I kinda finished the blog abruptly last night as I was so tired I could hardly keep my eyes open. I had some other emails to do as well and time had got away from me, plus I was being tossed around in the boat.
As I finished last night I knew I was fully in the equatorial current, the thing that all ocean rowers (Atlantic especially) talk about. When you find it and it’s all going, current, wind and swell it’s like some kind of fairground ride. That’s what was going on last night outside the boat, only problem is, I don’t want it as I’m not going that way. The swell was massive and the wind was roaring. I had set my rudder to at least keep me under 270° (really need less than 220°) and if the wind changed it would get me lower. Only problem is, this has me across some of the biggest swell heading west and north west. The result is that all night the big swell is mashing the boat, cracking into the cabin, if not than rolling under the boat, picking her up from the side tipping her, rolling under and flopping her back. This makes everything in the boat including me sway violently. So no sleep, well I must have slept but it was exhausted sleep. The other problem when the weather is so big is that you have to close everything up, one to stop the outside getting in but if you capsize it’s the only thing that will bring you up again. This means the cabin is like a sauna, so hot you can’t move without sweating. I have to have a super absorbent sports towel on top of my sheet. It’s tough getting proper rest that’s for sure.
So up this morning fearing the worst, the worst being a big drift in the wrong direction. That’s what we had, it’s impossible to do anything when conditions are like that. My only hope is that the weather is set to lighten. I go on deck to find it roaring and the EC is in full flow. It’s pretty cool actually, the big swell looms up behind you, gently (most of the time) lifts the boat, rolls under you and off into the distance. You look back and see massive swell and chop, look forward and it looks quite calm.
The plan is to stop going west as much as possible. I get to the oars. After 10 minutes I’m quite cold as I’ve been splattered a couple of times and it’s cool in the dark. I get my shirt which I don’t like wearing anything when conditions are feisty. They get wet and then you have washing to do, but it’s cold and it’s that or don’t row. Get splashed a couple of times but not too bad. Worst thing about getting wet is that as I said before the water is greasy and when you get wet hands the oars are a nightmare. I scrapped all the skin off the back of my hand this morning which took me two weeks to get it to heal from the last time. 4 hours in and I’m battling the SE wind, as close as I can to the swell, still gaining west but no south at all. I stop for 10 minutes, start whizzing west. Back to the oars, 30 seconds and a huge wave sneaks up from the front and dumps on me, shirt soaked (it’s still cold, sun hidden behind thick cloud), I grab a jacket, this lasts longer but gets wet as well, washing!
It’s still roaring away and I’m still going west. This west / south thing sounds like an obsession I know, but it’s important I enter and exit the ITCZ at the right place, if not Australia will be difficult to make. I have 200 miles to go to the spot Tony identified, 180° south and only 60° or so west. I’m sure sloping west 30 miles or so won’t kill me but 100 or so might. It would mean letting the counter current drag me back to come out at the right spot, all adding days to the trip. So 3 hours pass, I’m plodding away and all of a sudden my oars feel different. Things start to settle and an hour later the wind has died down and the swell is settling down. Mind blowing how quick it happened. I stopped for a short break and got going again, the forecast said under 6 knots, variable, the variable turned out to be from the south, the way I wanted to row. So I rowed into a light headwind and a settling swell, I did actually make about 3 miles in 2.5 hours and very little west. Had a five minute break as when I stopped the boat was turned by the wind and loosing ground.
Set off again and the wind died completely. Suns out and it is hot and humid. Really hot, really humid, but I’m going south (slowly) with no west, don’t care. About an hour in, I see some wind on the water coming my way, only light but from the NE (ENE anyway) it doesn’t help me go south but I stop to fill my water bottles and I’m drifting SW, perfect. I rowed to the end of the day (nearly) just going South. It’s only a small mileage day but a light wind is due from the ENE in the morning and I think I might be closer to the ITCZ entry point than I thought possible.
Now, the contrast, just before I was due to quit a big squall came through. I quickly cleared the deck as I had washed and dried my shirt and jacket, was drying my wet rowing seat and wanted a clean start in the morning. I then decided to get the shampoo, had a full on squall shower, felt great. The squall sorted the humidity, I’m sat here in a nearly flat calm ocean, nice and cool, drifting in the right direction and all is well with the world. You wouldn’t believe the evenings were just 24 hours apart. I can’t wait to sleep!
In other news:
I was doing a bit of filming this morning, showing the swell and conditions and turned to the side of the boat and that big white bird was flying straight at me, I’m sure he was looking at my head as a possible landing place. He pulled up just before he hit me!
I will do my weeks review tomorrow as I’ve rambled on, but I have just 433nm to go to half way.
I also passed in the last 24 hours, 2609nm made good, the distance I rowed to Barbados, one Atlantic crossing down, one to go and 900nm for good measure.
It’s also my 70th day at sea, a significant number for one of my regular supports this year too.
That’s it for now,
Mike T: Struggling on Mike, I’m learning to just get the best out of each day, not easy when your head says 50 a day minimum, but don’t have much choice. Every says a new challenge.
Geoff: Good to hear from you, I wish it was straight out here, I think Tony must be tweaking the tracker results.
Tom: Best keep quiet about the cost of a TT bike, you’ll need to sit at that desk for 12 hours a day, say hi to your folks for me.
Rob: I may well need some nurses after this!