable details in Frank.

Carol & Robert – Good to hear from you guys, I`m trying my hardest, see you soon hopefully.

Mike (Grumpy) You know very well I would never break the rules, this is a row and not a sail across the Atlantic, I would never be able to sleep nights if I followed Dave A`s advice. Tell Jan I like my dead animals cooked, recession or no recession.

Ed – Hope the rib is healing and you are getting out again, looks like I`m not going to miss as much of the winter as I thought.

Tom – Take care in the wind and rain, lot more traffic where you are than where I am.

That`s it for today

John

Out

Day 41 (I Think).

Posted on Jan. 3, 2012, 5:34 a.m.

Getting close to completing 2000 nautical miles of rowing, two more days maybe.

Rowed 59 nautical miles yesterday.  Considering the heavy wind and the rope I put out overnight I’m happy with that.

Today was a little strange.  At least there was no rain this morning so it was a warm dry start.  As I said, I put the drogue rope (no drogue) out last night to hold the boat down wind.  The swell was still quite big and coming from three directions and the wind was at least 25 knots.  I bumped about a lot last night but at least I didn’t get a cross and swell and end up waiting for a cargo ship to collect me and take me to who knows where.

Things had calmed a little by this morning and my first two hours (in the dark) were quite pleasant and easy.  I had a 15 minute break and  back on the oars again.  In the 15 minutes the wind had started to pick up and pretty soon we were back at 25 knots and fighting to stay on course.  An hour later it was like I crossed a line and I was rowing against the current.  Turns out the current took a day off, it should be back tomorrow.  It was a tough day for the most part, until early evening when I had the best hour of the trip.  I had surf after surf after surf, great fun. I decided to set the camera up and grab some footage.  Would you believe it, it stopped as quickly as it started, I got nothing.

Two quick things.  I meant to include this yesterday. On the previous evening I spoke to a sailing boat on the VHF, looked like he was going to run right into me. After pleasantries and agreeing not to run into me he said

SY – what kind of ship are you

Me – a rowing boat

SY - sailing boat

Me – no, a rowing boat

SY - what kind of boat

Me – a rowing boat – with oars

SY – a sailing boat

Me – a rowing boat – like a lifeboat (panicked thinking he might know think I need rescuing)

SY – fair winds

Me – out

He had no idea what I was talking about.

Last thing – I have been struggling with my bed (cabin floor) and thought it was my fancy massage bed material.  It has been irritating my skin, through my old sheet folded double, two towels and my new sheet. It is like sleeping on sand paper.  Anyway, about 4 or 5 days ago I finally worked it out.  It is salt!  Even though I have my sponge bath every night I must still be bringing salt into the cabin. So the last few days I have taken my towels and  sheets out to flap in the wind and things are much better. Couldn’t believe how much pain a few grains of salt could cause.

Messages:

I am sure I have missed a couple of days somewhere along the way, if so apologies.

Dave A – first you want 60’s and now you want me to slow down.  Maybe I should contact your B in law for some tips.

Nancy – Happy New Year to you too, keep up the good work.

Pete – I got the best deal no question – running inside, we are not water soluble you know.

Natasha – hope Emma is recovering and Darren survived the night. I will write back to your class shortly.

Mike (not grumpy) Thanks mate, I need lots of pressure so I can keep on it, my aging old body is starting to ask questions.

James – same as above – Happy and prosperous new year.

Chantel – Yes I did.

R2R – Thanks guys, hope you got your water maker back in action, keep up the steering work.

Steve – About $50 a pic so they will be uploaded when I arrive.

Perry – Many thanks for the support

Colin – Happy New Year – M25 anytime, prefer my current highway.

Terry – Thanks, no trumping intended.

Tom – I think your folks are probably right -  Close is right, I can nearly smell the last week.  Thanks as always Tom, BTW I think the mileage is more to do with the good year bad year thing, eg. I have only had the PA out twice for a total of about 6 hours.

Hi Dan – No the boat is not my design – happy to discuss when I get back.

Andy T – Absolutely brilliant Andy, haven’t laughed so much for ages. I can see the herds of whippets in my minds eye now. I think you get all the blokey stuff because you have moved south and your northern relatives think you are getting soft. Thanks a million, oh the Morecambe and Wise thing was great, spent a whole morning reminiscing about Christmas as a Kid.

That’s it for now

John

OUT

 

Note from Cheryl

While I cruise the Caribbean in a little more luxury then a small rowing boat, I can tell you that at night, it is pitch black out there. Can't see a thing. What little light there is from the moon is not enough for me to be out there on my own. This huge cruise ship is rocking and rolling and It is blowing a gale up on top deck tonight.  The Captain gave a warning about the strong winds and being outside. Thank goodness I am carrying a few extra pounds or I could get blown overboard.

Tonight I overheard the girls talking, Georgie was saying 'Hey Dad is out there and those waves are big. Do you think he will be OK'.  From the sound of his emails he is on full form, rowing like a mad man to stay ahead of the other rowers in the Atlantic Rowing (sailing) race! 

Your messages are all fantastic.  Please keep them coming in. I think he may need them for the last few weeks. 

 

 

From Ocean Rower to Fisherman

Posted on Jan. 2, 2012, 3:41 a.m.

Number of Flying fish on deck – 18
 
Miles yesterday 62
 
Now in the 7 hundreds
 
Cold, wet and miserable – not a good start to the day.   It poured with rain for nearly one and a half hours then  by lunch time it was so hot it was only just bearable. Add to this 25 knot winds which makes the boat hard to handle and it has been a tough day.
 
Not to worry.  I made OK progress.  The swell is OK, I just need a little less wind and I will make good time to Barbados. The end seems tantalizingly close but there is still a lot of work to do.
 
I will keep this short today as I am struggling to keep my eyes open.
 
More tommorrow.
 
John
 
Out

 

Happy New Year

Posted on Jan. 1, 2012, 3:35 a.m.

New Year's Eve today.  Feels strange, just another day at sea. 

58 nautical miles yesterday (more below).

Wildlife – another Marlin, loads of Flying Fish on deck.

Confused Sailors – one.

Well with all the big weather I am bombing along. The only problem with being a solo rower and big weather is trying to get some sleep at night.  With no one at the oars the boat bounces about all over the place, as was the case last night.  After 3 nights with nothing but short naps I was exhausted but the weather was bigger than ever. I also heard that the 2 Swedish guys we met on the ferry from Cadiz (and were rowing in the Atlantic Rowing Race) had capsized and one of them was washed overboard, he managed to get back on the boat but it sounded a little scary.  So with big weather and scary stories about. it wasn’t the best nights sleep.  Probably had about two hours sleep then I sat watching the Ensign through the rear hatch to see which way the wind was hitting the boat.  This way you can predict where the next wave to hit you is coming from as the boat swings from one side of the wind to the other.  About 2:30am I got the biggest shock of my life!  The boat was picked up by a swell and we surfed. Not unusual but the swell must have been massive and the drag on the boat lasted probably 15 to 20 seconds.  It was so fast that it shook the boat so hard I thought it was going to fall apart.  In the daytime when you can see the swell and predict what’s going to happen it’s all quite exciting, however, when you are just laid in the dark and all of a sudden you are doing 20 miles an hour and having your bones rattled, it’s a different matter.

Saw another large Marlin today, this one had a similar shaped fin to the last one but was much taller.  It was very impressive as it sliced through the water.

Well I need to try and get some sleep.  This weather is supposed to be with us for the next few days so I need to try and take advantage if I can.  And by advantage I mean another 60 would be good.

Messages on New years day.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

John

Out

 

P.S. Note from Cheryl 

Please accept my apologies for the look of John's website right now. .  I've taken the girls on a holiday (on a ship, cruising the Caribbean, I'm not one for messing around on dinky little boats like John).  Any how, the WiFi on the ship is down so I am using the ships computers to post his blog and I can't format it properly before posting. I know it looks bad and will try to fix on my return.

On another point. John will be finished before we know it and then we can all get back to normal and stop checking on him morning and night. If you have enjoyed reading his blogs, perhaps you might be so kind as to start the New Year off with a little donation (or big if you still have any money left over after Christmas) to help out one of his charities.   Happy New Year to everyone and thank you to those who have already donated.

Edging Closer to the Goal

Posted on Dec. 31, 2011, 4:14 a.m.

65 mile day !

I will be under 900nm to go in the morning.

There has been a big swell and strong winds over the last couple of days. Not all going our way but enough to work with. The swell has a lot of energy locked in it so it’s really helped push me along. I got a good drift last night but because of the cross swell I didn’t get much sleep. I got to 65 miles half an hour before the session ended so I quit early and grabbed 20 minutes shut eye, it seemed to perk me up and I have had another solid day today. The wind has eased so I doubt I will get the same drift as last night, the forecast is for bigger winds tomorrow though so I could pick up again, there are also reports from other rowers further north of big seas, so I will need to take care.

Not  A lot of other news, I started to develop a salt rash on my inner thigh, I have now started washing with clean water at the end of each session and using Sudocream, seems to be working.

Had a few flying fish on deck this morning, they are getting a little bigger. I have had sore knees from kneeling on the none slip deck which is very grippy, a couple of these fish have wriggled so much when they landed on the deck that they have worn right down to the meat on their backs, not a good way to go.

Should be a decent mileage day (not 65) tomorrow, slowly edging closer to the goal!!!

John

Out

Head down and concentrate!

Posted on Dec. 30, 2011, 3:44 a.m.

 

Another 50 + miles yesterday.

Under 1000 nautical miles to go today.

Big winds in the forecast.

Wildlife – flying fish in the face!

Pretty run of the mill day today.  Got my head down and tried to take advantage of the reasonably good conditions. The wind is strengthening from the NE which means I am clinging on to my course and trying not to be pushed south.  I only have 3 degrees left to Barbados’ latitude and 16 degrees in longitude, so I can’t really afford to let it slip away or I  will be struggling to make North Point, Barbados (official finish line).   The winds are supposed to be ENE tomorrow so that should be a little better.  We also have a cross swell which is making life challenging, but then at least it’s not boring.

Hot, hot, hot again during the day.  The 11am to 4pm time slot is getting harder with the heat as we get further south.  This means I have to concentrate hard to maintain a good pace.  It is slightly easier in strong winds as wind keeps me cool, however in strong winds it is harder to control the boat.  I can’t decide which I like least.

Not a lot on the wildlife front today.  A baby flying fish jumped on board and bounced off my face.  I managed to pick him up and release him over the side.  I had quite a few others on deck.  They get sucked in through the scuppers when we are in heavier seas. The water must be teaming with them.

I might break 950 miles to go by 9am with a bit of luck.  That means I should be in the 800's (miles to go) by Saturday.


Messages:

Pete / Amy – Hope you had a blast at Christmas with the kids.  I loved it when the girls were young and really believed.

Cory – Santa was a bit late with my present but the 50’s are piling up now so he didn’t forget me.  Thanks for the support.

Tim – Happy New Year – raise another glass, why not.

Lucy – No yogurt in my dreams, just wind and swells all heading my way – Aus is a great place to spend the holidays, you make me envious.

Sandy – Thanks for the kind words – need to get a move on.  I think the bank account has been emptied in my absence.

Sara – Many thanks for getting in touch.  Happy to help in any way I can.  I would never make a good river,  always in a hurry.

Tom – I like the logic for buying the bike.  Not sure about the swimming.   Also would love to see some whales, still plenty of time.

Polo -  I will do the Chicken dance just for you!

Val –  Great to hear from you.  Hope you and Geoff are well.  You have got to love a good challenge!!

Paul – I think a lot of the distance stuff is weather related,  however I am happy to take the credit.  No the Greens are not familiar to me but sounds like an inspiring meeting.

Mike (grumpy) – Plenty of time to sleep when I get there.  Head down and keep knocking them out, that’s my theory. Just hope it doesn’t end in tears.  Only about 18 days or so to go – 196 hours of rowing!!!

If I have missed anyone, please accept my apologies.

Off to get some sleep so I can do it all again tomorrow. 

John

Out

 

How Big!!

Posted on Dec. 29, 2011, 11:20 a.m.

This is a short version of yesterdays blog, apparently when I tried to send it last night I managed to delete it as the boat was gyrating so much.
 
Week 5 finished! 330 nautical miles rowed.  Considering the conditions it will have to do
 
Shooting stars – one.
 
Wildlife – something very big.
 
I should go under 1000 nautical miles to go tomorrow.
 
After 5 weeks at sea how am I doing?  Physically pretty well.  My hands are in great shape although no one will want a massage for a while but I have no sores / blisters or other impediments.  My wrists, elbows and shoulders are all in good shape, no tendinitis or the like.  My feet have been sore on top but that's clearing up now. I have been rowing barefoot and the straps were cutting into the skin at first.  Finally my bottom!  Still improving, it didn’t like the shorts I had to wear in the storm the other day and the salt sores flared up a bit, but it really likes the fresh air and surgical spirit treatment.  All in all, I would say I'm in great shape.  My one issue is lack of sleep.  Not sure I have had more that 3 hours good sleep in any 24 hours.  The boat throws you about too much and there is no solution other than to put up with it.
 
About 7pm tonight,  I saw what at first looked like a shark following the boat, and a big one as well!   I grabbed the camera and tried to get some images, not sure how I did. However, I don’t think it was a shark, it’s dorsal and tail fins were curved to a point and looked to have creases in it.  Also its tail fin was light at the back but had a purple front edge.  I really didn’t get that long to check it out but if I had to guess, I would say it was a large Marlin. It circled back for a second look and then seemed to loose interest when it either decided I was too big to eat or not fit too eat – either will do me.
 
I will redo all the messages I did last night in tonight's blog.
 
That's it for now
 
John
 
Out

Technical Difficulties or Human Error

Posted on Dec. 29, 2011, 12:50 a.m.

Just received a quick phone call from John. He typed up his daily blog and instead of hitting the send button, we think he hit the delete button or the do not save button!
He wants to apologise but he is so exhausted and can't keep his eyes open. He needs his sleep so he will retype his blog tomorrow morning. Should be posted around lunch time in
the UK or breakfast time in Canada.

Cheryl

Sorry to all dot watchers!

Posted on Dec. 27, 2011, 11 p.m.

I'm down to the 1000’s to row now.
 
The tracker seems to have gone down, so I'm sorry to all the dot watchers.  We are trying to fix it and hopefully it will be on line again tomorrow. 
 
Got to be brief tonight.  With all the storms, I am struggling for battery power once again.

I had a big day yesterday, but we are not quite sure how big because of the tracker.  After the great day I had, today was more run of the mill, hard work and hot.  Still, I should end up with decent mileage.  Now for everyone who is sat in the cold and fed up with me complaining about the heat, you need to consider rowing in 46 degrees with nowhere to cool off.  The cabin is roasting and there is no shade on deck at all between about 11am to 4pm.  When the wind is light it is tough. I’d rather be running at –25 degrees any day. Not to worry, the end is slowly creeping into sight.  Wednesday AM should see us under 1000 nautical miles to go which is definitely all down hill from there.
 
I'm still holding the race off, but only just. They should catch me some time this week.
 
Wildlife – a couple of Tuna jumping for lunch behind the boat and flying fish.  This time not crashing head first into the boat.
 
End of week 5 tomorrow so I will do my round up of how things are in tomorrows blog.
 
That’s it for now.  I will do messages tomorrow as well when I have more power.
 
John
 
Out

 

Boxing Day Blog

Posted on Dec. 27, 2011, 1:04 a.m.

A good day at last, well nearly.
 
Next target is 1050 nautical miles (should be 3 weeks to go). I'm currently at 1140 nautical miles to go.
 
FYI, Christmas day lunch was sweet and sour chicken.
 
Two storms in last 48 hours.
 
I turned in last night quite disappointed with the day but hoping things were turning my way.  Went to bed at about 10.30pm, was asleep by 11pm, great!  Woke up at 4am  to another huge thunder and lightening storm and rain beating down on the cabin.  I waited until 6am for my official starting time and braved the deck.  The rain was being blown by the wind so hard that it felt like hail.  Never the less I settled into my seat and started rowing.  Just over two hours later I had managed 5 nautical miles and was frozen.  I headed inside for an early breakfast.  It is an amazing experience to be rowing along in the dark during a storm.  It is pitch black and when the lightening explodes, the sea turns purple.  You get just a second or two of clarity and then its pitch black again.  I ended up stretching breakfast to 9.30am as there was no improvement in the weather, then headed back out again.  By this time it has started getting light and I could at least see the chop and  further south was some clear sky.  The good news is the wind is pushing our way, so off I go.  Two hours in the hard driving rain until it finally starts to ease.  I finish off the session and check my progress.  11 nautical miles!  That’s pretty well as good as it gets, so I was more than happy.  Had a quick break (I cut lunch down because of the long breakfast) and than back at it.  The swell is starting to push hard in our direction.  There is a cross swell coming from the north but I managed to keep out of that.  This second session produced another 11 nautical miles. I did four hours in the last session to make up for missed time this morning and that produced 14 nautical miles. So from a cold, wet, miserable start, I may be on to quite a tally by the morning.  I know I have said and or thought this in the past and then it all goes wrong, fingers crossed.
 
Apart from the storm, it’s been a pretty quite day.  A large Tuna (I think) leapt out behind the boat late afternoon and must have been 3 feet long at least. Quite a sight.
 
Messages
 
Brian – I had to chuckle at your message, it must be down to the editing!!  Hope the in-laws behaved.
 
Hi Tom – Enjoy the sofa surfing. Christmas day at sea is a tough one to handle being separated from the family and all that.  You got away lightly.
 
The Wrights – Santa arrived a bit late but I like his gift, NE winds!! Thanks for the support.
 
Dave  - I can smell the end Dave, it’s tantalisingly close, keep it clean yourself!!!
 
Mike (not the grumpy one) I can feel the power Mike, keep it up, any help is appreciated.
 
John
 
Out

Problems with Yellowbrick Tracker

Posted on Dec. 27, 2011, 12:42 a.m.

FYI, I am experiencing problems with my Yellowbrick Tracker. It has been playing up all day and isn't transmitting my GPS location every three hours.  I am trying to fix this for all of you dot watchers.

 

Flying fish should eat more carrots!!

Posted on Dec. 26, 2011, 4:12 a.m.

What a 24 hours!  My blog tonight will be brief as I’m sure you’ve all had full days as I certainly have.
 
First though an omission from last night.  At lunch time I went over the side (twice) and cleaned the bottom of the boat.  It’s a once in a lifetime thing I can assure you.  Yes the water was magnificent and yes the bottom is now clean of the few baby barnacles.   As I don’t have eyes in the back of my head, in my feet and anywhere else required to view my full orbit while down under, I can tell you it is quite scary.  Don’t let these guys in crews tell you otherwise, they all have look outs.  I had to check out the water, clamber in (quietly) hang on (the boat was doing well over 1 knot) and scrape away.   All this time you are thinking, is anything behind me? Is anything rocketing up from beneath?  Who cares, get the boat clean and get back on that deck.  Oh and by the way, I came up covered in blue anti fowl paint, even on my head (which I only realised when I took my hat off late afternoon.  So job done!  I can claim to have been in the water mid Atlantic, but never again!!!
 
