I hear that winter has returned to you at home and a chilly north wind is making things feel really cold there. I have to say that with the temperature here getting up into the thirties most days, the prospect of a snow shower or two is quite appealing. But I guess it will all have gone by the time I arrive back in the UK. I’ll carry on wishing and listening to Chris Rea singing on the beach then.

 Hearing and thinking about the cold weather it reminded me of the other things I’m missing from home.

 
Top of the list are Elaine, Bradley and Joel of course. I’ll see you soon now, all my love.

 
I’m looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues. Taking out the rubbish and tripping over the kids toys is something I didn’t think I’d miss, but I do. The rain running up my sleeves when I’m climbing! Everyday things like fresh fruit and vegetables, sliced bread, brown bread, wholemeal bread, bread rolls, baguettes, ciabiatta, fish and chips, beer, apple pie. Oh, and did I mention bread. Long hot baths (once I can cope with lowering certain sore parts of my body into hot water!

 I’m looking forward to growing my skin back in all sorts of places and not having salt with everything. It will be a refreshing change not to have fish scales with everything too.

 You can see from my progress that I’m not too far now from my destination. Unfortunately I won’t hit Antigua as planned and will land in Barbados around the 5th of April (or perhaps before with luck). The continual north winds, for a good part of my journey, have blown me too far south to contemplate battling against them to enable me to reach Antigua. I just don’t have the will to fight it any more. But I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been to Barbados before and the people there are fantastic so I’m really looking forward to renewing my acquaintanceship with some of them.

 I’d like to say hi and thanks again to Thomas from Port St. Charles, Barbados for the chat and the kind offer from his friend with the small plane. The pilot is going to fly out when I’m about fifty miles offshore to take some aerial photographs of my best efforts. You’ll see some vigorous rowing then!! He’s also offered to come out in his boat when I approach the port to take some close ups so I must remember to book an appointment to have my hair and nails done beforehand.

 I nipped into the water to do some outside cleaning the other day expecting to be greeted by my fishy companions, but there wasn’t one to be seen. I knew they had been under pretty much constant attack recently from predators as they’ve been leaping over and around the boat in their attempts to escape being a larger fish’s dinner.

The most common predators I’ve seen around recently have been sail fish. The biggest one up to now was four metres long and it was coming towards me at high speed. In the first instance I was looking beyond it to see who was firing torpedoes at me, but as it came close to the boat it veered off in pursuit of its rapidly disappearing lunch! I got some great video footage of another such instance when a sail fish took a meter long Dorado in the air near the stern of my boat.

 
Time for a few answers and hellos

 
Thanks to all my regular texters.

 Thanks to Kath and all her work colleagues. I’m never going to get jeans to fit these legs now!! Tell Phil to book his ticket.

 Hey Blackpool – don’t you know driving can be dangerous, stick to something safer like solo climbing.

 Thanks for the information about the birds. I know that some of them are either Stormy or Leach’s Petrels and others are Cory’s Shearwater. Someone suggested that some of them might be albatross but I think it’s a bit far north for them.

 Cath – I have a Petrel roosting in my foot well during the night and I have to clean out the feathers and droppings each morning. I’ve nick named him/her drumstick as my food supplies are running low and I am beginning to think roast Petrel might be appearing on the menu sometime soon (just joking). Can anyone recommend an appropriate stuffing?

 My compass has boiled and leaked again.

 My arms are very sunburnt despite the application of gallons of sun cream.

 Pat and Ron – I’ve seen one yacht on the distant horizon; my only sighting of any other vessel in 60+ days at sea.

 When I left La Gomera I was an hour behind the two lads in the pairs boat, but in the last two months we have been as much as 500 miles apart at times. I’m now many miles in front of them. That’s just the way it goes at sea.

 Simon – I will never be without an ipod again. I have mine on for up to twenty hours a day. It’s attached to an amplifier and two external speakers.

 Thanks to Alan – I trust India was a great adventure.

 Dave Smith – The night sky fills me with awe and wonder. With no light pollution I have never seen anything like it. Sometimes though, when it is very dark it can be so black it makes your hair stand on end. It’s like swimming in black velvet. (A pint of that would be nice any time now too)

 Hi Imelda, Sue and Heather

 Hi Corinne.

 Hi Sylvia and Dennis from USA

 Hi Chris and Elaine.

 Hi Sharky 2

 Tel – A juicy steak and a beer sounds good to me.

 Scraggy – you can book a table at the Chinese

 Rebecca – I think you’d better have my job, because I’ve decided to row back too!

 Dave C – just try and keep me out of the pub. I’ll see you first day back.

 I think that’s all for now. I’ll pass any other interesting stuff on, but I think my next news will be when I reach land.

Posted by: solosprint | March 12, 2008

An unexpected visitor

It was a beautifully sunny and hot day and there I was sitting on the balcony of my hotel room in the West Indies. I was looking out to sea and had a large gin and tonic on the table beside my chair. The gentle breeze was wafting the trees along the beach and the murmur of the palms and the ocean was lulling me off to sleep. If only someone would stop knocking on the door trying to get in…..

 Actually it was 05.30 a.m. and I sat up with a jolt remembering where I was, but still wondering who could be knocking on the door at this time in the morning, and how had they got onto my boat anyway? I have to admit to a few moments panic while I pulled myself together and peered out to see what was happening.

 I’ve mentioned previously about my travelling companions, the fish that have kept me company almost since I began my voyage. If you remember too, I told you how the flying fish keep me entertained leaping out of the water to escape their pursuers and how they sometimes land on my deck. Well this time it was one of the metre long Dorado that had leapt out of the water onto my deck, knocked my rowing seat off its runners and dived head first into the foot well. There it had got stuck and was frantically trying to free itself again. As it was thrashing about its tail was beating a loud tattoo on my cabin hatch and that was what woke me from my pleasant dreams!

