Mark Mortimer and Martin Bellamy in Tenerife
Both Mark and Martin are Captains in the Army. They were given a year off for sabbatical from the Army to train and complete their row in the Atlantic Challenge (Oct, 1997). Below is their log from the longest and hardest rowing race in history.
The Log Book of
Rowing Boat Salamanca
Canary Islands to The West Indies
12 October - 25 December 1997
Captains Mark Mortimer and Martin Bellamy
Second Battalion The Light Infantry
Day 1 - 12.10.97 - Sunday - Morts
Arrived at the marina at 08.30 and left at 09.15. Big crowds, camera crews etc. Fairly emotional to say goodbye to Emma, Emily, Gavin, Rex, Annie and Geoff. As we rowed out the crowds clapped and cheered which was nice. The yacht 3-Com came out to start us off and at 10.00 hours we were away. The end of 2½ years of preparation. The fleet dispersed at once, some heading to the north and some, including us, to the south of Gomera Island. Boats, including Feo - with our family and friends on board - tailed us for about an hour dropping away one by one. Strange to see Feo go. They go back to normality while for weeks now our life is the Atlantic, Sally, rowing and each other. We rowed together for 7 hours, each doing a lot of thinking. This is an incredible adventure. Tailed by a school of dolphins for a while and then fresh food for supper at 17.00, as Gomera loomed.
Posn: As at 18.00 local N 28o 02' 51"
W 17o 05' 03"
Day 2 - 13.10.97 - Bumper
At first light still alongside Gomera, a poor first day for mileage. Sea quite calm but we made very little headway. No other rowing boats in sight. Is our progress so bad because of so much water on board? Morts checked the bottom as we seemed to be going in circles. Southerly wind so we headed north. Seas quite big, we broke a gate, caused by the force of a large wave which came crashing over the boat as I was rowing. The oar was wrenched from my hand and had it not been for the securing rope, we would have lost it. We feel good but it is early days.
Posn: As at 18.00 local N 27o 56' 17"
W 17o 32' 58"
Day 3 - 14.10.97 - Bumper
After having spend the night rowing toward the lights of Hierro we reached the NE tip, a slight danger of being washed on shore. Spent the whole day rowing down N. coast, seemed to go on for ever. Started to learn how to surf, changed water ballast around from bow to stern, this helped. Thought much of E. Finally broke clean of Hierro, and raced out to sea, thank God!
Posn: As at 18.00 local N 27o 38' 15"
W 18o 03' 42"
Day 4 15.10.97 - Morts
Seas calmed a little, but stilled pushed us SW. Our progress is slower than we had hoped and anticipated. Rowing last night in big seas was incredible. It was a strong NE wind, probably accelerating off the land and we surfed along. Exhilarating. A wall of water would appear astern, lift up Sally and then we used the oars to straighten up and catch the ride. Pushed forward on the crest very fast, with white water bubbling, hissing and boiling alongside, right up to the level of the gates. The best waves seem to come in threes.
Day 5 16.10.97 - Morts
We were both exhausted and slept, together and cramped, for the whole night. Awoke to find we had drifted NW. Both a bit down. Rowed for 8½ hours until supper and continued after. Averaged 2½ knots per hour. Sea state calm, almost no wind.
Posn: As at 17.00 local N 27o 18' 00"
W 19o 18' 00"
Day 6 17.10.97 - Bumper
Rowed again all day as hard as we could, cannot understand why there is no current and why we can't move Sally any quicker. The sea remains flat and quite beautiful, weather fit for a romantic cruise rather than a slog to Barbados. We must find ways to get more out of the day, both timewise and milewise. We want to win so badly it hurts; it is almost a daily obsession. I play the mind game every hour of the day to keep myself going at the best rate. We both feel strong but I feel we need to push harder, if this is possible. No major problems with Sally, she is a great boat and I feel proud that we built her. Where are the other boats?
Posn: As at 18.00 local N 26o 57' 57"
W 19o 46' 27"
Day 7 18.10.97 - Morts
A grim day. Still, if rowing the Atlantic was easy everyone would be at it! Nevertheless hard to feel upbeat. We rowed from 0001 to 0800 in two hour shifts and in that 8 hours went 1 nautical mile! The wind and current is coming from the SW: exactly opposite to what we require. Rowed together from 08.30 but snail like progress - no more than 1½NM an hour. In the afternoon we each slept for 1½ hours and the other achieved under 1 mile. Sea got up, pushing us NE. At 18.00 we deployed the sea anchor to try and halt our slide. The SW winds seem widespread according to the forecast on Radio France. God knows how the weaker crews must be coping. To be moving so slowly is leaving us both a bit quiet and down and thinking of home. We must continue to support each other too.
Posn: As at 18.00 local N 27o 01' 25"
W 20o 06' 49"
Day 8 19.10.97 - Sunday - Morts
Another miserable day. During the night we put out the sea anchor and slept together. Pushed back the way we have come but little choice. The conditions and this awful SW wind are just too strong. We have been rowing today in largish seas and rain but to no avail. Mind numbing. We are totally at the mercy of the conditions. How we long for the wind to change course, but weather forecast was not hopeful. The chance of a S Westerly in this vicinity is less than 5%! Saw our first ship today, a large tanker approx 3 miles N. Unable to raise him on the VHF. I hope our supporters at home realise just why we have gone so few miles in our first week.
Day 9 20.10.97 - Bumper
Another very grey day, perhaps our worst yet. Pushed back still further by the S wind which will not abate. The French weather forecast is of little use, or should I say, it is not telling us what we want to hear. Sally was thrown about all night in conditions in which we simply could not row. Our thoughts when we are down always are at home. We need some good weather and a good deal of it. Life on the boat is fine, we have a good routine for getting things done. We are both just very disappointed at letting people down. Our position at the Challenge Business must look awful. We have even started praying.
Posn. As at 18.00 local N 27o 33' 00"
W 19o 54' 02"
Day 10 21.10.97 - Morts
Rowed all night through very dark, wet, but calm conditions. It's ridiculous that we are continually wearing our Musto suits, designed for the Southern Ocean! The current is still against us and we crawled along. Spent today clawing back miles lost to the storm. Very calm which is not easy, when the current is, as here, not with us. The percentage chance of calm seas here is 3; like westerly winds, we're getting the abnorm. Even the French forecast at 11.39 GMT (on 15300khz) specifically stated that the ARC Route (a November yacht race from the Canaries to the West Indies) was still disturbed. God, we hope it changes. We long for NE's and the usual conditions here. It is so frustrating - our mileage is woeful. Very hot today - hopefully our opposition is wilting. We rowed hard until 18.00. I checked under the boat and we both had our first main wash. Passed perhaps 3 miles away today by an enormous tanker - still unable to speak to him on the VHF. Does it even work?
Posn. As at 18.00 local N 27o 21' 33"
W 20o 10' 56"
Day 11 22.10.97 - Bumper
Another very hot day, the sun was on us from the start to the finish of the day. This made our rowing plod v.difficult to keep up, but we did. Having rowed hard all through the night with only 4 hours sleep and then to sit in the sun all day, is not easy. All things considered our stamina is excellent and we only require a change of fortune with regards the weather. We now listen to the French weather report with child like anticipation, but still the winds of change will not blow. All we can do is plod on and be very patient. It is almost like being in a waiting area and we have not yet been given the green light to go. The sea is calm, the sky is blue, the stars are beautiful at night and still all that matters to us is an E wind. It has become our holy grail. At supper, becalmed, four small whales surfaced and passed beside us. Magnificent.
Posn. As at 18.00 local N 27o 32' 36"
W 20o 36' 24"
Day 12 23.10.97 - Morts
An amazing night. Sea calmed to a millpond - not a single ripple. Starry night. Both beautiful and eerie to row in. Made good (relative) mileage and listened to the Odessa File on tape. Saw two ships in the distance, but no joy in raising them. Today has been another miserable day of drudgery. As ever, listened to the weather forecast with desperation but there are no E or NE winds anywhere. So frustrating. It goes contrary to everything we were told/taught/read beforehand. The chance of NE's in this area in October is 39%!! We have had none in 12 days! In the afternoon, SW winds predictably sprang up and as ever, we slogged into them for almost no gain. It seems so unfair: we are toiling so hard and so long each day but receive not one iota of help from the weather. We cannot hope to make the crossing without it. Fear of failure, ridicule and letting our supporters down is ever present. Bumper even had to smoke a stress induced cigarette.