I hit the hay last night when I had 30 nautical miles in the bag and was hoping to get to 50 nautical miles by the morning session.  I think I mentioned the rain storm just as I finished clearing the deck last night that seemed to pass by then settled down.  I did my evening duties and turned in about 10.45pm.  After two nights of little sleep I was looking forward to a solid nights slumber.  Around 1am I woke up to a huge lightening storm going on outside.  The rain was hammering on the cabin and the sky was illuminated with enormous flashes of lightening that were incredibly bright.  The wind had picked up significantly, changed direction and was then coming from due South.  I switched on the GPS, to find that we had originally drifted nearly 10 miles in the right direction but were now being pushed north and had already lost best part of 5 miles.  While I pondered what to do, we lost another 3 miles.   The only choice really was the para anchor so out I go.  The rain had stopped by this time.  I got everything organised and in she goes.  Eventually we pull nose first into the wind.  While I was preparing the anchor a flying fish came whipping across the water and smacked right into the boat.  It sprang back stunned into the water.   Two minutes later the same happened again.  They are obviously used to having the Ocean to themselves.
 
Back in the cabin, checking everything is OK about 4am.  Before I know it, my alarm goes off at 5am.  I was absolutely exhausted so I changed the alarm to 6am.  The alarm goes off.  The wind had dropped significantly so I go check outside.   I decide to pull in the anchor.  Have a quick tin of peaches and hit the oars.  Obviously the sea state is still confused from the storm and is bubbly to say the least.  Rowing is tough and I am fighting not to get pushed North.  5 nautical miles in two hours and I have missed the 50 miles for the 24 hour period.
 
As it got light it was obvious it was going to be tough getting decent mileage as there was nothing to help us in the direction we needed to go.  Second session was a continuation of the earlier one,  however, towards the end of this three hours it seemed to settle a little and offer hope for the afternoon.   I managed 8 miles in that 3 hours so things could have been worse.  I had lunch and tried to speak to home but the reception was useless.  The only day I really wanted the phone to work well and it failed miserably.  Back to the oars.  As I started (I should point out the forecast was for winds from the SE) my flag started fluttering towards the back of the boat, quite quickly a NNW wind developed and got quite strong.  The sea was all over, it was a nightmare trying to keep anywhere near my course and I managed (with significant effort) only 5 nautical miles in three hours.  I think this is my worst  showing in the entire trip for a 3 hour row.  I stop for my 30 minute afternoon break.  By the time I was back at it, the wind just started to ease a little and by 9pm it was coming from the NNE which is fine.  We are slowly drifting on a good coarse and hopefully the wind has done messing about.
 
I have 20 nautical miles to show for the toughest Christmas day I have had in a while.
 
I`m off to bed, hoping Santa has left me a nice NE wind for the next week or so.
 
Hope you all had a great day and you are all planning lots of exercise on boxing day.
 
Less moaning tomorrow (hopefully) with positive things to report.
 
John
 
OUT

Merry Christmas - Just a Quick Blog Today

Posted on Dec. 25, 2011, 5:19 a.m.

I know everyone will be crazy with Christmas so I will keep this short. After yesterdays total write off, the weather cooperated a little more today and I seem to be back on track, we will see when the morning session is done but I think it will make dot watchers happy again.
 
I had a close call with a freighter this morning.  He was heading straight for me, when I contacted him on the radio.  He asked if I had any lights, I said yes a small navigation light.  A few minutes later he came back and said I can’t see you, as though because he couldn’t see me I couldn’t really be there.  After a bit more back and forth he eventually changed direction and missed me by about 3 miles.
 
Just had a big rain storm about an hour ago.  Off in the distance there is lighting all around, best baton down for the night.
 
Merry Christmas to all that are following, don’t eat to much  and make sure you get some exercise (not just switching on the TV without the remote).
 
Bet you can’t guess what I’m doing tomorrow!!
 
Messages
 
Dave – I know it’s an oar but it’s just not cricket old chap, I’ll beat him without a sail !!!
 
Mike & Jan – Just for you Mike I will try for 55.
 
Steve – I will go at my own pace as long as it is faster than theirs!
 
Chantel – Just one pie then your Christmas day run.
 
Colin – Good shout on the OP – too many risks. Let me know how Ilkley goes.
 
Evan – Thanks for following, hope the presentation goes well at Postipuu School
 
Mark – Great to hear from you, I’d look daft with a tash so I thought this was a better option.
 
Michelle – I don’t  regret the row.   I’m not happy about being away from Cheryl and the girls for Christmas.  My least favourite thing is bumping my head all the time and my favourite thing is that every day is different (you would think not but they are).
 
That’s it for now.
 
John
 
Out

Message From Cheryl

Posted on Dec. 24, 2011, 7:47 p.m.

No email from John last night or this morning which is a big disappointment as I am just like everyone else, I too love to get up first thing in the morning and read what's going on.
 
I did however receive a quick call from John this morning. He wanted to let me know that he finally did it!  He went over the edge into the deep blue sea.  Personally I think he might have gone over the edge a long time ago when he decided to row the Atlantic, however I guess this point might be debatable.  Apparently the bottom of the boat is now clean and he will not be cleaning it again until he gets to Barbados.   
 
I thought I would take this time to share a different side of the John's Journey but before I do, I just want to say thank you to everyone. Whether you are following John on his journey, you have donated money to his charities or you have told other people about his story.
 
As John's wife, I didn't know what to expect once John got out there rowing. I wasn't nervous or worried before hand and I'm still not nervous or too worried about him now.  Now don't go thinking I don't care about the guy because I do. I just seem to be fairly relaxed about the whole thing.  More relaxed then some people think I should be. You would be amazed at how many people think I'm crazy for letting my husband go and do this.  My response was, that it isn't me who is crazy but John.  Just so you know, I did have a few days where I was worried about John and that was in the first few days after he set off.  He called me two days in to his journey and you could just hear how tired he was. All along I knew that John had mentally and physically prepared for this adventure but when he had no sleep for so many days straight, I thought sleep deprivation could cause him to make a bad decision and then things could all go belly up.  Despite the lack of sleep after 4 weeks at sea, he is at least getting some sleep now and when we speak, he is sounding like his old self, so my worries have ceased.
 
The most amazing thing about this, is the number of people following John and how many people have been inspired by what he is doing.  We now have three schools following John, Hillfield Strathallan College (Hamilton Ontario), Alexanders Public School (Burlington Ontario) and a Postipuu School in Finland.  The girls go to Hillfield Strathallan College so many of the students, teachers and staff are following John. Alexanders Public School have written dozens of letters to John (and yes he has replied) and Evan who goes to Postipuu School in Finland is doing a presentation on John. He told his teacher all about John and now the whole class is following him.  
 
When John decided to go off and do this adventure I really didn't give it a whole lot of thought on how it would affect other people besides our girls. As for them, they don't seem too bothered about what he is doing. To them it is just another day. I'm hoping when John rows into Barbados, they will realise what an amazing thing he has done. What has amazed me though is how many people are living this adventure with John or have been inspired to perhaps live out their dream one day. 
 
I wanted to share some of the messages which have been sent to John. All the messages are great and very much appreciated.  I wish I could share them all with you and perhaps one day we will.  I hope you find these as amazing as I do. 
 
Dear John,
We are thinking about you all the time and wishing you all the best in your journey.  You have been the main topic of all of our discussions with family and friends.  You are a true celebrity now.  Darren has become your number one fan.  He really is impressed, and that is difficult to do! I'm worried as he might become a stalker when you return. :) Please note that you will be my main topic of discussion with my grade 4/5 class tomorrow. I think it is important that the students are aware that remarkable people like yourself, are doing amazing things and raising money for such wonderful causes.  I hope you don't mind to get a few extra e-mails. We are going to be writing our first draft tomorrow and then we have computers on Wednesday. They will get to type their final e-mails then. I am excited to discuss your accomplishments and your whole ocean rowing experience. Remember you are an inspiration to so many.  Keep up the great work!  Love, Natasha, Darren, Emma and Aussie :)  PS: Darren thinks you are such a lucky guy as you don't have a wife to nag you.  Oh, the serenity! :)
 
Dear. Beeden
My name is Jackson how are you doing . Have you seen any sharks yet?  What is your favorite food?  Do you play any sports? How many pounds have you lost? Have you got hurt in your long journey? How much money have you raised? Don't stop keep going, keep raising money for cancer research because my mom was diagnosed with cancer? What is shark repellent liquid or cream ? I'm praying that you'll make it home safe? Why is your boat red ? How many hours do you row on rainy days and how many on sunny days?  Does anyone have cancer in your family? Won't your kids miss you on Christmas? what Colour were the dolphins? Good luck. See you soon.
Sincerely Jackson
 
Note from Cheryl: After enquiring about Jackson's mom, we find out that Jackson's Mom unfortunately passed away from Cancer.
 
Dear Mr Beeden, Hi my name is Emma and I am a grade 7 student at Alexander's Public School.  Mrs. Kellerman was our supply teacher today and she told us about you and your story.  I found it truly inspiring that you are doing this, and I have a few things ask.
Mrs. K mentioned to us that you are an elite athlete, and you are using your skills through a sport (rowing) and putting it to a good cause.  This made me feel really inspired to do more good things.  You are inspiring so many people to follow their dreams- while doing it for a great cause.  Thank-you!
Every day I will be thinking about how you are out in the middle of the Atlantic (it seems crazy to me to even say that), rowing.  You have incredible determination, to do something like this.
I heard that you had a heart problem when you were a child and that a percentage of the money is going to the Cardiac unit that helped with your open heart surgery that you had last year.  I can relate to heart issues because last year my dad had a heart attack and didn't survive.  I would say that now knowing that you can raise money for great cause, I can too.  You are inspiring to me- and everyone in the community to do good things.
Thank-you for doing this for so many people.  Once again, you are truly inspiring and I wish you the best on the rest of your journey across the Atlantic.
Sincerely Emma
      
Hi John - Just heard your interview on radio at CHML in Hamilton;  I am a desk jockey lawyer spend my whole life looking at computer and in Court; Nothing but admiration and fascination for a guy like you; strikes me your story is similar to Moby Dick; I am extremely jealous and would like to meet you some day; unlike these million dollar pro athletes
you are a pure athlete; just you competing against nature, for the challenge and the Goal. God Speed and Good Luck
Cheers Chris
 
Ahoy John,  As I read your blogs and try to imagine what it must be like out there all by yourself, I find myself drawn into the excitement and exhilaration of your adventure...which is surprising since being on the water-anywhere-has always been an ordeal for me...something from a past life perhaps?  Your blog is the first thing I read every morning John.  I look forward to following you as you realize your dream.  Wishing you favourable currents, good weather and the joy of a solid few hours of sleep!   Debbie
 
John,  I am the prostate cancer patient you met at the harbour at Puerto Rico.
Be strong! I pray for you.  Cees
 
Hi John,  Greetings! I am in awe of your endeavour, I have said many times anyone can run a marathon if they are disciplined about the pace. While this a bit of an exaggeration, its not that far from the truth. So, starting out on a marathon is a bit of an adventure but nothing compared to what you have undertaken. I have gone over your website and looked at all the stuff on it and went over your blogs from the beginning.. I see that you had fractured ribs which limited activity for 4 days. I managed to break a rib by slipping down the front steps of my house when they were icy. That was about a week ago and I am still in a lot of pain. I can't go to bed as I can't get up without excruciating pain, so I am sleeping in a chair which is much better for getting up but still uncomfortable while seated. Standing up is best which is what I am doing as I type this. Hope to get running again by the New Year. that will be about 40 days, not 4. You must be made of sterner stuff. At the moment I could not run a marathon proving that my assertion at the beginning of this paragraph is not correct.   Hope you soon get a favourable wind and current. Also sleep and food.
No need to answer or acknowledge, I don't know how you can manage the blogging in the conditions.
All the best.  Ed Whitlock
 
Note from Cheryl - Ed is an 80 year old man who just set the world record for the fastest marathon for an 80 year old: 3:15.54
 
 
Hey John,  Been enjoying reading your daily posts. Haven't missed one yet. I can't believe the great mileage you are making and congrats on hitting half way mark. I really enjoyed Dec. 21 post when you talked about mileage. I know from having done endurance quests that we can sometimes get too caught up in mileage and attaining our stated goal. If it's possible please write more. I'm interested in reading about how you are doing and what it's like being out there alone in the middle of the ocean, as well as the technical parts of the boat and equipment. It's an amazing thing you're doing right now that very, very few people would have the courage or where with all to do. Feel free to share with us wannabe's.
Romano
 
Some of the more funny messages:
 
John - Had to look up Wahoo on the Internet, had no idea what it was - big buggers getting on towards my size and there is plenty of meat on me. I suppose no chance to reel one in for supper?
 
John - You seem to be getting an adrenaline rush from riding the waves - a real surfer dude. Having experienced the white water ride on the Niagara I can only imagine the multiplier factor that you are getting from this. This might end up making life seem tame - although I am sure that I will do something at the Expo to raise your blood pressure!  MT
 
Message from John's daughter when she heard he might be going over board to clean the bottom of the boat.
Hey Dad, make sure you pour the shark repellent in the water first. Georgie
 
Subject: Resourcefulness
-- Alright John,
good to see you're staying ahead of the sailing rowing boat. I've had a cunning idea to keep in front: you've got a bit of extra cargo on board, last months sheets and an odd oar. Simply tie the oar in a vertical position and hang the sheets from it. It'll make a fantastic sail and it's not cheating because it's an oar!
Dave

Hi John, You have had a good week.  Every day you come closer to your goal. As a tribute to you we have started rowing at the gym.  Do not laugh but we started at 5 minutes and  will increase each time. I know we will not encounter any sharks.  NB and Jean
 
Note from Cheryl - apparently Jean and Nancy are now up to 25 minutes on the rowing machine - Way to go girls!
 
Hi John - Good to see the consistent progress. Not sure why you're not liking the hot weather but wouldn't mind swapping it for some of our sleet and gale force wind, proper XC weather for the South Yorks Champs on Sunday. Hope you're still getting on with the freeze dried grub, went for a curry down the Zeenat on Attercliffe with Mike last night, very nice. I'm sure we can drag you out for one if you're in Sheffield before the London Marathon, mouth watering thought eh?
Feats of endeavour other than ocean rowing, our Striders Newsletter featured a chap from Ilford who ran the Toronto Marathon aged 100, bloody impressive to be alive let alone having enough stuff working to run 26 miles. So no moaning about getting old because your nearly 50.
I also noticed that the Woodvale event is well underway with one crew going pretty quick. I guess your mates from the Ocean safety course are one of the coloured lines heading out of Tenerife. It looks like you are making faster progress than most of the competitors, their just not Beasts! DA
 
John, Wondering if "row, row, row your boat" is stuck in your head yet? Jodi
 
Dear John, Cheryl put on a wonderful party! No take away!  She appears to be managing well.  Not sure if you will have any money left in your account as she has been busy having all those honey do list completed while your rowing that ocean.  Lunch out, yes.  She also showed me a picture of the new boat she ordered this week for the cottage. Looks lovely!!! 
Only kidding......................about the lunch....boat???  Sandy
 
Merry Christmas, John! Brilliant news that you have reached half way and are flying faster than ever.
Your blogs get better every day and I've come to regard you as the Dickens of our age. 2012 marks the 200th anniversary of the last greater English writer (though it doesn't seem that long to me, how the years have flown). And it occurred to me that you are beginning to fill the huge void that he left. Or is Cheryl having to do a lot of sub editing? Either way, keep it up, it's a good read every day.   We'll all be glued to your Xmas day blog to find out what you had for lunch. I suspect I'd be happy to swap places with you as our house will be full of in laws!!
Go well, young man.  B
 
Note from Cheryl -  I withheld the name of this writer as I didn't want to cause any family fights!
 
Oi Beastie, Getting very worried about the cheerfulness of your Blogs - hope you are not beginning to go doolally! I always apply "the grumpy" factor to everything I do - so start swearing at passing birds, wave your fists at vessels that invade your space - no time for complacency.  I notice that a lot of the queries you get are about the intricacy of your boat, but this is all about the man not the vessel so I would like to ask a question about your groin and other vulnerable places and have you had to go naked yet.  Cheers Mike
 
Well I could share so many more. All of the messages are great and John really appreciates them. Please keep them coming. I know when he is having a break at the end of the day he looks forward to turning on his laptop and reading the messages. 
 
Merry Christmas to all from the Beeden Girls

HALF WAY - Can’t believe it

Posted on Dec. 22, 2011, 11:25 p.m.

Passed half way at 2:20pm (GMT) this afternoon.
 
Rowed 53 miles yesterday.  Apparently I had the highest mileage of any rowing boat in the Atlantic Rowing Race yesterday, including the multi crews and the rowing assisted sailing boat (note no wind!!!).
 
2 shooting stars (one unreported yesterday).
 
46 degrees centigrade on deck this afternoon.
 
All looking good.
 
So after all my complaining two days ago and all my small changes, I posted fair mileage yesterday.  As I mentioned above my shore support tell me I actually pulled away from the race.  Now I know I'm not part of this race, but my competitive nature likes a challenge and I would like to keep ahead of them as long as possible.  It makes for a neat incentive to work hard. I will also chase hard as well when they do catch me.  At the beginning of the week I would have said tomorrow would have been the day I was caught, however, we will see if I can hold them off until the end of the weekend. It will be interesting in the morning because it was another pretty windless day today.
 
I had a bit of a funny morning.  The pre-breakfast row counts on yesterdays mileage.  The row was OK but the water was a bit messy and made it hard to get a good rhythm going.  I probably need to start this row an hour later as I have shifted a time zone and I'm well into the next one.  It’s not getting light until 9am on my watch so this first row is completely in the dark.  This is not an all bad thing.  Firstly it is cool, second the sky is brilliant at that time of day.  The stars are all so clear because it is so dark, so dark that you can’t see where the Ocean and sky meet.  You are just rowing along in your little bubble in this huge black cauldron, incredible really.  Saying this, it is difficult to make really good time in the dark.
 
Stopped, had breakfast and back on the oars.  This second session just never seemed to get going.  I couldn’t get the oars balanced, I felt groggy and I thought I may have pushed too hard yesterday.  After about an hour and a half I new I wasn’t making good time so I resorted to the Jitter Beans.  Believe it or not, within 15 minutes I was flying again.  It was a disappointing entry in the log, but I did do better in the last hour.
 
I made some adjustments (yes more changes) to my seat at breakfast that helped my numb bum problem that has developed over the last few days.  I also forgot to mention yesterday that I went back to my original session times of 3 hours with an hour for lunch.  I realised that the additional 30 minutes I added onto the sessions just wasn’t getting results, other than me being too fatigued to perform well.  The change obviously worked yesterday so we will see what happens over the next few days.  At the moment, the only additional 30 minutes now is on the last session of the day and that is to make up for the 2 - 3 minute breaks I take at the end of each hour to drink and eat.
 