 I pushed it out of the way and eventually managed to man-handle it overboard with some difficulty. They are incredibly strong and seem to be made of muscle from one end to the other. Once I had got rid of it and put my seat back into its proper place it took me another hour to clean up all the blood and slime it had left behind. It’s essential to clean up straight after any fish have been on board, as the days soon heat up now and the smell of rapidly going off fish skin/scales/slime is not very nice at all. Even though it’s in the fresh air and is washed over by the waves from time to time the smell seems to cling to everything if it isn’t washed off straight away.

 I’d intended to have another hour or so in bed that morning but as the fish had gone to the trouble to provide me with an un-scheduled alarm call I decided to do some other chores before I started my day’s rowing.

 I carefully took my water maker filters out and changed them for new ones and then methodically checked and put everything back exactly as it had been. Feeling pleased with myself I turned the machine on to test it and was rewarded with a pathetic little dribble in response. I admit that I felt panic rising as I hastily went back over everything and looked around to make sure I hadn’t omitted to put some vital part back in the machine during re-assembly but no, it was all there. I searched all around the casing to see if I could discover some way of priming it or releasing an imagined airlock somewhere inside and it was then that my hand found the stop tap, which I had of course turned off to stop sea water coming in through the inlet while I carried out my maintenance work.

 So on to the next job which was to attempt repairs to my broken external phone aerial. It was damaged during one of the storms and had been getting progressively worse as time went by. The iridium phone I use needs to be able to “see” the satellite it wants to connect to. But the external aerial means I can make calls from the comfort of my cabin without having to go outside and put my harness on etc. A broken aerial shouldn’t have caused me a problem really as I have a spare. Unfortunately it’s sitting waiting for me on my desk in my office at home, so I had to attempt repairs to the existing one. I took it to pieces and then re-assembled it having kind of spliced the two end bits together and hey presto it worked straight away. I just hope it holds out now, but as the weather is considerably warmer and more settled now it’s not a big problem to make calls out doors if it gives up the ghost.

 I also cut my hair and had a shave which made me feel really clean – until a wave came in about twenty minutes later!

 

Now back to the present for a few minutes. I’m just making my dinner as I pass my messages on this evening; I’m having rice and vegetable casserole. There’s a gentle breeze and a lovely sunset.

 Most of my favourite foods have gone now and I have no Moroccan black olives, no Puccini mushrooms, no artichokes and no salted anchovies so my pasta specials just don’t taste the same somehow! However I’ve still got lots of M&S delights and some Lloyd Grosman sauces left.

 As you’ll have noticed I’m making much better progress now and am well over half way to my destination. I seem to have got my second wind and the “Trades” are helping. For a few days thought here has been little or no wind at all and it’s been like rowing in syrup, in a sauna. The oppressive heat, when it is still, saps my strength and I had a couple of days suffering from heat exhaustion, which really slowed my progress. The chart I use shows the sea for my entire voyage, but it’s too big to handle flat out so I’ve been working with it folded in half. It was a real motivator when I passed the halfway mark and I turned it over. Now I’m always looking at where I’m going to, rather than where I’ve come from.

 

 As always thanks to you all for your messages, please keep sending them.

 

Here are a few responses to some of your questions and comments;

 
Hi Paul Quinn – no I don’t have email, just dictate my blog to my faithful scribe George.

 Thanks Ed for setting up the links to the other rowers.

 Hi Louise – I wish I’d bought a caravan instead!

 Hello Cath – Well done! – Lot’s of wobble fish, mostly at night

 Jetboils – 2 down 1 to go.

 No I’ve no alcohol on board, so it’s back to one of my favourite dreams

 Great joke about the nurse Scraggy – I’m still chuckling when I picture it.

 

 And a few hellos

 

 To Kelly and family

 Thanks to family on Trinity with the boxer dog

 Rose and Rod

 Phil and Gill

 Sandra and Terry

 Carly and Jenna

 The Kellys – did he win?

 John and Elaine – I know the reason why and have the answers

 Hylda and Roy (as a man of the cloth could you request some more wind for me please)

 Hello Sarah Allen’s friend – you didn’t leave your name

 Hi to all at Macc Express

 Happy 70th Aunty Sue

 Thanks to Patrick – I hope the book sales are still going well

 Thanks also to Rudyard Pete – I keep taking some video, thanks for the offer. I’ll see you when I get back

 

 Happy Birthday Elaine – all my love

 
And to you too Bradley – happy birthday

 
With a special hello to Joel

 
Finally I’ve got a little project for Dave Collis. Dave let me know the answers to the following if you can.

 Every day at some time or another I am accompanied by various birds of different sizes, but I don’t know what they are.

 The first and most common fly alongside me in pairs or multiples of pairs and have a 2 to 3 ft wingspan. They hardly ever seem to beat their wing and just glide along. I’ve mentioned before how the flying fish jump out of the water to escape their pursuers, well these birds catch and eat them as they fly (who’d be a flying fish?). The birds are dark browny grey with a white or mottled underside.

 The second is a very dark, almost black it has an 8 to 10 inch wingspan and has a white V shaped marking on its tail. There is a similar but less distinct markings on its wing. It is very agile and is even around me in the darkness sometimes.

 The third is white with a two to three foot wingspan and dark tail feathers. Unlike the first two this one flaps its wings a lot.

 The fourth one is the one I have seen least. It is almost hawk like in appearance and is all black with a white cap on its head.

 So that’s all my news, info and gossip for now. Don’t forget to send me a message if you can and I’ll be in touch again when I’m closer to my target.

 The site is www.iridium.com and then click on send a satellite message at top right of home page.  The box then comes up where you type in phone number and then box to type in message (160 characters max). You don’t bother with the return email box.

Posted by: solosprint | March 1, 2008

I Think we’re gonna need a bigger boat!!

I’ve talked before about the incredible amount of life I’ve seen every day in the ocean, during my seven weeks at sea, and the fish that have been my travelling companions since I set out. Well the other day I got a closer glimpse of one of the denizens of the deep that perhaps even I expected.

