Its taken a wee bit longer to get onto the computer to write this up but I’m now finally getting round to it. Hopefully this will be a bit of a rolling start for the others.
Our speeds towards the end of the 4th week had begun to slow, partly due to the conditions but I think also due to the fact that the aim of being sub 30 or even 32 days for the world record had well and truly slipped away. Mentally it was a turning point we had to pull together or face the consequences and end up taking a lot longer than planned, this would also involve rationing our food as well as our water. This was not a pleasant thought for any of us. As a crew we certainly rallied and pulled together constantly monitoring our speed, course and checking on one another.
I think that despite all the challenges we had faced this last push was potentially the toughest mentally of all of the trip. We knew what speed we needed more than ever and so when we weren’t hitting this you could see our finishing time slipping all the more than when we had time to play with and thinking that we could claw it back with a better session. To help this I tried envisaging the route I drive from London to Scotland. Despite doing this a number of times I didn’t get very far as I never really took in landmarks every hour or so effectively our daily mileage on the boat 80 – 100 miles. Was worth a try…
It was also the time that the lack of a daggerboard began to have its effect on our bodies, or at least that is what I believe to be part of the reason. My bottom was not in a happy place, it dreamed of a bean bags and huge soft fluffy cushions instead it got a well used rowing seat. Despite them being fantastic for the main portion of the journey they had now lost any padding they once had. One very tired and frustrating session I turned to Jan and pointed out the fact that it was a big design fault to have bolts in the cushion of the seat. Livar told a story of a girl going to the doctors and asking why when she poked anywhere on here body it hurt, the doctor looked at her and pointed out that her finger was broken. The moral of the story being that my bum was just very delicate, there were no bolts in the seat but in the middle of the night it kind of made sense.
We made good progress still being affected by eddies and currents a lot more than we had ever imagined however each day seemed to have a good 12 hours in them. It was almost teasing us as to how good it could be when weather, currents, boat and crew fell into place. It was never quite enough to break the glorious 100 mile barrier. Peter had put a great quote up on the wall of the boat before leaving which I will finish with.
“The purpose of a man’s life is to live not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them I shall use my time.”
Despite being on a boat 45ft long and a rigid pattern of rowing or not rowing every 2 hours it is incredibly hard to sum up 3 weeks out in the deep blue Atlantic Ocean.
There has been a definite increase in on board battering and trading mostly involving chocolate bars which have become “hot currency” and are the pinnacle for trading and bet making for the trip and more importantly the 6 Nations’ results..
Now Tim isn’t a fan of Snickers so in his wisdom he was putting his all left overs from each day’s ration pack including his Snickers into the “spares (or left overs) bag”. Pete spotted an opportunity when sifting through the spares bag, and took the Snickers and munched them, which Tim noticed. One day Tim said that as Pete had been eating his Snickers he owed him a Double Decker! Pete was shocked by this and although he went through begrudgingly with this deal was a little upset as he thought “the spares” were fair game; and to ensure any further raids on his rations by Tim (or the other crew members) munched his way through all the remaining goodies in his ration pack over the next 5 minutes
There have been many special moments – when we passed the halfway mark between Barbados and Porto Mogan, witnessed shooting stars and caught, but didn’t land, our first Dorado. We have coped with rogue waves and issues with our power and have been on water rations ever since.
From a rowing perspective the 3rd week meant we hadn’t got as far, or as fast, as we hoped due to broken daggerboards, bad currents, low winds and a natural spectacle of a lightening storm. This was particularly impressive although thoughts of what was higher than an ocean rowing boat in the middle of the ocean with nothing else around did get us thinking about the odds of a direct hit by lightening. Fortunately the storm tracked away from us and we were just left watching the all night light show of forks of lightening came down.
All that is left is more rowing, eating, sleeping and now a new addition more time is being spent by everyone looking after sore bums and other aches and pains
One of the lessons I have learnt from this trip when dealing with oceans is that the unexpected does, and will, happen. We have experienced equipment failures, electrical problems, water shortages, attacks from wildlife and the weather and currents have been much worse than we had hoped and anticipated.
A lot of these problems have been overcome by being well prepared, thinking of back up solutions or working round the problem. In our most recent, our spare daggerboard broke and although we are a bit less stable, and a bit more rocky on board, our speedhas not been as adversely affected as I expected. We only have 940 miles to go before we reach Barbados.
The RNLI respond to calls all year round to problems like the ones we have experienced, and in all conditions. People dont go to sea expecting problems and although they can prepare as best they can, sometimes its just not enough. Equally when the RNLI are called into flooded areas around the UK, the problem scenarios can happen very quickly before people and communities have time to react and prepare for the worst.
So please show your support and donate to the RNLI via the link on my blog (http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BennoRawlinson) or Google “benno rawlinson virgin fundraising” or if all else fails just go straight to the RNLI website and make a donation as each donation will make a difference and help save lives in the UK and abroad
There have been slight technical problems as I thought I was sending updates to my blog but they haven’ t arrived so… I have a lot of catching up to do after this update; possibly going to be a bit of a catch up session on everything that has happened so far, will see how it pans out.