Posn. As at 18.00 local N 26o 51' 16"
W 21o 07' 12"
Day 13 24.10.97 - Bumper
The wind strength and direction through the night (NE 3-5) made any progress impossible and so we took the decision to get some rest. I think another futile slog through the night would have done our spirits no good. We woke at regular intervals, but had breakfast at 07.00, weather no change. We proceeded to slog through the day, holding our position until lunch, ie no advance, and then clocking in a welcome 5 miles in the afternoon. The forecast has given us a little hope for the coming days. Other than the weather life is as comfortable as we could wish, mentally we are getting stronger and I know that given a bit of luck we will win through (I am the optimist). We have few physical problems, I have a sore back and Morts has numb joints in his hands, but all things considered we are in good shape. I have been told to eat more flapjacks because they are cluttering up the boat. I will do my best.
Posn. As at 18.00 local N 26o 50' 12"
W 21o 02' 36"
Day 14 25.10.97 - Morts
Back to our shifts at night, but beforehand, at 23.00, we finally made contact on the VHF with a ship! Great to talk to someone else. Into a NW all night - once again not with us! Made few miles in total and even fewer today. At this rate, I have calculated a trip time of 200 days! The forecast today finally announced the cherished NE winds and we rejoiced ... but they have not materialised and we are still into the westerly. It is almost deliberately spiteful and malicious. Reading this in years to come, we will perhaps be struck by our obsession with the weather, but here it occupies every waking moment. In 8 days we have not had the ensign blow with us once! The endless rowing on a very hot Saturday seems slightly pointless for so few miles. We know we will not give up unless we run out of food and water but unless the situation improves that is almost inevitable. I will then become a psychopathic serial weather forecast killer!
Daily Schedule (All times GMT +1)
0800 - 0830 Breakfast (rolled oats, flapjack, coffee)
0830 - 1230 Row together
1230 - 1300 Weather Forecast
1300 - 1330 Lunch (cold treacle pudding, flapjack)
1330 - 1630 Row and sleep (1½ on, 1½ off)
1630 - 1800 Row together
1800 - 1900 Supper, log, nav (2 x main meal)
1900 - 2230 Row together
2230 - 2300 Snack (chocolate pudding, coffee)
2300 - 2359 Row together
0001 - 0800 Row and sleep (2 hours on, 2 hours off)
Food supplemented by container of nuts and raisins and Isobuz drink powder on deck.
Posn: As at 18.00 N 26o 33' 04"
W 21o 13' 30"
Day 15 26.10.97 - Sunday - Bumper
Put the clocks back at 0100. Now local = GMT. We managed a good night of rowing, nearly 17 miles, which although not brilliant, we will not better without wind assistance. At around midnight we spotted, or should I say heard, a whale moving around the boat. We both listened to Boswell's Life of Johnson which was extremely good and helped pass the drag stag. After a solid morning's rowing the French weather forecast was positive, promising N NE winds, they are still however rather shy. The afternoon was very hot indeed and thus our fluid consumption quite high, we will have to get the watermaker working. Heard on the World Service that Jacque Villeneuve had won motor racing WC ship, a good result and South Korea have qualified for the World Cup. Even though we have plenty of food, we seem to be thinking a lot about good grub and Pepsi Max. The urge to delve into the halfway parcels is almost too much.
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 26o 17' 15"
W 21o 49' 44"
Day 16 27.10.97 - Morts
Finally, a splendid 24 hours! During the night we moved from the Sud Canaries into the Cap Vert weather forecast area. A small, but important morale booster. A NE wind pushed us on all night and today and we have covered, since 1800 yesterday, 44 miles. Very pleasing, although we are all too aware that we are still way behind schedule and need days of 50+ miles. Still, a vast improvements on 15 - 20 a day. This morning was fiercely hot and we are trying to come up with ways to combat it to preserve both our strength and water supply. We still cannot get the water maker to work. My right elbow has swollen up alarmingly - possibly tendonitis - but Voltarol in industrial quantities is suppressing any pain. Good to get to Monday again - we are both more miserable at weekends, thinking of those at home on the hoy!
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 25o 56' 41"
W 22o 31' 41"
Day 17 28.10.97 - Bumper
At last I feel that whatever the outcome of our voyage we are at least well and truly into it. I know this because our mileage has increased, there is no longer any danger of being blown back to the Canaries and forced to return home in total embarrassment. We have also started to dream about food, a strange phenomenon which we were warned against although it is rather amusing. We have already decided that our first meal in B should be a McDonalds, we shall see. We have also realised that although the talking tapes are quite excellent, there is probably only a certain number of times we can listen to them. We had a good night at the oars and covered nearly 20 NM in our 8 hours (2 on 2 off). The sun during the day has been intense but fortunately we had a good deal of cloud cover. Changed a gate today, broken on day 3. Weather F o.k. NE nearly everywhere.
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 25o 38' 38"
W 23o 21' 21"
Day 18 29.10.97 - Morts
Wind died in the late evening and we plodded along all night, still piling on the miles. Listening to David Niven reading his biography, the Moons a Balloon, we were, at times, laughing too hard to row. What a life he led! Today the sea has become calmer and calmer and is now without ripple or sound. The sun however, has been behind cloud all day, which is a blessing. We have clocked up another 44 miles in the last 24 hours. Little wind to speak of today, but a dreaded SW is occasionally rearing its (very) ugly head. Please don't get up! At the moment we are each rowing for 14½ hours in every 24. I can't believe many others could sustain this, certainly not on relatively little food and sleep. Our recollections of this trip will, I believe, always remain very clear and fond. Our army training helps a lot: we are on stag on time and our admin is pretty good. Overall, the feeling I have is one of total divorce from reality. This morning I was at the oars from 0600 to 0800 and it was hard to believe that in London, or at home, people were getting up, breakfasting, on the tube to work etc.
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 25o 25' 02"
W 24o 08' 16"
Day 19 30.10.97 - Bumper
The dreaded SW has reared its very ugly head and caused us a great many problems. After dinner last night pulling became harder and we were both dog-tired, we did however keep going through the night. By morning we had a SW 2-4 and it has increased slightly and kept blowing all day. Since 0800 we have made 5 miles, we cannot believe our bad fortune. We realise that many more days likes this will seriously damage our chance of making an unsupported crossing. We stopped rowing 2 hours before dinner so as to try and get the water maker going, no luck yet. The most annoying aspect of the trip is that we have a good boat, we are well prepared and both very fit, yet we are helpless against the weather. It is like being told as a child to sit still for a long period of time, very irritating and boring. Morts has just lit the stove and burnt his eyelashes. Funniest thing today!
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 25o 14' 27"
W 24o 29' 45"
Day 20 31.10.97 - Morts
An awful night, weatherwise. The wind howled in from the west, the sea roared and the rain lashed down. No moonlight, pitch black and dangerous to row, so we crammed into the cabin together. Sound sleep was impossible as the noise and the action of being thrown around prevented it. Awoke to continue westerlies and we lost 14 miles in the night. We have slogged it out all day and have managed to stay in exactly the same place. Dispiriting. To try and pass the time we listened to The Guns of Navarone and learnt the poetry of Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke, from a pamphlet that was one of Mum's daily treats. A great choice. We also had an impromptu deck wash in the afternoon's rain. It is hard not to feel miserable. We have worked so hard for this and forces outside our control are taking it away from us. There is now almost no slack in the system left. In terms of food and water we simply cannot afford many more days like the last two. Perhaps in November the weather will run more true to form. Certainly, good riddance to October. One of the most irritating aspects is that the E winds we crave are, according to the weather forecast, all around us. We are marooned in a large box of contrary winds and in 3 weeks have covered under 500 miles. The fear of facing family, friends and the regiment having failed, constantly gnaws at me. It is an awful thought. Equally unpleasant is the almost overpowering sense of helplessness in the face of these winds and seas. We are tossed about like a cork. Mentally, more than physically, it is exhausting. Still, we are testing ourselves in a manner unknown to but a few, it is a great adventure and, as Bumper says, we are at least, in the shit together. I could not bear this on my own, I think.