As well as the little stripy fish that live under the boat I am often accompanied by some larger fish that are called Dorado or I think Mahi-mahi. They have other names too I believe. They mostly seem to eat the flying fish that are in the sea here in abundance.

The flying fish come in all sizes and there are millions of them. When I’m in my cabin it sometimes sounds like a mini hail storm because there are so many of them leaping out of the water and hitting the outside of the boat. There are a bit of a nuisance too because if they land on deck they thrash about all over the place in an attempt to get back in the water. Often they do but they leave a scales and slime behind them and it takes quite a while to clean up the mess. If I don’t clear up it soon turns smelly, nasty and uncomfortable.

I was in the cabin tending to my wounds one day and applying some cream to my backside when one such visitor about the size of a mackerel landed on board with a thump and proceeded to leap and dance about all over the deck. In an attempt to get it back in the water before it harmed itself, or left me with extra house keeping, I quickly clipped my harness on outside and attempted to catch it and throw it overboard. But the ridiculousness of my situation occurred to me, naked, strapped in and covered in antiseptic cream, and I couldn’t catch the fish for laughing!

Eventually I did manage it get it overboard and it went off to whatever its future was. But it’s a few funny minutes of fun I’ll always remember.

Anyway the daily demonstration of the way the food chain works, bigger fish chasing and eating smaller fish came home to me with a bang the other day. I had gone into the cabin to better see what tunes were available on my iPod when there was a loud bang and the boat was almost lifted out of the water! My immediate thought was that it could be a whale! This was followed by other strong thumps and bangs and I wondered what on earth (there might have been a few words with f in somewhere in there too) was happening. I grabbed my video camera and nervously ventured outside to see what was causing the fuss. (I have to say here that I have so much confidence in the boat to cope with whatever is thrown at it now that I felt pretty safe. After all the boat has been on its side twice but never rolled over). I was in time to see a six foot long (two metres) Dorado leap out of the water in a desperate attempt to escape what ever was pursuing it. The fish went back in the water as a dark shape appeared below, there was an almighty swirl in the water and the Dorado disappeared from sight.

I managed to get some film of this and a few seconds later I saw a long black shape swim under the boat and away. It was a fifteen to eighteen foot shark that had shoved my boat aside in its attempt to catch its dinner for the day. It had taken the six foot long fish in one seemed to be one gulp. I must say the whole episode left me pretty shaken but I’m glad I was able to capture some of it on film.

My travelling companions were upset by this happening too and swirled around beneath my in confusion for some time. Then slowly, over the next few hours, they disappeared. But slowly over the past few days most have returned and life has settled down into its usual pattern. There was a similar event a few days ago when there were lots of bumping and knocking around the rudder one night and the next day most of my stripy, fishy companions had disappeared. Something must have eaten them during the night.

This morning, though most had been replaced by others and when I put my pan in the water to clean out some rice I had cooked they clustered around to share in my leftovers. I held the pan in the water to clean it and these fish are so tame they swim right in to nibble the food from the side of the pan. I share my meals with them every day and they are very tame and friendly when I get in the water to clean or tend to the outside of the boat. They are very curious and under water they will swim right up to my mask to investigate what is happening.

So back to my progress, and I finally am making good progress with the halfway mark approaching fast. I should hit that milestone sometime in the next week and from then on it’s all downhill (I wish!). I’m finally into the North East trade winds and that is helping me make better mileage each day. I still can’t believe it’s taken this long to get into the “Trades” but I’m there now so westwards we go now all the time.

Like most of us do too I made some mistakes and packed too much for my trip, but as I work my way through my supplies and discard things I can to save weight it all helps to make the boat lighter and faster. I am eating well now and cooking some of my food has other advantages too. I have to cook out side and usually hold the “Jetboil” between my legs to keep it stable. Because of this I won’t need to wax those parts of my legs when I get back! There’s a thought.

Thanks to all my regular texters. Keep them coming it’s so good to get messages and news from home. I got twenty in one evening the other day and that’s really encouraging. Even Scraggy’s jokes! (alias Pete the Fisherman)

Special thanks to Kenneth and Tatiana for updating my positions on the Oceanrowing website. The feedback from family and friends about how easy it is to see my progress has all been excellent. Thanks again. I’ll certainly be making a donation to the society when I get back. www.oceanrowing.com

Thanks to;

Heather

Sarah and Ant

Pat and Ron

Donna and Paul

Scottish Derek

Dyantha and Gavin

Rudyard Roy

Bruce M

Paul Carvill

Louise G

Kirsty

And Ian McCall (he’s my accountant, is there no escape?)

From your regular news there seems to be lots of climbing and walking going on and I’m sure Derek is picking off lots of winter routes. Others are disappearing off to the Lakes and Scotland.

In response to some of your questions;

-I think I can safely say that the only thing that doesn’t hurt are my eyes!

- To Emily and Jane, wonder no more – Rowing, sleeping or making a brew

- No cigars, sadly

- To Nigel – You can use my boat if you fancy it

- DC yes it was cloudy

- DC yes it was sunny

- There’s no chance I’ll run out of tea bags, I’m only about half way through my supplies of them

- Sorry Rudyard Ron, I’m a bit rusty with the sextant

- What’s wrong with Elton John, anyway it was Avril Lavigne most of today. I’m not sure about her lyrics sometimes but she provides a good beat to row to.

Bradley and Joel say Happy mothers day to Mummy

Finally I must mention again how impressed I am with my boat. It’s a privilege to be the test pilot for a unique sols design from Phil Morrison. The boat is light and fast (even with me rowing it) and has been built to a superb specification. As it’s a new design I’ve been able to trial and experiment with different rowing positions and weight distribution to improve overall performance and it’s great to be involved in such a project from the beginning.

Once again thanks for the fantastic design and build to everyone involved

Thanks everyone for your support keep it coming and I’ll send some more news soon.

Posted by: solosprint | February 21, 2008

Send me a message

Just a reminder that you can send me a message for free using the following method.

Go to www.iridium.com and then click on send a satellite message at top right of home page.  The box then comes up where you type in phone number and then box to type in message (160 characters max). You don’t bother with the return email box.