The wind threatened to pick up a few times just after lunch but never did.  It then dropped right off, definitely no more than 5 knots, maybe even less.  However the swell also changed to huge areas of water rising and falling.  It looked strange at first.  The ocean was much smoother so I got a good rhythm going and there was power to be had from the water.  My  last session today was a good one.  With a good overnight drift and some hard work in the morning we could be close again to the magical 50.
 
That’s it for now, hope you’re all ready for Christmas (I am).
 
Maybe only 26 more times to say, “I need some sleep so I can get up and do it all over again tomorrow”.
 
Messages
 
Mike (not grumpy)   - Have a great Christmas, thanks for the support.
 
Mike (grumpy) – Read your letter yesterday, cheered me up no end, it’s all down hill now is right (apart from the up hill bits that is).
 
Marilyn – Great to hear from you, hope you are enjoying the easy life! I definitely will when I get back.
 
Katie – Don’t give up the daytime job Katie, song writing is not your thing (did make me laugh though).
 
John
 
Out

It’s never as bad as you think.

Posted on Dec. 21, 2011, 10:49 p.m.

Today is day one, of week five at sea.
 
Yesterdays mileage didn’t end up as bad as I thought it would be.  Only missed 50 mile target by .3 of a mile.
 
Last weeks total mileage was 341.3 and the total mileage rowed so far is 1308.
 
As of this morning only 1404 miles to go.
 
I should hit half way tomorrow!!!!!!!
 
After my disappointment last night with my days efforts, I was up a little earlier this morning to put in a little extra time on the oars.  In the end I didn’t need to.
 
I had a conversation with myself through the first hour this morning and realised that I had become too focused on achieving the 50 miles a day or it’s failure.  When I set out on this adventure, many people asked, "how long will it take" or "how much will you row".  My answer was always the same.  I will get up everyday and do the best I can on that day. That means when I get to Barbados It will have been the best that I could do for the whole trip.  There are lots of things that can affect how much distance we can achieve each day from the boat, the weather, me and on and on.  So rationalising it, it doesn’t make sense to expect the same mileage every day.
 
However, I thought it shouldn’t stop me from trying to improve this.
 
This got me thinking about why I found it so hard yesterday.  I then tinkered with my oars and the oar gate and this improved how the oars entered the water.  Then I thought what about my stroke, so I started going through my whole stroke.  By the time I had finished I realised that with rowing in all the big weather when it is virtually impossible to get both oars in the water at the same time I had picked up some bad habits.  I straightened my feet in the supports, brought my knees closer together so I got a clean push, increased the squeeze in my squat and most importantly slowed my stroke rate down.  Within 10 minutes I was getting both blades in the water with few snags or misses (all common on the choppy water, oh how I wish I was on our lake in the flat calm) and was pulling along at a steady 3 knots.
 
By the time I finished my 3 hour session, I had done nearly 10 miles and the conditions were no different than yesterday.  This continued all day, so I am much happier with things, which is good as the weatherman says these calm conditions are here for a while.
 
I've said this already but HALF WAY tomorrow!  40 miles a day would get me to Barbados for Birthday (turning 50 on the 24th of January) which would be great ‘cos I really thought it would be sometime in February.
 
That’s it for today.
 
John
 
Out

Don’t Count Your Chickens

Posted on Dec. 21, 2011, 12:56 a.m.

Turned in last night confident of finishing off another 50 mile day in the morning and I did just that.

However it was a bit strange this morning.  A 15 knot wind was forecast but at some point in the night the wind completely died, the boat was hardly moving and I had slept great.  At 5am, I didn’t really pay much attention to the wind as I just went through my morning rituals then sat down and started rowing.  I notched up the 50 and then some more, quit at 8.30 and had breakfast.  Confident I could start again and by tomorrow morning I would be in the 1300’s to go and close to half way.  9am, back on the oars, it’s light now and I can see there is not much going on with the swell, off we go anyway.  After an hour of hard graft, I stopped for a 2 minute break, porridge and water and back to it.  I felt like I was working hard but the boat refused to glide.  She felt heavy, as though every stroke was from a standing start.  After three and a half hours, I check my progress.  Normally 3 hours will get me 9 miles, the extra half hour will get me 10 miles nearly 11 miles on a good day.   8 miles!  8 miles is all I got for all that effort.  Never mind, the afternoon will be better.  I then decide to adjust the button on the oars and the oar gates a little.  That did make the boat feel a bit lighter to pull.  Off we go for another three and a half hours to try and get some miles back. 8 miles again!  I end the day normally with a three hour session but tonight stretched it out to four hours.  I did manage to get 10 miles out of that, but I had to rack myself to do it.  So an extra two hours of rowing for 4 miles less than normal.  It is hard to believe that 4 days ago we were in huge weather and now its nearly flat calm.  I think I will be lucky to escape with 45 miles for the last day of the week.  I hope we get some wind in the next few days, although the forecast doesn’t look too different from today.  I WANT BIG WINDS PLEASE.
 
There is some good news today.  I brought 2 bed sheets with me on the trip.  As we are at 4 weeks and nearly half way, I have treated myself to clean sheets.  I can’t wait to go to sleep tonight.
 
Until tomorrow.
 
John
 
Out
 
Messages

Thank you for all of the wonderful messages. I really appreciate reading them each day, so keep them coming.  Sorry I can't respond to everyone.
 
Mike – Good on the solid oak, the little one needed putting in his place.
 
William – No I spy today Will, to busy trashing at the oars.
 
Nancy –  I'm well impressed with your progress, do you want to buy a boat?
 
Paula – Enjoy Barbados you lucky monkey.  Make sure you are back for April.
 
Thank you to everyone who has made a donation. I greatly appreciate all donations no matter how large or small!

How long will it take John to row point 2 point?

Posted on Dec. 20, 2011, 1:45 a.m.

Charity Competition OPEN 
I'm sorry that the charity competition link is not up, however the competition is OPEN.  For anyone who wants to enter, please read the rules below and post your entry under the contact details page. 

Check it out!
All who donate (or have donated) can enter the competition, you won't want to miss out.  Work out how long it will take John, make a donation and then enter the competition. Make your donation now, then go to the Contact Details Page, complete your name, email address and under subject enter Contest. Under message, enter how long you think it will take John to row the Ocean.  Please note that we will verify how much you have donated on line to the number of ballots you fill out.
 
Charity Competition
 
Guess how long it will take John to row solo across the Atlantic and arrive in Barbados. 

In order to help raise funds for John's chosen charities, we have a little competition to encourage donations and to keep you following his progress.  This competition will be open to anyone who makes a minimum donation to either of his chosen charities, UK Charities (Team PB which is Prostate Cancer & Breast Cancer Care) or the Canadian Charity (Toronto General Hospital, Peter Munk Cardiac Centre).
 
The competition will start with 2 guesses for every £20/$20 donation made.  As it will get progressively easier to more accurately predict when John will finish, the nearer he gets to Barbados, the number of guesses per £20/$20 donation will reduce from 2 to 1, once he passes the longitude of 51⁰W.
 
When John is:
East of of 51⁰W you will get 2 guesses for every  £20/$20 donation
 
When John is
Between 51⁰W and 56⁰W you will get 1 guess for every  £20/$20 donation
 
Once John is passed 56⁰W the competition will be closed, you may still guess but you will not be eligible to win any prizes.
 
To see where John is, go to his website, click on Track My Progress. A map will pop up and if you click on the yellow balloon, it will show you his Longitude and Latitude.
 
Each guess must include the number of days, hours and minutes you think it will take John to row across the Atlantic from point to point.
 
If for example you donate (or have already donated) £20/$20, then you will get 10 ballots if John is East of 51⁰W or 5 ballots if he is West of  51⁰W, so the more you donate the more ballots you get. 


For the record this competition is based on:

The total time (Days, Hours Minutes) that it takes John to row across the Atlantic from Puerto Mogan to Port St Charles.
Completion of the row will be when John touches land at Port St Charles, Barbados, assuming no tow is required.  Should John require a tow to get into Port St Charles because the wind's against him once he's rounded North Point, Barbados, John's finish time will be based on the time that he crosses the line of longitude of North Point, Barbados. This line of longitude officially qualifies as having crossed the Atlantic.

We are running two competitions, one for the UK and one for Canada. Reason being is the prizing which is on offer.  

Prizes
 
UK Competition:

The winner who guesses the closes number of days, hours and minutes will be the winner of a VIP Shopping Voucher for Adidas, a value of £500 to spend at any Adidas Store

There will be two runner up prizes for the 2nd and 3rd closes guess.  These winners will both receive a VIP Shopping Voucher from Adidas. a value of £250 to spend at any Adidas Store 

Canadian Competition:

The winner who guesses the closes number of days, hours and minutes will be the winner of Four Premium Tickets to see the Buffalo Sabres Versus Montreal Canadian in Buffalo, NY on February 17th at 7:30 PM.  Face value of $672US or $168 per ticket.  These tickets are considered Premium Tickets with seats located in the lower bowl.
 
The 2nd closes guess will win Two Tickets to see the Toronto Raptors Basket Ball at the Air Canada Centre. At time of publishing this contest, the tickets were not available, therefore the date for these tickets is to be confirmed but will be for a February or March game.
 
The 3rd closes guess will win Two Tickets a NFL Game. At time of publishing this contest, the tickets were not available, therefore the date for these tickets is to be confirmed for the 2012 season.

 

Thank you for your donations & Good Luck!

 

 

Christmas Lights

Posted on Dec. 20, 2011, 12:21 a.m.

Looks like another 50 miles in the offing if I get a move on in the morning. (Note I calculate my daily mileage from 9am to 9am).
 
Cloudy this morning but still really hot.  It’s too hot now for any kind of shirt so the factor 50 is out.
 
I'm within 56 hours or so of the half way mark.
 
I haven’t thought much about Christmas until today.  A huge ball of tangled Christmas lights floated by the boat.  I have seen all sorts of rubbish (garbage) float by on the trip so far.  I didn’t realise the sea was such a dumping ground or that Christmas lights would float!
 
We are getting to the really interesting bit of the trip now.  Tomorrow will be 28 days of 12+ hours a day of hard exercises and the challenges seem to keep changing.  Last week it was pushing hard on only a couple of hours sleep a night.  This week it is working out how to keep pushing in high temperatures that are only likely to get higher.  In the middle of my afternoon session today it was really hard going.  I had to resort to my jitter beans to perk myself up.  I am thinking about changing my routine a little and I may start rowing  earlier and later in the day when its a little cooler and therefore taking a longer break in the hottest part of the day.  Only problem with this change is that I would just end up having a doze on deck as the cabin is way too hot in the day. I will let you know what I decide.
 
Apparently a lot of people have been asking who Tony is?  Tony is my Shore Support and getting him involved is probably the single best decision I made with regards to planning my journey to making the crossing.  His experience and advice have been an incredible help. I will speak more about his involvement in the next couple of days.
 
Looks like the Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race is having a tough time.  As of this morning, I hear that five boats have retired from the race (there was only 17 boats to start with).
I’m not sure if I have covered why I didn’t want to be in the organised Atlantic Rowing Race,  so sorry if I am repeating my self.  Originally I was going to do the Atlantic crossing as a pair.  We did intend to enter the race, however when it became a solo attempt, I felt like I wanted it to be a true solo endeavour.  I also wanted control over the start and finish location and my departure date (because of work commitments).   I decided I would head to Barbados to keep out of the races way as they have finished in Antigua the last 3 or 4 races.  However, at some point this year the Race Organisers  changed their minds, so we are now all heading to the same destination, Barbados.
 
The Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race set off on December 5th (2 weeks after me).  It looks like the leaders will catch me in the next few days.  You know I like a challenge so I am doing my best to keep ahead but the multi crew teams will be too strong for me.  There is however a boat I now believe is in first place called JJ.  She is a solo boat but is beating all the multi crew boats. This is just my opinion, however I feel I must point out that she is a rowing boat BUT, she is really a rowing assisted sailing boat.  She is built with her sleeping quarters at the front of the boat with a large cabin wall that acts like a sail.  She has an under hull rudder that acts like a keel and is easily controlled by auto pilot.  She cruises along way faster than all the traditional Ocean Rowing Boats even without any rowing input.  It’s a shame really that they have allowed her in the race as it must be demoralising for all the other crews who are working their socks off.  As for JJ, I give the rower credit for being out here doing it, she is a really interesting craft but in my opinion not a true Ocean rowing boat. Following just behind JJ is Box # 8, a pairs crew who are making brilliant time.  I'm not sure what the pairs crossing record is but they must be on schedule to beat it.  The one boat to check out in this race is the Row 2 Recovery Boat. Two Ex Army Captains and four injured servicemen.  Amazing and inspiring. 
 
Enough moaning for now, I need some sleep so I can get up and do it all again tomorrow.
 
Messages in tomorrows blog.
 
John
 
Out

I’m not 18 anymore!

Posted on Dec. 18, 2011, 11:48 p.m.

I rowed 54 miles yesterday, just what the Doctor ordered.
 
Should be down to 1400 + miles to go tomorrow (getting close to half way).
 
Wild life – Only flying fish again I’m afraid.  I’d quite like another visit from my dolphin friends.
 
Well what a tough day (I know, I keep saying that), hot, hot, hot, no wind and no help from the swell.  Even though it’s been hard work before there has always been lots of wind to keep you cool.  Not today, the sweat was pouring out of me.  After the first hour the water seemed to get sticky and the boat was very heavy.  I felt every pound of the boats weight on every stroke today.  I was really feeling my age.  I guess I still thought I was 18 and could do whatever I liked and my body would just respond and that the old guy in the mirror in the mornings was just my conscience.  Turns out, I am that old guy and I felt it all day!!  I need to find a time machine quick or it could be January 2013 before I get to Barbados. 

I had my first good nights sleep in ages last night maybe that’s the problem, I need less sleep!
 
Anyway, we will see if the morning brings any more help.  From the weather forecast it looks like 3 or 4 more days of the same, hot, light winds and hard work.
 
My media team put together this list of questions that people have been asking so here goes:
 
After being out at sea for so many days what is it that you are missing?  Clean sheets and a hot shower everyday (as well as Cheryl and the girls obviously).

When you arrive in Barbados, what will be the first thing you do? Have a hot shower and lay in a dark room on some clean sheets.

What are you looking most forward to ?   To not bouncing about when trying to sleep and not to do 12 hours hard labour, day in day out (there is an element of satisfaction in that though).
 
Now that you are rowing Solo, are you missing the rowing partner?  Strangely no, I actually think I was destined to do it solo and I'm really enjoying it.

Would you do this again and if so, would you do it solo or with someone else?  Only solo, too soon to say, lets bring this one home first.

Have you got your iPod out yet?  Got my iPod out for the first time today during my last 3.5 hours and it was brilliant.  It made all the difference.

Christmas is coming how are you coping?  My days are very full so haven’t thought about it much. I always liked being away at Christmas anyway.

Is the challenge tougher then you expected and if so in what ways?  Not sure if it’s tougher than expected but it is tough that’s for sure. The disappointment when the mileage is bad is probably the toughest thing because you work just as hard every day but the rewards are different.  Plus I know everyone is calculating when I will get there.  I will just keep getting up and doing the best I can on everyday, be it a 30 mile or a 60 mile day.

What was your reaction to the boys whose boat capsized and spent 10 hours  on a life raft?  Why didn’t I bring a life raft?

How smelly is your cabin?  Not too bad, I am trying hard to keep it clean and dry.

Are you getting the warm weather yet?  The last two days have been hot.  I can tell I'm further south and it will only get hotter I suspect.  I need more wind!!

What is the best thing about this adventure?  Can’t answer that until I get back, but I really like the time it’s given me to reflect on things.

Have you gone in for a swim yet and if not people want to know when you are going in?  Haven't gone in yet. I will have to at one point, but only to clean the bottom of the boat.  The water is a stunning colour. I have had my head under the boat a couple of times to inspect things and its pretty neat down there.

How many letters have you opened up so far (the ones that were given to you before your departure)?  I've opened about 9 or 10 letters so far. I am in a better routine now and I'm starting to open them daily.  Thanks everyone that contributed, they make a great way to finish the day.
 
 
That’s it for today, I've not picked up any messages yet, but will do so tomorrow.
 
John
 
Out

Don’t Let The Tough Days Get You Down

Posted on Dec. 17, 2011, 11:15 p.m.

Under 1600 miles to go (1578 miles as I write this).
 
Next way point is North Point Barbados.
 
41 nautical miles to the good per day  is my daily average so far.  If I can keep this up it gets me there on my Birthday (24th of January) however a lot can go wrong yet.
 
My next big marker will be the half way mark which I should reach sometime over the next 6 days hopefully!
 
Well what a tough two days.  I worked harder for the 37 and 43 mile days than I have for any of the 50+ mile days I rowed.  Tony tells me I am now clear of the NW rip current and I'm entering a westerly current, just the direction I need.  I only need to average 54 miles a day to get to my 350 miles for the week (easy!!).  It will be interesting to see how I’ve done by 9am in the morning.  It was a really strange day weather wise today.  It was supposed to be 20 knot winds reducing to 15 knots but there was hardly any wind through the early hours and it didn’t pick up until about 11am.  This made hard going especially in the cross current.  The wind picked up a bit until about 4pm then died again until 6pm.  I had a good last couple of hours and finished strong. Now I just have to get up and do it all again in the morning.
 
It warmed up quite a bit today which was nice.  It was cloudy until late so not a great battery recharging day.

I did however check out the bottom of the boat again.  Took the camera over the side with me.  Unbelievable not a thing other than air bubbles anywhere.  Really good news means no need to clean it, not for a while anyway.
 
Wild life – lots of flying fish skimming by and lots of little flying fish on the boat.  Also had a tiny white crab on the boat this morning.  Now what’s he doing in the middle of the Atlantic?
 
Keeping it short today, need my rest so I can bag that 54 miles tomorrow.
 
Messages
 
Tom – I was going to ask where you had got to today. Love the rescue story, don’t forget to plan your Christmas day run.
 
Bill – Great to hear from you, glad you are along for the ride, I'll do my best.
 
June – Nothing else is going over the side, promise.
 
Judith – I can’t believe I am out here either! It’s a wild ride.  
 
Michael – Family and my shore support are meeting me in Barbados and no I don’t have amateur radio just VHF marine and Sat phone.
 
Chantel – Puerto Mogan to Port St Charles is the officially recognised crossing route that all other crossings are compared too. However, it’s really just personal choice, people have crossed from Senegal, not sure about the Verdes.
 
Steve – If I loose 4 more it will be circles.
 
I have a list of questions the media team have put together from all the enquiries, I will try and get to them in tomorrows blog.
 
54 miles may be a tough call.  The winds are dropping again so I best get plenty of shut eye.
 
John
 
Out
 

The trials & tribulations of a Wanabee Ocean Rower

Posted on Dec. 17, 2011, 1:27 p.m.