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 25o 11' 35"
W 24o 14' 20"
Day 21 01.11.97 - Bumper
We both fell asleep at the end of a hard day's rowing, exhausted from the endless strain of fighting wind and waves. It is very tiring knowing that at best you can hold your position, but as soon as you take your oars from the water you surge backwards. Today we have fought as hard as is realistically possible and after nearly 12 hours lost 4 NM to the, at times, fierce W wind. The jerking motion of the oar as a contrary wave hits it is huge and I think weaker people would come to harm. We are in good spirits generally and never get angry with one another, just with the circumstances. I like to not let my mind ponder on things too long and prefer to drift into a neutral mindset. I can honestly say that I am happy and the only thing I really miss is one E Caroe. Morts's morale tends to range from roller coaster highs to canyon lows, and I feel that he might start eating the boat if we do not get a move on. Food and drink are always on our minds and it is better to think about them and discuss them rather than not contemplate these fantasies. We have I think just enough food and water to get there, but our luck must change, fast.
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 25o 07' 30"
W 23o 53' 48"
Day 22 02.11.97 Sunday - Morts
No change. Rowed until exhausted at night, slept together and drifted back, rowed all day today and lost 2 NM. The wind has not veered 1o off East. The forecast gave us no hope until at least 1200 tomorrow. We are now exactly as far from Barbados as we were 4½ days ago. We have, however, become resigned to this period of the trip and although the endless hours at the oars go far more slowly than when we are advancing, they are not too bad. We listen to our talking books, music, the World Service, or talk to each other. We cover endless topics: our friends, school days, sexual encounters. We plan our perfect meal, perfect weekend, who we'd invite to our weddings, jobs we've had, our time in the army and so on. Every topic gets thrashed out to exhaustion. We also discuss food ad-infinitum - I've had tuna mayo sarnies on my mind all day! We also play word games, quizzes and learn poems to recite to each other. A lot of time also is spent in silence, with our own thoughts. The oddest things crop up. I keep getting the face or name in my head of someone from my past that I haven't thought of for years. I think about my friends, things we've got up to. Of course I also think a lot of my family. I think about Emma a lot too. She's a sound lass and I am very lucky to have met her. In the short time I have known her she has been superb, putting up with endless rowing plans and talk. When I get home I am looking forward to spending a lot of time with her. An amusing scene this morning was me, naked and on all fours on deck, with Dr Bellamy dressing a painful lump on my arse. Piles? A boil? Don't know but it needs to sod off. Let us pray for a change of fortune tomorrow. At the moment these feel wasted days, not only of this trip, but also of our lives.
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 25o 08' 37"
W 23o 39' 26"
Day 23 03.11.97 - Bumper
We drifted backwards through the night, only 4 NM, however we should have gone forward 25! The wind today has been largely at S 2,3,4, the French weather forecast has given us little or no reason to cheer and even warned us of a storm to our west. One simply cannot hope to make any ground against a weather system that checks our every action. We have rowed hard for 8½ hours today and gained 14 NM, not bad all things considered, but as I write this figure diminishes. We have started to try and save some of our rations and restrict our water intake, I don't know long term whether this is possible, but we are trying to plan to last 70 days. This is not what the Challenge Business had suggested, but we were (are) here for a fast crossing. We can take going forward slowly, but going back each day is tough, no matter who you are.
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 25o 10' 46"
W 23o 50' 45"
Day 24 04.11.97 - Morts
Another wasted, demoralising 24 hours. Constantly rowing from midnight to 1800, we have covered 6½ NM. After supper the wind rose, from the S, and buffeted us about in the dark, waves hitting us port side on. It was a dark, moonless night and you couldn't see the irregular soakings coming. At midnight we went on to our 2 hours on, 2 hours off routine. The wind calmed but became more SW and harder to row against. Today it has remained a constant S 4-6, with no joy from the forecast. First W and now S winds have eaten away almost a week now. Depressing - with conditions like this, the monotony of the endless sea and the sense of entrapment are almost, at times, unbearable. We both long at the moment to be off this boat amongst creature comforts, good food, friends etc. Weighed down by the toil we are becoming a little listless, which is a worry. Our water and food rationing means we are always thirsty and hungry and last night we began our 4th gas canister. We have only 2 more, so cold food and no brews beckon. It'll be a survival exercise! It was good to return to our usual sleep routine in the night. Each 24 hours, under our latest schedule, we have 6 hours sleep each. One hour each in the afternoon, one each in the evening and 2 x 2 blocks between 0001 and 0800 hours. Among all the other luxuries we crave, is, of course, a decent bed but more than that, an uninterrupted sleep. The change over at the end of each 2 hours is memorable. The man coming off is desperate to get into the cosy, albeit stinking sleeping bag and pillow, whilst the man just woken is bewildered, dazed and struggling to come out of a deep sleep. Often in that situation we babble nonsense, still half asleep. We both complain of a feeling of not knowing if we are just starting or just finishing our 2 hour kip! A few grunts pass between us and then its 2 hours at the oars. If feeling awake, and the rowing is good, music on, it can be a very enjoyable 2 hours, full of thought. If struggling to keep your eyes open, it is interminable. The 2 hours of sleep never, ever seems enough.
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 25o 15' 35"
W 24o 07' 59"
Day 25 05.11.97 - Bumper
We awoke to find no change weatherwise, our hearts sunk. We tried to row against the wind and current but it was too much. The forecast gave us at last a glimmer of hope, W becoming N, NE 3-5. The position is thus: the weather must change today and remain favourable for the next 40 days. This would enable us to reach Barbados unsupported, anything less will mean a supported crossing or failure. Failure is the worst thought of all. However, neither of us wishes to waste our lives stuck on an ocean which will not let us move. It is hard to explain how it feels to be stuck on Salamanca unable to do anything to help ourselves. I feel we are at a critical stage in our journey. The wind at evening mealtime has changed to an N, a good start, and the pressure is rising. We crave cheese sandwiches and having recounted to Morts, visits to Pizza Express in Guildford with Ems, it has sent him over the edge!
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 25o 15' 28"
W 23o 54' 17"
Day 26 06.11.97 - Morts
At long last, the wind changed this morning and we have resumed our journey. We have lost exactly one week, which may yet prove critical. We have calculated that we must reach the halfway point by day 45 if we are to attempt to carry on unsupported. This would give us 25 days to reach Barbados, in itself a tall order. If we are not there by day 45 we will have to call for resupply. We do not know if the Challenge Business yachts will be able to provide us with extra food. All that aside, it has been lovely to push on today and our spirits have risen accordingly, helped too by a favourable forecast. The wind is strong, the seas large and pushing us slightly too far S (what we really need are E winds not NE) but no matter. They need to stay with us for a considerable period now. Time continues to race by: it is hard to believe that it is almost 4 weeks now. To have seen no other human being in that time is a strange feeling. We listen much to the World Service, but we might as well be on a different planet. There is a quote from Freya Stark:
"The true call of the desert, the mountains, or the sea is their silence ... Some people ... come to love such solitude as the breath of life .. the well strung creature finds in it a tonic, a pause from which he comes refreshed ... he is happy to return from the wilderness and find himself again among the dwellings and habits."
Very true. We long to get home but would not miss this trip for anything. Today we have discussed other, less ambitious plans: climbing in South America, sea canoeing in Scotland. It's wonderful to have so much to look forward to.