My phone number is 00881631635007

Posted by: solosprint | February 17, 2008

Time for some spring cleaning

As I’m passing these notes on it’s a beautiful flat calm evening with the sun slowly sinking to the horizon. It’s been a sunny and warm day with no wind. I’ve been using this calm time to do a bit of clearing out of some of my lockers. I’ve been dumping some of the stuff I know I won’t eat or drink, but saving the containers for who knows what I might need them for? My fishy travelling companions are enjoying much of the stuff I’m pitching overboard and I’ve seen Trigger fish, Sharks and Tuna among others today. There are a family of little stripy fish that accompany me all the time and seem to have adopted the boats shadow as their home. I presume when I eventually stop and the boat comes out of the water they will just turn and find another boat to tag on to.

 I’ve also got some other travelling companions in the shape of barnacles and other things that have attached themselves to the bottom of the boat. Some of them are getting quite big now and I’m soon going to have to don mask and flippers to go in the water and scrape them off. If I leave them to grow it will just make the boat heavier and less streamlined, and rowing will become even more hard work. It’s amazing how the sea just teems with life. Put anything in the water and before long it will soon be supporting a vast community of life at every level. It’s just such a fertile environment.

 My spring cleaning includes some personal grooming too. I thought I might grow a beard during my voyage but have decided against as it’s just too hot and uncomfortable. I’ve just had a good wash and shave, but with all the salt around it’s difficult to get properly clean. I imaging I’m wouldn’t smell too good close up, but that’s not really a problem at present as there isn’t anyone around but the fish to notice! I’ve cut my hair quite short too. Again it was getting too long and uncomfortable so I’ve given it a good lopping.

 I’ve become an iPod convert. I’ve been aware of course of the way Apple’s iPod has become an essential part of many people’s lives, but never really felt the urge to use one myself. I’ve got quite a lot of music at home that I’ve collected over the years but always preferred to listen to it on my hifi or computer. In fact I had hardly any music saved on my p.c. hard drive and just used the CDrom as a player when I felt like it.

 Quite a while before I set off though, I thought it would be a good idea to take some other entertainment as well as the books I’d selected to read on my voyage. So I eventually got around to buying an iPod and began to save some of my music to iTunes. Along with my own collection some friends were kind enough to provide me with some of their music too. To the extent that when I set off I had about 8,000 tracks loaded up! Enough for me to listen to for about 30 days non-stop if I didn’t sleep! But more than enough to fill in the times when I needed some tunes to keep me entertained, and all contained in a little box that will fit into my shirt pocket. Amazing.

 I must say now that it has been one of the best things I’ve brought with me and, because of the music passed on to me from others, has introduced me to some songs and artists I wouldn’t have bought or listened to by choice. I’ve discovered some really good stuff that’s opened my eyes (ears?) to songs and styles of music that I wouldn’t have given a second thought to previously. Some days I just use the shuffle option and listen to what comes, but on other days I’ll pick one artist and play their music all day. I’ve just finished an Elton John day and it was great. I don’t think I’ll ever be separated from my iPod ever again.

Incidentally some of the books I’ve chosen to read relate to events in and around the Second World War. It’s the first time I’ve really taken an interest in this period of our history, but I’m finding it very interesting to read about what happened.

 The winds are still making life far from easy for me and they are continuing to push me south and east, but by continuing to do my Duracell bunny impression and rowing and rowing I’ve been able to keep making a little progress to the west. For some days now the winds have been blowing from a different direction nearly every day, all except the way I want them to. On the days when they aren’t pushing me the wrong way there’s no wind at all!! Surely the wind must turn in my favour eventually. I hope it’s soon.

 Thanks to everyone for your continuing support and interest in my voyage. Please keep sending the texts as they do help to keep my spirits up when the weather is bad or against me. I’m sorry I can’t respond to immediately to your questions and comments as my phone can only receive texts  I’ll do my best to clarify the things I remember through my blog which is being written up for me from notes I send back home when I can.

 Some of you are asking about the length of time it’s going to take to complete my trip. Well the original estimate was between 60 and 100 days. I think I can safely say that, the way things are going, it will be closer to the latter than the former at this stage. I’m trying not to think too much about how far there is still to go as it can be a bit demoralising, especially when the weather is against me. But I’ll be better able to say how long my voyage will take when I reach the halfway stage. By then the boat will be lighter, hopefully I’ll have some help from the “trades” and I’ll be better able to estimate my arrival time. Watch this space!

 I’m eating pretty well now and still drinking lots of water and tea. I usually have muesli in the morning. Chocolate biscuits and snacks during the day and a big meal at night. I managed to get my cabin dried out and am sleeping very well and in comfort.

 In general I’m feeling pretty positive and want to thank you all again for your encouragement and best wishes.

 Thanks again to all for your messages and support, with extra thanks to;

 Chelle and Mick

Phil

Christine

Pete Evans

Pete the Fish

Anna (thanks for the forecast)

John Dab

Paul (the gates) Blanchard

Dave Collis

Merv

Paul and Ellen              

Happy birthday Christine

 Thanks to John H for the blow up parrot. It’s on its perch with my own parrot who is on her third Atlantic crossing.

Especial thanks and love to Elaine, Bradley and Joel. I miss you all. xxx

Posted by: solosprint | February 3, 2008

Two steps forward….

If you’ve been following my progress via the web sites you’ll know I’ve been leading a two steps forward, one back kind of existence for much of my voyage so far, but, at last, I seem to be moving in the right direction all the time. Here’s hoping for a at least a couple of weeks of favourable seas and winds.

 When I began my preparations for this expedition I decided to take a variety of different foods with me. I’ve got quite a lot of pre-prepared meals that just need me to add water and I’ve tried most of the different varieties by now. One of the curries immediately became my favourite comfort food for those days when I need a reward or a bit of a lift. I also packed quite a few ingredients so that I could prepare and cook some favourite pasts and rice based dinners during some calm and quiet evenings. I wish!! The weather has been so much against me that I’ve been living on the just add water stuff for the entire voyage so far. I’m really looking forward to cooking myself a meal when the weather settles down.