Day 23 PM
 
I'm starting this blog in regards to Day 23.  Through the day, all the sessions went reasonably well.  They were hard work but I was making good ground until the last that is. The swell, while not quite going our way was allowing me to at least get close to 250 degrees and work off the edge of the big rollers.  I had lost a bit of ground due west through the day and was about 10 mile from my GPS track. When you are in the swell, some if it goes your way, however, there always seems to be a swell moving in another direction as well which provides lots of chop.  In this last session, a proper organised swell developed crossing my direction at nearly 90 degrees.  I was desperately trying to keep course in the last hour and a half which was hard as this swell swamped the boat 3 or 4 times.  When I quit for the day, I set the drogue off the back to try and control the boat as she travelled down the big breaking swells.  We were holding course fairly well just inside true West, however, this cross swell was producing quite big waves now and hitting the boat side on every two or three minutes.  Many were breaking over the gunnels and adding more water to our ballast (which was already overflowing).  I tried floating the drogue directly off the back and off both sides of the transom to let the side swell push the boat aside instead of hitting it square on but to no avail.
 
11.30pm, you can hear the breaking waves approach when you are in the cabin.  They fizzle across the surface, some slip behind you, some in front and some hit you square on. By this time these waves must have been 12 to 15 footers at least.  Once it hit the side of the boat and rammed her sideways.  She keeled over so far that I was now laid on the cabin wall with all my bedding on top of me.  I was sure we were in for a full spin cycle, however the wave squeezed past and the boat popped upright.  She is an amazing little craft, I have no idea how she hung on but she definitely didn’t want the wave to win.
 
I then have to decide what to do?  The status quo is obviously not working. The only thing I have left to try is the Para Anchor, so out I go on deck again and put out the para anchor.  After much messing with shackles and ropes that task was complete.  Not easy being tossed about and smashed from the side in the pitch black.  The problem is I am not at that different of an angle to being on the drogue, just nose into the wind, so the side waves were still hitting us.   As things settled a little, it appeared not with quite so much ferocity.  By this time it’s 2:30am, I have hardly slept for 4 days and as I lay back in the cabin I think I must have passed out.  Two hours later I was woken by a large side swipe, so out I go to check all was OK.  I struggled to get back to sleep until about 5:30am when I passed out again for another couple of hours.  When I woke up, I checked the GPS, only to find we were caught in a NW current and were being dragged in the wrong direction.  It was getting light at this time so I pulled in the para anchor and realised I could start making headway again and at least run parallel to my GPS track.  I did this all day and it was hard going.

Tony tells me I am in a NW rip current which I need to cross before things will improve.  At close of play today I needed to make another 30 miles before I am clear of it.
 
Onwards and upwards (or Barbados’wards).  Loosing the miles was frustrating, but as we always said about running training, “training miles are miles in the bank to be taken out in races."  Well my 5 miles in the wrong direction was a cheap deal for those four hours sleep!
 
Messages and more tomorrow, battery power still low, too much cloud cover and not enough sunshine.
 
John
 
Out

Day 23 What An Idiot!

Posted on Dec. 15, 2011, 9:18 p.m.

As the weather has been so active, I have had to use the drogue or drogue line the last few nights to help control the drift direction of the boat.  I have flown this from the port transom, but last night as the wind had changed direction I thought I should fly it straight off the back and use a little rudder (in the end it ended up off the port side anyway).  This is a bit of a tricky procedure as I have to connect two straps together to make a bridle, attach the line and then get the combination of ropes off the back of the boat.  Now I have a neat little mast on the back of the boat with the ensign on.  I have to get the ropes over the little mast and then over the top of the cabin from about 6 feet away and the only thing I have long enough is an oar. I did this last night and as I dropped the line over the back of the boat, a wave crashed into us beam on.  I went flying backwards and the oar went flying over the side of the boat.  As I watched my 300 Pound Sterling oar drift away, I realised I had made my first really stupid, fatigue induced mistake.  Any fool knows, if you don’t want to loose something on a boat it has to be tied on.  The oar obviously wasn’t so the lesson learned is that I need to pay more attention to the little things.
 
Anyway, I guess that's what spares are for!  I have forgiven myself for the oar but not the mistake.
 
I started the new week at sea with a 50+ mile rowing day.  That's a first, 6 more days like this please.
 
Wildlife – Loads of flying fish.
 
I've been fighting the wind from the east all day, really tough trying to stay on course.  I have about four more days before the winds turn properly my way.
 
Had a better day with power after a small electrical issue.  Still need two or three clear sunny days to catch up properly with my battery power.
 
Messages
 
Pete – Why such a long recovery? I’m in the washing machine now, thanks for the support.
 
Katie – Thanks for following, see you in April (if I’m back)
 
Whitney, Brian & Laura – Thanks for the letter, hit the spot and cheered me up after a tough day.
 
Evan - What is the name of your school in Finland?

Ben - Sorry I missed your birthday, Happy Belated Birthday

Thats it for today
 
John
 
Out

P.S.  Please keep your messages coming (funny, motivational, what's happening in the world and so on). They are great to read and very much appreciated. I really do read all the messages. Unfortunately I am so tired some times, I just can't reply to everyone.

P.S.S. Christmas is coming and if you are enjoing this blog, why not consider making a donation to my great charities (who desperately need help) in lieu of a gift (or gifts).  No pressure.

 

 

3 Weeks At Sea

Posted on Dec. 14, 2011, 11:03 p.m.

This may be my last blog for a couple of days.  It has been very overcast the last 4 or 5 days and I AM LOW ON BATTERY POWER.  I need 3 or 4 days of sunshine without cloud to get back up to full power.   Obviously making water is top priority and the water maker is the power hungriest bit of kit on the boat.  If I run out of laptop power, I will phone in a short blog for a couple of days and my media team will write it up (by media team, I mean Cheryl).
 
3 Weeks:
 
250 ish hours at the oars.
 
309 nautical miles week one, 315 nautical miles for week two and 341 nautical miles for week three.  Mileage is getting better and tomorrow I should break 1000 nautical miles rowed.
 
I passed 30 degrees west today, which longitude is a third of the way to Barbados.
 
I'm also hoping to dip under 1700 nautical miles to go tomorrow.
 
Everything is going pretty well.  Physically I am fine, no major aches or pains, my hands are in great shape and so (relatively speaking) is my bottom.
 
Had a good question from Romano via the web “what do I do to keep my mind occupied?”.  Well quite a lot of the time, especially when the sea is as big as it has been for the last few days,  I’m thinking what’s behind that next huge wave?  They keep coming and coming, but all are a little different.  You have to try and be at the correct angle when the wave picks you up or you loose control as you pass over and as they come in sets, if you get the first one wrong you don't stand a chance with the others.  You want to take as much energy from each wave as possible to help you on your way, but it has to be done carefully or you end up spun beam on to the wave and the boat full of water.  Other than that, you are constantly  checking your heading.  It’s easy to go off course without noticing.    Rough water, big swells or the wind grabbing the back of the boat, all bumps you about and before you know it, you are 30 or 40 degrees off course.  As I'm obsessed with my daily mileage, I also constantly check my speed to make sure I am keeping up my average.  Surprisingly, with all that going on there still is a lot of time for contemplation.  I have really enjoyed having time to think with no interruptions from phones, emails, tv’s etc etc.  I also realised the other day that I still haven't got my iPod out so I can’t be that bored.
 
The last few days have been pretty exhausting as pulling through all this big weather takes its toll plus not sleeping because the boat is being tossed all over.  It was a relief when the 25 knot winds reduced early yesterday.  I thought things were easing up after this mornings first session, however the swell has been bigger than ever today.  Huge rollers coming one after another.  One skill that I seem to be improving on is avoiding white water.  I developed the knack of riding the big waves at some point today.  If you get the white water right it can give you a great ride, however, slightly misjudge it and the boat is swamped and I get soaked.  As much as people keep asking me to send the sun, when you are wet in a 20 plus mile an hour wind, it is cold especially mornings and evenings.
 
So I have had a spectacular few days “Riding Giants".   The same tomorrow according to the weather man.  I'm hoping it will be OK to go out before it gets light and we might get another 50 bagged.
 
Messages
 
Jean – Well done on the 15, I’ll knock it off my time tomorrow, keep up the good work.
 
Romano – Welcome on board.
 
Roll on Port St Charles, Barbados!
 
John
 
Out
 

Three weeks at Sea

Posted on Dec. 14, 2011, 11:08 a.m.

Just officially finished day 21.  It's now 9am on day 22.  Three weeks at sea and I’m an old pro now.  I will update on yesterday and today's progress later and tell you about some of my close call and surfing exploits.  I think dot watchers will be slightly more pleased with the last 24 hours, still more to come I’m sure.
 
I wanted to use this blog to highlight my two charities as we now have a Canadian online donation page up and working, so it’s a good time to talk about both causes.
 
When I decided to do this challenge (4 years ago) it was for lots of reasons. I wanted a physical and mental challenge, something that would test my resourcefulness and application to a task once started, both before and during the actual challenge.  Most of all I wanted to find out if when faced with big decisions whether I was the person I have always thought I was.  All this and more is combined in the row, once you leave Port there is no getting off, no help along the way (not quite true in that I have great shore support) so the only way to end the journey is to arrive in Barbados.  These are all great ambitions but are also quite selfish ( I have referred to this in previous blogs).  I’m not sure why but as people started to find out about the challenge I had set myself I was surprised at how much interest it generated.  Realising that this interest could balance out some of the selfish nature of the challenge, it became apparent that I could also use the row to draw attention to some worthy causes.
 
So, being a bi national occupant, I wanted to have both a UK and Canadian charity.  In the UK I am supporting Team PB, that’s Prostate and Breast Cancer.  They are, I believe the two most commonly diagnosed cancers and all we can do to help will be greatly appreciated.  As I said in an earlier blog I was approached by a Dutch Prostate cancer sufferer who came to say thank you for supporting the fight against the disease.  It was quite emotional for me realising that something that started out as a quite self focused ambition could actually do some real good for many people.  My Canadian cause is the Peter Monk Cardiac Centre at the Toronto General Hospital.  This is a cause very close to my heart (pun intended).  They perform I believe over 2000 procedures a year, every one making massive improvement to peoples lives. In these tough financial times when governments are always cutting back, I am proud to do whatever I can to help this world class facility in Toronto.
 
I know we have already had much support and I thank everyone who has been so generous already. We are about to put a couple of competitions on the site so you can play along with the row and help with the fund raising so watch out over the next couple of days for that.  If you are enjoying reading the blog and following my trials and tribulations, while you are doing your Christmas shopping, think carefully about your spending.  Does the old man really need another dozen pars of socks?  Can we do without the brussels sprouts this year (yes, I hear the kids shout), why not save a little money and put it to good use.  Hate the shopping malls at this time of year, why not make a donation in lieu of gifts to your favourite peeps!
 
I won’t be pushing hard on the fundraising like a double glazing sales man but will be relying on your natural generosity.
 
Make yourself feel good, give a little.
 
Watch out for those competitions!!!
 
Just one message now, more blog tonight.
 
Brian W – well done on the PB (PR in Canada), nothing to do with me, it’s the natural athlete coming out in you!! what a star!!!
 
Back to the oars.
 
John
 
Out

Stop Blowing Please!

Posted on Dec. 13, 2011, 11:57 a.m.

Day 21 and I am sat in the cabin because yet again the weather is huge and I need some light to navigate a swell of this size.

Day 20's mileage was a close miss on 50 but I will take it.

Yesterday will be a disappointment to dot watchers, more later.

Wildlife, only wild waves.

The weather forecast on Sunday said wind 25 knots for yesterday dropping to 20 knots and staying at that through today.  Yesterdays forecast changed to 25 knots all day and then to 25 knots running to sometime later today.  Now our little boat is brilliant at most things but in a 25 knot wind she is a bit of a handful.  I have a hand steering system which means stowing at least one oar (now I have modified it anyway) to change the direction.  Once the wind gets hold of the back of the boat she gets pushed across the swell and if you are not quick enough you get side swiped by the cresting wave.  When you make the adjustment to the steering you have to be really quick to release the oar or you get too much wind on the other side of the boat and the same happens on the other side.  It takes a while to find the sweet spot so you can make any headway and with only a seconds distraction (and there are plenty of those, mainly watching and trying to predict the breaking swell) and the wind has you flipped around again and we start all over again.  So progress is slow but at least I made some progress.  The steering is the one thing I think I would have been modified if we had had the testing time.  As i said before, compromises had to be made so I just need to get on with it.

It’s quite difficult getting in my 12 hours of rowing per day without my full three hour pre breakfast session. Yesterday, I managed about 10.5 despite cutting my breaks back to 15 or 20 minutes between each 3 hour row.  This also helps in big weather to keep the boat under control because the wind issue applies when you stop as well.  In less windy conditions she will track down wind nicely.  It’s also good to be occupied on deck especially after 2 nights with virtually no sleep.  I quit a couple of miles short of my target yesterday. I was progressing quite well making close to 3 knots when I got caught by the wind and was pushed across the swell.  It looked pretty innocuous but as I crested it and tried to keep the boat balanced, this huge mass of white water appeared.  Completely swamped the boat, me and everything on deck.  I will admit for a second my thoughts turned to taking a deep breath and the the self righting was about to be tested, but the boat was superb.  She did list a little down the wave at first but she was not even close to going over.  She is so stable it is incredible. So deciding tempting fate once is enough in any one day, I tidied up, stowed the oars deployed the drogue and hid in the cabin.  Oh and with the the soaking, all my wet weather gear got soaked.  Another reason I need light.  Once you get wet on deck it’s freezing without the sun.  Even with the sun, when there are high winds and you get wet it is pretty miserable.

One last thing before I go for today.  I thought I should try and explain what it’s like in the cabin in big weather. When the drogue is out it slows the boat down and hopefully hold it in a good position to handle the swell. There is some side to side drift but when a swell grabs the boat, the rope to the drogue tightens and positions the boat correctly to crest the swell and then gets you ready for the next one.  When you are in the cabin you feel safe and secure, however, it does buck around a lot.  When you ride up and down a swell there is a see sawing motion back to front.  There is always smaller waves affecting the boat sideways so you rock in all four directions constantly.  Now the drogue acts as a drag on the boat which means the water on the swell is travelling faster than you.  When the swell reaches the back of the boat, if there is any white water in it at all,  it cracks against the back of the boat and breaks over the cabin, sometimes engulfing the whole cabin.  It is quite a feeling being virtually under water. This happens at various frequencies but usually you get two or three big hits, then a couple of minutes rolling around and then we start again. The noise of the waves hitting the boat is the main problem with getting any sleep.

That's it for today. I need under 20 knots winds and some sunshine to dry my kit.

Messages

Jamie & Emily, thanks for checking in, enjoy the states and keep peddling.

Pierre – Thanks for following, 'course in a rowing boat' is a loose term, I mainly drift at night as long as it is somewhat in the right direction.

Hi Jodie – hope you have your woollies with you.

Cees – please accept my sincerest apologies for the error.

Hi Maria – hope you all enjoyed the party, keep following along.

Steve – not sleeping that well, must be better when I don`t think too much.

John – thanks for taking care of Jamie and Emily, welcome on board and thank you !!! 

Charlie – like wise, will be in touch when I get back.

 

John

Out

Day 19 AM - The Big Blow

Posted on Dec. 12, 2011, 11:14 a.m.

Well no sleep at all last night tells me that the weather has arrived and that yesterday's afternoon and evening calm was just the calm before the storm.
 
Drifted well overnight and only .9 nautical miles off course.
 
Lets see what the day brings.
 
Day 19 pm
 
Weather got bigger and bigger all day.  Spent all day on the oars with only short breaks. I managed 33 miles since 9am this morning.  I finished half an hour early so I could deploy the drogue while  still light.
 
9.30pm
 
Just attached bow line to drogue to help avoid breaking waves over side of boat and make capsize less likely.
 
Day 20 5am
 
Big night, little if no sleep but all OK.  Boat handled the conditions well and despite not having much control over the heading, we are still heading in the right direction.  Waiting until light to hit the oars, hoping to get some miles in with care.
 
I will write a fuller blog later as it is currently like trying to type in a bouncy castle full of 5 year olds.
 
John
 
Out

Day 18 I think, they all seem the same.

Posted on Dec. 11, 2011, 7:16 a.m.

Good progress yesterday (day 17), another 50 in the bag.
 
Wildlife, one dead flying fish on deck this morning.
 
Voices “Laptop, Laptop” she sounds quite angry!
 
It's been strange today.  Started the pre breakfast session well. About one hour before the end of the session, I just seemed to hit completely different water.  The boat felt heavy and slow from feeling slick and fast.  Who knows?  I plodded on to the end of the session and had breakfast,  porridge with strawberries and golden syrup, yum.

Half an hour later I was back at the oars and the swell was up and heavy.  I thought this was the start of the big weather Tony had been forecasting.  I am fighting to stay as far West as I can at the moment because when the NE starts to blow it will push me SW which is not perfect. Anyway the main swell (as always) was off in a different direction so I struggled on.
 
After lunch which was Shepherds Pie (I only have 8, shame) delicious by the way, I expected more of the same but the wind started to drop and the swell subsided.  What was left was messy with no fixed direction, so again I battled on.
 
The last session was much the same but even quieter if anything.  There is still a strong tug SW which I need to resist, hopefully I won’t drift to far that way tonight.
 
The big news is this approaching weather, 4 to 6 meter swells, that's 20 foot waves coming at me, Tony said in an email earlier “I’m sure the forecast conditions will help you achieve good progress and give you some stories to tell!  Don’t forget to set the Go-Pro (camera / video)  up on deck when you’re yelling with ‘joy’ as you surf down some big waves! "
 
I thought I had a good collection of stories already, Batten down the hatches then.
 
I hear there is a party tonight but the chef has gone AWOL, watch out for the take away!! enjoy!
 
That's it for now, I’m off to try and get some sleep, doesn’t sound like there will be much around for a while.
 
Messages
 
Whitney – thanks for the letter, your sentiments are appreciated.
 
Jon B – thanks for the support, enjoy the party.
 
Dave A – Cheryl and the girls did the Burlington Santa 5k run in  - 6 (felt like - 11) this morning, stop moaning.
 
Disgruntled of Waterthorpe – I believe my Canadian editor has been in contact to apologise for the colonial corruption of our beautiful language, you can now return to your letter to the times complaining about the misuse of apostrophies.
 
Nancy – thanks for the company
 
John
 
Out

Just a Short blog tonight as it is very bumpy and

Posted on Dec. 10, 2011, 3:38 a.m.

Another 50 confirmed for yesterday and should be close again tomorrow, although I am not sure how many more I can knock out in so so conditions.  Tony tells me the weather is about to change so I may get some help.  From the sound of it, maybe a little more than I may need.  You have to focus for the full 12 hours on your course and the speed you are travelling.  Let your mind wander for a few seconds and you slip off course or your speed drops. Anyway, it's all in days work for a wanabee Ocean rower.

Thought I would tell you about my travelling companions (and I am not going crazy so don't worry).  I have little voices on the boat that talk to me! Honest!  Out side the cabin door there is a hatch that houses the bilge pump and there is always a little water in there that slushes about.  I swear sometimes it sounds like voices speaking on a radio or a radio in another room because I can never quite hear what they are saying,  Then there are my rudder friends.   I sleep with my head against the transom of the boat which is only inches away from the rudder.  As the boat moves through the water it gurgles around the rudder.  Sometimes this also sounds like voices, however this time though, you can make out what they are saying, "Norman" is a common topic of conversation, "Come On Norman" was the shout a few minutes ago.