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 24o 45' 26"
W 24o 14' 42"
Day 27 07.11.97 - Bumper
After a night of normal routine at long last, we had made a respectable 41 NM. The weather during the night was somewhat curious, managing a rain shower about every 15 minutes. We spotted ships a long way off in the distance and wondered at the contents of their kitchens. Today we have moved along quite well on a rather confused sea, but thankfully wind and waves are headed in the general direction of the Caribbean. Sally does not always glide along in the manner one would wish, and it requires a good degree of concentration and physical effort to keep her Barbados bound. It is a bit like driving a car in the snow. Rather fun, but momentary loss of concentration can lead to dramatic results. Again much of the day's thoughts have been taken up by food, for me it is the thought of quantity not quality, I am starving. On a serious note we feel it is likely that we will require some more fodder and eagerly await the passing of the QE2!
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 24o 16' 08"
W 24o 57' 53"
Day 28 08.11.97 - Morts
It is Saturday night, time to go out, oh yeah! Unfortunately for the 4th Saturday on the trot we are sitting in a very small open boat a long way from land! Four weeks today since our last alcohol. Oddly, we both agree that what we crave are food, sleep (in a real bed), a shower and lavatory and cold Pepsi Max. Alcohol and sex we miss not at all. We have continued to pile on the miles with a favourable sea, wind and forecast. How lovely it has been to finally have an encouraging Saturday (our first). That, plus the weekly three hours of afternoon sport on the radio, (listened to Spurs go down 4-0 at Anfield) which is very much my weekly highlight, have made today a good one. And, as I write, Bumper is cooking my supper. What a treat the daily supper is! It is wonderful to finally make headway, but we are now both inclined towards pessimism and know it could all change at a moment's notice. Nevertheless, we enjoy it while it lasts. Today is Oni's 30th birthday. Happy Birthday mate! Words cannot express how much I would like to be in London celebrating it with him! I would begin by eating until I could no longer walk!
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 23o 55' 34"
W 25o 46' 27"
Day 29 09.11.97 - Sunday - Bumper
Remembrance Sunday. After a long hard slog through the night, we managed to clock in another 46 NM. Our morning rowing was hard work, the boat did not seem to want to go in the direction we wished it to. No sooner had a tremendous downpour hit us, than I stripped naked and took an opportunity wash. The BBC World Service provided us with a sound RD Service and we shipped oars for 2 minutes. The World Service often reads out letters of listeners and describes how, for example, Ranjit Patel sits in his bath eating a Balti and listening to the DLT show. I wonder if they would spare a thought for two chaps on a boat, one soaped and naked, the other taking cover under a waterproof jacket, clutching his oars, listening to the radio. The forecast interviewed the organiser of the mini Transat race, which left Tenerife on 19.10.97. He estimated that the winner would arrive in the Caribbean the following day and said that it had been a slow race due to the weather. Don't we know it! At the moment I feel that I am a little unbearable and probably not the best companion. My dream is to win this race and I think I can quite safely say that I am more obsessed with winning than anyone else in the race. I know you must not make dreams your master but I don't think I can help myself over the next 40 days.
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 23o 45' 53"
W 26o 33' 08"
Day 30 10.11.97 - Morts
Another productive night and day of rowing: whereas Bumper is consumed by counting up mileages, I like to tick off lines of longitude and we have crossed from 24-25-26-27 on consecutive days now. 59° W is our target. Again the weather forecast was positive: there is an anticyclone of 1025 mb centred, stationary, over the Azores to our north and the winds of a high are clockwise, hence our cherished easterlies. One thing Stokey said categorically was that once the Azores High set in, the winds would remain in our favour. I hope the old sea dog was correct. We have begun trailing a fishing line and hook: any catch would not only widen our food choice but, more importantly, could allow us to save rations. We compute the sums daily, it is going to be very, very tight. I have just paused to eat my supper, very much the daily high point. When I get home I must remember to appreciate the choice and quantity available in Britain. To spend much of your life hungry must be an awful fate. Listened to a lot of World Service today. We are fast turning into current affairs and world business experts! Heard with relief that the British teenager, Louise Woodward, convicted in the USA of murdering a child to whom she was nanny, has had her conviction reduced to manslaughter. Bumper and I have a new, time consuming game in which one gives the other cryptic clues to the title of a film. Fun and good to tax the brain a bit. The one thing we need at the moment is a visit from one of Chay Blyth's shepherding yachts - 3 Com or Motorola - as planned. It would be good to have news of the other boats and to see another person but, more importantly, we need to discuss possible food and water resupply.
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 23o 28' 19"
W 27o 19' 50"
Day 31 11.11.97 - Bumper
Once again a slow but productive night with very heavy showers keeping us on our toes. In the morning we decided to split our first session up by rowing on our own for an hour each. This means that I make the breakfast, cut Morts some slack, and later in the morning I take an hour while he takes 40 minutes and listens to froggy weather. It has certainly worked today as we have recorded 22 NM to evening meal. We are now trailing a fishing line at all times in the hope of subsidising our rations. We had our first bite today, a rather large Dorado, (perhaps 3 feet), but the devil got away just as we tried to haul him on board. I was reaching for the camera, but really I should have been going for something more lethal. What a wonderful dinner he would have made! The weather is still in our favour and we continue to make quite good progress, although we still have not really made much of an impact. Our water consumption is quite low which is good, but we are now down to the last 2 gas canisters. The elusive yachts from the Challenge Business have still not shown up: is the race cancelled, has everyone else sunk, or is the Challenge Business guarding their purse strings and both are anchored in Los Gigantes?
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 23o 09' 11"
W 28o 05' 21"
Day 32 12.11.97 - Morts
Our first full month at sea was made memorable by the catch of our first fish! A lot smaller than yesterday's escapee, it still fought valiantly and the scene of the two of us getting it on board and killing it was slapstick. It wriggled so much that I nearly fell overboard, we stuck a bucket on top of it, managed to stick our speargun through the bucket, hit it with all manner of objects and Bumper cut his hand. At supper we amateurishly gutted it and fried it. Gorgeous! It tasted like steak. It is amazing how fast a month at sea has gone. Strange to think that prior to this trip, 40 odd hours (our Ibiza trip) was the longest I had spent on any vessel at sea. Another good mileage (48) and another favourable forecast have spurred us on today. That and our cryptic clue game, which we have now extended to cities of the world and famous buildings. A mark of our ever increasing telepathy is that yesterday I knew, before he gave me a clue, that the location was Madame Tussauds! He was most agitated, therefore, when I got it after one clue!
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 22o 51' 57"
W 28o 53' 50"
Day 33 13.11.97 - Bumper
At last a 50NM day, in fact 52, a very satisfying feeling, it would be so nice to have some more. The weather remains constant and our next weather forecast zone, Alizé Ouest, which is still some way off, looks promising, fingers crossed. We are now only 16 miles away from 30o W, our second time change, a small milestone, but another notch even so. We have decided not to change our local time as the day suits us at the moment, sunrise being at 07.45 and sunset at 18.00. Today is our last day on full rations, it seems crazy to cut back so soon, but realistically it is the only way we will make an unsupported crossing. We have planned to make our food and water last for 70 days, which if the weather holds could see us home. It is a long shot but we have no option. We are planning to make our little remaining gas last so that we can cook more fresh fish. Of course we will be ok, in fact I think the old flapjacks will win through. What would mother think?
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 22o 29' 41"
W 29o 44' 36"
Day 34 14.11.97 - Morts
Another 24 hours of over 50 miles (51.3NM) so we remain on target. The last couple of nights (i.e. 0001 - 0800) have been beautiful, with an almost full moon shimmering over the sea and lighting us up. A scare last night when the GPS went haywire: the US military control the system and would switch it off in a time of conflict (to deny it to an enemy). As the news reports a very real threat of US/British military reprisals v Iraq, who have expelled US weapon inspectors, the bombing of Baghdad sprang to mind. Luckily it was a temporary glitch. The forecast again today was good, but we listen with ever increasing jitters, incredulous that our luck continues. Of course we are desperate for it to hold for another 37 days or so. We moved onto half rations today; as we were permanently hungry on full rations, this is not great fun but a necessity. We have also cut down on the use of our dwindling gas supply to breakfast only, for a hot chocolate and porridge oats. Fortunately we caught a second, larger fish today and supper was gorgeous. The fish mixed with chicken and herb dumplings, pasta and mushrooms! We need to catch them each day. Our tape player is now up the spout, which is a nuisance, but luckily World Service booms through as ever on our radio.