 I thought all the fresh air and exercise would give me a good appetite, but that’s not the case really. I’m eating enough and am getting through my supply of chocolate like a good ‘un. I seem to remember eating a lot more when I sailed across here a dozen years or so ago. I’m drinking a lot 0f water though and at long last am able to make as many cups of tea as I like. When the boat was being designed and built we all spent a lot of time discussing and designing in as many compartments and cabinets to keep thing safely stowed away. This means that despite the seas best efforts to turn me over I don’t have to tidy up each time because there’s a place for everything and everything in its place. Most of my storage is easily reached and I carefully packed everything myself so that I knew where everything was when I needed it. Would you believe that I made such a good job of my packing that it’s taken me two weeks to find my tea bags!! And there are hundreds of them and it’s amazed me that within such a small space and despite numerous searches I couldn’t find them. I remembered distinctly packing them but was beginning to think I’d imagined it.

 Thankfully my electric water purifier is continuing to work well but I don’t know what I would do without it. I’m being ultra careful when I use it to make sure it will last out the journey. I’ve got a hand operated back-up system, but would hate to have to depend on that to produce my daily water supply. It would take much longer to produce sufficient clean water for all my brews if I had to operate the manual system and it’s a chore I could do without at the moment.

 I’ve been adding water to more things than my food recently too. Following long hours of being cooped up in the cabin, and some of my favourite comfort food (curry as mentioned earlier) I felt the need to introduce some fresh air to my living quarters! The sea seemed fairly calm so I opened the small window to let the sea breezes in to blow away the cobwebs. Of course this was the very time a rogue wave decided to target the boat and introduce about three gallons of water through a very small gap. I was strapped in and rowing at the time so couldn’t do much about it even though I saw what was coming. Consequently I’ve spent the past week living in damp clothes and sleeping in a damp bed. I turned the mattress over so that’s not too bad, but because the wind and weather is against me, and so unpredictable all the time I can’t get anything dry. Hopefully now the wind and waves are turning more in my favour I’ll be able to get some things dried out.

 My hands have got much better and are toughening up quite well. I’ve been wearing waterproofs and gloves quite a lot to protect me from the cold spray which might have helped but I seem to have got over the blistering I suffered early on, so I’m comparatively comfortable now. The damp isn’t helping my aches and pains though and I’ve started to use a ‘Ralgex’ spray to try to ease things, especially my back. Mind you, applying the spray is becoming a major exercise in its own right. I discovered to my cost that I should not use the spray in a small closed cabin and suffered badly watering eyes and difficulty breathing for my trouble. Now I have to take all my clothes off put on my harness and clip myself in on deck so I can apply the spray in the open air. It’s a good job there aren’t any spectators to what might appear to be some strange S & M ritual being carried out in mid Atlantic. It can’t be a pretty sight!

 Last weekend the weather kept me almost stationery for two days. It was marked by a spectacular 36 hour long electrical storm with lightning like I’ve never seen and thunder that shook the boat and the sea all around it. To top it all there were times when the boat was bombarded by hailstones the size of golfballs. I imagine this is what it must be like to be under fire and thought that my windows might be broken or outside equipment damaged by the ferocity of the hailstones as they pounded the boat and raised big splashes in the sea. Thank goodness I wasn’t caught outside when they fell.

 The seas are still often quite big and another rogue wave out of the blue nearly rolled me one night. The boat went further and further over and I was convinced that this time I was going 180° followed hopefully by 360°. I was sure it was the time when the boats self righting properties were going to be tested to the full. But no, thank goodness, despite almost standing on my head the boat righted itself and there haven’t been any waves like that since.

 Even though the wind hasn’t been helping, I’m still heading roughly west most of the time, and even when I only manage a few miles in a day at least it’s in the right direction.

 Thanks for all the texts, they really are very welcome so please keep sending them.

 I’d like to say thank you particularly to the following for their good wishes;

 
Climber Paul

Dave Collis

Jim

Pete the Fish

Merv

Anna

Emily and Jamie

Caroline

Chris

Paul and Ellen

 
And of course Elaine, Bradley and Joel xxx

 
Thanks again to everyone for all your messages and please keep sending them.

You can text me on 00881631635007

I’ll bring you all up to date with the latest events in a few days when there are more things to tell you about, and don’t forget to follow my progress on solosprint.com or oceanrowing.com

 Bye for now.

 Dave

Posted by: solosprint | January 25, 2008

On the way at last

When you read this I shall have completed almost two weeks of my Atlantic adventure. I left home and family on January 2nd to The Canaries. I departed in the depths of winter after all our Christmas and New Year festivities and landed in the sunshine. I made my way straight to the ferry terminal to cross to La Gomera and get first site of my boat ready to set off on the voyage.

 

I was sorry to leave home, but quite excited to be getting close to the beginning of the end so to speak. This is what all the planning and preparation have been for and I was keen to get going.

 

I spent a busy few days making final adjustments and preparations to the boat prior to setting off and kept in contact with the local authorities to ensure my paperwork and everything were exactly what they wanted and was assured that everything was going ahead as quickly as possible. I made a few calls home to keep my family and friends up to date with my progress, all the time itching to set off.

 

So while I waited I tried rowing on the sea for the first time really, and what a surprise that was. A completely different experience to anything I had tried before. I found that with the swell I was not always managing to get the oars in the water with every stroke. I think I used most of the swear words I know during that time, cursing the boat, the sea, the oars, myself and anything else that came to mind! Still it was a useful experience, which gave me a taste of what was to come.

 

So there I was all set to go and just waiting for my final clearance from the Spanish authorities. It seemed that I might be able to set off a couple of days early at one time but no such luck. I waited another day and a bit more and then another day and another……… I was getting quite frustrated but eventually my clearance came through and I finally left the harbour to begin my great adventure on January 11th.

