Seablog: If you can keep your head when the winds blow you backwards

Rowing NW across a SW swell and wind is not up there on my list of favourite things to do. When I say row NW, what I mean to say is try to row NW, for actually it’s fairly impossible. You’ll see that my current track is NNE or at best (and fairly rarely) due North.

Someone asked a little while ago what are the hardest things about this trip. Well, going backwards for more than a day gets a little unfunny and the boredom of cabin days can be tough, too. At least I am rowing at the moment. Boredom factor of a cabin day increases when you’ve slept all you can without morphing into a sloth, read all that you can from the limited onboard library, and are finally left with the ‘I wish I knew how to magic headphones back to life’ thought. (Headphones broken Day 10, spares apparently not aboard). Besides the going backwards and cabin incarceration, (which are thankfully still in the minority of days at sea), the other big challenge is food. I really have to talk myself into eating some of the dehydrated meals and have thrown overboard about 99.9% of the ‘puddings’ as I can’t eat them. I hope my palete is less discerning if food becomes an issue later on. The tiredness and pain factor of rowing all day long and being out here for 70 days sits way below these and is generally inconsequential – they are the triumvirate of baddies.

In a bid to combat any negative feelings which may threaten to bubble up from the murky depths there are plenty of little tricks I employ to crank up the smileometer.Herewith a few.
My favourite is literally to smile, laugh out loud and call to mind a funny incident or story. Laughter is an instant feel gooder. Others include reciting ‘If’, by Rudyard Kipling; pulling out the chart and looking at how far we’ve already rowed; song n’ dance therapy and listing all the good things about the day. It used to be finding a treat from one of the hatches,too, but I am useless at rationing them so they are in fairly limited supply now and their guzzling more infrequent.

Still, yesterday I found a large bar of delicious Green & Black’s 85% cocoa dark chocolate. So bitter and pure and delicious that even I can’t eat it all at once and have to savour it in little nibbles. An unheard of occurrence that chocolate has lasted more than a few minutes on the good ship Dippers. Triumph on Day 69!

And so back to our Travelator experience…. Remember the Travelator from Gladiators? Running up a descending conveyor belt. Similar to running up a sand dune.

Incidentally, if anyone has a hand in ocean weather, if you could put in a good word for some ‘Take-me-to-Mauritius’ SE winds before Saturday, it would be appreciated.

S & D x


Charlie Martell – Intrigued, lets meet for a beer when we’re both back in Blighty. She is a super boat. One careful lady owner. Decent mileage etc etc.
-Phil Cheek – Awesome tally. Basking shark soup! Yum, Silurian mid-morning second breakfasts. Where did you go?
-Robert Nixon – Was just going back to see if the whale was still there…
-Barry Gumbert – Call me Ishmael. I love that book. Something from Kipling’s poetry stash would be great – I only have ‘If’ out here, by him.
-Hazel Rozetti – Ironically, some sciencey tomes and papers would be perfect, I have perfect concentration out here. Indeed, complete fascination for anything written on a page. Would be a good place for finalists. Nothing to do but row and think.
-Jamie & Emily – Yum…curry and naan and poppadums. Can’t wait to visit. Dippers will be glad to see you again, too.
-Em- Glad you’re back safe and sound. Not long and I’ll be in London for mojito o’clock!

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18 Responses to Seablog: If you can keep your head when the winds blow you backwards

  1. Mary Paton says:

    Hi Sarah,

    To cheer you along you should have brought Terry Waite’s book, “Taken on Trust”, written in his head while in captivity and solitary confinement for 4 years in Beirut. He had no books for a lot of the time and no writing materials – a really good book which we are reading for the second time – you could keep it in mind for your next long voyage!

    Anyway let’s trust it won’t take you 4 years to get to Mauritius.

    Keep smiling!

