Johnnie's Blog - Days 8-11

Forget Me Knot Atlantic Row
Johnnie, Stef and Dirk
Fri 11 Feb 2022 08:42

About Days 8-11

Guru Chris is an ocean rowing legend; our coach, our router, our shore support, our weatherman and, at times, our therapist. We have a short chat each day then we do as we’re told. On day 7, the Guru Chris update warned of wind due from the South for a few days (blowing us North - not good). The only choice was to throw in the sea anchor and hope to hold our ground as much as possible.

Fortunately, unlike the first few days, the conditions were pretty fine with enough sun to sit on deck, heat food (for the first time) and clean the boat. What we couldn’t do, was drink much water. We’d brought 45litres in three Jerry cans which we’d planned to fill every few days. However, the water maker is the most power hungry equipment of all so, given the lack of power, was off the table.

Time to crack out another contraption I’d hoped to never need - the manual water maker. A 0.5-1m hydraulic ram with a lots of pipes and a long pump handle. Drop one end in the sea, vigorously pump the handle and clean water dribbles out. 

‘Dribble’ is probably a bit generous. It kind of drips out lazily and occasionally musters the enthusiasm for a bit of dribble; you’d get a better flow from the cast of Dad’s Army. It takes about 2hrs of constant pumping to fill our three 1.5litre water bottles, by which time you’ve worked up quite a thirst. A bit of vicious cycle really. Bring back the sun power!

On the face of it, being on sea anchor is exactly what rowing an ocean is not about - after all, you don’t get across by slowly drifting in the wrong direction. And no doubt, from a crew morale perspective it’s not great. You feel helpless and as though you’re failing at the mission. There is also the background concern that we may be going ‘too slowly’ overall - we’ve all got partners, family and jobs to go back to that can’t wait indefinitely.

To cope with this I’ve try to take a step back and see our times adrift as an important part of the expedition. We may not be accumulating miles but what kind of adventure would it be if it all went to plan and we traveled in a straight line? From my seat on deck I have a 360 panorama of the ocean, no emails, WhatsApp or other technology to demand my attention (still no power!) and - except for Stef’s 24 hour singing - a uniquely peaceful spot to watch storm petrels skim over the trippy textures made by the waves. There is time to think and reflect. In the evening we listened to an audiobook together and heated a luxurious boil-in-bag caramel brownie under the stars and yellow, crescent moon.