Stormy thoughts

Ocean rowing can be quite the sensory overload.  I think both surviving and thriving out here can be an interesting mix of quieting out or fully immersing and amplifying the sensory aspects and switching on or off the processing and memory banking of said experience.

My very own yogurt maker - a thermal flask, yogurt cultures and water inside, bingo!

My very own yogurt maker – a thermal flask, yogurt cultures and water inside, bingo!

For example… I have just laid back down on my bed after sitting up at the hatch looking out across the gentling seas, inking a metallic sheen as planets and stars rotate up through a rich blue, blackening sky. I can hear my breathing, calm and free, and taste the lingering banana of my protein shake, which I can feel doing good things to my energy. I am drinking all this in, allowing myself to be soothed by the swash and gurgling of quiet waves, enjoying the calm after the storm. I am grateful for the warmth of my fleece liner and pile blanket. At the same time I am trying not to smell the stale sweat and pee and general damp of the cabin, trying to unfeel the cool damp of my pillow which was soaked last night by waves smashing over the boat and through the vents by my head.

Wind. This is One's Sovereign. Sort it out. Or One shall launch One's armies. And navies.

Wind. This is One’s Sovereign. Sort it out. Or One shall launch One’s armies. And navies.

Right now, my mind is calm and positive, Chimpy contained and quiet. My list of Good Things About Today is long and my confidence boosted somewhat after getting through the storm of the last 24hrs with more mental control and calm than I had found in last week’s bouncy (albeit lesser) conditions. It was definitely a more successful attempt at stopping  my fears in their tracks and quieting out the experience as the boat was picked up and slammed,  thumped and thrown, heaved and swung and waves crashed into and over us. It was about being present in one sense and zoning out in another. Strapped into my harness, at times I tried to sleep and at others, especially through the worst stuff at night, listened to music or watched films on the tiny 1 x 2 inch screen in my ipod. The mindful escapism worked and if my fears started chattering too loudly, they were reigned back in. Having felt so spooked by the previous rough stuff (which wasn’t even that roughI) it felt reassuring to be back in control again. That felt good and yet today there have been many times where my mind has chatted out more unhelpful thoughts – on the slow physical progress, on more storms ahead etc etc. There is a definite correlation between cabin time and morale in rough conditions –  unsurprising, if I step back and look at it with perspective. So, bring on the outside time again and the chance to pull on those oars. To do something physically helpful towards tangible progress homewards.

My other friends I have stored away keep me entertained for hours!

My other friends I have stored away keep me entertained for hours!

In terms of weather, things should have swung to something rowable  by the time you read this, I think. So I shall get back on the oars and haul eastwards. For now the Gulf Stream to my south is very confused and broken up – so the goal is to avoid getting tangled up in there, if I can,  while also staying away from Nova Scotia to my North.

Pretty special to be able to see this most days

Pretty special to be able to see this most days

And with that, it is time for me to fleece up and snuggle down into my bed, leaving the stars outside to keep watch and the chattering petrels to fly circles round us. After the noise of last night, it is blissful… So long as I don’t register the cabin aroma.

Until next time

Sarah and Happy Socks x

P.S Thanks to everyone for the messages of support, comments, tweets etc. Thanks also to anyone who has donated to the expedition and our charity funds lately. Your rower loves you.

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15 Responses to Stormy thoughts

  1. Susie Hewson says:

    That’s the girl we all know…challenging the anxiety and making it walk the plank! Next time private doubt gets broadside, make him swill the decks – that’ll help get rid of that lingering smell – sunshine will dry the damp stuff and the Pond will once again become your friend. Dealing with the noisy stuff in your head is your micro-challenge – should be a piece of piss ( Private !!!! ) for somebody who has cycled across the Planet ( in insane weather), rowed the Indian Ocean, kayaked the Aleutian islands ( camping amongst grizzly bears) and for one who having been awarded an MBE sees the joy in raising the majesty of our dear Queen to quell the elements…..what are you adding to that Yoghurt?

  2. Hi Sarah
    For those of us who haven’t been in your shoes (or more accurately Happy Socks)! it’s impossible to know what you are experiencing, but we all hold a candle to you and your extraordinary endeavour. I know from experience that one’s outlook is gretaly affected by thoughts, both positive and negative. The Atlantic knitting will eventually unravel and you will make progress towards Old Blighty, so hang on in there, think positive thoughts and know that we’re thinking positive thoughts for you…
    James x


    My understanding is that if you put your pillow inside a GoreTex bag, all the damp will be ‘percolated’ out of it – like putting your wet socks inside a GoreTex gloves as my mate did for the mountains.
    Surely in this day and age the biochemists could conjure up something to properly neutralise the cabin problem; if not, it may help to burn the spare wheel tyre in the cabin to freshen the air up a little.

  4. Andrew workum says:

    As I sit here in Chatham on the morn oh June 8, with my dog Maude rose On one and coffee on the other, I am in awe not only at what you are doing (which is beyond the pale of my own more tranquil life history) but also your philosophy expressed so eloquently. Our prayers continue. There is now a large map at the Chatham health club tracking your ocean existence. Blessings

  5. Jenna Mackintosh says:

    Rooting tootin Outen!
    Keeping an ever watchful eye on your exploits via FB/ your blog- my continue to stun and amaze me my friend!! 🙂 Keep going!
    Looking forward to seeing you at the finish line in London one day soon
    Lots of Love Jen xxx

  6. Karel says:

    Nice to hear that you are under control again:-)

  7. Heather says:

    Hi Sarah, Glad to hear you’ve managed to have a clean up and the smells are a bit fresher for you!!! Also that you got through stormy waters ok and positive…… well done you! Thinking of you Love and hugs xxxx

  8. Steven says:

    Press on regardless. You’re on your way home! You are amazingly strong and have been in tougher conditions in your past. Wishing you sunshine and tailwinds. Cheers!

  9. Graeme says:

    Sarah, so good to hear you are on top of it as expected. Tough times are tough times no matter how often we have been there before, it can still jump up and be confronting. Loved One’s Sovereign!! Brilliant, I fully expect Liz top offer you doppelganger in residence at Buck Pal on your return.

  10. Eleanor says:

    I echo the nice comments above – and you seem to have found a good level of mindfulness Sarah – accepting the good with the not so good! 🙂 I continue to impress my friends with your endeavours and your attititude; the fact that its raw and honest rather than just all gung ho rallying makes it real. PS – Womens world cup England v France is in Moncton tonight so hopefully you’ll hear the shouting every time they score! ;-0 – Positive thoughts and strength to you

  11. virgil funderburk says:

    wishing you the best, you are one brave girl, your determination amazes me, God bless


  12. June Bibby says:

    Just hang on in there my dear – you are on the homeward stretch – Blessings x

  13. Ethel Leonard says:

    Dear Sarah, how happy. I am to hear you weathered the storm. I thought of you when I was listening to my minister speak on how Jesus calmed the waves for the fishermen. I prayed that the waves would be calmed for you. You are one terrific person. I know you will make it. All the best, Ethel Leonard

  14. Ken Harshbarger says:

    Sarah, thanks so much for being solo damn tough. I get the goose bumps reading your entries. To know that there is someone out there who is so tough and so courageous gives me hope. I’m not an overly sentimental person, but you really do make me feel stronger. Please know that you are in my prayers.

  15. Belinda Dade says:

    Helen Mirren had better watch her back! You’re a dead ringer for HRH!!
    Belinda x

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