  2. Hi Sarah, Just a little joke to keep you smiling!

    This guy goes on his first parashute jump, after jumping out of the plane he skydives the usual few thousand feet, then comes the time to pull the ripcord, this is when things start to go wrong as nothing happens! Falling to earth aroung 300 MPH he then remembers about the emergency shute and pulls on this only to find the same things happens (dosen’t happen). Now travelling at around 800 MPH he thinks to himself “I should never have done this, its the end”. with only a few minutes to touch down a miracle happens, he meets this guy coming up from earth at great speed, he thinks to himself “Wow, this guy must be a real expert, with a bit of luck he can save my life” so cupping his hands he shouts out ” hey there, do you know anything about parashuts” the guy looks over his shoulder and replies “Sorry mate, don’t suppose you know anything about gas cookers”

    Your doing really well, Keep Smiling!

  3. Ems says:

    Mojito O’clock…brilliant! I’ll start planning a Mojito crawl for when you get back! Funny memories are all you need to keep you going – that’s definitely something your not short of!! Keep your spirits to the amazingly high level they always remain at….mwoah x x x x x

  4. Amy Bryant says:

    Hey Sarah, you’re doing so well, keep smiling and laughing when you can – here’s a poem I found about another journey…will keep looking for more!xxx

    From A to B

    When Going from A to B
    It’s amazing what you see
    White van man
    Going hither and thither
    White headed oldies
    All of a dither
    Driving school students
    Holding up the flow
    People who can’t navigate
    Who don’t know where to go
    School run mums
    Stopping where they may
    Lane weaving bikers
    Going their own way
    Men in lycra on cycles
    Breaking all the rules
    Boy racers joyriding
    Drag racers in duals
    Stressed out salesmen
    Talking on mobile phones
    Able-bodied drivers
    Parked in disabled zones
    The Arrogant in BMW’s
    Driving in bus lanes
    Speeding in the sunshine
    And again when it rains
    Affluent Essex girls
    Driving four by fours
    Its hell getting anywhere
    I’d rather stay in doors

  5. Phil Cheek says:

    I wasn`t on Silurian last week though did have a good trip the week before.Animals all scared away by bin NATO exercise(sonar) for a few days then some good sightings.No sharks though,they all came in when the weather suddenly warmed up.
    You might be amused to hear that winter came back on Saturday,I was running around Scafell Pike area in a proper snowstorm,bizarre.
    The megaday last week was on Santon Bank.
    I`ve got every compass in the housed set in the right direction for you,hope it works.

  6. Amanda B says:

    Here’s my favourite stupid joke to make you smile any time – What do you call a French shoemaker?…..Philippe Floppe (Floppay – can’t type accents!) I told you it was stupid but hopefully you are smiling! Loved hearing about the whale the other day and the very educational debate that ensued around what kind it was….my husband reckons that a sei whale would be the best one to see (he didn’t qualify this statement!) so that’s what I’m telling him it was! Just think of us all facing a 48-hour tube strike – that should make you laugh the mould out of your cabin! Amanda x

  7. In lieu of intellectual reading, I came across this which I thought might bring a smile to your face:From all of your Natracare SISTERs!

    After every flight, pilots complete a gripe sheet that conveys to the mechanics problems encountered with the aircraft during the flight that need repair or correction. The form is a piece of paper that the pilot
    completes and then the mechanics read and correct the problem. They then respond in writing on the lower half of the form what remedial action was taken and the pilot reviews the gripe sheets before the next flight. Never let it be said that ground crews and engineers lack a sense of humor.

    Here are some actual logged maintenance complaints and problems as submitted by Qantas pilots and the solution recorded by maintenance engineers. By the way, Qantas is the only major airline that has never had an accident. (P = The problem logged by the pilot. S = The solution and action taken by the engineers.)

    P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
    S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

    P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
    S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

    P: Something loose in cockpit.
    S: Something tightened in cockpit.

    P: Dead bugs on windshield.
    S: Live bugs on backorder.

    P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute
    S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

    P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
    S: Evidence removed.

