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On the 1st March 2017 I will finally, weather permitting, set off to row the Atlantic Ocean. Now I know what some of you will be thinking - ...

Friday, 31 March 2017

We're not celebrating yet....

A quick blog from Niall:

Relatively busy few days here. On Wednesday morning we passed the half way point of the trip. Not much celebrations really as we all understand there is still a very long way to go. Equipment failure and adverse weather conditions remain the 2 big unknowns. Of course it's nice to know that the long countdown to home has begun but 3-4 more weeks of this brutal schedule remains too much to contemplate at the moment. 

Yesterday we had the biggest low so far when our third and final autohelm arm failed. Having to manually helm from here would add 10-15 days to our crossing- time we could certainly do without. We spent a few hours working with Simon Chalk (most experienced Atlantic rower ever) who was kind enough to help and finally found a fix for the third arm. I cannot explain the relief when it successfully kicked into action. So far so good but we remain one breakdown away from disaster again - this crossing finds new and better ways to torture us everyday. We've now mobilised (thanks Helen) a number of internet forums (fora?) who are working on finding a fix for our first two arms - people really are great sometimes. 

Despite all this we are still on target for the World Record

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Halfway Point and Technical Issues.

Today Wednesday 29th March at 9am local time the boys made it to halfway in their epic crossing, ... to you and me that means they have rowed over 3,000km (1.650 nautical miles) in the past 23 days. 2 hours on 2 hours off.... EAT, SLEEP, ROW, REPEAT!
The world record of 50 days remains in their sights but there is still an awfully long way to go.

They continue to make solid progress and morale is good but they have had some bad news and frustrations with some of their technical kit. The auto-helm that steers the boat has broken, but not for the first time. They took three with them and now 2 have failed and they are on to the last one... they have tried and better-tried to fix the first two contacting many seasoned ocean rowers (what an awesome community they are - thanks guys!) as well as the manufacturer themselves but to no avail.
(If anyone techie out there has a clue about Raymarine SPX5 auto helms please drop me a line!)

If this last one fails they will be down to manually steering the boat and whilst this won't endanger the crossing as a whole it will add significant time. So everyone start crossing your fingers.

Other than this 'issue' there hasn't been much news from the boat but we did receive a load of pictures from the past few days - so the rest of the blog is mostly visual!

Needs updating!

Cooking tea

On the oars... again

Another sunset

The cabin countdown

Close confines

Niall's pillow
Red Nose Day

Ralph and Niall chilling as Colin and Clement row

Autopilot problems! ETA: 46,5 days / still on schedule to smash the world record, but this thing has got to keep working!

For us back home we're getting there, we sit and wait, and cross our fingers, and pray, and wait some more and take every day as it comes and the other myriad cliches, but we are so proud of them all and can't wait to see them in a few weeks time! Keep trucking boys!

If anyone would like to send personal messages of support to Niall please feel free to send them to me via FB or email and I will be sure to send them on.
Be aware though he sent me this on the weekend   "Approaching half way but that just means we have to do all that again - depressing - so don't want to hear all the "over the hump" type comments next week!"

Saturday, 25 March 2017

From the horses mouth!

Now nearly 3 weeks into the row, our daily routine is very well established. 24 hours breaks down roughly as follows:

12 hours on the oars - maybe 5mins per 2 hours watch to take on some water/food otherwise all rowing. The 3 night watches are tough - it will never feel normal being woken at 1am to go outside and row. Nights are purely functional - get headphones on, row, pray it's around 90mins gone when you check the time. If it's less than 60, cry. Finish, straight into cabin to sleep. Other than maybe a protein bar, no time to eat. Days are far better - rowing is easier, often a bit of chat with other watch on deck eating etc. 2hrs still feels long but distractions like turtles, dolphins, passing cargo ships etc.

The 12hrs off watch break down as follows - 10mins before/after each watch preparing to row or sleep - dressing, sunscreen, quick pee etc. Makes up 2hrs total each day. Preparing and eating hot meals 3 times per day takes about an hour. We eat freeze dried meals in portion size packs - pour in boiling water (from flask), stir, wait 8mins. During 8mins boil water to top up flask for next watch. As dried food goes it's not bad. Personal maintenance (brushing teeth, treating sore bums, using "the bucket"), checking and replying to emails etc takes another hour most days. Then any boat maintenance such as cleaning solàr panels, tidying up etc. Leaves less than 8 hours to try to grab some sleep, which often doesn't feel quite enough! 