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 22o 10' 29"
W 30o 34' 46"
Day 35 15.11.97 - Bumper
45NM in the last 24 hours, quite a hard slog but not bad, as I would describe the sea as fairly dead. The weather forecast does not sound quite so good as usual, but we pray this is just a glitch and we will soon be back to normal. Today being Saturday is a sports day, 3 hours of World Service sport. England drew with Australia 15 all, France v SA and the mighty All Blacks v Ireland 15-63 and it was 15-14 at half time. Caught another fish today, getting rather good at it, they taste great. Half rations is going well at the moment, its amazing how good things taste when you are pretty hungry. Thinking a lot about holidays and skiing trips etc. at the moment, so many things to do. Full moon tonight, that will give us another one on day 63, all being well should see Barbados by moonlight.
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 21o 56' 26"
W 31o 19' 57"
Day 36 16.11.97 - Sunday - Morts
Another reasonable distance (47NM), another positive forecast. The wind rose during the small hours and enabled us to recover the miles lost yesterday. Today has been another plod in sometimes sweltering conditions. This will no doubt worsen as we continue SW. During the night I listened to James Mason read Conan Doyle's The Lost World. A great yarn and it made the time race by. Today has been all World Service: it has made our interests far more cosmopolitan and we now have an interest in Asian, American as well as European World Cup Football qualification! Japan today beat Iran 3-2 to go through to the finals. Still dreaming of McDonalds, cheese sandwiches and pizza as we caught no fish today to conserve gas. Hopefully this coming week will be a momentous one: we crossed 32oW today and move into the sea area Alizé Ouest at 35oW. More importantly, halfway is 38oW and that means we can delve into the halfway partybag provided by Emily and Annie! No doubt there are a few epicurean treats in store! We just hope the weather stays favourable.
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 21o 41' 37"
W 32o 06' 39"
Day 37 17.11.97 - Bumper
Managed to push out 46NM, which is adequate at present, but a few more will make the last part of our journey so much more bearable. Today's forecast was favourable, long may they continue. We have also had a good breeze today, which has helped cool us and means we do not use so much water. We have 5 litres per day between us for the next 29 days, I estimate we need to make it last between 32-35 days. We have a good routine and now must just ensure that we maintain a constant pace. Realistically we need to clock in around 47-48NM per day. Today Jamaica reached the World Cup finals next year. Horace Burrell, their Sports Minister, was interviewed, what a great man, completely OTT of course!
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 21o 23' 28"
W 32o 54' 11"
Day 38 18.11.97 - Morts
45NM. No change with regards to the weather or the forecast, although slightly more clouds today which has been a bonus. Without wishing to sound a whinger, the fairly big swell we now have is causing us a few problems, notwithstanding our joy that it continues to roll due west. Sally is picked up by the peaks and dumped into the troughs which can stop her dead. Likewise she too often slews down a wave and loses her course. Ideally, our rudder needs more turn. As ever, a strong wind can also push her askew. By and large we are managing well however: the hours on the weights are paying big dividends. It is also now apparent that our decision to train in Mallorca, although understandably scoffed at by many, was a sound one. The full heat of the noon sun is fierce and I have no doubt that had we (me particularly) come straight from a less hot climate we would have more difficulty: with working hard in the heat, with sunburn and, most importantly, with water consumption. At the moment Bumper and I do not talk that much: we are both tired, hungry and thirsty but, I think, enjoying the arduous nature of this ordeal. We are both consumed now by mileages and lines of longitude. Our routine is punishing but well balanced and rewarding. I cannot believe many of the other teams could maintain it. How we long to get close to Barbados!
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 21o 06' 07"
W 33o 39' 53"
Day 39 19.11.97 - Bumper
51NM. We worked very hard through the night to salvage a respectable mileage, which at one stage was quite poor due to a difficult sea. In contrast our first session this morning was our best so far, we clocked in 9NM in 3 hours, with 2 of those individual hours. The afternoon period was very warm and although our water discipline is good, we are always very thirsty. Cloud of any sort in an otherwise blue desert is most welcome and has the immediate effect of the heating being turned down. Today is our last day in Cap Vert, unless we have a weather disaster, by daybreak we should be in Alizé Ouest. This is the largest sea area, a width of 15o of longitude, each degree being 60 miles. Once we have crossed this area we should have cracked it. Alizé Ouest will be our make or break, we need our E winds to keep blowing.
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 20o 52' 05"
W 34o 30' 00"
Day 40 20.11.97 - Morts
41NM. The days highlight - in terms of morale - was our move after lunch into the Alizé Ouest sea area. We took longer than planned to get there due to a very tedious nights rowing. Inexplicably, the sea just died - it was like doing press-ups in a bowl of treacle - and we made only 10NM between 0001 and 0800. The weather today has been kind: it has poured for much of it, so no sun and refreshing water. Our water intake has been minimal and even boosted by captured rain. The wind has also raged, churning the sea and pushing us along. Because of our position it is still warm and we were wearing only singlets. It must have made a great sight: the two of us in a tiny boat, amid big waves, roaring wind and rain, battling away and yelling with exhilaration. We also continued to play our ever-expanding quiz. We each choose topics and alternately ask 5 questions on that subject. Subjects are the usual ones, but also things like fashion, cooking, religion, consumerism and toys. They are fun and pass the time. Just before supper, we were pushing along, when suddenly, perhaps only 25m off our port side an enormous, sleek, black whale surfaced momentarily as he too swam westwards. An awe-inspiring sight. Another positive forecast today: soon we should start to pick up US broadcasts which extend this far east. A relief as I often think I have missed something vital with the French one.
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 20o 42' 36"
W 35o 11' 16"
Day 41 21.11.97 - Bumper
We made solid progress during the night and managed to reach 46.5NM, which given the conditions is not too bad at all. It is very nice to be in Alizé Ouest and to know that our next weather forecast area, although not for another 700 miles, contains the Caribbean sea. The sun has been powerful this afternoon and the long afternoon session certainly is quite hard. I am still somewhat mystified by the lack of current that we seem to have. When we stop we do drift, but this is caused by the wind pushing us along. When the wind dies the sea seems to be dead and one would expect around half a knot of current. Hopefully with a continued favourable wind this will, in time, appear. Life on the boat is not bad at all, the only thing that would be nice is some more water. With the halfway point almost upon us, we can't wait to open our package. Morts managed to fall overboard today, funny in the day, not so at night.
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 20o 26' 44"
W 35o 56' 07"
Day 42 22.11.97 - Morts
46NM. Not a great deal of new events to write about, rowing-wise. A very dark night gave way to an overcast morning which became sunny later and then reclouded. 2 hours before supper a strong wind (force 5-6) blew up and propelled us west, albeit in a somewhat helter skelter manner. It's easy to get frustrated as the boat continually spins around and we battle hard to turn her, but at least she is going toward Barbados! Under 100 miles now to half way and that parcel in the forecabin. Another enjoyable afternoon of sports listening: the All Blacks beat England 25-8, Australia beat Scotland and SA trounced France in the last international at the Parc des Princes. Another Saturday night at sea: I fervently hope that there are not too many more. I keep imagining Emma at a party or in a bar, being chatted up by some greasy city boy!
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 20o 06' 13"
W 36o 42' 35"
Day 43 23.11.97 - Sunday - Bumper
A good 48.5NM, a welcome increase in our daily distance. We are now only 60 miles away from halfway and will be there by tomorrow all being well. Conditions remain good, it does however appear that about force 5-6 wind gives us our best performance. Listened to World Service today for the majority of the rowing period. George Foreman retired and Martin Johnson of England is banned for 7 days.
