It's not ocean rowing if everything goes to plan. After having a treat of a weekend getting to know the Portland Marina community, we were ready to set off for 5 days training on the water. First task - flush the water maker. After being pickled to stop it from going mouldy after it's last use (which was on the Atlantic in Feburary!) we needed to flush it with fresh water
before we could use it. In 5 days we should go through atleast 150litres of water for both drinking and food. It is an essential piece of kit. Only we couldn't get any water to go through it. Cue trawling through manuals, hitting things with mallets, running through our problem solving list and getting the lovely Jim of Mactra Marine on the phone to trouble shoot. Alas, it was not meant to be. More bottled water loaded onto the boat it was and one less job for Jen and JP to take on for this trip. Every cloud has a silver lining, right?
A quick check of our brand new batteries that JP expertly installed (upskilling is a key part of ocean rowing!) after realising our previous ones were fully dead (thanks to the wonderful Gary for helping us with that one!) and whilst they were working, it looked like we had an electrical "leak" (sorry to all electricians out there for this non tech language!). Luckily we met the amazing Roy of Clean Up Jurassic Coast, an avid kayaker on a mission to remove the plastic from the beaches of the South Coast... He just so happens to be an electrician. Roy and JP got to work checking out all the electrics and testing all the kit (just as we will have to do mid ocean if we have any problems) and it needed further investigation. But deemed safe to head out - we were not going to lose all battery power now we weren't running our power hungry water maker. Every cloud and all that.
The final hurdle - the weather. You could put money on a South Westerly wind at Weymouth. This week we had a North Easterly, and a big one at that. While it did open up the possiblility of going West to explore a new section of coast, the winds were too high for us to safely navigate around Portland Bill, which has a wild race when the water flows around the headland. We didn't want to risk damaging our boat or ourselves. Sensible decisions made - we would spend the next few days rowing East into a head wind. Strength training. Every cloud.
How lucky we were to have so many silver lined clouds up there that day.
Lesson No. 2
We love a bit of wave surfing!
Day 2 saw us taking on the challenge of rowing around St Albans Head. Another headland, another tidal race to navigate. Luckily for us, we have navigation extraordinaire Erin onboard. Given the winds, we waited for the right tide to make our move. It wasn't long before the headwind was going hard and we had 3 on the oars rowing. Unfortunately the tide was about turn against us and the headwind was picking up so we made the decision to turn (imagine a cork bobbing about in a jacuzzi - ok I might be being slightly melodramatic). Once we turned we were treated to being able to surf the waves - row hard up and then surf down the otherside. We cannot wait to do this on the Atlantic - we're hoping for some big swells to really get the speed and adrenaline hit up!
Lesson No 3
Snacks and music are the biggest morale boost!
It probably doesn't come as much suprise that whilst spending days on a tiny boat
battling a headwind, getting no more than 90minutes sleep at a time and eating rehydrated food is most people's idea of a pretty rubbish time, we loved it! However, it was clear that a really good snack (big thanks to nutrition queen Emily for her incredbile sourcing of amazing snacks) and some good tunes injected a great deal of joy and allowed us to keep pushing out those knots (nautical miles/hr). Especially when peeling yourself out of a sleeping bag in the pitch black at 3am - there's always that one night shift that is really, really hard ot get up for - knowing theres a musical treat awaiting you does make it a little easier.
Lesson No 4.
Ocean rowing takes a whole community
This is not a new one for us. Patience, resilience and problem solving have become our middle names. Ocean rowing is about upskilling to be able to take anything head on. And upskill we have. But we couldn't have done that without the support of all the wonderful people whose paths we have crossed along the way. From start to finish we have been blown away by the genorosity of people. This journey has been peppered with hurdles and challenges (all the good ones are, right?) we have been showered with people offering their support, kindness, skills and time. From the time we bumped into
Phil on the slipway and he very kindly got us out of a bind by lending 4 complete strangers his lightboard for the day so we could tow Vaquita to our Pre-Shipping Boat Inspection, to Gary and Jane who have wined and dined us after hours on the water, shared stories, encouragement, engineering skills (a lot of boat fixing help!), to the wonderful Roy who made an appearance earlier in this blog and all the ocean rowers of past and present who have shared their stories and top tips with us (by no means an exhaustive list of people!) - being able to share this incredible journey with so many wonderful, kind and inspiring people is something I never expected to experience when we set out to kick start this adventure. Across Portland week and throughout this training session, we had a host of people backing us, lending us kit, lending us their time and expertise and being at the end of the phone. What an amazing community we found ourselves in.
Lesson No. 5
The seagulls are not our friends.
And as for those pesky seagulls - well that's a 'what happens on tour, stays on tour' situation...!