On Tuesdays we have watch changes (row 1 week with each person on rotation) and cabin swaps - we'll spend 3 weeks each in each cabin (bow cabin is huge and with mattress - stern cabin is grim). Friday is tuck shop - people were eating the bars so quickly we had to ration so on Friday everyone gets 7*protein​ bars, cereal bars, 3.5 chocolate bars and 2 power bars each for the week. Thurs is funny as people get grumpy having run out early! And that's it on repeat every day till we get there. 

Friday, 24 March 2017

Boat speed is good but who is Ralph?!

Current news from the boat is that all is well, the weather is behaving for them, they are seeing good boat speed and there have even been occassions when they've not wanted to get off the oars! 
Aches and pains abound but a third of the journey was completed on Tues (Day 16) and the hope is that they will hit the 50% waymark early next week meaning they are still on course for the World Record.

Firstly some boat news:

Tues 21st (Day 16)

The mythical trade winds have finally arrived, last night we had 15 - 25knts wind and we achieved an average boat speed of 4.7knts.  It was the first time we all wanted to continue rowing past our 2hour watch!

Some people have asked if they always row in the same pairs but they try and avoid that by switching around every week or so..

From Niall  - Day 16 -  All fine here - we've just had a watch and cabin change so I am now in the big bow cabin- luxury! We are now heading more or less straight for Cayenne so we will probably deviate to the west a bit from the line on the map. Conditions good - could even get under 45 days if weather behaves! Bum killing again last night so cut up an old fleece to make a kind of nappy!

Colin is now rowing with Clément and Niall will be rowing with Ralph for the next week.  

Now for a boat fact: 

It is estimated that each rower on board will do ~750,000 (15,000 per day) strokes at a rate of about 22 strokes per minute.  At the end of this crossing, in total, Ralph in his ocean rowing career will have done 8 million stokes.

But more importantly, who is Ralph Tuijn?!

Here is a bit of information on Ralph  - the guy who is making all of this happen - prior to setting off on this 'current' adventure Ralph had already spent 512 (yes, 512!!!!!) days rowing on oceans.  He currently resides in 5th place in the all-time leader board of ocean rowers but after day 30 at sea (in less than 2 weeks time) he'll leapfrog up to 3rd position. (Forget about him displacing 1st and 2nd positions (yet) - they are 968 and 937 days respectively!) 

He has crossed the Atlantic several times and the Pacific Ocean. In fact he, and his team, held the World Record for this exact crossing having completed it in 51 days in 2015.  This was then beaten last spring by a 5-man crew including 3 ex-marines. As you can imagine Ralph is quite keen to get his record back.

This is how he describes himself (very modestly):

"Ralph is 45 years old, he is Dutch, has two young children and is a registered nurse. He is a professional adventurer who has cycled more than 100,000km around the world. He has 10 Arctic expeditions to his name, climbed mountains in almost every continent, he is 1 of 5 rowers in the world to have rowed more than 500 days on the ocean and has just come back from running 1,500km across Australia."

Just reading this makes me tired... and feel suitably inadequate!!! But who better to be leading this expedition. I have never met him but I really can't wait to... he sounds like a legend and I am really looking forward to drinking beer (or rum or whatever....) with him and the rest of the crew in French Guiana!!!

Oh and Happy Red Nose day from the mid-Atlantic

Monday, 20 March 2017

The wind of change

It's been a period of ups and downs for Rose and the crew as after passing through the Canaries in good time they were then kept firmly in its grasp by some very frustrating weather. Although the sea state has been calm and the wind fairly light, the current and winds have been conspiring against them for the past 4-5 days pushing them back east.
Last night however (Sun - Day 14) the tradewinds finally showed their faces and put a massive grin on Niall's face, so much so that he didn't want to come off the oars when the 2hrs were up!! They now have much more favourable tailwinds helping them towards the mid - Atlantic for the next few days. 

Despite the frustration (and lack of any alcohol to celebrate both St Patrick's day and the rugby result!) the boys have kept up their morale and hopefully will now see some great boat speed and miles under their belts.

In and amongst there has been some high jinks - close encounters with container ships, cleaning the underside of the boat, and last night, Niall and Clement saw a meteorite land in the sea!!!

Some updates from the boat:

Colin's blog - Day 10 - Weds - We tried to say goodbye to the Canaries but the shadow of the island combined with the currents and headwinds meant we were only able to make between 0.8knts to 2.0knts of boat speed.  It was like the island had a huge grip on the boat and wouldn't let us leave.  We had a strategic decision to make, do we A) head slightly east to get out of the current and shadow of the island and then south to pick up the trade winds or B) continue the exhausting battle.  So we took A) the longer route but it was an amazing feeling making the boat go faster, overall we feel we lost about 5 hours (~15nm) progress in the right direction.  Later the conditions improved and we had a visit from a pod of dolphins.