Not Mad Honest.

That's it for now

Messages

Colin P - thanks for the poem, true to the last word.

Katie - I feel much safer now with the water wings, if the boat goes down I will be fine (does Darren know you have been near the Dollar store again?)

Tom - As always thank you, the Ed story was meant to inspire your dad, but thanks any way.

Ed - Hope your ribs mends soon, you have my sympathy.

John

Out

Canadian Fundraising

Posted on Dec. 9, 2011, 1:33 p.m.


Thank you to everyone who has donated so far.

For all of John's Canadian / American followers. We are in the process of setting up a Canadian Giving Page to John's favourite Canadian Charity which is the Toronto General Hospital, Peter Munk Cardiac Centre in Honour
of Dr Tyrone David, John's heart surgeon.  All money donated will support Advancements in Cardiovascular Surgery.  If you are enjoying John's journey, please consider making a donation. We still need a few more days to get
the Canadian Giving page up on John's site, however until then, should you wish to donate, click on he following URL which will take you to the John's fundraising page for the hospital.

https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/donate.aspx?EventID=85424&LangPref=en-CA&Referrer=http%3a%2f%2fwww.tgwhf-uhn.ca%2f

Can I start again?

Posted on Dec. 9, 2011, 2:46 a.m.

Yesterdays mileage was a not so impressive 45 nautical miles but with the weather as described yesterday I will take it.
 
Today's weather was worse if anything, no wind at all, the swell is dying more and more and it was hot, hot , hot.  However there has been a breakthrough of sorts, more below.
 
I went under 2000 nautical miles to go this afternoon.  BIG land mark (still a long way to go).
 
Land (or sea) marks coming up soon:  1000 nautical miles rowed and also passing 30 degrees W (a third of the way across).
 
Wildlife today:  I saw some Tuna jumping this morning and this evening a Wahoo had dinner about 20 yards behind the boat.  He chased down something and ate it in a frenzy.  He was an incredible iridescent blue.  The whole thing was stunning and was all over in about 45 seconds.  Then he was off.
 
News I forgot yesterday.   I moved up to my luxury rowing seat which is made of sheepskin for which I had two made.  I currently use one for a pillow which is one of my luxuries in my otherwise utilitarian cabin.  Anyways, they look like large Russian winter hats and I slip various combinations of padding in them and fix them to my sliding seat. They are great, especially as my posterior is the most sensitive issue I have, however I must say the surgical spirit routine is keeping it under control and may even be improving things.  Any way, the seat is brilliant.
 
So, onto today's break through.  Just before that a little background.  In all the preparations for something like this, there are always compromises to be made. After a lot of research about Ocean rowing boats I had concluded that I needed a Fabrizio boat.  There are a few other makers about but in my opinion Jamie is in a league of his own when it comes to quality of build.  The only problem is, he is a one man production unit so time available is limited.  It looked for a while like he didn’t have time to build for me so I could row this year.  Eventually this changed but meant the boat would be ready just in time for my late November Departure. True to his word, by the beginning of November she was all but finished and I spent a weekend with  Jamie putting the finishing touches to her.  Now the compromise was that I got the boat I wanted but had done no testing time at all.  A few days after she was finished she was wrapped and ready for the trip to Gran Canaria.
 
I had no time to she how she handled, fiddle with all the equipment etc. etc. In fact the first time I had ever rowed an Ocean rowing boat was leaving Puerto Rico to attempt to row to Puerto Mogan and that didn’t end well.  After two short rows, I set off to row an Ocean.  I should also point out here that I have never been on the open Ocean in anything other than a ferry or cruise ship, so it was all new.
 
The first 7 or 8 days were so frantic.   I couldn’t tell you what was or wasn't working or if I needed to learn how to use things better or if any things needed changing. Probbly because I was too busy hanging on for dear life.  As the weather settled, I have started to do a little better every day by experimenting with my stroke, seating position, foot plate position etc.   All just to get a little extra out of my stroke and try and get the consitant results I want (depending on the weather obviously).  The last few days I have had a bit of a sore right ankle and hip and had concluded it was because I was not pushing squarely on the foot plate.  I had also been struigling geting my knees under my crossover (essential for a good stroke).  I suddenly realised that instread of pushing the footplate backwards and forwards I needed to raise my heels on the footplate a little (an easy adjustment).
 
What do you know, instant, massive improvement. I could get my knees under my stroke with no problem and I could use my legs properly. Within an hour my ankle and hip didn’t hurt anymore AND more important than all that, on a day which was worse for rowing than yestrerday I was at least half a knot per hour faster!!  Extend that to the hole row and it will save 4 days rowing.
 
I need to see over the next few days if this speed improvement is real.  If I get 50 (or close) out of this current 24 hours it will be a good sign and I think with better conditions that 60 miles is not out of the question. We will just have to wait and see.
 
So that’s it for today, except for some messages below.  I’m off to bed to get some rest.
 
Messages
 
Colin – can’t wait to see the pictures (not the ones of the wall).
 
Kathryn – I may indeed be a little Mad – I’ll do the food thing another day.
 
Hey Whit – long time no speak, I’m trying not to fall in this water.
 
Brian – I love it when you call me Young man – thanks for the support.
 
Debbie – don’t know about the leader part, but we are definately creating a stir, thanks.
 
To all the children in Mrs Kellermans class at Alexanders Public School. – thanks for your support, I will answer all your questions shortly.
 
John
 
Out

False Alarm

Posted on Dec. 7, 2011, 11:33 p.m.

Another good day yesterday, rowed 56 miles.
 
I think that's 315.9 miles for the week.
 
624.9 miles rowed for the two week total.
 
Not so good today though!  Hard work again, messy water, no wind and a current sucking me the wrong way.  Oh well there is always tomorrow!
 
Also best nights sleep of the trip last night, yeah!
 
I thought this was going to be a blog about a shark sighting less than 10 feet from the boat but it was a false alarm.  About 10 am I saw a dorsal fin and a tail fin in the water (all be it a floppy one). It seemed to be feeding on the surface, not a lot of fuss but when you see the two fins you think only one thing. I tweeted (well sms’d to Cheryl who then tweeted) the shark sighting and announced that the boat cleaning was off. Just before dusk this evening I saw a huge eye by the boat, then the dorsal fin again.  It turns out it is a sun fish (I believe that's what they are called). They tend to lay on their side on the surface and drift about obviously flapping their shark like tail.
 
SO I had cancelled the boat cleaning for nothing. I did do an inspection, i.e. put a mask on and stuck my head under the water, the bottom of the boat looks pretty spotless actually so I may leave it a few day before I take the plunge and yes I will use the shark repellent!
 
Tony tells me to make the best of the next 3 days because some weather is on the way, hope it’s going my way.
 
Here’s to 3 more 50 mile days before we batten down the hatches.
 
Messages
 
Hey Tom, don’t mess around on the treadmill, it’s not real running. You’re right not much to do but row, best pull my finger out.
 
Robin, Hook a Brother up indeed!  Read your letter last night, the hold up on the bathroom was a technical reassessment, you’ll have people thinking I’m lazy!  Thanks for the support.
 
June, I was on a sea survival course with the Row2Recovery guys, brilliant guys and inspirational as well.
 
Dave, another two marathons the day after,  am beast indeed,
 
Love the joke Michael, thanks.
 
Mike , just one more bump in the road, think I’m past most of the volcano’s now.
 
That’s it for now
 
John
 
Out

 

Day 14 – Two Weeks Done, How Many More To Go?

Posted on Dec. 7, 2011, 3:33 a.m.

About 160 hours of rowing done in 14 days.

About (exact number to be confirmed in the morning) 600 nautical miles rowed.

About 2100 nautical miles  to go

After a really bad couple of days progress it was good to get the news of the new mileage record, 53.6 miles in one day.  It was a good day and you can just feel when the water is fast.  It makes you want to stay at the oars without a break (despite this, I am sticking to my 12 hour days, saving any energy for a big push if I need it down the line). Today's pre breakfast session (which goes on the previous days mileage (because I started at 9am on departure day) was the same, so I was looking forward to another good day.  Had a quick bite and got back to it. Not so good though.  The sun was up and messed with the wind.  The swells were all over the place so it was back to plodding and picking the best way through the water close to my course.  As the day progressed, I realised that I was actually making good ground and by the 4th session of the day I was flying along. So a little drift tonight and a push in the morning and who knows the 50’s might be a new trend.

However, the main excitement of the day came at around 10am.  I thought I saw some movement in the water way behind the boat and the next thing I hear is a squeaking sound (you hear lots of sounds out here, most to be ignored).  Then I heard a splash and then I was surrounded by a pod of Dolphins, about 40 or so. They were playing in the waves by the boat, shooting off in front only to come back again.  For some reason as they swam beneath the boat they all turned belly up.  A few were doing massive leaps from the water.  Some looked like they were swimming in family groups and some were swimming on their sides so they could check the boat out. It was a really neat encounter, more please.  After about 15 minutes they got bored of my sloth like pace and took off. Brilliant though.

I’m off for some sleep so I can do it all again tomorrow, 50’s all the way!!!!!

As always, thanks for all the wonderful messages, unfortunately I can only respond to a few each day.

Pete – Sorry the dot moved so slow over the weekend, a bit more interesting now.

Cees – Great to meet you, hope you are doing OK.

Jean – Well done for running the Virgin London Marathon, hope it was a blast.

Ben – All my joints are fine at the moment but I might need some serious attention in late January.

Judith – Us oldies have to keep showing the kids.

Now Steve – I wouldn’t want to be accused of cheating.

Natasha – More than happy to answer the kids questions, Hello Grade 4's, ask away! (Natasha, Darren's impressed ???)

Greg – My twitter manager (all the best rowers have them) mistyped, it was the size of a two storey house, not two houses, still flippin’ big when all you have is a rowing boat (especially when they keep coming for 3 days and nights).

John

Out

Blog for Monday 5th December

Posted on Dec. 6, 2011, 1:45 p.m.

This is really the day 13 blog entry but I am writing it on the morning of day 14 after just finishing my breakfast.  I think I may have broken 50 miles for the first time, YEHAY!  My worst day followed by the best. All I can say about day 12 is that a mile gained on a tough day is worth 2 or 3 on a good day. They all count and the tough days are the ones that will dictate when I get to Barbados.
 
Yesterday was quite a ride, the wind and swell seemed to cooperate for once and the miles piled up.  I was even kind of on course! I didn’t start antil 7.30am as I said yesterday, but I did spend 12.5 hours at the oars with only 45 minutes in breaks. So I made a big push to take advantage of the improving conditions. I did fill the boat with water 3 times.  Two were my own fault for not concentrating and getting caught out by the cross swell. The third was a doozy.   I rowed up the front of a huge swell expecting a great glide on the other side only to find one in the trough at 90 degrees to me.  Spitting white water and all, it came straight over the gunnel and filled the boat completely, bail, bail, bail – can’t be carrying all that extra weight, it might slow me down!
 
Not a lot on the wild life front, I think the seagull got the message. I have a couple of birds visit morning and night.  They nip about between the waves obviously feeding on something, although I have no idea what. Maybe now the weather is more settled I may have some interesting encounters.
 
On that front, if it stays calm today, may be boat cleaning day ---- place your bets.
 
That it for now
 
John
 
Out
 
PS 6th December - message from Cheryl, John just called and said he had about 40 dolphins playing around the boat this morning

Supplement to Yesterdays Blog

Posted on Dec. 5, 2011, 11:05 a.m.

07:10 GMT I'm sat patiently waiting for it to get light.  The temptation to get on the oars is a powerful one.  With two poor days and my weekly mileage looking like it will be less than last weeks, I am desperate to push on.  However just so everyone knows, I am still making good decisions and I am waiting looking for some glimmer of light.
 
It is definitely not safe with these two competing swells.  The are as big as ever (as confirmed by my dance with the devil bucket earlier).  I really do need to be able to see the water to navigate through the messy ocean.  So I have busied myself with daily house keeping and medical duties and we are all ship shape. I will grab some breakfast and the sun should be creeping up by then.
 
As I said last night I had a drogue out and it was holding us to about 240 magnetic about 230 degrees, despite that, we drifted due west for half the night.  Some time ago we seemed to be running more on a 255 / 60 bearing so that will do, we only covered about 6 miles in 10 hours but that's the drogue holding us back.
 
One last thing, with the gray day yesterday, not a lot of solar power was generated so I'm having a low power day today. Also no stars or moon at present so I suspect the same today, just GPS and AIS nothing else.
 
For now
 
John
 
Out

Messages for John

Posted on Dec. 4, 2011, 6:35 p.m.

Thank you for all of the great messages, John reads them all, please keep them coming.  To send John a message, click onto Contact Details and complete the form.  Make them Motivational or funny, from a few lines to a paragraph or two.

Oh What A Night (as the Four Seasons said)

Posted on Dec. 4, 2011, 6:10 p.m.

Well after an exhilarating but slow progress day, I have had a full night of excitement.  I’m writing this entry at 3.40 am after just pulling in my para anchor and keeping an eye on my heading.
 
Yesterday started with me getting the wind which I had complained about the lack of the day before and in spades.  The forecast was for 15 to 20 knot winds from the ENE (pretty much E).  As the sun came up, it was apparent that there were two big swells, one from the SE, perfect, and one from the west, not so good.  As normal the wind grew in strength as the sun came up and by 10am it must easily have been 20 plus knots.  The strongest wind I have seen yet and could easily have been 25 knots. I was managing to hold in the SE swell and as it grew I was getting good speed.  Top speed of the boat that I noticed (sometimes you are so focused on holding the boat straight you don’t look) was 10.1 knots down the back of a big swell, exhilarating indeed. The only problem with the two swells is that in the trough, the cross swell whips some of your speed, thus making consistent high average speed difficult.  Anyways, it was great fun and I do remember saying to a few people “I want to get the full experience".  Be careful what you wish for!  By early afternoon the swells were huge, looking up at them from the bottom of the trough they were easily taller than a two story house.
 
I was at the oars most of the day just to try and control every thing that was going on.  The sea was two big to cook a meal so I just ate snacks all day.  Jaffa cakes for breakfast, yum! By 5.30pm it was clear that things were not going to get quieter. I turned the steering into the wind and gave Tony a quick call to discuss strategy.  I had already concluded that with a swell that size, it was not safe to row in the dark as one snagged oar at the top of a swell would see a broach and I would be testing the self righting ability of the boat.  So what to do, you have three options really.  Get the boat to run with the weather on a safe heading that is at least south, put out a drogue, this holds the boat with the wind at its back so it heads straight down the waves and doesn’t broach or a para anchor that turns you into the wind locking the boat in place.
 
So I tried to get the boat to run and for the first hour or so it worked fine.  Then I started swinging to 290/300 degrees which is NW, not good.  I tried loads of times to pull her back on a decent heading but no joy.  The Westerly (NW I guess by now) swell was winning the battle, so I thought if I could get the boat locked in the SW swell with a drogue on the back that may work.  So off I go messing with ropes and shackles while every now and again a wave swamps the boat over the side.  An hour later I'm back in the NW swell so I went back to trying to run slightly across the wind.  By this time it’s midnight and the boat is getting blind sided more and more often.  We had also lost a mile or two in the wrong direction so it was time to put out with the para anchor.  This should work right, because if it doesn’t there are no more options. Well after making sure I don’t loose any shackles and ropes over the side, I managed to get the PA out without to much fuss.
 
All I needed was a couple of hours sleep and I could crack on in the morning.  No chance, I think the PA was holding us in the SW swell, however the big W swell is still running hard and the PA was holding us side on to it.  I spent the last 3 hours with the boat being swamped every 8 or 10 minutes.
 
A short while ago I notice a small change in the wind direction which seemed to have a little more N in it so I risked pulling in the PA and that is were you find me now.  Sat watching the compass making sure we stay on course and don’t take an early bath.
 
All a bit frustrating really after 3 or 4 days of hard work where we have managed to keep the mileage consistent.  Not to worry, all in a days rowing I guess.
 
Sorry there are no jokes in this blog but at least I’m still about and may be able to come up with some next time.
 
More later.
 
Bring on the speed!!
 
John 
 
Out

Day 10 / 11 Odds - John Evens & Shark 100/1

Posted on Dec. 3, 2011, 11:03 a.m.

We it’s now 9am on day 11, I must have been more tired than I realised last night. After I had done all my chores I thought I would have a 10 minute breather before writing the blog entry. Next I know it’s 2am and the boat is being tossed all over the place.
 
Day 10 was a toughie.  No help from the conditions at all, not even enough wind to flutter my flags on the boat.  I know it’s important to get the best out of these tough days and keep up the daily mileage average. So I pushed hard all day, it wasn’t until the last session of the day I could feel a little change and seemed to get a bit of help, so it ended on a good note. 
 
Couple of other milestones yesterday.  Passed a 100 hours rowing (108 as of last night) and went under 300 nautical miles to go to my first way point.  Not a great day but a solid day in the right direction.
 
As I said, I was woken in the night by the changing conditions.  Wow has the wind got up, it must be blowing a solid 20 knots out there. I'm writing this entry with difficulty as I am tossed from side to side. All I need is for the wind and the swell to agree a direction and we are off to the races. At the moment the wind is pushing hard West and the current is heading SW.  I have lost nearly 4 miles to the West this morning in my pre breakfast row.  We will see how the day unfolds.
 
It seems that there is a general concensious that I should go over the side of the boat.  Is there a betting pool I don’t know about?  John vs the sharks!  Tom, it’s great you had a watch out but I doubt he could have done anything other than pull what was left out of the water.  I will be out there, not today as it is a big sea, but first chance I get.  I need the speed so she has to be cleaned.
 
Messages
 
Amy, now don’t go and dent my ego.
 
James, trying not to use up the Sheffield Steel to early, had to deplete the reserves a bit in the last two days though.
 
Sea of Tranquillity – Was the Tropic Sea Mount.
 
Tony, no fishing haven’t got time or any where to cook and Keep.
 
Katie, thinking about the tan, not done much actual tanning.
 
Tom , good luck with RA she deserves a good home.
 
Dave, the seagul may like a sausage but if he comes back I have some Paxo with his name on it.
 
Debbie, glad your along for the ride, stangely enough, I’ve never been that good on water either, why I am out here baffles me!
 
Betty, glad you liked the radio interview, not my favourute thing but its all in a days rowing.
 
Chris, great sentiments thanks, now if only you can hook me up with one of those muli million dollar deals.
 
Hey Colin, how was China, can’t wait to hear all about it – I try not to think about being in the basement on the rowing machine. not like the real thing at all (you can stop when you like and put the kettle on for a start).
 
This will have to be it for now.  I’ve bumped my head a dozen times while writing this.  Off for breakie (mars bars don’t count apparently) and then fight with some more Ocean, bring it on.
 
John evens
Shark 100/1
 
John
 
Out

2nd Blog for Today, Message from Cheryl

Posted on Dec. 2, 2011, 5:56 a.m.

