Blog

Welcome to my blog, where I share all the stories from my L2L expedition as I row, cycle and kayak a continuous loop of the planet. I hope you'll enjoy experiencing the highs (and lows!) of my journey so far and the adventures ahead on my way back to Tower Bridge. You can also have a listen to my Phonecasts recorded en route.

All because of the cous cous…

Yesterday I cried because I couldn’t find a bag of cous cous for breakfast. That’s how tough a day it was, everything seeming to explode (metaphorically,  don’t worry – boat still intact) and make tiny things huge. Having been focused for a day of good mileage with useful winds (finally, W wind) it was very demoralizing to be screeched back by negative currents when I rested and not making the direction I wanted even when rowing. It felt pretty futile to say the least.  I hadn’t slept well for a few nights and was exhausted, emotionally and physically.  Wanting to sleep at day’s end, I noticed a tanker drifting towards me at three miles away.  I spent the next three hours pulling for all I was worth in the fog and rain to try and avoid it.  United Hope, she was called.  I spoke to the Captain but didn’t ask why she was drifting. Satisfied we wouldn’t collide for now I went to bed at midnight and slept sporadically, being woken by my AIS alarm regularly as we danced with  United Hope.

Ironic name given my current situation of touring this locale in so many circles.  Yesterday making it out of here under my own steam felt impossible and rather hopeless.  I also had to acknowledge that it is quite likely I won’t get my rudder delivery out here – I don’t think I had left enough headspace for that one.  So far attempts to find a Deliverer have not proven fruitful.  All these various things thrown together and Chimpy going wild and upset, along with various bits of trivial news from the outside world set me up for perhaps my lowest day in a long time. This morning I woke up after four hours fitful sleep and crazy dreams of leaving my boat in the ocean by mistake to go to a tea party where I then discovered I had forgotten how to interact with people. .. I was still exhausted but had to row another sprint session past Old Tanker Features as fab rose.  I still neglected to ask why they were drifting.  I assume due to a timing issue and needing to slow down a bit.  The thing that really galled was that United Hope drifted in exactly the direction I would have loved to drift.  Instead,  inspite of my best efforts I have again struggled to make the direction I want to.

Needless to say, the last 36 hrs haven’t been my favourite of recent times. However they haven’t been the worst in my life so that’s something. I also find the bag of cous cous that had made me cry in its absence yesterday.

Most of the time I can deal with the loops and frustrations and rubbish weather and use my Aleut hands to let it go or my sense of humour to mock myself or Good Things About Today to make me forget the not so good.   But from time to time, especially being solo and having no one to share with in the immediacy of the stress, or help out with rowing or sharing Looking After Rower and Boat Tasks  the pressure will build and explode and certain things need a bit more talking/ranting/crying to put aside and release.

Right now things feel better than this time yesterday evening and I haven’t cried for a few hours, so I think we’re on the up.  And I seem to be drifting in a useful direction while I type. That makes me smile. A lot.

Back to the oars now to give it some teddy, to use a phrase of my wee brother Matt.  It is imagining friends and family on the oars with me that has helped keep me going these last 36 hours.  My university pair partner Roostie was subjected to a particularly long piece in the bow seat as I screamed ‘Let’s take it up two! Push for ten…GOOOOOOO NOW!’ My pals Dave and Dan were imagined to be swimming along infront, along with Justine in a kayak and various others around about or onboard. Try it sometime if you’re struggling to carry on.  Imagine all your friends and family in a peloton around you – pushing, pulling, surging on. The power of make believe got me out here and I dare say it is going to b grr me home too.

Until next time Sarah x

P.S Thanks for all suggestions on steering etc.  I am using my ‘ rudder ‘ as a skeg at the side of the boat to help tracking.  Drogues for steering require speed which I don’t have… If I ever get following seas with no current a line trailed from the stern may be my friend.

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Meet my neighbours

Today I put the GoPro under the boat to photograph my downstairs neighbours – the Grannies. There were more than I had realised,  but a sad omission, too. I couldn’t see a single Tweedle – my favourite Boat Fish of all time. (Read my book A Dip in the Ocean for more on The Tweedles) Still,  whatever the colouring – spots or stripes – it is nice to know that I have pals below, even if the conversation is a bit one sided.  Or maybe it’s not.  Maybe I just can’t hear them or can’t speak the latest edition of Fishese. You just never can tell with fish.

Meet my neighbours - the Grannies. So named due to the apparent blue rinse.

Meet my neighbours – the Grannies. So named due to the apparent blue rinse.

It is a soothingly warm day,  a gentle sea and sky contrasting with recent bouncy greys. The deck is strewn with drying bedding and a pile of clothes waiting for the laundry.  My solar powered light is charging happily and so,  too,  is my battery, my soul.