From Niall - St Patricks Day - Day 12 - Happy st Patrick's day to you all. My first dry one for over 20 years! Fine here. Regime still very tough but the miles and days are racking up. Would be nice if the famous trade winds would blow but no sign yet.

Colin's blog - Day 12 Fri - After a frustrating Thursday we felt that Friday being St.Patricks day we were due some good luck, this was not the case...
Niall was given the bad news first, there was no Guinness or Irish whiskey stowed away for this special occasion.
We then had a spot of excitement when a few hundred meters container ship changed course directly for us.  As it approached within 200m the person on the bridge waved at us and then proceeded to bear away back to his original course.  What a joker!!

Some info on a 'regular day'!

From a rowing perspective in a day we
- Row 12 hours,
- Sleep 8 hours,
- Eat 2 hours,
- Do other tasks for 2 hours

Daily tasks include:
 - Taking comfort breaks
 - Doing the laundry (weekly)
 - Cleaning the Solar Panels
 - Producing 30 litres of water
 - Tidying up the rubbish
 - Reviewing the weather
 - safety checks
 - Checking emails and replying to home

Update from Niall - Sunday - Day 14  - Weather continues to be a pain here - progress remains slow. Went for a swim today to clean the bottom of the boat - the water is surprisingly cold still.

Update from Niall  Day 15 - Last night we saw a meteorite land a couple miles away from us  - it was only small but it had a big blue trail - quite cool!

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Goodbye Europe, Hello big wide Atlantic

Rose and the boys have passed the big psychological milestone of the Canary Islands and now head straight out into the wide blue (grey) Atlantic.
The good news is that, as they powered through the Canaries, they passed the 20% marker with over 1,300 km already rowed but the bad news is they have since hit headwinds and are finding the weather very frustrating.... it feels like there has been some let up as we can see some correction in their course yesterday. To track them 'live' (updated 2-3 times a day) follow this link:

Sunrise over the Western Sahara

Some tweets and updates from the boat:

Great feeling on Wednesday (Day 10) arriving into the Canaries, Ralph & Colin rowed 5.2knts Awesome!

Niall - Thurs 16th  - Tough couple of days with weather frustrating us at every opportunity. Finally cleared canaries but trade winds and currents currently operating in reverse which is very frustrating, again. Somebody up there doesn't like us.

Low point on Thurs 16th (Day11)  stuck in a head wind, rowing hard but only doing 0.8knts! - Colin

From Niall - Fri 17th (Day 12) - Happy St Patrick's day to you all. My first dry one for over 20 years! Fine here. Regime still very tough but the miles and days are racking up. Would be nice if the famous trade winds would blow but no sign yet.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Stormy seas

Having had decent conditions for the first 5 days the crew have now endured their first storm of the crossing.... seriously high winds (25 knts) and waves up to 6m. (Think your life is hard? Try going to the loo in a metal bucket on deck with 6m waves!!!) 
This resulted in them having to abandon their rowing stations and hankering down in the cabins. For a while they were able to surf along with the wind towards the Canaries but then the sea state got too heavy and they dropped the para-anchor which not only halts their progress but is also there to stop the boat from rolling.
For those that don't know (myself included)  - this is an example of a para-anchor:

 Quite a frustrating time for the lads but at least they could give their bodies a bit of a rest, even if sleep was difficult. This graphic gives an idea of the halt to their progress.

This lunchtime (Tues 14th  - 8 days since departure) they are back on the oars and heading ever closer to the Canaries and their 2nd waypoint of 20% of the crossing covered....

Here are the blog updates from the crew over the past 3-4 days

Colin's Blog - Day 5 - Fri 10th  - Calm before the storm.

Friday 10th was quite a relaxing day, the sea state was calm and there was no cloud cover making it blistering hot.  It made it feel like a 2hour watch was much longer as the sun zapped the energy out of your body.

During the day we took some time to do a deck tidy and found a few flying fish had become residents on board rose.

We also decided to experiment with the watch rotations so that each person could at least once a week have a 6 hour off watch period.  This means that once an evening one of us has to row solo whilst the other 3 sleep.  Niall was the first to trial the process.  I then had the opportunity to row the 01:00 - 03:00 shift solo.  At first I was nervous but after 30 mins I put on my headphones and turned up the music.  The time then flew by along with the boat maintaining a 3.2knts single handed.  At points just watching the reflections on the oars can be mesmerising, along with the chainlinks in the ocean which are created during your recovery stroke from droplets hitting the sea water.