It is overwhelming how many people are following John on this journey.  The messages are simply amazing and I plan to share some of them with you in this post and over the next few  weeks.  These messages have made me laugh and cry.  From inspiration to motivation to humor and everything in between.  Please, use the Contact Details Page on John's website to send him a message. I can assure you that I am sending John every message received and he is reading every message. Unfortunately it is impossible for him (or I) to respond to everyone personally.  Please note that I have deleted the name of the person(s) who sent the message.
 
Subject:  Hello and Fascination and Admiration
Hi John
Just heard your interview on radio at CHML in Hamilton;
I am a desk jockey lawyer and spend my whole life looking at computer and in Court;
Nothing but admiration and fascination for a guy like you; strikes me your story is similar to Moby Dick;
I am extremely jealous and would like to meet you some day; unlike these million dollar pro atheletes
you are a pure athelete; just you competing against nature, for the challenge and the Goal.
God Speed and Good Luck
Cheers
 
FYI: CHML 900 is a radio station in Hamilton Ontario. They called John on his satelite phone today and did a live radio interview.

Dear John, just read about your row. I rowed with my cousin Don in 1971 and he rowed solo in '86 and '87...first man to row both ways.  You are doing great!  I wish you the best of luck and will follow your progress with interest....keep safe. 
GH
 
Oi Beastie
Getting very worried about the cheerfulness of your Blogs - hope you are not beginning to go dolally! I always apply "the grumpy" factor to everything I do - so start swearing at passing birds, wave your fists at vessels that invade your space - no time for complacency.  I notice that a lot of the queries you get are about the intricacy of your boat, but this is all about the man not the vessel so I would like to ask a question about your groin and other vulnerable places and have you had to go naked yet.
Cheers MT
 

Hi John, Work is cr*p – I’d much prefer to be out there. I go to work in darkness and I come home in darkness. Count yourself lucky, you get to be outdoors in the sunshine all day. I have a confession. I haven’t read one of your blogs yet. I will be sitting down and reading them all over the next couple of days. I’ve been chasing my tail the last week and not stopped. I hear from Cheryl and Tony that sleep is your problem at the moment. My suggestion was for you to row harder so you get more tired and find it easier to sleep – hope that helps! I’m not sure why, but I never had a problem with sleeping out there.  
Joke  – why was the blonde sat on the roof?   She heard the drinks were on the house!
Quote -  “All men die, few men truly live”
Endure and enjoy
TB
 
FYI This person rowed pairs in the Atlantic Rowing Race in 2009 and has since read Johns blog !  

Ahhhh Sleep, what wonderful medicine.

Posted on Dec. 2, 2011, 5:32 a.m.

Day nine was very workman like. After three nights with little sleep and the previous night with none, I was pretty exhausted and just needed to get my 12 hours on the oars and hope for the best.

The reason for no sleep at all was the weather seemed to be going through a change. Between the wind, the various swells heading in different directions and the current, there was no winner just a mixed up sea. This resulted in the boat being bounced about from one heading to another all night with rough waves slapping the side of the boat.  Sometimes this sounds like a shot gun going off  as they slap so hard. Then every 5 minutes or so a wave would smash over the back of the boat (a bit like being on the Niagara Jet Boat Tour). I considered putting out the sea anchor but decided against it as it wasn’t weather coming from the wrong direction it was weather coming from every direction that was the problem. Anyway morning came and things sorted themselves out.  There definitely was a change.  The big West swell has eased and was mostly now SW, the wind was a little more moderate but from the NW, all good.
 
I can report now, writing this at 4.30am on day 10,  that I got my 12 hours on the oars in.  May not be the best days millage, but more importantly I got a solid 5 hours sleep. I’m all geared up and raring to go.
 
In my frustration the other night I didn’t quite complete my seagull story. After cleaning away all it snail shell and poop left by the seagull, I got to thinking about snails, barnacles and the like so decided to run my hands on the bottom of the boat. I can feel a soft layer of algae growth. This means sometime soon I need to go over the side and clean the bottom.  If I leave it too long it will add drag to the boat and slow me down.
 
Thanks to everyone for all the messages, I am getting an early start today so should get time to answer some question and say my thanks later.
 
Off to row in the dark for a while.
 
John
 
Out

The hex of the grumpy old man!

Posted on Nov. 30, 2011, 10:32 p.m.

96 hours at the oars (626 left, maybe?).
 
Only 20 miles to go to the half way mark of my first point (where I turn right to Barbados).
 
Wind from a better direction today so made good progress.
 
Just for you Mike, I got to swear at a seagull today. Did you send him to harass me?  He turned up about 3pm, flew by and checked me out, sat in the water by the boat.  As I pulled away from him he flew up and behind the boat a dozen times or more. Thought he was just bemused  at the crazy guy in the boat. He then settled on the front of the boat, all this while I am still rowing away. He eventually flew off. I finished my session only to find out he had spit up a load of snail shell (was he an angry French Seagull?), and he also pooped all over the solar panel. While cleaning the mess up I lost my footing and cracked my knee.  So if you see a seagull with an oar shaped depression in the back of his head you know how it got there.
 
Questions about aches, pains and sore bits!
 
Hands – holding up really well.
Wrists a bit achey but not too bad,
Elbows strugglind a bit, arthritis playing up.
Other then that, my only problem is my bottom, which is not good at the best of times.
 
 
Other question - Do I feel lonley?

Stangely not, I feel more connected than ever, especially to Cheryl and the girls, it’s like they are rowing every stroke with me.
 
Going to have to end it hear tonight, quite rough and very dificult to type.
 
Thanks for all the messages.
 
More tomorrow.
 
John

Out

Day 8 - Brief and to the point!

Posted on Nov. 30, 2011, 9:18 p.m.

The following info was received (by John's Personal Assistant) after each session.

1st Rowing session of the day:  Had a messy start but can smell a good day ahead.

2nd Rowing session of the day:  Rowed 8.5 Nautical Miles - Two more sessions like this and I will be pleased.

3rd Rowing session of the day:  No so good!  A bit miffed.


:(  John

Out

First Full Week At Sea.

Posted on Nov. 29, 2011, 9:13 p.m.

7 days down, ????? to go.

84 hours at the oars.

Not sure on progress today, may be a bit less than yesterday but I’m much happier with it. All hard miles today, across the wind and the swell but made good course and steady progress.

Now Tony sends me the weather every day and he tells me the wind has been from the NE, ENE etc. The last two days I have been trying (most of the time) to row SW, 030 on my magnetic compass.  If you take into account everything is backwards on the boat that’s 210 degrees, minus 10 for the deviation where we are giving us 200 degrees.  Now if my little Spanish flag has been standing out at 90 degrees to the West and we take that from the 200, that gives us 110 doesn’t it? I always thought north was 0 to 90 degrees, sounds like a lot of South in that North wind to me.  Hence my slow progress over the last couple of days.  There is an inkling it may swing a bit in the right direction just before I quit tonight.

My friend Mike tells me my blogs are too cheery which means I am going dolally.  I won’t argue about the dolally, but Mike your suggestion about abusing passing ships etc. would be great but I am out here on my own, last ship sighted two days ago!!  And yes I got naked (twice now).  Just had another scrub down on deck, feels great, hope there’s no paparazzi about!

Last little piece then it’s off to bed. I thought I should explain how great it is out here. I have experienced quite a few weather scenarios but the first three days were just thrilling. In the acceleration zone and then the big NE winds after. Huge walls of water towering above the boat from behind spitting white water.  You think they are going to devour you but they majestically lift you towards the sky, hold you there for a second and then race away into the distance giving you some of their power as you pass increasing your speed three or four times. They come in 3s and 4s and when they have gone you can’t wait until the next one arrives. When you are on this ride it’s all that’s on your mind. Finding someone to buy the boat so I still have a pension or getting back in time so I still have a job, none of it matters, just bring on the rollercoaster.

As a few people have pointed out, this is a crazy thing to do but  it may be the craziest and simultaneously the most brilliant thing I have got myself into.

Hugh, I think I would have made the same decision you did but you are truly missing a treat.  This is everything we thought it would be and more.  Just hope I can get to the other side and do the trip justice.

Sam, great to hear from you.  Your right, I am truly blessed to be out here, it’s stunning.

Pete, I’ll give you a shout when I cross half way, maybe I’ll just swear so Mike will be a little less grumpy.

Tom, that’s funny, I go to work in the dark and come home in the dark but it’s definitely not C**P. (how come I’m not on that short list?)

Hey June, great to hear from you, hope all is well and you enjoy the ride with me.

John

Out

 

Canadian Charity Donations

Posted on Nov. 29, 2011, 3:10 a.m.

Due to the overwhelming interest in my journey, please note that we are in the process of getting a Canadian Fund Raising Page up on the website.

Many of you will have read that I had Open Heart Surgery two years ago which was performed by Dr Tyrone David at the Toronto General Hospital, Peter Munk Cardiac Centre. The surgery was to correct a defective valve.

Anyone who is interested in helping me raise funds for this charity will be able to make an online donation within the next few days. 

Day 6 - Second Posting - So Many Messages

Posted on Nov. 29, 2011, 2:29 a.m.

So Many Messages – Thank you to all!

As mentioned earlier, there is no way I can respond to all of the messages received, however I want everyone to know that I am reading all of the messages and will do my best to answer.

Mario & Co-Workers in Philadelphia: Thanks for following my journey.

Too Tall Tony:  To cook I use a Jet Boil to boil water for coffee or to make my food. I boil the water and pour it into a Tupperware boil with my freeze dried meals.  Then I let it sit for 20 minutes.

Norman and Kathy:  Cheryl reckons that I will build the muscles up in my arms during the row, that I will be able to carry any appliance up the stairs to our cottages all by myself, no worries!

To Everyone: I have not seen any whales, sharks or dolphins yet!

Hi Evan (Finland): Thank you for following my journey.  

Patrick, The Stick Man:  Thank you for ‘The Stick’, my body is appreciating the massage. 

Hugh: Sorry you are not here with me. What an experience!

Ben:  I have brought 450,000 calories of food with me on board.  Most of it is dried foods that you hydrate.  Not as bad as you might think. I tested the food before my journey so I have only brought food that I like.   I also have snack packs of 1,600 calories each. Mostly chocolate, biscuits, peanuts and so on.  I’m trying to eat 5 - 6,000 calories per day plus my snack pack of 1,600 calories each.  As for drinking water, I have a desalinator which takes the salt out of the water and makes it safe to drink.

To send a message to John, please go to Contact Details on the website and type your message.

The fun had to stop some time. Day 6

Posted on Nov. 28, 2011, 8:57 p.m.

Just passing by the Endeavour Sea Mount, an underwater volcano (extinct hopefully).

Toughest day so far.   Wind mainly from east, swell heading west

My day started on the oars at 4.20am. Why? Because I was up, what else do I have to do? Seemed to make good progress and right on track, quick break to cook breakfast, cereal with mango, yum, and back on the oars. I seem to have a good system with the food.  I stop to boil my water (Tony most food is dehydrated, I make the water with a desalinator) mix the food with the boiled water, leave it to cook tucked away on deck. I go back on the oars and then stop on the half hour for a drink (30-45 seconds or so) and on the hour to eat half the food so at the end of the next session, I have eaten the food in smaller manageable amounts.  It also acts as a focus and breaks up the 3 hour stints. Then it all starts again, sweet and sour chicken this afternoon and spaghetti bolognaise this evening.  Each meal is 800cal.  In addition to the meals, I have a 1600 cal goodie bag each day that sits on deck and I snack on chocolate and the like.

The next two sessions today seemed to be a bit of a waste of time.  Despite thinking I was rowing in the correct direction, I ended up well west because of the current, so the last session of the day was to correct that.  I need to stay in the Canaries current for the next few days. Could do with the NNE wind that is predicted.  Never mind, I’m sure there will be much more frustration before this is all done.

Thanks every one for the support and kind words, it does mean a lot to me to know there is so much interest in my crazy little project. Please note that it is impossible for me to respond to all the messages right now).

Lilly – good to hear from you, have been quesy buy no seasickness, keep up the rowing it’s great fun.

Michelle – good to hear from you too – let’s crack this ocean first before we get carried away.

Dave – no bubbling water yet

Laura – thanks and don’t forget the boat comes from just around the corner from you.

Carlo – I sleep (if at all) in a small cabin (6ft) at the back of the boat. It is like being in a washing machine most of the time. There is no one following me on the Ocean but I have a small (1) shore based team following me and would liaise with the cost guard if I should get in trouble. I will go over the safety kit on board in another blog if I have an uneventful day.

Just had a battery warning on the computer so I will sign off for now. Also need to put some cream on my bottom.

John

Out

Too pooped to write a long blog

Posted on Nov. 28, 2011, 11:47 a.m.

 

Sorry for short blog today, however sleep deprivation is taking its toll. Since leaving port five days ago, I have only had a couple of hours of sleep.  The constant rocking and rolling is preventing me from getting any sleep.  I am simply too tired to write to night.

As for my health, I have blisters (no surprise there), I’m having trouble with arthritis in my hands and feet but it isn’t too bad and the constant roller coaster ride is making me queasy.   

Despite the lack of sleep, I am OK mentally and looking forward to the next seven days where Tony tells me that the winds will be in my favour!  

John 

Out

 

 

Day 4 & Day 5 Daily Log Update

Posted on Nov. 28, 2011, 10:18 a.m.

I know you can check out the daily log yourself, however as Tony was unable to connect to the internet for the past two days due to travelling. Check this out:

Day 4:  Rowed 44.5 miles, Distance Made Good was 43 miles

Day 5: Rowed 45.8 miles and Distance Made Good was 45

Leaving me with 2417 nautical miles to Barbados!

Pull your socks up and get on with it!

Posted on Nov. 27, 2011, 2:10 p.m.

 

6pm on Day 4

Well day four and it all seems so normal, the hue horizon and only me (mostly) anywhere to be seen. I had a good day yesterday, Tony reports 49.3 miles, that’s a 50 in my book (don’t forget they are Nautical Miles and I believe there is 1.18 NM to the imperial mile).  I don’t think today will be quite as good. Tony takes my mileage at 9am each morning as that is the time I left Mogan, so as of now (6pm on day 4), I have rowed 81 hours.  I have another 15 hours and tonight’s drift to take into account. I quite like having my morning session count towards the last day’s mileage, it motivates me to get cracking. 

The weather has been pretty good, a lot of wind from the east this morning, swinging that way again now.  I really want the NE for a few days. Tony reports good weather for at least 5 days.  If I can keep my mileage in the mid 40’s I’ll be happy with that. 10 or 12 days and I could be turning west for Barbados.

Now things are a little more settled, I should explain a few things about the boat, course and other points of interest. The boat is called Virgin London Marathon (VLM from here on) although she is registered as SOCKS.  The main reason is that to spell VLM phonetically every time I am on the radio (marine radio protocol), would not only drive me mad, but if there ever was an emergency, it would probably be over by the time I had stumbled through my Oscar, Charlie, Romeos.  SOCKS is because one of my favourite phrases at home is “pull your socks up and get on with it” which seemed appropriate for this venture.

The reason I am not heading straight for Barbados (poor DMG figures for dot watchers) is that the center of the Atlantic is not a friendly place.  It has mixed up currents and more low pressure occurrences which are not good for rowing.  I am basically heading for the Equatorial current, which will whisk me in the direction of Barbados.

The boat handles great, up to about 20 knots following wind and then she is a bit of a handful however she seems to know where we are going and is happy to hurry along.

It’s 6pm, just off for another 3 hour row.  Hopefully will finish remainder of blog tonight if not in the morning.

 

4am on Day 5

Well it’s just gone 4am, too tired last night to add more. Ended up quitting 30 minutes early last night.  There was no moon so it was pitch black and difficult to know if or when the oars were going to  hit the water.  If you get it wrong, you get an oar in the stomach. Thought best of it and went for a lie down. Slightly calmer last night so I did get a couple of hours sleep. I’m beginning to think this whole trip is going to be about sleep.

Here’s something strange, when you are in the cabin you can hear a little wind and what sounds like water gently lapping at the boat, but when you go out, there is a full on wind and swell.  Other than the rocking and occasional large wave crashing against the boat you would never know.

 

Couple of messages

Nick B, no sign of the moustache fish yet!

Mike, we can do a Bachelors session for old times sake when I get back.

 

Thanks everyone for the supportive messages.

Enough for now, some serious miles to gain.

John

Out

 

Please Note:

Anyone who wants to get a message to John can do so via the contact page on his website. You can type in a short message and this will be sent to John in his daily email.

The Daily Progress Log will not be updated today as Tony is on the Ferry travelling back to the UK and has no access to the internet.  We will update Day 4 and Day 5 tomorrow.

 

Morning, Day 4 at Sea

Posted on Nov. 26, 2011, 9:50 a.m.

 

5am and heading out at 5.30am for my first 3 hour session. Life on board seems to be falling into a pattern.  I am eating better now but not enough, so I will work on that today. It's funny how all the things I prepared for, are not the things that have turned out to be hardest. The toughest thing at the moment is sleeping.  I’m obviously tired from rowing all day so you would expect that I would just crash out whatever the conditions but in a raging sea with the boat pitching and tossing it has proved difficult to get any sleep.  Just as you are slipping into unconsciousness, the boat will pitch violently as a wave engulfs the back cabin and you are wide awake again. Or the AIS (warns me other boats are close) goes off and I spend the next hour watching for huge cargo ships so they don't run me over. I was on collision course yesterday for a while!  Eventually the ship, the size of a small city passed about 1 mile to the east, close enough.

My girls sent me some questions so I thought I would answer them for everyone, so here goes;

Are you stopping and taking breaks (doesn't look like it on the tracking map)? - Through the day I row pretty constantly. Yesterday for example I rowed 5.30 to 8.30, 9 to 12, 1 to 5 and 5.30 to 8. The boat also drifts so I get some free miles when I am not rowing,  when I row, I am just adding some speed and direction to the boat (drifted a long way last night, winds strong and in a good direction).

How hot is the air temperature day / night? - 30 degrees in the day, too hot to go in the cabin (so I snooze on deck at lunch in the breeze).  Cool enough at night to need a long sleeve to do the final row in and I had a light fleece on last night.

Is the Ocean warm? - When you stick your hand in yes - when a wave comes over the side of the boat in the morning and the wind is blowing no.

Are you sleeping at all or too worried to sleep? - Not sleeping, however not worried. It is just like being in a washing machine.

How bad is the sea sickness? - Biggest surprise of all - not at all.  First couple of days in the heat of the cabin fiddling with equipment made me queasy so I stopped. Just now starting to think I have typed for long enough so even that’s getting better.

How are you coping with the boat? She is great. The only problem is my steering system is a challenge with the wind directly behind (I'll explain more later). We are getting to know each other and she makes me feel safe.

Roughly how far out were you when you couldn't see land? – I thought I saw some lights yesterday morning, must have been 90 miles of so, but the island disappeared on the first night.

Have you seen any other boats since you lost sight of land? - Quite a few, 8 or 9 big cargo ships, seen lots of others on my AIS but if they are more than 3 or 4 miles away I am too low to see them.

Is it completely pitch black or have you had the moon and stars for light? - Lots of stars not a lot of moon, it is proper dark.

What has scared you so far? - Strangely nothing.  Maybe I have too much to think about. I will however write more about the waves later.

