In which everyone arrives

Welcomed to Chatham by Pleasant Bay Community Boating

Welcomed to Chatham by Pleasant Bay Community Boating

These last ten days have been all about arrivals and welcomes. Hercules and I started the influx of Team L2L into Chatham by pedalling to the sea a week ago Friday, followed by my Shore Support Tony Humphreys from the UK and swiftly joined by Happy Socks – my beautiful ocean rowing boat. She was fresh from  the Atlantic, having made the journey driven by a few more horse power than she will be when I make the return journey with her in a few weeks’ time.

Chatham Light blinked on as I dipped my toes in the Atlantic

Chatham Light blinked on as I dipped my toes in the Atlantic

My final week of riding from the sky scrapered metropolis of NYC north and then eastwards along the coast of New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusets (state most likely to be confused by Winnie the Pooh for Owl sneezing)  was a soothing end to the journey. That is, except for the various high and non-sided bridges that scared the bewotsits out of me and, though he doesn’t like to admit it, Hercules, too. On  one night I slept on a picnic table under a gazebo in a state park, open to the breeze and views of the starry watch for the first time since doing the same way North and West in Canada’s Yukon back in October. As the night sky filled my lungs I struggled to remember the biting intimidation of the winter cold during nights in a frozen tent. On another I slept on the edge of the canal which actually divides Cape Cod from the mainland, making a safer, shorter passage for big traffic travelling between Boston and NYC. I am still looking into the Atlantic bridge, offering a similar USA/UK swift option.

Home is just across the water now....

Home is just across the water now….

The other nights en route to the Cape were spent with various couple or families, each taking me in from the road to share stories, food and, very luxuriously, gin! I loved it all and rode happy, unpressured by the miles and days between my wheels and the water. Knowing that I was on schedule, that the winter could hold me up no more or create any more uncertainty in timescales, it felt like I was riding free. I enjoyed taking quieter, more wiggly roads and routes than the last 5000 odd miles where I have mostly sought the most direct and fastest routes, for fear of not making the coast in time for the rowing season. One day I took an off road trail through a forest and over a marsh, heaving Hercules through undergrowth and trees getting ready for spring – a welcome treat to be away from any traffic or people. My mind rolled through the miles and memories and stories and faces of the journey since Homer, Alaska, way north and west of us as the wheels carried me east and spring buoyed me forward (except for the crazy snow the day I left NYC).

Family Coleman - my accommodation sponsors in Chatham

Family Coleman – my accommodation sponsors in Chatham

A few months ago, the idea of the ocean freaked me out somewhat. Maybe it was too many unknowns between me and it – weather and miles and health – , coupled with the fact I had just said cheerio to my fiancee Lucy after two months of winter riding together, or perhaps just my brain’s way of protecting me and pulling the focus back in to the ‘right now’ stuff. That seems to be a good strategy for this journey – keeping the big picture in mind and flicking in and out of the detail ahead as needed, but  staying as present as possible in the moment. As I wheeled along the coastline I found myself transfixed by the blue of the sea, mesmerised by it, as though being pulled towards and by it. It felt like coming home, somehow, a feeling that was even stronger when Happy Socks was delivered last week. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours in my cabin tinkering with bits and pieces, talking to her all along, as though catching up on all that she has missed since being apart. It really does feel like pulling on your favourite socks or hat – that comforting, familiar fit of one you know so well.

Packing the supplies was a long job...

Packing the supplies was a long job…

There were a couple of days in the boat packing process where it felt like my head was spinning – I was a proper space cadet as my mind got to grips with the rapid transition from biking to boating. Being surrounded by boxes of supplies for 4 + months at sea is a bit mind-boggling at the best of times, especially when you have been living a few days’ at a time with such limited supplies on a bike. The process of breaking that all down into day bags of food and divided bags of this and that was long but satisfying, and it felt good to complete most of our To Do List while Tony was here. Even driving felt strange (as passenger rather than driver), travelling at speed around an area I was trying to orientate myself in, reminding me that transitions can be a head spin at times.

4.5 months of food stowed aboard

4.5 months of food stowed aboard

My body is also transitioning from the bike to the boat demands, with a bit of protest from my perennially unhappy lower back.  I have a programme designed by my pal Jess Brooker at home and am now doing a couple of hours per day of cardio and strength work, in and out of the Chatham Health Club gym. This week a sports masseuse will start working her magic on my squealing muscles and hopefully if I repeat all elements frequently enough by May 1st, I will be happy that mind, body and boat are ready for launching. My plan is to float Happy Socks later this week so that  I can start plugging some water miles to get my body used to pulling such heavy loads again. Once more I am reminded of the shear strain I am asking of my body by rolling from one phase to another so quickly – thank you note in the post, Body.

Enjoying the company of other rowers at Chatham Health Club

Enjoying the company of other rowers at Chatham Health Club

As always, I am roundly supported by my fantastic team at their various L2L HQs  and the various groups and people we work with to move into the next phase and get this journey back to the UK.

