While rowing South from Las Palmas on our first night and waves towered up on either side of me (Gabor was asleep in his cabin at this stage) Gran Canaria didn’t seem like a very small island. We had rowed ‘two on – two off’ since lunch time and I was convinced the lights at the far end of the island weren’t getting any closer.
Not that it mattered – I was loving being out on the waves again, the stars were out and a side-on wind made my initiation into ocean rowing all rather exciting. My stomach found the excitement a bit too much and it took a quick visit from breakfast to get it used to bouncing about in the cabin on my ‘shift off’.
Initially the plan was to row northeast towards Africa, but the weather got in the way and we aimed for a circumnavigation. Strong headwinds on each side of the island changed our plans again, and so we used Pasito Blanco on the south coast as a base for shorter day trips out to sea to train. In fact, one day we were completely land-locked and so spent a day deep in ocean chat: talk of boat designs, equipment and rowing schedules. We rounded it off with a walk to the ‘dunas’ of Maspalomas (our very own desert) and some very, erm, typical ocean rower fare at the Hard Rock Cafe. By the end of the week, I was very much at home on Fire Ant (Tuzhangya in Hungarian) and had found a friend and mentor in Gabor. With his girlfriend, Andrea Palos, he became the 2nd fastest pair ever to row the Atlantic in 2007 – in a time of 51 days, just 4 hours behind the record. He is a marine architect and designer and his next trip involves sailing a self-designed and built boat around the world. Not too crazy, perhaps, until you learn that this boat is only going to be 3 metres long by 2 metres wide! From this adventurous madman I have learned invaluable lessons: Barnacle scrubbing the hull mid-Atlantic (well, a couple of miles offshore); practised retrieving things from overboard; rowed in big seas, following seas, cross-winds, head winds, in the heat of the day and the cool of the night and to top it all I am still super excited about my own project.
I came away from Gran Canaria, (firstly rather reluctantly and then thanking my lucky stars that I hadn’t missed my flight – the buses just didn’t match up), full of ideas about the set up of my boat, equipment I will take on the ocean with me, questions to debate, and confident that I am doing all the right things in my preparations. Did I mention the rather nice tan, too?!
PS. Any budding ocean rower wanting to learn the ropes and get some time on an ocean rowing boat, then get in touch with Gabor – his boat is in Gran Can until September this year. See his advert on the ORS website.