Colin's blog - Day 6 - Sat 11th - Boat routines

Saturday 11th started off with a beautiful sunrise making the clouds in the sky a fiery red.  At this point we had settled into the watch rotations and they were working well.
Once the watch had changed the off coming watch would make a meal by boiling water in the jet boil.  We always have hot water in flasks from the previous watch to prepare meals and we are just boiling more for the next watch.  The meal preparation and eating takes about 15 mins.

Then the tricky bit of making sure you have been to the loo (bucket or bottle) depending on what you needed.

Once complete it's off to the cabin to get approximately 1hr 20mins sleep.

This was all going perfectly until the 17:00-19:00 watch when we received a weather warning from multiple sources,  batten down the hatches was pretty much the summary from now until possibly Tuesday.  The wind speed started to pick up and the sea state changed from calm toBF3 in a matter of 30mins.  We went from wearing pants to foulies.

We were about to realise what a small boat in a large ocean really feels like!!

Niall was already suffering with pressure points on his backside and using an inflated pillow for comfort when rowing. Clément has some salt sores on his backside and sore hands. I got hit with sea sickness despite wearing a anti sea sickness patch.

Despite everything we are still smiling and looking forward to getting through the next few days.  Niall was over the moon with the 9.8knts of boat speed.

Niall's updates - Sun 12th  - Day 7 - Surfing along

Yesterday was bizarre - the quietest morning ever and the water was like glass but by 7pm we had 5m waves! We tried rowing on but gave up at 3am and let the wind and waves do all the work. We probably won't row at all today (Sunday) nor till Monday afternoon at the earliest, but we are going in the right direction so it's all good. It's really strange - like sailing with no sails! 
The cabins are a bit tight but better than getting soaked outside! Sparky (both I guess) - we did 9.5 knots yesterday!!

Update - Tues 14th - Atlantic Row Update Storm has eased and we are back in the oars 36hrs squashed in a cabin #NotFun

Friday, 10 March 2017

The early days...who knew rowing an ocean was tough?!

In terms of progress the team are doing amazingly. They have now passed the 10% waymarker!!! That's over 600km already rowed! 
This blog is a summary of recent communication from the boat for those that haven't seen it - some from Niall and some from his teammate Colin.

From Niall on Day 2
Highs and lows so far. Highs include a swim past by a pod of dolphins, going to "save" a turtle trapped in a plastic thing only to find he was playing with it and my first boat poo! Lows are the night watches - pressed the Dorothy button about 15 times last night but seems to be broken. Getting more sleep but still not enough. Fingers crossed for tonight.

Colin's blog, Day 3
Today was off to a flying start with the wind and wave direction supporting the original passage plan.

Niall is still suffering from a lack of sleep so we suggested he swapped rooms for day. The aft cabin where he normally is contains the Navigation equipment and the auto helm, unfortunately it does not get any breeze and is too noisy.
At the next watch he swapped to the queens suite (fwd cabin), things were going well and he had just started to sleep when Ralph started shouting get up, get up. Niall and I rushed out of the cabins and were told a sea turtle was trapped in some plastic so we should go and help.  We turned the boat around and got back to the turtle who was happily playing with a milk carton.  So the social spirit award goes to our skipper Ralph.

Niall has explicitly stated unless there is a whale or MOB (man over board) then not to wake him.
In other news I no longer have soft modelling hands, after 3 days using beeswax my hands have given up.  To give you an idea of the feeling it's like if you poured boiling water over your palm and then someone throws you a cactus to catch.  No kidding the first 10-20 stokes on the oars each watch is excruciating .

Colin's blog Day 4
The two graveyard watches this morning were extremely tough.  The weather had changed covering the ocean in thick fog, we had approximately 250m visibility.  As I came out of the fed cabin it felt like a scene from pirates of the Caribbean and I was expecting Jack Sparrow to appear from the fog.

Whilst our boat speed over ground (SOG) has slowed we are making good velocity made good (VMG) to the canaries so the crew are all feeling positive about the trip so far.

Update from Niall, Day 5
First 4 days were nothing short of brutal. Just no time to do anything - on watch just row. Off watch decide whether to eat or sleep - everything else forget it. Pain becomes a constant - interesting that your body prioritizes the sorest things - didn't even notice a huge blister on my heel until I changed my socks. Since yesterday my bum bones have become a serious problem - imagine fracturing them both, then driving to hospital on a hard seat and a bumpy road, for 2 hours, every 2 hours. Considered rowing on my knees last night just for some respite. 

But on the upside we're all finally in the watch routine and sleeping well so a little time for other things, like brushing teeth - what luxury! Weather remains unusually benign and boat speed good. Onwards! 

Day 6 
Better day today - found blow up cushion to sit on so now bearable to row again.