I am super grateful for the recent local support, too. Pleasant Bay Community Boating, Roz and Bill Coleman, John Dickson, Ryders Cove Boatyard, Chatham Health Club, Betsy & Dick Evans, Marj Burjard and Sandy Macfarlane – thank you all for the welcome.


Sarah, Hercules and Happy Socks x

P.S: For Cape Codders, I shall be giving a fundraising talk later this month – watch this space for details. Thanks to all who came to the talks at the Village at Duxbury and Duxbury Bay Maritime School.

P.P.S: Recent TV piece by CBS here.

P.P.P.S: Thanks to all recent charity donors supporting CoppaFeel!, MND Association, WaterAid and Jubilee Sailing Trust. Donate here.

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19 Responses to In which everyone arrives

  1. Gigi W. says:

    Bittersweet really…to think of this journey nearer now to completion than its beginning! And what an adventure it’s been to date! Can’t wait to “accompany” you on this next bit…

    ~Gigi in Va. Beach

    • Sarah Outen says:

      It does feel rather surreal… But good though. There is a time to move on to other journeys and this one is ready to wrap on the other side of the sea.



  2. Spike says:

    How time flies !
    It seems that 2015 is a good year for Oxford rowers on the Tideway. May that fortune accompany your Atlantic crossing. Pencil poised over diary for a Tower Bridge ETA.
    Bon voyage and fair winds.

    • Sarah Outen says:

      Maybe I should just imagine there is a Cambridge boat behind me?!

      Don’t hold your breath on the Tower Bridge date Spike… a little way off yet. But do float the idea of WetWheels being an escort boat on my way back in!

      Hope all well with you

      Sarah x

  3. “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” (AA Milne)

    The last chapter beckons and we’ll be following you every step of the – er, every pull of the oars….

  4. Christine Ashdown says:

    Hello Sarah

    Well done on getting so far. Its great to hear the latest and that you are on track for the last bit. What you have achieved since you set off.

    Just make the most and enjoy the preparation of Happy Socks and we will look forward to keeping in touch.

    Happy whatever, a good rest for Hercules.

    All good wishes

    Christine and Kathleen


    Sarah my dear, please watch that lower back twisting and tugging under the guard rail. As Guy Martin says about the TT , ‘One mistake and that’s it’.

  6. Bruce Ellen says:

    Hi Sarah

    I have been following you from the start and I will be following you to the finish when ever that is.
    You could deviate to anywhere like last time and then you will be in for more adventures.
    Take care and think that you could be stuck behind some desk and looking out the window instead of being
    out there.
    Cheers from sunny Queensland

  7. Heather says:

    Hi Sarah,
    Another interesting chapter to add to the many! Happy Socks looks good, it was time for Hercules to have a rest!…. good luck with the muscle toning, thinking of you . Love and hugs Heather and Cameron PS. Did your Mum tell you that Sarah is getting married in October….? xxx

  8. Susie says:

    Sarah – you made it!! You have not only made it to the Atlantic on time, you made it across North America with the worst winter weather leading you all the way! Best of luck with all of the preparations over the next while and then we wish you smooth rowing across the Atlantic – you have earned it!! We are following you online and thinking of you often,

    Love from,
    Family K.

  9. jill lewis says:

    Sarah you are a legend. Cant believe you will be starting the last leg. loved the photo of packing Happysocks. Reminds me of when we met packing our boats at RPYC Fremantle. All our love for the last leg. We will be routing for you every inch of the way. xx Jill Lewis

  10. Bob Mehrens says:

    I decided to send you a note through this blog because I seemed to have misplaced your e-mail address. Joey and I want to wish you well on your trip across the pond. We followed you from Illinois to Cape Cod and look forward to following you on your final leg. You are awesome. We feel so lucky that you knocked on our door.
    Be safe and God speed!

  11. don poole says:

    Hi Sara, I read about your trip a few weeks ago in the Cape Cod Times. I stopped, this morning, at Ryders Cove Boatyard to admire your “Happy Socks.” She is a beauty. I read that you are trying to get some water time while you’re on the Cape. I don’t know if there is anything that I can help with but please feel free to ask! I have a sailboat, not in the water yet, and extensive experience sailing in Pleasant Bay. I live in Brewster, about 15 minutes down the road.
    I wish I could have made it to your talk but I didn’t know about it until a friend posted her review afterwards!

    Congratulations on your trip so far and best wishes for a successful completion!! I hope I get a chance to meet before you depart. Have you planned a departure yet?


    • Sarah says:

      Thanks for the lovely words Don and kind offers. I am all set with help thanks, but appreciate the offer.

      We shall be posting on here and also via local press as soon as we know the departure date – likely 2-3 days before it happens, so keep watching.

  12. Margaret says:

    Hi Sarah
    Your packing job looked a lot like mine for a weeks trip in a sea kayak. I always take far too much stuff. If it was me packing for four months I would need a ship to put it in, not a rowing boat.
    Take it easy on the training. Build up the rowing muscles sensibly.
    Good luck on the final leg home.


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