Have you seen any sharks or dolphins yet? - Not yet, a few seabirds but nothing to report yet.

I started by saying it’s the unexpected things that are the hardest.  Typing is probably the hardest followed by going to the bathroom. Hopefully Cheryl is making the blog  legible.

John

Out

 

Best Afternoon snooze in forever

Posted on Nov. 25, 2011, 12:22 p.m.

Well what a two days.  Set off full of beans on day one then had to row nonstop for 11.5 hours. First to escape the Island weather, then to control the boat in a strong NW wind with a huge rolling current.  Quite exciting but hard work. I really needed NE winds to get me to my first way point where I turn west for Barbados.

I battened down the boat on the first night and tried to get some sleep not a single wink.  The wind howled and the boat tossed about violently all night. 5am came around and I decided to get on the oars to get the boat under control.

Rowed 5.30 am to 7.30am, had some breakfast, not cooked because it wasn't safe to use the jet boil and then rowed 9am to 1pm. All morning NE winds with a big NE swell so the best I could do was going due south. It just started to ease off a little so I got the jet boil out and made some spaghetti bolognaise  Left it to cook, had some snacks and propped myself up against the cabin.  I can't go in the main cabin during the day because it's too hot. Dosed off for 20 minutes and it was sheer bliss. Back on the oars 2pm to 5pm.  Used the sat phone and ate my spaghetti bolognaise as I went. 

Tony reports better winds arriving mid day. 

5am now just heading out for some fresh air and to add some speed to the boat. Didn't sleep much last night, quite a bit of traffic, came within 2 miles of a cruise ship, thought about asking for a lift.

No sea sickness other than queasiness in the cabin when trying to operate the equipment.  Amazing coming from a guy who has gotten sea sick on every fishing adventure he has ever been on.

Short blog today as I am still being tossed about.  It's not easy typing on a roller coaster.

John

Out

To Follow My Progress

Posted on Nov. 24, 2011, 11:10 a.m.

Click on the Track My Progress Button.  Zoom In. You will see a yellow line with blue dots. In the bottom corner, is a distance scale to use as a guide.

We are just working on providing a Daily Update Log where you will be able to see the miles rowed and the miles made good.  Hoping to have this up and running later today.

Day One Tough but Good

Posted on Nov. 24, 2011, 10:55 a.m.

Had a tough but good day yesterday.  Rowed 11.5 hours with about three 10 minute breaks. It was hard work getting free from the islands weather system.  The wind is from a better direction now and so I am heading back out to the oars.

The only thing that is making me queasy is concentrating on the equipment.  I only managed 3000 calories yesterday!

Longer blog later.

John

 

 

 

 

John's Departure

Posted on Nov. 23, 2011, 1:16 p.m.

John set off from Puerto Mogan, Gran Canaria without any problems at 08.50gmt today, 23rd November 2011.

To track John’s journey, please go to the Track My Progress button, zoom in and you will see where he has rowed. We will be providing daily updates as to how far he has rowed.

How long ‘till the sea sickness gets me?

Posted on Nov. 23, 2011, 1:33 a.m.

 

Just a real quick entry tonight, it’s late and I have an Ocean to row in the morning.

Pulling forward the departure has put us under a little pressure today, but we are all systems go for the morning. 8am I check out of customs, 8.30 I’m off. Not sure if I’m nervous yet, but I am sure I will be in the morning. The wind was strong from the NE today as forecasted.  From the shore you could see a line where the ocean is in the lee of the Island, it’s about 4 or 5 miles out.  Past this point is the wind acceleration zone where the wind is squeezed between the Islands, big white horses and 20 knot winds, looks like a wild ride!!!

I have to clear the calmer water first which could be hard going.  The land mass does strange things to the wind, however once in the main NE winds it looks like I will have 3 or 4 good days of perfect weather to sling shot clear of the Islands. After that things are a little uncertain but once in the open ocean it’s all easier to deal with. Now for those of you reading this who expect me to streak away I should point out that anything over 30 miles a day is considered good going for a solo rower so that dot will move slowly across your screens. The boat is light and I feel good but it is still a wait and see situation.

Finally on the sea sickness front, I really need to get out there and get it over. I was sure I would have been messed up on the ferry from Cadiz but not so.  I have had no queasiness on the boat at all so far. So bring it on, I have my sea sick tablets by the coffee pot for the morning and loads of tinned peaches on board just in case.

I will tweet my departure in the morning.

Until then.

John

Out

 

Jam Crepes and Ice Cream

Posted on Nov. 22, 2011, 1:35 a.m.

Been a quieter day today, laundry, work (work - work) and electronics. The big news is the weather is not looking too encouraging late into the weekend and early next week. There looks to be a lot of wind from the east and what north east there is, is light. The problem with the easterly is it could easily swing south which is bad. However, Wednesday to Friday there is 20 plus knots of north easterly winds.  This could give me a few 40 plus mile days (in the right direction) which would get me well south and less effected by the Atlantic lows which are more northerly. So depending on tomorrows 7 day forecast, it could be my last day on land for a while.

I am trying to do everything I can to put on more weight before I leave but without much success. I stopped running a couple of days ago. I am eating really well, so well it feels like Christmas Day afternoon all the time when you have eaten too much dinner and then pigged out on the Christmas pud. I am on a diet of pizza, chips with everything, then supplemented by jam filled crepes and high fat ice cream. I was having elevenses this morning and ordered coffee and crepes.  I re-ordered twice more and the server in the cafe looked at me like I was a crazy person.  I’ll be back tomorrow for more, can’t wait. I have 450,000 calories on the boat and about 46,000 in weight gain, hope it’s enough.

Just a short entry this evening, I will report on the weather tomorrow. If it’s Wednesday it only leaves 34 hours left on terra firma!!!

Until tomorrow

John Out

It’s a shame humble pie is zero calories!

Posted on Nov. 20, 2011, 11:13 p.m.

 

Another day and another attempt at getting the boat to Mogan. We left about 7:30am this morning.   Every day we have been here, the water has been flat calm first thing, not this morning. There was already a steady breeze as we were heading for the car. We arrived at the marina and set the boat up, I was pulling out of the harbour by 8:30am and off I went. No great problems, well not like yesterday anyway. There was a good strong headwind but only 6 or 7 knots maybe. As I was making progress, the wind was picking up all the time.  I passed yesterday’s furthest point (an hour plus rowing) in 10 minutes or so and was quite pleased.

However the wind was sometimes off shore and sometimes a head wind.  The wind started gusting to 10 to 15 knots which was pushing me out to sea and also into stronger winds. After the first 40 minutes I was quite satisfied with the progress, slow but steady and steering was much easier than yesterday, considering I was pushing into the wind.  I could see Mogan and thought I would make it in 1:20 or so. Not a chance, the wind was now gusting 15 to 20 knots, I was struggling to maintain my heading and every time I was not directly into the wind the boat was being blown beam on to the swell, not good. I was rowing past the end of a large valley and the wind was whistling off the land and causing all sorts of problems. I rowed across the wind towards land and then turned parallel to the coast, by this time two hours had past. I’d just started making some headway again, had about 4 or 500m to go and Tony appeared in a rib with some locals he had commandeered.  Did I want a tow? I shook my head but then thought the wind was strong enough and possibly getting stronger.   If I said no and then needed help I would look silly.   So with a long face I accepted. Five minutes later they let me loose in the mouth of Mogan marina and I rowed in under my own steam. At least I didn’t suffer the ignominy of being towed to our berth.

We sorted the boat out and went for coffee with my rescuers.  Turns out I’m not the only crazy fool about. The guy that provided the tow was a fireman from one of the other islands, but more interestingly he’s a spear fisherman.  He fishes for large (30 plus kilo) tuna while snorkelling and fighting off the sharks that try and steel his tuna. Plus he sailed from the Canaries to the US in a re-creation of Christopher Columbus’s voyage.  They set off without any modern aids and navigated in the traditional way. Well worth the embarrassment of being towed just to meet this guy.

So, not a complete success but on checking the tracking data I had made 2.4 knots for the first half hour and 1.4 ish for the next 3 half hour pings. Not bad going into such strong head winds. With a following wind and swell the boat should be pretty fast, let’s hope so.

Spent the late afternoon and evening sorting equipment, trimming the boat and getting ship shape. Tomorrow is electronics day.

More tomorrow (posted some new pics to the gallery)

John Out

PS To follow my journey from the 25th of November, click on TRACK MY PROGRESS, and then zoom in until you can see the yellow line with the blue dots.

 

Humble Pie

Posted on Nov. 20, 2011, 1:55 p.m.

 

Well, what an exciting day. I ran this morning and saw 3 shooting stars, must be a meteor shower but I took it as a good omen anyway.

 

We were off to Puerto Rico by about 7:30am and on site there just before 8am. We had to wait for Carlos the Marina Manager to check if we could work on the boat and use their slip way. He kindly agreed and we went to the boat yard and parked up in a suitable spot.

 

After some tugging and shoving, we managed to move the boat back on the trailer so we could touch up the anti-foul paint so she is in pristine condition (Jamie you should be very proud). By this time, we had numerous visits from interested people, lots wanting to take pictures and all curious about what we are up to. The most touching was a German gentleman who approached us to say thank you, it turns out he is recovering from prostate cancer and thanked us for raising money for the charity. I wished him good luck with his recovery and will do all I can to maximize fundraising from my endeavours.

 

Jim and Ann MacDonald arrived from Mactra Marine to check out and give me the low down on my water maker. Turns out it had a small leak and Jim spent an hour sweating in my small cabin scrapping his knuckles to get it fixed. Truly above and beyond Jim, many thanks for proving there are still real businesses out there that provide outstanding service.  There is only one company I will ever recommend for the type of work you do and you’re it.

 

Anne very kindly blessed the boat for us and she sprinkled some Champagne on the boat (and me), thanks Ann.  Add that to the shooting stars and the omens are looking good.

 

We had a bit to eat, not put any weight on this week unfortunately.  I am trying my best but may need to try a little harder (as all my teachers used to say). By this time what had been flat calm water had chopped up and there was a 15 knot head wind between us and Mogan. After some debate and a conversation with Carlos about what to do if I couldn’t make it, I decided to give it a try.

 

After a few little jobs I pushed off in the harbour.  For some reason, there was a constant stream of boat traffic coming into the harbour, so it was really tricky getting out without hitting any rocks, boats or anything else in the way. Don’t forget, I’ve never been in an Ocean rowing boat, nor a rowing boat with a rudder, or a rowing boat that weighs a tonne and has a turning circle of an oil tanker. So I managed to get out of the harbour (after doing one full circle so Tony could get to the harbour mouth with the camera) without incident. As soon as I was clear of the breakwater, the wind hit me side on.  There was a catamaran with about 60 people on it.  I couldn’t work out if he was trying to turn in front of me or behind me.  I realised he was actually just letting all his tourists gawp at the fool in the rowing boat. All I was thinking was please don’t let me get blown onto the rocks in front of all these people. Eventually I decided to turn inside him and head to open water, easier said than done.  I tried to row out to quieter water but couldn’t bring the nose directly into the wind and ended up beam on to the swell and the wind. I decided to do a full circle to bring me back into the wind but that meant turning back facing land. I managed this, but was still struggling with the rudder.  Every time I reached for the rudder controls I released the oars and the wind pushed me past the direction I needed (a consequence of not having foot steering, more on that later). After a couple of these pirouettes, I eventually got control, Tony thought I was heading east (the wrong way) on purpose. It took me 20 minutes pulling into the wind to pass the mouth of the harbour where I started, 40 minutes later I had made about 400 yards and I was thinking “ Who decided to take on this ******* challenge”. I looked over my shoulder where I could see Mogan but knew I had little chance of making it.  The swell was taller than the boat and ferries were coming close, creating huge wakes gawping at the fool in the boat.  After another 10 minutes or so I decided common sense must prevail. I turned around and headed back.  No more than 5 minutes to cover the ground that had taken an hour to make. The boat handled superbly with the wind at her back (what she is designed to do) and I managed to not over shoot the harbour entrance. Carlos has very kindly let us leave the boat in the Marina over night and we will be back in the morning to try again. As this blogs title suggests, I ate a very big slice of humble pie today and Mother Nature made her point.

 

The positives from today far out way the dent in my pride from turning back and I will return tomorrow to do battle again!!

 

Nil Desperandum Carburundum

 

John Out

 

Thank Goodness for Sat Nav (or maybe not)!

Posted on Nov. 19, 2011, 1:03 a.m.

Wow, what a two days. We got off the ferry OK, although it took an hour plus, all a bit chaotic. We had some free entertainment watching a truck driver trying to start his truck.  It looks like the fuel on the island is tax free so everyone comes here with empty fuel tanks. This truck was parked on a 60 degree ramp so the small amount of fuel in the tank was not in the bottom of his tank which fed the engine. He had to run off and fill a 50 litre container with fuel from another truck and then fill his tank.  Still no sign of life in his engine, he then proceeded to place a measuring stick in the tank and started looking in the tank with a torch. All this time, vehicles are passing him on the ramp and the truck in front couldn’t get out until he moved. It was very entertaining, eventually he got the thing going but it took ages to build pressure in the brakes and clutch, I think he was close to not getting off at his stop.


Anyway, we got off OK, thank goodness Tony is top notch reversing the trailer. They bring you in nose first then you have to back out around a corner before you can swing onto the ramp. His reversing skills were tested a few times yesterday. It only took an hour or so to get to Mogan, a pretty little place in the South West corner of the Island. We headed into town looking for the Marina entrance, ended up in a car park which was the wrong place, Tony’s reversing was tested again. We got on to the harbour wall and asked around only to find out that the Marina office was back by the car park we had been in and out of. Decided to park the car and boat and find the office on foot.

That we did.  Slightly nervously, we enquired about the berth we booked (nervous because it was a tricky booking) but all was in order. Great news, we checked out the berth, than decided to head to our accommodation and try and park the boat somewhere. The accommodation was 4 / 500 meters from the Harbour, however it took us 45 minutes to get there.  Tony’s reversing skills were tested numerous times.  We ended up in a hotel court yard, in a hotel delivery basement and out the back of the village.  The sat nav took us around a one way system, then across a pedestrian precinct from where we could see the apartment at the top of a flight of stairs. Eventually we worked out we need to head to the beach and back up the hillside. So we had managed to navigate 1600 miles across Europe but 500 meters across Mogan had us foxed.

Strange little place we are staying in but it turned out to be have a hidden bonus. We needed to do some work on the boat before she went in the water.  The apartment has a small hard standing beside it and they let us store the boat and Tony’s car there. It has worked out perfectly for finishing our tasks on the boat. We intended to launch today and continue work on the water, however, last night we found out all the local roads are closed today because of a local market, so we couldn’t get to the slip to launch. Not a big deal but it would have been good to see if she floats. Not to worry, we had lots to do.  We applied the rest of the graphics to the boat, not as easy as you might think.  The vinyl adhesive is attracted to boat paint like a magnet, one slip and they are wrecked. We displayed great patience and I must say she looks stunning. We spent the rest of the day doing various organisational tasks then quit for the day and went for a meal in the town. Not very exciting but I need to keep eating.

Today we packed the rest of the food in day bags.  I had to go out and buy another 30,000 calories as I was a bit short, I now have my full 450,000 calories on board.  More delights about my food on the journey. We have sorted and stowed all the ropes, fitted emergency flares inside the cabin so now she really is ready to go in the water.

We have a new plan for launching, because the Mogan slip is in the boat yard and the yard is crammed with boats being repaired and it looks really tight to get her on the slip. So this afternoon we nipped to Puerto Rico, a couple of miles up the coast.  They have a much better slip and space to work on the boat. So first thing in the morning we are heading there. We need to touch up the anti-foul paint and leave it for 4 hours or so before she can go in the water. I will then row back to Mogan and tie the boat up at her berth. This will give us the ability to test some of our communication equipment, turn the tracker on and test that (and the web page on the web site). All very exciting, can’t wait to get on the water, it’s like being a little kid again at Christmas (just hope I don’t break the new toy after 10 minutes).

I will report after my first real Ocean row tomorrow. Off now for some more calories.

Turtles ahoy

Posted on Nov. 18, 2011, 3:45 a.m.

 

Wednesday 16th

Well what a shocker, I had the best night’s sleep in what seems like months last night, Slept like a baby, awoke this morning feeling fresh and rested and raring to go and not any sign of queasiness. Had breakfast and spent an hour on deck watching the wave patterns and working out the wind direction.  It looks like a great day for rowing and amazingly not a scary prospect at all. Having said that, it is a relatively benign sea with a light, north, north easterly breeze. I could just slip the boat off the back of the ferry and set off now!!! We have seen a couple of turtles slip past the ferry just bobbing about doing their thing, tiny creatures in a huge Ocean.

Just passing time at the moment, catching up on some work shortly and looking forward to another good night’s sleep. We land in Gran Canaria at 8am tomorrow morning, it’s just one hour’s drive to Puerto Mogan and we will be one giant step closer to leaving.

We met a couple of Swedish rowers travelling down to La Gomera for the Woodvale race and had a good chat about the trials and tribulations of becoming an Ocean Rower. They had seen the boat on the trailer (their boat is already in Gomera) and were impressed with her size and how light she looked on the back of the car. This lead to a whole series of jokes about whether they would catch up the weeks lead I will have, if all departures are on time. I pointed out how well built she was, no life raft, no ballast for self righting, only food for one and no partner weight to row when I’m at the oars. So even if they are underway 24 hours a day they still only have one man on the oars and have to move all that extra weight (we think about 700lb). It was good banter but they should make 10 or possibly 15 miles a day more than me so should realistically catch me after about 3 weeks. Its good fun to joke about beating them across though and it will motivate me to stay ahead as long as I can.

So just 14 hours to landfall and the real fun starts when we get the boat in the water.

Out for now

 

To be or not to be?

Posted on Nov. 18, 2011, 3:35 a.m.

Sunday 13th / Monday 14th

To be or not to be  (sea sick or not that is) that is the question?

An uneventful train journey down to Portsmouth apart from my bag being so heavy I could only just drag it behind me. I was a little confused when I arrived at Portsmouth Harbour, thinking that the ferry to Le Harve would leave from the Harbour. No sign of anything but the Isle of Wight ferry. A short taxi ride later I found the real international ferry terminal.

45 minutes later Tony arrived with the boat on the back of the car all shrink wrapped and ready for the journey. We passed through the Port security quickly and easily and had a short wait before we could board the ferry. It was great seeing the boat and I must admit for the first time I felt properly nervous about the trip. We settled into our cabin, small but perfectly formed.  The ferry left at 11pm.  We stood on deck as we departed and it was freezing cold. We grabbed a coffee and then settled in and tried to get some sleep.

Now anyone that knows me, will know I talked about my concerns regarding getting sea sick. The few times I have been to sea in anything smaller than a Disney Cruise Liner,  I have been so sea sick I thought I might die. The 9 hour trip to Le Harve seemed to glide by without so much as a ripple.  Relieved that I was not ill, I know it’s not a real test. Tomorrow’s 40 hour ferry from Cadiz to Gran Canaria will prove a much tougher test.