I have just finished a call with Allington Primary School over my Iridium satellite phone,  answering questions from youngsters as part of my work as an Ambassador with Inspire +.  I smiled throughout and then grinned when they all shouted a huge GOOOOOOD LUUUUCK SAAAAAAARAAAAH! , blinking back the tears.  My favourite question was, ‘ How do you feel right now? ‘ Calm.  Content.  Happy to be outside and on the phone to a school.  A whale had harrumphed by noisily as I dialled the number.  My fish friends were swarming alongside the boat and nipping out to check on bits of flotsam.  The sun was shining.  I almost got carried away in the moment,  noticing all the good things about the moment. Another interesting question was, ‘ If you could change one thing,  what would it be? ‘ I answered that it would be really helpful if the weather could be changed in my favour and held in a useful state long enough for me to make a few more hundred miles East into a more useful weather sector. I tempered it with a bit of chat about accepting the things we can’t change and trying to remain positive,  remembering that everything changes in time. Being in the moment is a good goal,  if not a tricky one at times.

Brilliant call with Allington School as part of my Ambassador role with @Inspire _ Plus via @Iridiumcomm satphone

Brilliant call with Allington School as part of my Ambassador role with @Inspire _ Plus via @Iridiumcomm satphone

It is funny to think that these children will finish school in a couple of weeks, have their summer holidays and return to school in September and I will hopefully  still be out here, plugging away, pulling ever closer to home.  I hope my fish friends are,  too.

For now I leave you with the news that my home made rudder didn’t work as a rudder due to not being able to pin it in place firmly enough but it does work as a skeg, when jammed into a cleat on the side of the boat,  helping Happy Socks track.

Until next time

Sarah and Happy Socks x

P.S Hopefully you all enjoyed the Australia I have drawn on the Tracker.  Taking commissions now but only for one-sided long straight things pointing towards home.

P.P.S If you would like to arrange a live satellite call for your school,  please email Project Manager Sara Davies via hello@sarahouten.com

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Day 60 approaches

Day sixty approaches. Unfortunately the only thing that I seem to be approaching is the Grand Banks and Canada.  I love the latter and am intrigued by the former, though I want to visit neither.  I want to go home.

Not right now; don’t worry, I still want to row this ocean and pull up in England for an ice cream under my own power a few months hence.  But I really would like to put a few more miles between Happy Socks ‘ stern and the sand in Chatham, the last land walked on back in May.

Celebrating Americas good news and equality for all

Celebrating Americas good news and equality for all

For now it seems that the ocean and atmosphere has other ideas, as if knowing that it might be its last attempt to hang out together for a while, given that I have no immediate ocean plans after this journey.

Total white out

Total white out

My plans are for wrapping the journey with storytelling – film and book and talks – and then focusing on getting kids outside and connected with the land via an Adventure Farm. Lucy and I swap ideas on it frequently.  That and our wedding, which takes up even more phone hours.  It is a bit of a double life in some ways – being so isolated and immersed in the moment of the ocean, contrasted with talk of future plans and happenings.

You may have heard my phonecasts or seen my tweets on losing the rudder in rough weather last weekend. It has proved difficult rowing without it at times, depending on conditions,  and the periods not rowing are even more frustrating without it.  A new one is being made in the U.K. as I type and Tony, my brilliant Shore Support, is trying to source a Deliverer. Hopefully a cruise ship will be game to swing by and do a spot of rower – sighting. I am hoping I can get a bit of a food resupply too, given that I expect to be out here longer than we first planned.   Watch this space. …

My homemade rudder waiting patiently for its debut

My homemade rudder waiting patiently for its debut

Meanwhile, I continue to try and make ground East while I can and hold fast while I cannot. The weather and currents are boss out here – I just have to make the most of opportunities or reduce collateral. High hopes, low expectations and reminding myself that nothing lasts forever.

Big thanks to everyone who has donated to the charities via text giving and the online giving. We are now well over 40k including Gift Aid, so plugging steadily on to the 100k goal.

Thanks too for all the messages of support.  They always make me smile and grateful for all the good energy coming my way.

Onwards!

Sarah and Happy Socks

P.s Still no chance to try my home made rudder yet

For the text donate, text SARAH3 to 70500 to donate £3, SARAH5 for £5 etc

To donate to the expedition funds please follow this link

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Phonecast: Day 57

Day 57

Wrong direction features again in the North Atlantic chart show this Friday afternoon accompanied by some pretty scary lighting effects…

 

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Phonecast: Day 54

Rough weather tests Sarah and Happy Socks’ mind and kit… Catch up below..

 

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