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 19o 37' 49"
W 37o 27' 58"
Day 44 24.11.97 - Morts
57NM. A very strong wind all night and day has allowed us to notch up by far our best daily mileage. Since 0900 today we have rowed 27NM, compared to a usual 19-21 at 1800. Wonderful. Halfway lies a tantalising ½NM ahead, but we have decided to savour our party tomorrow with the landmark (hopefully!) then behind us. We have, however, dipped into the parcel and removed one item each, as a treat! At supper yesterday we moved all our remaining rations from the forecabin to the aft and this shift in weight has had wonderful consequences: Sally handles so much better. I had a hair-raising experience in the night: about 0115 I was rowing alone, when the sky went very dark and the wind was raging. Suddenly, from nowhere, totally against the run of play (and probably from an offside position) Sally was hit side on by an enormous wall of white water. I honestly thought we were over: Sally rolled to almost vertical, an oar was ripped out of my hand and torn out of the smashed gate. From my seat, the whole view was a cockpit of white, foaming water. Fortunately, the last security measure - a rope connecting the oar to the stay of the gate - remained firm so I could retrieve the oar. Hopefully, it was my Big Wave for the journey. It even roused Bumper, and believe me, it takes a lot to do that! Supper is now almost over, and we have drifted past halfway. Wonderful now to be closer to Barbados than to Los Gigantes.
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 19o 19' 22"
W 38o 24' 00"
Day 45 25.11.97 - Bumper
57NM. Ok, forget everything else, we cannot move, like beached whales we are sprawled on the deck. Overcome with cheese, chocolate and thanks, we have done what we knew we would, eaten ourselves to death! Emily and Annie, what can we say except you are stars, thank you so much, it has been worth every stroke and you could not have done better. The Pepsi Max was particularly wonderful, especially as we have been very thirsty lately. We have captured the whole event on video and you will see just how excited we were. Today has been another very good day, 57NM, this cannot last but it is great while it does. We have changed the clocks today to give us a little more light in the mornings and we have also changed our rotation for hopefully the last time. We still of course have a huge distance to travel but at least we are closer to B than LG. Sheila M's balloons looked great at our party.
Posn: As at 18.00 GMT N 19o 12' 07"
W 39o 21' 09"
Day 46 26.11.97 - Morts
Our 1800 - 1800 total of 53NM is deceptive. We had a tremendous nights rowing, spurred on by very full stomachs and frequent chocolate treats Between 0001-0800 we covered 20NM - a best. Today has been a different story - only 16NM from 0800-1800. A favourable forecast did not come to fruition and even a dreaded light S has sprung up. We are desperate for it to disappear. Hopefully, it is a very temporary hiccup. We moved into the 40o longitude today - another morale booster. At 1800 Bumper went overboard to check the bottom - a bit of growth and a scrape on the keel may mean a small, unfelt collision. Nothing of any importance. Meals today have been the last remnants of our wonderful halfway parcel. Cheese, pate and Ryvita for supper! I can honestly say that supper last night was the best meal I have ever had: the memory of that 7-week-old Stilton and the Pepsi Max will never fade. The generosity and care of Emily and both our mothers is both touching and humbling. To wrap everything up in the food parcel and my mother's daily present box was a lovely gesture. It is hard to accurately express just what pleasure and morale boosting the two parcels have given us. Below I have written out our current, and most used, schedule:
Daily Schedule (All times GMT -1)
0800 - 0900 Breakfast (flapjack, oatmeal block)
0900 - 1000 Row together
1000 - 1200 Row/sleep (1 hour on 1 hour off)
1200 - 1230 Lunch (pudding, flapjack)
1230 - 1400 Row together
1400 - 1600 Row/sleep (1 hour on 1 hour off)
1600 - 1800 Row together
1800 - 1900 Supper, log, nav (1 x main meal, 1 x flapjack)
1900 - 2000 Row together
2000 - 2200 Row/sleep (1 hour on 1 hour off)
2200 - 2330 Row together
2330 - 2359 Snack (half packet of fruit biscuits)
0001 - 0800 Row/sleep (2 hours on 2 hours off)
2½ litres each of water per 24 hours
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 19o 08' 55"
W 40o 14' 14"
Day 47 27.11.97 - Bumper
26NM. Today, as you can see by my handwriting, which is usually illegible, is a day of little wind, that which there is, is in the wrong direction. These last 2 days will cost us dearly and we cannot afford another one. After a real slog through the day yesterday, a night of making no progress was too much to face so we got some rest. This was the first time we had slept for more than 2 hours at one time, for three weeks. At the moment we have made 15.5NM since this morning, not a complete disaster but a far cry from previous days. When things are going well it is all too easy to forget how hard it is when things are against you. Time is racing along, that has always been the case but we need the miles to race along as well. We have settled in to our new rotation, but it is a little strange to have your body clock turned on its head, though a very welcome change. As soon as I have finished the log for today, I will tuck in to one of E&A's parmesan cheese packets with a main meal. Great choice.
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 19o 03' 01"
W 40o 40' 27"
Day 48 28.11.97 - Morts
42NM. After supper, the winds blew up in our favour and we made good night mileage. We made contact with the first ship we have seen in some weeks, but it was intermittent and no weather info was forthcoming. An almighty rainstorm heralded the daytime and it has been a pretty tiresome slog of only 14NM from 0900-1800, in sometimes very hot conditions. For the 3rd day a favourable forecast was inaccurate. A little perplexing after weeks of being pretty much spot on. The wind is S SW which makes it very hard to row. We are just about maintaining our average (48NM a day since Sunday) but of course that is due to the early part of the week. We simply cannot afford many of these days: all the old doubts and fears are slowly returning, which is not very pleasant. We have just about 1100 miles to go. The World Service today had a feature on farming in the Lake District and talked of crisp, frosty autumnal mornings which heightened my pangs of homesickness. Heat, sea and renewed doubts are accentuating my desire to be at home. I would love to spend a few days in the Lakes with Emma and Cassie, dad's dog, in January. The World Service is a tremendous boon - a lot of news repetition but also a lot of fascinating programmes about more remote people in parts of the world. It really does make one appreciate the fact that we live in a country like Great Britain.
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 18o 57' 15"
W 41o 22' 42"
Day 49 29.11.97 - Bumper
30NM. We really did work hard during the night and under the circumstances the results were good. We have only covered 30NM in 24 hours, but in many ways this is more of an achievement than 50NM, as the going was particularly slow. Imagine the boat were a car with a journey of 1050 miles to do, it has enough petrol for 950 miles and it is hoped to make the remainder of the journey by rolling downhill. That is exactly the situation that we find ourselves in now, the weather must change in the next 24 hours, otherwise we will not have enough fuel (food/water) to get to Barbados without some outside assistance. Rowing against the elements is far more tiring than rowing with them, which means higher water consumption and more energy spent. Weatherwise, I feel that we are only 450NM short of the relatively reliable Antilles and once there we should almost guaranteed the easterly wind that we require.
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 18o 47' 39"
W 41o 52' 44"
Day 50 30.11.97 - Sunday - Morts
35NM. A significant day. Worldwide, it is the first Sunday in Advent and St Andrews Day. For us, 50 days and 7 weeks at sea. Also the end of (hopefully!) our only full calendar month at sea. For us both, November 1997 will be unique in its isolation and detachment from the world. Today has been a fair old beast and to reach 35NM is an excellent effort. We still have no wind and calm seas, but today too has been ferociously hot, with no cloud cover. Well into the 90's and certainly the hottest day of our trip. Even with factor 35 on, the skin burns. Day 50 is a good time to set out the calculations. We left Tenerife with 50 days of food and 40 days of water. Theoretically therefore, the last of these should have run out today. Because our water maker has never worked and we have rationed ourselves strictly, we have the following supplied left: (from 0001 tomorrow) 10 days of food which, at half-rationing, will last 20 days, and 95 litres of water - just enough too for 20 days. We reckon we could survive on almost nothing for 2 days if Barbados is close, and so we can last out, unsupported, until day 72 - or December 22nd. We still have 1037 NM to go and in the last 21 days have covered approx 950NM. The conclusion must be that if the wind does not pick up in the next 48 hours and remain strong, we will not achieve an unsupported crossing. Everything then depends on a resupply of food, as well as water, from either a Challenge Business yacht or any vessel. The last option - almost too awful to contemplate - is having to abandon Sally for the Challenge yacht. An enormous, beautiful whale is currently circling and surfacing. We can see him beneath us. Gorgeous.
