Saturday 21st November
11:00 – Forecast – SSE-SE 18/15, SE 15/12. The SE on its own is 4 hours away. Funny how the SSE crept in there. I took in the para anchor because I was going NNW and lost the two miles I had in hand. The waypoint is due north from here although it is 5 miles closer and the wind and swell have eased. Still probably took the same course, maybe a mistake don’t know. I’m more worried about my back and shoulder than the 25 miles. That’s 10 hours at 2.5 knots, not sure I can do 2.5 knots with the SSE in the wind. The only saving grace is that’s its at the bottom of a 20nm opening as we don’t really want to be doing the handover in choppy sea. The idea was to use the lee of the island. I’ll get a couple of hours in and see what happens.
18:00 GMT – Six and a half hours for about 9nm. Conditions tough, it’s not rough but the SE wind combined with the NW current is a hard battle to fight. First hour and a half the wind was light and I managed to hold course ok but then the wind picked up and I’m now loosing the battle. Getting about 2.5 miles west for 1 north and I didn’t have any north to start with. I’m hoping in the next 15nm I get a chance to make some south back, just need rid of the pesky current. I can see Vanuatu and the point I’m heading for clearly, to the right is the volcano with a halo of cloud, pretty impressive stuff. 15nm to go at 1.5 knots is 10 hours rowing which makes it too late for the supply boat to get back in daylight. Not sure what’s going to happen.
06:30 – Headed back out, not much had changed. Was doing 49, 45 and even 50 minute miles which ground by so slowly. The low SE wind combined with NW current is a tough combination to fight, especially with a duff back. I think it’s my back actually and not my shoulder. It’s the lower part of the scapular was my thinking but it’s more like rib damage when I breath or twist, anyway it was pretty bad. As today was so important, I actually took two doses of pain killers, something I haven’t used for years. I’m not a big fan of masking symptoms but I had few choices. I ground on and slowly the point I was heading for came closer. I’ll do the resupply story below. I’d exchanged texts with Tony and we discussed possibly doing the job tomorrow. Didn’t hear from him after that. So I’ve rowed 17 hours or so and I’m now ready for a good sleep and push off in the morning.
I heard a voice on the VHF, Socks Two, Socks Two, are you receiving over. I scrambled up and answer, it was Tony on the supply boat, he asked and I gave my coordinates, he said they would be 20 minutes. I rowed on after putting on my Sunday finest (under wear). I heard the boat before I saw it. I’m between the volcano and the island peninsula I was heading for, they came bounding over the waves with Tony, Captain Paul and his mate Jeff on board, both Aussies and no mention of cricket or tennis. I hadn’t got the Ginger Nuts yet! They circled me a few times taking pictures, what a stunning place to meet, right in front of the volcano, brilliant. We spoke for a while, what when where etc. They seemed great guys and genuinely interested in the boat and the trip. Then we started the exchange. Tony had made small packages of everything so they were easy to pass across open water and off we went. I returned the favour by filling three bin bags with rubbish to make space. We chatted and I told stories, there are loads so when I get back just wind me up and off I’ll go, might repeat the odd one or two even, just for you Mike.
My cupboards are crammed with porridge, mars bars, power bars, cliff bars, banana bread (eating it now), peaches, mints, assorted sweets, and heaps of Ginger Nuts (don’t tell Mr McVitie, but they couldn’t find his however the substitutes will be fine). Some ginger ale, best of all, two ice cold cans of ginger ale, what’s this new thing called refrigeration, it’s a great idea. After they left, it took ages to sort it all out but there was one treat left, cornflakes and ice cold milk. I sat in the sun beneath the volcano and ate two huge dog bowls of cornflakes, never has there been such a perfect moment. After all the adversity, the pain and moaning, days of being wet through, sore, tired, frustrated and just fed up ready to quit, and then this simple thing that I’ve had nearly every day of my life makes it all worth while. Meet me by the volcano for breakfast. It was over too quick, the meeting, the sorting, the cornflakes. I did two more hours rowing as I needed to make sure I wouldn’t drift into the volcano but I felt great, there was some speed in the water and my back felt ok, they must have magic in the milk here.
I now have quite a row to get past Vanuatu (what a great name for a place), about 80nm. I’m drifting not too bad, about 290°, 270° would be better but the winds changing so it may come down, it’s not too fast so not too much correction tomorrow. So it will be Monday GMT that I’m officially in the Coral Sea, then we can look at how long that piece of string could be.
In other news:
Cairns is now 1290nm to go, so less than half the Atlantic trip!
Golden Gate is 5014nm away, that’s as the crow flies, I’ve covered a heck of a lot more ground for sure.
I now have new sheepskin seats, perfect for my scrawny bottom.
New foot straps, I’ll fit those tomorrow.
Lots of cleaning products, the boat need some attention after 6 months at sea.
An iPod mini, so I can listen to some audio books and music.
While the rowing on this trip is solo it wouldn’t be possible without great support, in regards to the resupply I just want to say a massive thank you to Peter and Jill in Australia, they went way above and beyond just helping out a rower in need. Tony, who’s professional approach is the only sane voice in my head sometime and of course Cheryl, who as well as covering for me at work, looking after everything at home, rearranging Christmas, managed to find time to source and organise all the things I needed and some I didn’t but were brilliant. Thank you all, I hope I get there and you can all proudly say you played your part.
I need to do messages and then get some sleep.
Rodrigo: Thanks Rodrigo, welcome aboard, I hope I do get there.
Mike: Sir Beastie indeed, it will be a world best or record as well as a PB, right? Tell Dave I missed everything. Aren’t families strange.
Neels: I can go easy on the back for a couple of days now, although I need to keep pushing on, no time for complacency.
Brian: Would have been a good setting for live coverage, it’s turning into a proper story for sure.
Patrick: I used the stick and it helped, had to resort to medication which I hate but job done, it feels better tonight, the morning will be the test.