Today has been the craziest yet which all started last night. The wind never dropped, it got stronger and sorting out the drift angle was a real challenge. I got no sleep because the boat was bombarded from all sides and the rear, so I’m officially pooped.

I got up early and tried to tidy up, had to decided if it was safe to row in the dark. I still had swell washing over from both sides and the back. I did row and it was the right choice. Once I got going, rowing a good course stopped the swell attacking us. I did get a few faces full but not too bad. We had only drifted 0.9nm north of our course and I was slowly making this back while doing some of the fastest miles to date. About an hour before the end of session one, this stated to reverse and I was loosing the ground I had reclaimed. The wind was slowly heading south. It’s been SE ever since which slowed me down considerably in the second session however I was still hopeful for a big total. I would have bet the house this was a 60 day at breakfast. I then stopped for lunch. In the last couple of weeks things have normally changed at lunch so I kept my fingers crossed, no such luck. The SE wind was blowing as hard as ever, a good 15 plus knots. I plugged on, my speed slowing, loosing more ground. To make matters worse, it has been one squall after another all afternoon/evening, no sign of the sun, other than the heat in the cabin. So a strange day indeed. The good news is 50 plus miles, bad news is COG 258°. Not sure how I’m going to hold under 270° tonight. Just need to hope the east wind in the forecast shows up I guess. I’m currently on para anchor but I’m also sure from the feel of the oars that there is some north in the current but I need to do something as my COG is about 300°. I’ll sit on the anchor for an hour and see what happens.

A lot of people ask what I miss when I’m out here. There are some basic things we take for granted at home. A shower every day, clean sheets on a bed, a bed that doesn’t throw you about and spray you with salt water (I’ll explain another time). The thing I miss most is my favourite meal of the day which is breakfast. A bowl of Kellogs Cornflakes with ice cold milk, sometimes with fruit but mostly without. I’ve been eating them since I was a kid and the day doesn’t feel like it’s started unless I’ve had a bowl of cornflakes. I even have special bowls. I remember when I was training for the Atlantic, we’d be at the cottage and invite friends, I’d be up at 4:45am, do a two hour row, run with Georgie and then have breakfast. A large (nearly fruit bowl size) bowl of cornflakes with loads of fruit, they’d look at me like I was crazy, especially when I had seconds. I did however have two more two hour rows to do that day! Can’t wait.

So, I was going to do some averages and guesstimates of how long left and I know some of you are doing this as well. Tony wrote me a plan of the ITCZ crossing and then the leg to Australia. I thought you might like to read it before we all get too excited, it clearly shows I’ve a lot of hard work to do yet!
“To give you some idea of how the ITCZ is currently looking, east of 148 12°W the NE Trades stop at 12 30°N. West of 148 12°W the NE Trades continue down as far as 6 30°N 163 15°W. If you were to draw a line between 12 30°N 148 12°W and 6 30°N 163 15°W, to the SE of that line the wind is either very light and variable in direction or SE10-15. This sharp contrast in wind direction/strength is why I suggested amending your COG to 250° in the hope we can keep you in the stronger more favourable conditions for longer.

The weather patterns around the ITCZ are very changeable and the systems move much quicker than an ocean rowing boat, even one as fast as Socks! At the moment your position and planned track looks good for keeping you in the NE Trades as far south as they presently extend. That said in 3 or 4 days this situation could be very different so please be prepared for some more COG changes as you progress south and the weather patterns shift about.

Once you’re south of the NE Trades and you’re in the ITCZ you can expect very light wind from any direction. Temperature and humidity will be high and with little in the way of breeze it’s going to be hard going.

In addition to the shifting wind situation we’ll need to consider crossing the EC (Equatorial Current) and ECC (Equatorial Countercurrent). The EC runs west, mainly 0.5 – 1.0 knot, so that’ll help a little with progress, but the ECC runs east at an alarming 1.5 – 2.0 knots! At the moment the ECC is running mainly between 6°N and 2°N, so thats around 240nm of adverse strong current to get across. Just as you’d get out of a rip-current on a beach you’ll need to row 90 degrees to the current to get across it as quick as possible. This will mean losing ground east as you push south as much as you can, so be prepared for some very poor daily DMG figures. If you try and maintain a better COG for an improved CMG you’ll be punching the current for longer, possibly standing still while you row into the current.

Because the EC and ECC are running in opposite directions there’s a lot of circulation (eddies) either side of the stronger currents where the two opposing currents mix. I don’t put too much faith in the accuracy of the daily current model and the picture changes much quicker than the wind forecast so routing to favourable current can only be best guess, however I’ll continue to monitor what the model suggests and advise you accordingly. I’m sure it’ll be a case of some days you’ll win and some days you lose with the current as it’s swirling around.

So in summary what I anticipate is you continuing more or less SW COG 220°-250° until the NE Trades give way to the light and variable wind associated with the ITCZ. At this point COG will be dictated by current, either to try and keep you in a favourable flow, or to get you across adverse current as quick as possible even if this means a resulting COG less than 180°. Once across the ECC the southern hemisphere EC should help you gain some ground west again while you’re still in the light and variable winds and then as you pick up the SE Trades it’s likely to mean a lot of one arm rowing with the SE Trades on the beam as you continue to push SW again. Exactly how hard you need to push SW or more WSW depends on how far west you are when you encounter the SE Trades and how consistent the SE Trades look to be further west and importantly how the wind is looking over the final 1,000nm to Cairns.”
So you can see it’s going to get worse before it gets better, hopefully today is just a blip and I can get down to 6° north in good order, then I think I need some luck and hard work.

John

Out
Notes:

Terry: Good to hear from you. Very difficult to train for ocean rowing. Your right the geometry and weight of the boat make the action quite unique, you just have to accept its going to hurt. I trained indoors all winter on the rowing machine, rowed for a few weeks in my scull once the lakes had thawed, but non of it really does the job. You build new muscle quickly though and I use one of Patrick’s sticks to roll out between my shoulders where most of the aching is. Your also correct about the blog, it will make interesting reading when I get back. I’ve already forgotten lots about the early weeks and I’m not half way yet. I try to write whatever I feel that day so it’s an honest reflection at that time. I guess depending on if I get there or not, it will remind me of how tough it’s been mentally and physically.

Brian: Glad you enjoyed the bucket story, I knew my British readers would like some toilet humour. And how come you have saved all the girls until the year I’m not there?