    P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
    S: DME volume set to more believable level.

    P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
    S: That’s what they’re there for.

    P: IFF inoperative.
    S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

    P: Suspected crack in windshield.
    S: Suspect you’re right.

    P: Number 3 engine missing.
    S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

    P: Aircraft handles funny.
    S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

    P: Target radar hums.
    S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

    P: Mouse in cockpit.
    S: Cat installed.

  8. terry bradley says:

    Hi SARAH
    Com,on keep smiling the weather may be working in your favour.
    Think of what you have accomplished already Think postive & smile
    Cherrio Terry B.

  9. Tracey Mason says:

    My vicar sent me this stress management technique – it works better than praying;

    Just in case you are having a rough day, aren’t we all this time of year? Here is a stress management technique used traditionally in Sicily . The funny thing is that it really does work and will make you smile. : )

    1. Picture yourself lying on your belly on a warm rock that hangs out over a crystal clear stream.
    2. Then, picture yourself with both your hands dangling in the cool running water.
    3. Birds are sweetly singing in the cool mountain air.
    4. No one knows your secret place.
    5. You are in total seclusion from that hectic place called the world.
    6. The soothing sound of a gentle water fall fills the air with a cascade of serenity.
    7. The water is so crystal clear that you can easily make out the face of the person you are holding underwater.

    See? It really does work.
    You’re smiling already.

  10. Spike says:

    Like the cool water parable. The beaut thing about being solo is that your smilometer can react to absolutely ANYTHING you like to think of. ‘PC’ is irrelevant out there (unless you put it on the Blog). Once you have been in similar isolated situations you start to understand why ‘gallows’ and ‘trench’ humour flourish.

    The following earthy definition of ‘PC’ is credited to the USMC:
    “A system created by a delusional cabal of ignorant politicians and functionaries who have convinced themselves that it is entirely possible to pick up a horse-dropping by the clean end.”

    Roll on Red carpet weather.

  11. David B. says:

    Appriciate your letting off a little steam, now and then.From what I’ve read of ocean rowing, I know it can often be much worse than what you only hint at. Don’t know if you are experiencing salt sores, but they are a commen condition, and painful reality of such voyages.My own limited experience of making long distance coastal kayaking tours, gives me some idea of how difficult it is to preserve reserves of “goodies” on board. Cookies(biscuits),premium chocolates, and rum, were always the first items to run out, along with fresh fruit.
    Wish I could arrange for you an air drop of most needed items. I would of course include items listed above along with headphones, happy socks, books, dunny role?. Most of all I wish you better winds.
    Davd B., in colorful Colorado

  12. NickH says:

    Hi Sarah,

    I have been following your adventure online since I heard you on Radio 2 with Mark and Stuart – I just want to give you my best wishes and say I am in total awe of you.

    I have two teenage kids who lost their mum 7 years ago and like you I lost my dad when I was young – these are events that change our lives forever and you have turned a personal tragedy into a huge positive and not let life drag you down. What you are doing is fantastic and your family must be so proud of you.

    Hope the winds/currents change soon and you have plenty of the Green & Black’s left.

    Kind Regards


    PS: even though I have worked in IT for the last 25 years – I still find it so cool that I can read a “blog” by you who are on a “rowboat” in the middle of an “ocean” and you can read this !!! – take care and hope tomorrow brings better weather.

  13. Barry Gumbert says:

    The Law of the Jungle
    (From The Jungle Book)

    Now this is the Law of the Jungle — as old and as true as the sky;
    And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
    As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back —
    For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