 

Now here I am almost two weeks into my voyage and I am well into the day to day grind that will eventually bring me to the other side of the ocean. My rowing technique has improved and my progress has been really good on some days.

 

So what’s it like. It’s tough, although some of the things that did concern me before I set off have not turned into the problems I thought they might. I’ve got aches and pains everywhere, but nowhere is especially bad. Or it’s all so bad nowhere really stands out particularly! My back has been OK really and with the help of some little pink pills is holding up remarkably well.

 

I’ve developed some spectacular blisters on my hands and feet. In fact most parts of me that are in constant contact with the boat and oars seem to be blistered, but my hands and feet are the only parts I can see, which is just as well really! I’m glad I don’t have a mirror to investigate other parts that are pretty sore and just hope that as I progress they will improve.

 

You can see my daily progress on the home page at www.oceanrowing.com if you scroll down the page a bit and there will be a link to hear on my own website pretty soon.

 

If you look at the chart and table you’ll see that I’ve made good progress some days and moderate progress on others, the exceptions being the 20th and 21st as there was quite a storm. At one time during one of these days, when I was able to row a bit, I rowed flat out for four hours and went backwards!! So I suppose that the fact I made some progress on each of the days was a bonus in itself.

 

Much of the time during the storm I was locked in the cabin watching the waves grow and the rough seas covering the deck and washing right over the boat. Fortunately the boat never capsized or rolled over, but it reached some pretty steep angles at times. It was like a combined roller coaster and waltzer ride that went on for hours instead of minutes. Exhilarating, frightening and exciting all at the same time. But in the end I was very glad that things started to calm down. I’m most impressed with the boats ability to cope with the storm and it makes me feel very confident that we’ll complete this journey together.The design works just like we thought it would so well done everyone at Global Boatworks. I was a little concerned when my satellite phone rang one day and it was Jamie saying we’ve spotted a bit of a technical problem we think you should know about! Luckily it was just about the water purifier and not a don’t touch that big red button whatever you do moment.

 

 Anyway the storm passed eventually and now it’s back to making as much progress as I can. I’ve discovered that during the storm water got into my external GPS equipment, even though it’s supposed to be waterproof, and that isn’t working now. I hope it might dry out eventually and start working again, but I don’t really think it will. Luckily I have a backup inside so I won’t get lost.

 

I’m trying to get five or six hours sleep each day to let my body recover and must say I’ve managed that almost every day at some time. At the moment I feel like I’ve been hit be a truck, but I expect to recover a bit with some more settled weather and some better progress as the weather improves.

 

I’m just about to prepare my evening meal which today I think will be curry as a treat for surviving the storm and as I get ready to eat I can’t help thinking how I miss my family and friends really badly. There are other things that I’ve taken for granted that I miss too, a takeaway when you feel like it, beer, chips…….. I’d better pull myself together and get on with it or there won’t be a dry seat in the house!

 

If anyone feels like texting me you can on 00881631635007

It’s a satellite phone and can receive texts. I can’t reply unfortunately, but it would be nice to hear from anyone who wants to say hello.

 

Anyway here we go into the blue yonder. You can check my progress on solosprint.com and at oceanrowing.com. I’ll send another update in a few days so cheers until then.

Posted by: solosprint | December 14, 2007

Has it really been 6 weeks!!!!

I really can’t believe that its been six weeks since my last blog, many, many apologies to everyone who has been emailing me awaiting the next blog…you have the patience of saints. Anyway here is 6 weeks condensed into a few paragraphs.

I really didn’t know just how mammoth a project this was in putting together and its taken over my life this year! It certainly has been a journey of discovery trying to get it all together in less than a year. Just thinking back it was January this year at the boat show when I was contemplating rowing and less than a year down the line I have had a boat designed, built, kitted out and as of yesterday finally locked away in a container and on her way to the canaries.

Hip, hip,  Hoo-bloody-raaaay for that one!

I had the boat in Rudyard for almost 6 weeks trying to get used to her and get the rowing position sorted. I had some great help from everyone at the lake and after 6 weeks of going almost daily, I kind of miss the place. It certainly is a beautiful spot. Rudyard Ray was fantastic in his support and nothing was ever too much trouble. Ray even arranged for Matt and a couple of lads from Peak Pursuits to come down and help carry out the roll tests on the boat. She righted herself very well and I was pleased with the results, managed to split my head open in the process, but that’s another story!!

 Len from the rowing club also gave me a lesson on rowing and gave advice on the set up, this took me ages to get right but with the help of some friends I’ve managed to fabricate a system that will allow several setting for different conditions and lighter or heavier boat. Richard also offered to video me but we never got the time to get together. As in-between all this I have been trying to sort my back out…..which was giving me more than cause for concern.

Posted by: solosprint | October 30, 2007

Trafford Centre

Well I just cannot believe its been ages since I completed the last blog!! I do apologise to all who keep logging on only to see no new entries!

No excuses but I have been busy with family, work and all the commitments that come with getting an ocean rowing project together, its not an easy task and that alone is more than a full time job. Anyway you’re not reading to hear about my whinging but how the project is getting on. I will start with the weekend at the Trafford Centre and work back to the Hilton Hotel and SportsAid ball and all the month in-between as I get time.

The Trafford Centre was a great weekend and all went rather well. I must thank all the team from Positive Outcomes and SportsAid who helped get it all together. Dan from the rowing association was also great and worked very hard all weekend, I feel humbled that you all gave up your free time to help and it is much appreciated. A big thank you to Alison and the Team at the Trafford Centre for allowing us to stage the event for the weekend.

It was pretty scary on stage with Yemi who hosted the event. I remember on the Saturday the first time I went on stage with him. He gave a great introduction and then said something like…well Dave its a great boat can you tell me something about her….then it happened.  As that last ‘r’ rolled from his vocal cords the fear factor shot into me like a reddened poker. Everything seemed to slow down. My mouth felt like Mr Dyson himself had nipped in there with a nozzle and hovered all the saliva clean out of my mouth, then not fully satisfied with that forced several dry weetabix in and said chew! That gives you an idea of how my mouth felt. My heart was also pounding and I thought if it goes any faster it would surely jump clean from my chest and we would be looking for a new ocean rower and not one who had just had a severe heart attack and stroke on stage! I felt my shirt stick to my body and i could feel the droplets of sweat turn into streams  as they ran down my face. And still I could hear the ‘r’ of the final word from Yemi ! How can a millisecond of time last so long??