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 18o 38' 20"
W 42o 27' 09"
Day 51 01.12.97 - Bumper
53NM. Despite a hard struggle we managed to reach a quite excellent 53NM in the last 24 hours, a very pleasing result. The wind is blowing a wonderful E4, and even as I write we are being pushed a little closer to Barbados. We have broken through the 1000NM to go barrier, a very important boost, the GPS now reads 990NM to go, this looks much better. We are now focused on reaching the Antilles which is 400NM, once there we have only one fifth of the journey left. Today is the first day of our one third rationing, which leaves one a little hungry to say the least. Hopefully it will be like our other changes in that it just takes a little getting used to. The soups that Emily and Annie put into our halfway parcel have proved to be very good and tonight, just before our drag stag we will have the last of them. Spirits are a little low at the moment but it is only due to us being, at this crucial stage of the journey, at the mercy of the weather.
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 18o 27' 53"
W 43o 20' 47"
Day 52 02.12.97 - Morts
52NM. Another productive night and day of rowing, aided by a good E wind. Long may it continue! Nothing of any rowing significance to report. I had a treat this morning, from 0700-0800 as I rowed alone, as the sun rose: Mendelssohn's music for a Mid-Summer Night's Dream. Beautiful. We also had episode 6 of George Eliot's Mill on the Floss - 15 minutes. Much more enjoyable now than when I studied it for A Level. The World Service disappeared worryingly for a while today, but returned in time for the 1745 GMT World Business Report. We like it partly because it ends with a comment on the London weather, e.g. cold and dark, and it is comforting to picture London and people scurrying into a pub, the tube etc. As I had my 1 hour kip this morning, a wave leapt in the hatch and soaked my back - a rude awakening. Not unpleasant as it was very hot in the cabin, but amusing. At home, after all this time on Salamanca, I will have to employ Gavin to push the bed around, wake me every two hours and occasionally pour a bucket of water over me. I will also have to sleep in the bathroom with the taps running! I have no doubt that we will struggle to adjust to a) land b) a real bed. Dreams of food are now almost hallucinogenic -I swear I could smell cheeseburgers last night! More than anything else, I think, I long to eat a lot. Junk food to start with, just to fill up. Hopefully it is all only 2½ weeks away.
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 18o 18' 58"
W 44o 12' 38"
Day 53 03.12.97 - Bumper
41NM. The rowing today was very much like the latter part of yesterday, in that it seemed to get harder as time went on. Today has been a real slog, very hot and very heavy going. We have made only 15NM to dinner despite a favourable wind. The highlight of the last 24 hours, nay the last week, nay the last 53 days, came in the shape of a container ship by the name of Coppename. At around 0300 we made contact with this ship. Initially we reported our position to the man on the bridge to ensure they would avoid us. As the gentleman on board spoke good English and boomed through on the VHF, we asked if he could send a message back to the UK. To our delight they agreed and so we gave a short message saying that we were safe and well and hoped to reach B by 22 December and gave Emily's phone number at Vann and Mr & Mrs M's as a backup. I chuckled to myself at the prospect of a message reaching Vann by such a route.
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 18o 08' 15"
W 44o 53' 15"
Day 54 04.12.97 - Morts
19NM. Without doubt, the most momentous day of the voyage so far. A very hard night and day's rowing in an unhelpful sea with no wind was giving us very few miles. Again, it was dreadfully hot. Then, at 1556 hours I spotted a ship. We contacted it on VHF - British registered bulk carrier Erradale, bound for Venezuela, from The China Navigation Co. Ltd. We took the decision to ask for a resupply of 20 days worth of food and water. They were so helpful and this vast ship manoeuvred alongside - to about 250m - and launched a motor boat. The food was incredible: chocolate, endless tins, bread, cheese, cereal, longlife milk and even coke, beer and ice. We are overwhelmed. They also took a long message for Emily, mum and dad and gave us a forecast. 10 mins later he came up to say he had got through to M&D's answerphone. A strange thought. So, we are out of the race, but no regrets. In our heart of hearts I think we knew we needed resupply and the combination of a calm sea, daylight and a British ship is too rare to pass up. For the last few days we have been on fewer than 1500 calories and I, certainly, have felt dizzy and weary. This guarantees we will get to Barbados and, after all, it adds to our adventure and to our story. It is good too, not to have to rely on the Challenge Business. I am quite satisfied - we took a risk with our food, and it hasn't paid off - but it detracts not one iota from rowing the Atlantic. Now we need the wind to return and to get to B for Christmas. Now I close to have a beer and a fag. A Bumper observation - we notice that the Erradale is prefixed with MV - must stand for Most Valuable!
PS Last night things got so bad that Bumper tried to roll a cigarette from paper and an Earl Grey tea bag!
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 17o 58' 21"
W 45o 12' 08"
Day 55 05.12.97 - Bumper
34NM. After having organised ourselves last night, we rowed with much increased zest as it was immediately apparent that our energy levels had quickly increased. The sea was little improved but there was a definite increase in the power of our strokes. Today we have been able to drink plenty of water and thereby realise just how low our reserves had become. Our latitude indicates that we still have another 240NM south to travel, which will probably give us a temperature increase of around 5°. Today rowing in the midday sun, the temperature was around 95-100°C and so our 2.5l of water would not, I think, have been enough. This is especially the case on days when there is zero cloud cover and only a light - moderate breeze. At night at present the temp is lovely, but even that warm breeze is starting to take on a distinctly balmy Caribbean tone. All in all yesterday, although in many ways a sad day, could prove to be a wise move.
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 17o 45' 50"
W 45o 46' 52"
Day 56 06.12.97 - Morts
44NM. A better 24 hours in terms of mileage. Last evening we had our first collision with an unseen object - I went in at lunchtime to check the bottom - no damage. I then had a wash with fresh water! First in 8 weeks. We had a nasty shock today: at about 1315 hours we saw and contacted the British yacht Kanaloa, en route to St Lucia, as part of the ARC. The skipper, David Dobson, had the rowing race position as at 48 hours ago. We were only about 15th. The first boat was already at 54°W. Our initial reaction was deep depression. Though we are out of the race now, we have our pride. We also feel a bit ashamed, as if we have let down the regiment, family and friends. Gradually over the afternoon, however, as we reflected, our mood changed. We cannot of course be sure yet, but it is surely only route selection and our consequent lost week that has done for us. We have rowed to our physical limit and know that we have not let down ourselves or anyone else. At the end of the day, rowing across the Atlantic Ocean is the goal and it is an awesome achievement by any standards. It is too easy to sit here and feel sorry for ourselves - it is now we must be mentally strong for the last push to B, where we must be gracious in defeat. This trip and its memories are too special to let this news detract from them. Another afternoon of sport - listened to England draw 26-26 with NZ at Twickenham. Tremendous. Good supper - thank goodness now, we did not pass up on a resupply!
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 17o 34' 26"
W 46o 30' 46"
Day 57 07.12.97 - Sunday - Bumper
46NM. During the night we made contact with Motorola from the Challenge Business, via the ARC yacht Escape. At first light they made their way towards us and after half an hour we could shout to one another from about 50m. They confirmed our position with regards the race and informed us that Kiwi Challenge had finished along with Atlantik Challenge and amazingly, the Hannah Snell. A fantastic effort by David and Nadia Rice. Oh, how we wish that we had finished, but we haven't and that's just life. I found it hard to contain my disappointment but now realise that rowing the Atlantic is a huge achievement in its own right. I spent a long time talking to the dictaphone (Emily) and that made things a great deal better. I have decided to pop the question in B and Morts says that he will be the videoman. We rowed all day together and in the late afternoon spoke to another ARC yacht. The crew of Motorola was great - full of smiles and encouragement. They even gave us three cheers as we pulled away!