So before heading out I heard from a lot of people that flying fish manage to get everywhere and will find the smallest of crevasses to hide in till you find their smelly remains. At the time I didnt really appreciate how true this would be till the other night.
Now, regardless of conditions outside, the cabin has become a cosy, warm and safe haven from the elements and there are some things you just don’t expect. This is definitely one of them.
I had finished my second shift of the night and was curled up in bed in the front cabin fast asleep when I was woken up at about 2.30 by a wet slap on my bac!
I momentarily disregarded it as I wanted to go back to sleep. This was only brief as I then heard what has become a common sound of flapping around and realised there was a flying fish in the cabin! Whilst trying to process this fact, I jumpedup onto to my knees and started trying to grab the wet, smelly, flappy thing with both hands whilst it squirmed around my bed and ultimately “snuggled“ under my pillow and where I managed to grab it and throw it out of the cabin roof hatch which was open.
Meanwhile 2 other crew members had overheard the commotion and were curled up with laughter watching the scene unfold – as a naked man fumbled ed round a small enclosed space on hands and knees after a sliipery invader.
What makes the whole thing so amazing is that this fish had to fly out of the sea, above our cabin and either drop perfectly down through the hole of the cabin roof hatch which is only 2ft by 1ft or bounce off the cover and in through this hole.
It still makes the crew crack up when they hear the story.
I seem to have become a flying fish magnet as on my next shift a number flew over our heads and one bounced off the rear cabin just missed me and landed by my feet!
Yesterday was the first sea trials in Avalon in Gran Canaria and what an experience it was.
The morning started earlier than recently meeting at the marina for 8 am as we had been informed that our boat was to be moved by this huge crane.
Sunrise in Gran Canaria
Couple of issues with this. Firstly there was another boat and a car in the way and the other problem was that the man due to move it wasn’t there. We managed to solve the first after lots of discussion in mixed Spanish and English.
The later was more interesting and the pace was purely dictated by island life or the length of time it took for his cigarette to be finished. Even with the boat in mid air he stopped to take a phone call while we were all precariously standing on the boat waiting for it to be lowered into the water. It all happened though without a hitch. As we rowed to our berth in the marina we were only interrupted by our apartment landlady to kindly inform us that she wasn’t happy as we were late leaving our apartment and could the other team members get over there now.
As soon as we were tied up we were over there to the apartment and literally throwing stuff out of the door to give it a clean down as the previous one we had been told was not clean enough. It took a wee bit of pleading and charm by our ozy crew member Tim to secure the 2nd apartment. According to the cleaner who inspected it, this one was cleaner than we had received it in. This made the landlady a bit happier and kindly helped us find a 3rd apartment.
Next stop the boat for the actual sea trials. Myself at stroke, then James, Peter and Calum were up first on the row. A nice gentle hour with the odd burst to see how she felt at a higher speed. The boat was rising and falling on some small waves, the sun was shining and the occasional wind blew on our faces. What could be better. Next up Tim at stroke, Jan, Livar and captain Leven. The rest of us chilled in the boat and checked out the beds otherwise know as a coffin, tube or pilot berth depending on who you speak to. They are quite wee and certainly a bit of a squeeze. The aim of the session was to see how she performed, calibrate and test some of the systems as well as do a man overboard scenario (a fender kindly offered it services).
The Fender of Choice
The boat performed extremely well with it achieving good speeds in the conditions. More importantly the crew was delighted to be out on the water, despite a bit of tweaking being required she is looking in great shape for a fast crossing.
Avalon in the Water
Next stage fixing the tweaks, some more rowing trials and then chasing down and overtaking team Titan who left this morning.
A lot of people have asked about tracking, well once we get going you can track it on the link below:
The day has finally arrived when we set off. I’m writing this slightly ahead of schedule as I’m not sure how much time we will have prior to going. It’s been building over the 10 days or so with anticipation but I cannot wait to get out there. Waiting for the weather window has been like the quite before the storm.
I have always thought and quite a few people have said that if you aren’t nervous then it isn’t important. My stomach has been doing flips for days a bit like I had before a rugby match but on a grander scale! My thoughts are on the journey ahead of what we will experience and see as individuals and more so as a team.
Just making it as far as we have has been quite a journey for all of us and it is now coming to the final straight albeit a long one!
As we have spent time together as a team you can see the look on everyone’s faces of the anticipation and excitement to ride the waves and row our hearts out to Barbados. We want that sub 30 day time and the record.
So as we walk down the gangway for the final time, good bye to Gran Canaria. Bon chance, sterkte, good luck and many more for all those aboard any ocean rowing boat crossing the Atlantic this season but particularly for Team Avalon and her crew.
Finally thanks to everyone who has helped family, friends and sponsors you are all part of the journey and the achievement. Show your support and donate to the RNLI just follow the link below.