Before arriving in Le Harve, we were up about 5am, had slept for a couple of hours and felt well rested. The shower in our cabin was better than most of the hotels showers I have come across recently. So felt well refreshed, we had a good breakfast and it was time to disembark. We were first vehicle off the ferry, straight onto the dual carriage way. On our way, the sat nav said 17 hours driving, that’s obviously with no stops. We had 31 hours to get to Cadiz so time for unforeseen mishaps. As it goes we had a fairly uneventful drive, Tony and I shared 3 hour ish stints and we arrived in Cadiz this morning at 7am. The roads were deserted for the most part for the entire drive. It was a bit tough between 2 and 4 am this morning but we got here in good shape.

8 hours to fill and too early to check in for the next ferry, we had a coffee and set off looking for a phone shop so we could sort out a Spanish internet mobile connection without going broke paying roaming charges. We walked a good two miles before we found a phone shop, not like the UK where there is one every 50 Yards. When we asked the assistant about the options she informed us we needed our passports. Not having them, we said we would return and we set off back to check in the car for the ferry, this was pretty quick so we grabbed our passports and walked the 2 miles back to the phone shop. 45 minutes later we have registered the Spanish sim cards and paid our cash, we put the sim cards in the phones.   Tony’s  phone failed, then did mine.  Apparently Orange Spain doesn’t work in Orange UK phones. We were so knackered by this time we just didn’t care.  We had not slept since 5am the previous morning. We tried a couple of other stores but gave up quickly and went for some food. Had a nice lunch sat in the sunshine, must have been 20+ degrees.  We decided it wasn’t a good idea to pursue the phone solution and we would leave it until we got to the island.

Then off back to the car. By this time we had seen quite a bit of Old Cadiz, it’s a really interesting place with a lot of 3 / 4 / 5 hundred year old fortifications, many other interesting buildings and a stunning Cathedral in the central square. It would be a neat place to explore a little more but we had to get back to the car to board the ferry.

And that is where you find me writing this blog entry (I won’t be able to post it until Thursday as I have no internet access, mobile or otherwise). We have been at sea about 45 minutes, the boat is swaying merrily and I still haven’t been sick. Who knows, I may be good at this seafaring thing after all.

Tony has just fallen asleep on the bunk across the cabin from me and he is snoring like a bacon pig. We are both knackered, dinners not until 8.30pm, 2 hours from now, not sure if either of us will make it.

Until next time

JB Out

Volcano and Work, Work, Work!

Posted on Nov. 13, 2011, 2:52 p.m.

Well, today’s the day it really all begins! 11pm tonight Tony and I get on a ferry to Le Harve and we’re on our way to the Canaries, a 26 hour drive down to Cadiz and then a 40 hour ferry to Gran Canaria.  We will arrive at 8am on Thursday. I’m currently sat in a launderette first thing Sunday morning cleaning my weeks training gear (wouldn’t want it to sit in a bag for another 4 days, the wif is bad enough as it is), then back to work for a while. Still lot’s of unfinished business to tie up before I officially leave, I guess my roaming charges will take a hit in the next couple of weeks!

It’s been a strange week, traveling back from Cornwall on Monday morning and a packed week of meetings and calls, trying to keep doing a little training at least, all while constantly eating. Full English breakfasts, shepherd’s pie lunches, and large dinners followed by packets of biscuits every evening before bed. The good news is I have gained 3lb since leaving home (10 days ago) and I’m now 156/7lb’s, another 3 or 4 lb’s before I leave will be just about right, hopefully. That will let me run at a 1000cal deficit per day for about 55 days and I’ll be back to my normal 140/2lb weight. I guess I best not hang about and take 80 days or more.

The big news this week are the underwater eruptions on El Hierro, apparently a new island has been forming for a while in the Canaries, news to me I must say. There have been numerous eruptions this week, enough to make the international news, check out the video    http://tiny.cc/2y5y3  . El Hierro is about 130 miles from Gran Canaria and as Tony said earlier in the week, best give it a wide berth, fine for him sat watching from the safety of dry land!!!

So not a lot to report but I will be posting more frequent blogs starting on Thursday and posting more pictures and video of the trip down to the island and the sea trials of the boat. 

Next blog will be from the island, I may be able to tweet a little on the way down.

Heavy luggage but all systems go !

Posted on Nov. 7, 2011, 2:45 a.m.

Well it’s been another tough week, forget the training (I got my last few sessions in on the rowing machine) just getting all the work I needed done before I left was a challenge.

We even managed to complete the boat registration, it did take all week and the final hold up was caused by decorators in the MCA offices who apparently filled the building with fumes and all the staff were sent home (just as our replacement documents were signed for). Anyway, we are now official, we even managed to register all the radio equipment on line in about 15 minutes this morning, so if I hit the panic button at half way they know who to call.

Cheryl and I collected the girls a little early from school on Thursday so we could have a family dinner before they dropped me off at the airport. We had a really nice meal and chatted away for an hour and a half, they dropped me off at the airport, but in the five minute drive from the restaurant the atmosphere had changed and the girls were very tearful. It was really tough to have to leave the three of them knowing that the next time we will see each other will be in Barbados possibly in late February. Although it’s the start of a big adventure for all of us, it was still very sad.

I have never traveled anywhere alone with so much luggage as I normally travel back and forward to the UK with just hand luggage. I have ordered most of the kit in the UK and it’s been delivered to various locations, some to the office in London, some to Global Boat Works and some to Tony in Plymouth. However, I still managed to buy enough bits and pieces at home to fill two large suitcases. Made it a real challenge dragging them through two airports and across London, a great weight training session is what it was.

Anyway, after a long drive on Friday afternoon I made it to Cornwall where Global Boat Works are based and was ready for a weekend with my new home. Had dinner on Friday night with Tony (my shore support) and another John who is looking to row the West to East northern Atlantic route in 2013.   A really nice guy plus It’s nice to know I am not alone in my crazy obsession.

The weekend has gone by in a blur and nearly according to which is a great success, the boat now has some branding, is fully fitted with all the little extras we needed to add and is fully packed with food and equipment. We have some of the equipment up and running, tested the Satellite phone, it works fine, can send and receive sms messages so I can communicate at sea. We still need to get the email up and running but that should be pretty simple. All the electrics on the boat seem to be working fine and the batteries are accepting charge.

Still a few things to sort out this week and back to a busy week at work in the morning. Tony is looking into having the boat wrapped this week so she travels well and arrives in pristine condition. I will post more pictures later in the week.

I have been staying in Bude over the weekend, it's a beautiful place and I have run the last couple of days which has been glorious, I'll be sad to move on but I need to move to the next leg of the adventure.

I also wanted to use my blog to thank Jamie and Emily at GBW for an outstanding job on the boat.  They have been a pleasure to deal with and they met every one of the promises they made and more.  I can only say I know it was business but at know time did it ever feel that way.

Until next time.

Shark Repellant and Red Tape

Posted on Oct. 30, 2011, 1:58 a.m.

 

Well another week has flown by, only 6 days now until I leave home for the UK and won’t see Cheryl and the girls again until Barbados sometime in late January or February. Assuming I make it past the first few days of inevitable seasickness.

It’s been a frustrating week really. Trying to get ahead with work, every time I make some progress I seem to hit another complication that makes my to do list longer everyday. I have a crammed week next week if it’s all going to fall into place. Not sure why we are doing this now but to add to the presure we are renovating two bathrooms in the house, at least I am not doing the work on this occasion but it is still sucking time out of my ever shortening days. Training has slowed down this week as well, slightly frustrating but good on the weight front. I will be doing session in the morning while watching the Grand Prix so I should get a good couple of hours in. I will just have 4 more days on the rowing machine then before I head back to the UK, after that it will be mainly running until we get to Gran Canaria and I start my sea trails. 

Tony my expedition support crew drove a boat down to Lisbon for Janice Jakait who is rowing from Portugal to Antigua (and you all thought I was crazy!!), check out her web site athttp://www.rowforsilence.com/en/ . She is leaving after me and has a different destination so I doubt we will bump into each other. I here that (as you would expect from a German) the boat is extremely well kitted out and engineered and she even has an on board fridge! A luxury not in my design speck. Tony came back happy with the car after towing the boat down through Spain and Portugal so that bodes well for our trip on the 13th.

This week was  all been about registering the boat, what a palaver, as mentioned in my last blog, this saga continues. Tony recommended a friend (Tim) who could do the tonnage and measurement survey and he turned out at extremely short notice, Tim did the survey and had the documentation sent to the MCA, one step closer. I spoke to them on Monday only to be told my paperwork is in a pile that will be processed by the 2nd November. They informed me I could have process speeded up for an additional payment (in Russia / India / China I’m sure this would be called a bribe) so a couple of hundred quid later they agreed to process the paper work in 24 hours, great? 24 hours later I get an email telling me they have no builders certificate, I contact Jamie and we send a 2nd copy, guaranteed next day, however we miss the last collection and this arrives at the MCA Thursday (and is signed for). However by Friday they still claim not to have received it, then I get a call late on Friday saying they have both documents but the name on the certificates is my name and not the companies, which didn’t match the rest of the documentation (the boat is registered in the company name because the company is UK resident and I am not). So today we sent a new builders certificate and I am hoping that they have all they need to issue the boats official registration. I just hope the rowing is easier than the red tape. It really is the last big piece of the puzzle.

I have also been buying / collecting the last few bits of kit I need. I have made seat covers and cut spare foam, ordered my sheepskin covers, ordered a new massage stick, my med kit is all sorted and should be waiting when I get back next week (hope I don’t need any of it). And last but not least (in my kids opinion at least) I ordered 5 packs of Shark Repellant, the girls have been fretting for weeks about the need to go over the side and clean the bottom of the boat. I must admit I have asked Tony to make a special tool that I can clean a lot of the boat from the deck with and I also bought a webbing ladder to use so I can get out of the water quickly just in case (not sure if I will take it but we will see when we are packing on the island). So the girls are now happy and I can go over the side with a bag of smelly black goo around my neck.

Big week this week, should be able to post some good pics at the weekend.

 

Trying to fit it all in!

Posted on Oct. 24, 2011, 2:01 p.m.

 

Anther two and a half weeks have sailed past since I got back from the UK. I spent the best part of last week working at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, a week of 18 hour days, not good for the training schedule but good for the “putting on weight” schedule. The weight issue is one of my biggest remaining concerns; I really need to be 15 to 20lbs over weight before I leave. If the research is correct and your body can only absorb 5000ish calories a day and I will be burning 6000+ a day, it doesn’t take a genius to work out I will lose weight. At a 1000 calorie deficit per day that’s a pound of stored body fat every 3 1/3 days, over 60 days that’s close to 20lbs. So I have eased back a bit on training and increased the eating, I need to put on a pound and a half a week before I leave.

Great news today from Global Boat Works, the boat is finished, she looks absolutely great.  As I said in my last blog Jamie has done a superb job. Now that all the hatches, kit, and seats are fitted, she really does look the part. Can’t wait until the first weekend in November when I get to add the last bits of kit and pack her for the trip to Gran Canaria.

We have finally secured a berth in Puerto Mogan which was a major challenge, between my lack of Spanish, their lack of English and a six hour time difference when they finish work for the day at 12 noon,  made it an interesting process. It’s a relief that we have somewhere to tie up the boat and do the sea trails. It has also been challenging registering the boat; because I am a British Citizen but a Canadian resident I don’t meet the requirements for the small ship registry. This means I have to register under the part one registry which is really for commercial shipping. We had to have a “Tonnage and Measurement” survey which I assume serious calculation necessary for large ships, they will get a shock at how small my little boat is when they get the paperwork on Monday. Hopefully this all sorts it’s self out this week as we need the registration documents to then register all the equipment on board, the ships radio, EPERB, PLB etc.

I also placed my food order this week, hopefully I have it about right. I have been testing the expedition food for a month or so now. It’s all a lot better than expected so it was a pleasant surprise.

The next two weeks are just eating, training and trying to get ahead with work.

I have posted some pictures of the finished boat to the gallery and I should be uploading a couple of videos later in the week of some of my summer training.

 

Back To School

Posted on Oct. 12, 2011, 12:19 a.m.

Well I am now back at home after a couple of weeks on the road. Good to be back with Cheryl and the girls. 

I spent a few days in London working before heading down to Devon / Cornwall to meet Tony my logistics advisor and see the boat for the first time. The strangest thing about the trip is that this is the longest period in over two years that I have not been near a rowing machine or a boat. I did manage to run 12 out of the 14 days I was away so that was some consolation. 

My time with Tony was very productive, we covered lots of ground on the outstanding kit list and discussed the pro’s and con’s of some of the technical issues that had been on my mind. Friday we went to Global Boat works and saw the boat for the first time. Jamie has done an incredible job and she looks in great shape. We spent the day discussing the merits of different versions of para anchor harnesses, spares for the various moving parts on the boat and the in’s and out’s of anti foul paints. We made lots of progress and I left Global Boat Works feeling we were well on track and the boat should be ready for the 4th November when we start packing the kit, ready for the trip to Gran Canaria.

Tony went off shortly after to be Roz Savages (http://www.rozsavage.com/) landfall logistics manager. I went off to Southampton to start my RYA courses.

The first hurdle was to find my hotel, I discovered GPS is not the answer to all navigational challenges. I had input the hotels post code into the GPS, then spent 30 minutes driving round a housing estate in Southampton at 10 pm. I eventually called the hotel only to be informed that the post code was correct but it took everyone to the wrong location - they gave me a completely different post code and I eventually found the hotel some 15 minutes later. Just hope their postman understands the system!

The best thing about the following 8 days was the other people that were on the course. There were 9 other rowers, one solo (Tommy Tippets) two pairs (Helena and Richard Smalman-Smith), (Michael and Wayne, rowing with different partners) and the row2recovery 6 (http://www.row2recovery.com/)  a great bunch of guys who made an otherwise intense week good fun.

Saturday was the VHF radio course, Mayday messages, radio etiquette, what not to do on the radio. I have not had to take in so many acronym’s in one day for a long time, after a long day we took a short exam and fortunately we all passed. I hadn’t realised but there are quite strict restrictions on who, where and when you can use the marine bandwaves, a good thing I guess. However I will probably only get to use the radio 2 or three times in the whole trip as once you are out of site of land or another vessel they are not much use.

Day two was Survival at Sea. We spent the morning watching disaster movies of some of the Ocean sailing races, things  that had gone wrong on boats captained and crewed by experienced seamen. I think it put the wind up most of us making what we are attempting more real. Some of these guys made basic errors either under the pressure of the situation or from taking short cuts to make the boats faster. The afternoon we spent in the swimming pool practicing climbing in and out of life rafts, saving casualties and throwing buckets of water at each other to simulate storm conditions. The only thing I didn’t have the courage to do was to tell Yvonne (the course tutor) that I wasn’t intending to take a life raft with me on the boat (more of this in a later blog).

The rest of the week we spent on our RYA Yachtmaster Shorebased Ocean and First Aid at  Sea Course’s. The Yachtmaster course is a navigation and ocean voyage planning course, taking in weather, pilotage and safety procedures. Most of the course was pretty straight forward but the celestial navigation is a minefield of potential mistakes. The first run through on Monday you wonder how you are going to master it in just 4 days. However, slowly (very slowly in my case) the penny starts to drop and by Friday when we sat the short exam it did seem to make more sense. It’s a good job Yvonne was easy on the paper marking is all I can say. We also did some practical stuff, setting off some emergency flares, bandaged each other up like extra’s from casualty and learnt a few knots. I made the mistake when we were practicing a full turn and two half hitches, asking what a full hitch was? Not a good idea!  I had to make sure I brought in extra chocolate biscuits the day after to get back in the good books.

All in all it was a good week, stretched my under used brain and opened my eyes to some of the real issues I will face in December.

So I am now qualified to plan and execute an ocean passage, whether I am capable of making one is another question altogether.

Back home now on the rowing machine watching old movies, Oh how I wish it was still summer and I was out on the lake in a thunderstorm right now!!!

Summer 2011

Posted on Oct. 6, 2011, 8:39 p.m.

Welcome everyone to my first blog about my adventure across the Atlantic.

I have just returned home after 8 days alone at our family cottage on Blackstone Lake (near Parry Sound in Ontario) where I spent 12 weeks in the summer with my family, training, working and enjoying the company of my two girls and Cheryl my wife. We went home at the end of the summer and  when the girls went back to school I returned to the cottage to train alone.

I have spent the last two years building up to this thirteen week training block, slowly switching from running to sculling. Through the summer I planned to row on the lake starting with simple 2 hour sessions in the morning, building through the summer to 6 hour training days. This then leaves me with 2 weeks in the UK, 4 weeks back at home, 1 week in London then travel down to Gran Canaria where I spend my last 2 weeks prior to departure doing final boat preparation and sea trials. Keeping training this last 8 or 9 weeks is my toughest challenge as the pressure of work, trip logistics and family all increase.

The summer training block went well, I did a total of approximately 315 hours sculling. My only aim has been to build the stamina I need to cross the Atlantic. I had no real interest in boat speed as the scull is obviously a completely different beast to the ocean boat. The training went well and by the end of the summer I was putting in the 5 or 6 hours days I wanted and recovering well. I was pleased that in the last 2 or 3 weeks my mind wandered a lot while rowing which suggests I have reached a level of fitness where the sculling is second nature and I didn’t have to focus overly on my stroke to keep the boat moving at a good clip. I supplemented my training with lots of wake boarding which is a really good upper body work out and plenty of other crazy lake activities (more of which later). 

I had numerous mishaps, a few big spills wake boarding creating some interesting bruises and sore joints, a cracked rib from a combination of jumping from a 45 foot high rock into the lake and a few days later sumo tubing behind the boat (both of which you can see in the picture gallery and video library). I have managed to train through most of the incidents (I did take 4 days away from the boat with the rib, however I managed a good run each day without aggravating the injury). I have treated the injuries as a test to see if I can persist with the work outs (using different pulling and sitting positions) while the injuries heal. Obviously when I am at sea if I’m not at the oars I am just adding days to the trip.

We have had lots of big weather through the summer, so I have been out in all sorts of conditions, most of which my little training scull doesn’t like. Most mornings the lake was flat calm and it is hard to beat getting up at 5 am, rowing 2 hours through the dawn on a flat calm lake with only the Loons for company. By lunch time the wind is usually up and has varied dramatically through the summer, sometimes just 10 or 12 miles an hour sometimes 25 or 30 miles an hour. Going out with just a 10 mile an hour wind at 11am and coming back against a 25 mile an hour wind creating white caps is an interesting experience when you're sat on a scull with your bottom just inches above the water. We have also had lots of thunder storms and in an effort to get just one more session in, I misjudged the weather a few times and had a really tough time getting back to our dock. I suspect this is only a taste of what’s to come in the winter.

The last 8 days we had a big cooling off in Canada and on my last morning row I stopped after my first hour to stretch my back and massage my bottom only to find ice crystals all along the front of my oars. It has warmed up again since then but it was a real shock to the system.

I am now off to the UK, spending the first few days in London working, then I get to see the boat for the first time and then I am on an 8 day training course covering, VHF radio use, Survival at sea. Back to school! Should be an interesting week.