However, when it did end I somehow managed to drag some moisture into my mouth and deliver some shaky words to answer his questions. As the weekend progressed I became only slightly more confident but never the less enjoyed the experience. Thanks Yemi as you helped no end in keeping the questions flowing and digging me out when my explanations dried up.

It was a very tiring weekend as setting up the boat had to be done at 06.00 on the Saturday morning. Luckily I have a great mate called Phil who was there to help me get the boat from one end of the Trafford Centre to the Orient and the stage. He then spent all weekend at the event and waited until 12.00 on Sunday night when we reversed the journey and managed to get the boat out and get her home for 02.00 on the Monday Morning, all went pretty smooth as you will find out when I write the blog on the Hilton Hotel fiasco.

 Thanks again to all who helped out !

Posted by: solosprint | September 27, 2007

Where does the time go??

I can not believe that It’s almost 3 months to go!! 106 days until the 10th Jan and my proposed departure date. Wow!

 I actually went rowing for real the other day in Rudyard Reservoir, certainly different from sat at home on the rowing machine. John and Ray who manage all the facilities at Rudyard kindly gave me the loan of a boat and pair of oars so that I could complete a small promotional DVD I have been working on. Gregg the camera man really enjoyed the trip around the lake, mind you he would as I was doing all the rowing!

DVD introduction will be ready for the SportsAid ball early next month and there will also be a link on the web site for anyone that wants to see it.

 I was down in Exmouth last weekend working on the final detail of the boat. She is looking great and can not wait to pick her up on the 6th of October. Jamie has done a superb job of the build and every detail on her is perfect!

With only 106 days left I better get on with the huge list of jobs that I have to get through! Should get easier as I get closer, well that’s what I keep telling myself to keep me from freaking out!…..

Posted by: solosprint | September 10, 2007

Welcome Emma….

Had a great meeting with Emma last week and she agreed to help with the Solo Sprint project.

Emma will take charge and project manage The Trafford Centre weekend to make sure it’s a success and we all have a weekend to rememeber.  No pressure then Emma!!!

Emma has first hand experience with project managing events and is a real asset to the team, Emma will also help with raising funds for the equipment still needed and our partnership charity SportsAid.

We are also on the look out for any other assistance to help with the project and also ideas for raising funds and equipment. Please drop me an email if you want to get involved.

Posted by: solosprint | September 9, 2007

SportsAid Meeting in London…

Great meeting in London with Breege and Graham of SportsAid.

Looked at where the the boat will be displayed and the logistics of how we actually get it into the Hilton’s Ballroom….believe it or not it will actually fit into the service lift!! I dare say its the first boat they have ever had in their lift thats for sure!!! Can you imagine the lift breaking down and having to ring the engineers…….hello, yes, I’m stuck in the lift with my boat…..!!

The boat “Positive Outcomes” will certainly be the Cinderella of the Ball and we have some great fund raising ideas planned for the night. It is certainly going to launch the start of the fundraising activity and will be a fantastic event!

Graham has organised a short question and answer session on stage with James Cracknell for the delight of the 700 plus sports personalities and distinguished guests…And I’m not nervous in the slightest!! Honest!!…………It’s more a petrified near death sort of feeling!

I will make sure I get lots of photos on the night and get them up on the web site.

Posted by: solosprint | September 9, 2007

Boat Update…

Visited the boat at the weekend and spent a great evening with Jamie and Emily which included several beers and a curry. Well it was Friday night!

The boat is coming along a treat as ever and it was good to be able to look at the completed structure and sit in the cabins, which although a little tight are quite adequate for my needs. I discussed with Jamie some small changes to the original plans, as once I had sat in the boat for a couple of hours some things were not as practical as they seemed on paper drawings. We agreed to confirm changes with Phil once he was back from holiday. It was really beneficial to get a feel for the boat at this stage as by the end of next week we need the structure complete.

Met with Peter in the workshop too and finalised the electrics, we even added a couple of small speakers to allow the small luxury of some music, if I have any excess power. Emily has nicknamed Peter…Mr Grumpy! I am sure it’s just because he is tired with all his church commitments along with my constant need for more power, still think there could be room for a small fridge somewhere!!!!

Jamie is still on schedule to have the boat painted and fitted out in time for the SportsAid ball on the 9th October. Keep an eye on the Gallery for up to date photos.

Posted by: solosprint | August 27, 2007

The Trafford Centre

Great news….The Trafford Centre agrees to partnership the Solo Sprint project and sponsor a weekend in The Trafford Centre. We will be staging a full weekend of activities and the boat “Positive Outcomes” will be centre stage.

The weekend is the Saturday and Sunday of the 27th and 28th of October. I will post more details on the activities and programme of events once they are confirmed. But it will be a great weekend!!

Many thanks to Alison and The Trafford Centre team for helping to Launch the project in my home town of Manchester. This will be great event to generate TV and media coverage and help raise funds for SportsAid our partnership charity.

Posted by: solosprint | August 21, 2007

I love the Dentist (Not!!!)…

dave2.jpg

This is me at the dentist yesterday having some root canal work to make sure all my teeth are in tip top shape for the row. The sun glasses are not for me to try and look cool but are issued by the dentist for health and safety. I like them because it hides the tears!!

As to say I am scared of the dentist is the understatement of my life!! I am actually petrified and didn’t go for years on end throughout my youth, much preferring to endure the pain of toothache rather than face the satanic suffering of the dentist drill. It wasn’t until my mid twenty’s when I saw an advert for dental treatment for big jessies that I finally succumbed and re-etered the room of gloom to face the wrath of the devil cloaked in white with needles and pain by the bucket load.