    Wash daily from nose-tip to tail-tip; drink deeply, but never too deep;
    And remember the night is for hunting, and forget not the day is for sleep.
    The Jackal may follow the Tiger, but, Cub, when thy whiskers are grown,
    Remember the Wolf is a Hunter — go forth and get food of thine own.
    Keep peace withe Lords of the Jungle — the Tiger, the Panther, and Bear.
    And trouble not Hathi the Silent, and mock not the Boar in his lair.
    When Pack meets with Pack in the Jungle, and neither will go from the trail,
    Lie down till the leaders have spoken — it may be fair words shall prevail.
    When ye fight with a Wolf of the Pack, ye must fight him alone and afar,
    Lest others take part in the quarrel, and the Pack be diminished by war.
    The Lair of the Wolf is his refuge, and where he has made him his home,
    Not even the Head Wolf may enter, not even the Council may come.
    The Lair of the Wolf is his refuge, but where he has digged it too plain,
    The Council shall send him a message, and so he shall change it again.
    If ye kill before midnight, be silent, and wake not the woods with your bay,
    Lest ye frighten the deer from the crop, and your brothers go empty away.
    Ye may kill for yourselves, and your mates, and your cubs as they need, and ye can;
    But kill not for pleasure of killing, and seven times never kill Man!
    If ye plunder his Kill from a weaker, devour not all in thy pride;
    Pack-Right is the right of the meanest; so leave him the head and the hide.
    The Kill of the Pack is the meat of the Pack. Ye must eat where it lies;
    And no one may carry away of that meat to his lair, or he dies.
    The Kill of the Wolf is the meat of the Wolf. He may do what he will;
    But, till he has given permission, the Pack may not eat of that Kill.
    Cub-Right is the right of the Yearling. From all of his Pack he may claim
    Full-gorge when the killer has eaten; and none may refuse him the same.
    Lair-Right is the right of the Mother. From all of her year she may claim
    One haunch of each kill for her litter, and none may deny her the same.
    Cave-Right is the right of the Father — to hunt by himself for his own:
    He is freed of all calls to the Pack; he is judged by the Council alone.
    Because of his age and his cunning, because of his gripe and his paw,
    In all that the Law leaveth open, the word of your Head Wolf is Law.
    Now these are the Laws of the Jungle, and many and mighty are they;
    But the head and the hoof of the Law and the haunch and the hump is — Obey!

  14. Charly Sissons says:

    I am so happy for you!
    You can never go on a trip without getting lost or going backwards! At least you can leave it behind you soooo….. straight in all of the way!!!
    We all love you dear!!
    ps and you dipity!!

  15. Alan Thomas says:

    Go Go Go
    Red Carpet, very soon,
    just in front Dippers

    by the way Dawn works in Pembertons Victorian Chocolate Farm, in Wales

    Alan and Dawn

    PS Hillary Lister landed in Fishgaurd, do you remember that STEEP slipway,

  16. RoninVancouver says:

    Hi Sarah,

    Even when you are backing up straight ahead, a bit to the left on the right side, at least you are getting somewhere. And every day you are travelling in a contrary direction puts more pesos in the pot.

    My estimate for your voyage was 96 days at a dollar a day, plus double that if you made it sooner. However, I have added an additional dollar a mile for every contrary direction you travel. So now you can consider extra compensation for taking the scenic tour.

    Hoping ol’ Neptune rolls out the red carpet soonest, Ron

  17. Grandma Barb says:

    Hello Sarah,

    Just a couple of questions to help with the bordom of rowing!
    # 1 What has been the most beautiful thing or awe rendering moment you’ve seen or experience so far?

    # 2.Math question: How many rowing strokes will have been made at
    the end of journey?

    Hang in there Sarah, Take care Grand Barb

  18. ian says:

    hi sarah,i was seeing my new great nephew sam (2 months old,11 lb,10 of them lung,today and talking to my niece about your row,she in total awe of your dedication and focus and wanted me to wish you well on her behalf.
    i wonder will any of the boats racing behind you actually catch up?on balance i’d rather be on my own than with 3 or 7 other people,how do they cope in bad weather,is there enough shelter for them all.
    do you celebrate international talk like a pirate day?it’s quite fun
    yay for green and blacks chocolate,hope you have some more in a forgotten corner
    cheers to you dippers and bob

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