Posted by: solosprint | August 15, 2007

Bad Driver !!!

I hope you all dont mind a good moan but I’ve just been out on the bike and been semi-knocked off by an atrocious driver (keeping it a family web site) the language at the time was a little stronger I must admit.

Anyway there I am pumping it out in the pouring rain and really feeling the strain as I was hitting the pain barrier, which tends to start when I’m 20 yards from my house and doesn’t finnish until I’m in a nice warm shower! All the same I was enjoying being out in the fresh air and minding my own business on the road from Gawsworth to Marton on one of cheshire’s cycle ways. Then out of knowhere came a red car with a driver that must have surely been possessed by the devil himself at breakneck speed he headed straight for me as I was digging in at the rise of a hill on a single track road, his car being no match for the bike I took to the grass verge and pulled over.

Next minute not content with nearly running me down he reversed angrily towards me, flung open his door and threw a leg out while delivering much abuse about the audacity of me being on the road. By this time I was stood in my day glow orange waterproof, water dripping from my helmet and not best pleased! Whether I had looked smaller coming up the hill I’m not sure but when he gained eye contact of me, a six foot, 220 lb angry orange cyclist he appeared to change his mind.

He threw his leg back in and sped of no doubt after another perhaps smaller cyclist to terrorise! I smiled to myself as I cleared my angry thoughts of wanting to rip his head clean from his body, I had already produced way to much bad Karma with thoughts alone. I reasoned with myself that not only was he a bad driver he was also a total bully… given the chance.

Feel a lot better for getting that of my chest! Back to the Solo Sprint Project.

Posted by: solosprint | August 13, 2007

Monday Morning

Don’t you just love Monday morning!! I’ve been up since before six as I always enjoy that quiet hour or two, give you chance to get the day in order and sort out what you need to be doing.

Have a busy week ahead as I have to source some bits for the boat to avoid any delays there and also have to start getting the equipment ordered so I have plenty of time to get the best prices and ensure delivery before the boat is shipped.

I have recently spoken with Kees who is sorting out the food and nutrition I will need for the journey. I tasted all the meals and then send a report of what I liked and disliked, he then forwarded it to his ‘Chef du Cuisine’ !! Kees told me that they are having a great year and their Pack’n’Go products are doing really well. Kees is also celebrating the birth of his son so many congratulations there. Its very reassuring for me to know I have Kees sorting out the food for the project, its better to leave it in the hands of the professionals and its one less thing I have to think about as I know its in good hands.

Also need to get the team page up on the web site, some of the people helping me must be camera shy so it looks like I will have to go and snap them myself!

 Along with the row project I also have to spent some time marketing my book that is due to be launched 27th September 07 which is only weeks away! I will make it available on the site for anybody that wants a copy.

Lots to be getting on with anyway and on top of all that I have to fit work in so I can pay the mortgage!! Keep you all updated. Cheers Dave

Posted by: solosprint | August 10, 2007

Im Back !

Well I’m back and well rested from my break in Ireland. Mind you touring around in a VW camper van with Elaine (wife) and my two boys Bradley(8) and Joel(5) was certainly a little tight at times and space was definately at a premium. All had a great time and even blessed the project with a big kiss of the old Blarney stone.

 I have caught up on all my emails and spoken with Jamie about the progress of the boat. She is coming along well and we are on target to have all the major construction complete by end of August, that just leaves the remainder of the fitting out and the paint job. Peter the sparky is also on the case and has been following the build at the workshop to ensure adequate provision for the electrics etc.

 I have also heard from the Trafford Centre and have a meeting with them next week to get the boat displayed there to ensure some local publicity for SportsAid and the project. I can hopefully organise a press release for the local papers and hopefully secure some TV footage on the news. Keep you informed on this one.

 I am also starting to organise all the equipment I will need and look at making sure I get it in plenty of time. I have sourced sponsorship of a trailer from Snipe as in around 50 days I will be collecting the boat from the workshop.

 Its all happening that’s for sure!!

Posted by: solosprint | July 18, 2007

Calm before the Storm

Just about have everything up and running now ready for the big push finding sponsorship but before I start I’m off for a 2 week break touring the south coast of Ireland.

 Its been a real busy time the last 6 months and I need a quick recharge! Once back I will be updating this blog on an almost daily basis so do keep checking on the projects process.

I have spoken to Jamie today and the boat is really starting to come together and when I get back from my holiday we will be seeing a difference from the bare hull she is at the moment.

I had some good news today and we have a company that is sponsoring the GPS systems I will need, their details will be up on the sponsors site soon.

Look forward to keeping you up to date on my return when the campaign will start to gather pace.

Update you all soon. Dave

Posted by: solosprint | July 12, 2007

Six Months to Go !!!

Hi everyone

Well here is the official start of my Blog. Although I have been working on the Solo Sprint Project for about 8 months already (and many months before in the seed stage) I am now at the “six months to go deadline” and things are hotting up!

The boat “Positive Outcomes” is well under way and looking great, I was there this weekend with Phil, Jamie and Emily and we had an unbelivable day turning the Hull for the first time, the boat looked fantastic and we are well on target with the build. Phil’s Wife Gill cooked a tasty curry for supper and with a few early doors before hand I had a great weekend !

 The project has also joined in partnership with SportsAid (please see our Charity page on the site). This is superb news for the project and even better news for SportsAid as we start to raise awareness of the fantastic work they do and the all important funds our project can help to raise. The boat “Positive Outcomes” will be at the annual ball at the Hilton Hotel in London at the beginning of October looking her very best in newly painted attire! This point will mark the three months to go stage!!

Much appreciation goes out to our web sponsors Yonder Mountain who have worked very hard to get the site ready for this six months to go satge and we can now start to champion raising funds for SportsAid and also securing all the items needed for the project.

I hope to keep you all up to date over the next six months and the web site will be constantly growing as the project gains some pace. Please send me any questions you have regarding the project and watch this space, cheers Dave

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