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 17o 27' 11"
W 47o 16' 55"
Day 58 08.12.97 - Morts
43NM. Last night, as I drifted into sleep for my hours kip at 2000, I suddenly heard Bumper groaning and swearing. At first I thought he was having a nervous breakdown after the day's news, but no, worse, the rudder cable had snapped. One and a half hours of contortionist repair work followed - luckily we had a spare cable too - and the new rudder is actually an improvement! Shortly before dawn today I had a chat on the VHF with the ARC yacht Dreamtime - yet another sound chap. Our mood was a little down today: there is no denying that the news that boats have/are finishing already is a psychological blow. It hasn't helped that our complete and utter disastrous choice of route, on top of what damage it has already inflicted, is now causing us a further drama, namely we are too far north and without NE winds, will struggle to get south to the Barbados latitude of 13°N. At least we will have officially have crossed the Atlantic once we cross 59°W longitude, but obviously we want to reach B. It is, however, out of our hands. As Bumper says, we must be careful not to let matters now spoil our overall enjoyment of the voyage. There have been plenty of highs. Two days ago, for example, as the sun rose, I sat on deck alone, having a shave. I suddenly heard a splash, looked up and, silhouetted against the orange sun, were two dolphins leaping clean out of the water in play. Beautiful.
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 17o 20' 46"
W 47o 59' 05"
Day 59 09.12.97 - Bumper
36NM. The last 24 hours have been hard graft, as although the wind is an E the sea is very confused which makes progress slow. The days now are long and hot with very few clouds in the sky and so any breeze is very welcome. We continue to head with the wind, due west, so that in the worst case we can make landfall on an island to the north of Barbados. We are expecting the wind now to be fairly constant and hope for a speedy run in. We are very aware at the moment that whoever does come to see us in Barbados will be very disappointed if our landfall is elsewhere. We are at the mercy of the conditions and can only do our best. We long to reach land and will be satisfied with having just crossed the Atlantic. We know that to do this we have to keep rowing all the time, we would love to be with our friends for Christmas. Tomorrow we are able to cross off some more points on our chuff chart.
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 17o 13' 48"
W 48o 35' 32"
Day 60 10.12.97 - Morts
43NM. Another long, hard slog in a syrupy night-time sea and a pretty windless, hot day. Our total therefore is good and we are now at 641NM to go - major chuff chart points are on their way, not least the move out of Alizé Ouest and into the Est Antilles at 50°W - 42NM away. We spend every minute now counting down the last days and hours of this journey. No doubt I will come to see this experience as a defining point in my life, like Mill Hill School or the Army but right now I - like Bumper - am desperate to reach land, having succeeded. We so hope to be in Barbados for Christmas Day - now we are rowing also for anyone who is coming to meet us - the thought of them hanging around with us at sea is unpleasant. As I write, a yacht is inching towards us - if we make contact we will try and get an update message to mum, dad and Emily. It must be desperately difficult for all of them to make any plans. Bring on the easterly winds! Bloody yacht did not see us and isn't monitoring his radio. Civi!
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 17o 06' 52"
W 49o 18' 40"
Day 61 11.12.97 - Bumper
A very hard, slow night which was not much fun to row in. There was very little wind and the sea was dead making pulling on the oars hard work indeed. We found that the morning brought little improvement and today has been a real grind, thus only 30 miles in the last 24 hours. We have, however, managed to move a little way south which is good news, but it is only a very small step. Barbados still seems out of reach and we have plotted a course to an island about 90 miles to the north. We will of course try our hardest to reach B, as that is our real goal. We now have just over 600 miles to go, a long way but the total is slowly dropping.
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 16o 54' 00"
W 49o 48' 23"
Day 62 12.12.97 - Morts
44NM. Clocks put back at 0001, so local time now = GMT -2 hours. What a difference 24 hours makes! Our mood and morale in this simple existence is based entirely on the weather, and during the night a NE blew up and has remained constant all day. We pray it remains with us. It is hard to believe we have been at sea, on this tiny boat, for fully 2 months now! Los Gigantes is almost exactly 2,000NM away, as we have 567 to go. We had two chuff chart points during the night - passed waypoint 8 and, much better, moved into Est Antilles sea area and the 50° longitude. At sunrise today we were overtaken by a French yacht that came over and took mum and dad's phone number: they will phone in Guadeloupe in five days. We also saw a beautiful three-masted vessel under full sail this afternoon, but no radio contact possible. Bumper and I continue to play our quizzes, as we have for weeks now: we have become like a married couple almost - washing, cooking and cleaning for each other, reminding the other to put on sun cream etc. Very amusing for an outsider. A combination of sweat, salt spray and constant rubbing has made my nether regions very red and sore, so I have taken to wearing no shorts giving Bumper frequent unpleasant eyefuls of my gonads or arse as I clamber into the cabin. We are now planning to set up a cricket team - to be called Salamanca, naturally - and discuss aspects of that. Being gluttons we have now pretty much eaten the 10 days of food we received 8 days ago and now need the Erradale's sister ship to pass!
P.S. Johnny Bowron marries Jane tomorrow - I'd love to be at the reception.
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 16o 35' 03"
W 50o 29' 11"
Day 63 13.12.97 - Bumper
At last a combination of a good night and a good day yields 50NM. Our latitude has crept down as well but not by enough, we need to try and average a drop of 20NM south per day to have a realistic chance of reaching Barbados. The highlight of today has been BBC sports afternoon, which we managed to pick up despite quite a poor signal. England have been playing the West Indies in a one day game, England require about 70 to win with 7 wickets and enough overs. We should only have one more weekend at sea, which is just as well because I hate them. Rowing along on a Saturday night, I always imagine what people are doing, especially Emily. Today is Johnny Bowron's wedding day, no doubt all the boys from the regiment are getting their moneys worth out of Jane's parents. I expect they may also be discussing the plight of Bellamy and Mortimer, I bet McG's the expert.
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 16o 20' 25"
W 51o 18' 22"
Day 64 14.12.97 - Sunday - Morts
46NM. Another decent mileage westward, but we are struggling to get south. Our main aim, however, is to row the Atlantic and once we have passed 59° 25'W - the eastern edge of Barbados - we have officially done that. Missing B would be a pain in the neck therefore but by no means a disaster. Today is our 10th Sunday at sea: like Bumper I dislike the weekends and look forward to Mondays. Tomorrow we can say - hopefully accurately -that we will finish next week. That is glorious. For me, and I know for Bumper too, every minute is filled with the thought of land, luxuries, friends, families and food. I long to sleep well! The thing is, it will come. We are moving well at the moment: 471NM to go. Inexorably we draw nearer. We just need the conditions to keep favourable: calm seas and no wind at this late stage will do our fragile state of mind no good at all! We started a new game today - quiz cricket - and had a limited overs match between Wrekin College 1st XI and an all time Australian XI! Our Sony radio has gone on the blink, which means no weather forecast and no World Service. At least it's happened towards the end of the voyage.
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 16o 07' 44"
W 52o 04' 55"
Day 65 15.12.97 - Bumper
44NM. Another day of the radio not working means that we cannot hear the weather forecast and listen to our usual fill of BBC WS. Our progress remains constant and quite good, however we are not winning the battle to get further south. The distance to go is creeping down and we know that we just have to keep plodding on for the next week or so. Our stocks of everything are running low, from toothpaste to loo roll but nothing is that bad this close to the end. Morts is making a menu for the huge meal we are going to have at his parents. Can't wait.
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 15o 59' 02"
W 52o 48' 39"
Day 66 16.12.97 - Morts
50NM. During the night a strong (Force 4-5) easterly blew up and remained with us all day. The seas were big and the combination gave us an excellent total and took us below 400 miles. We now have 378 to go - it is dropping nicely. May it please continue for another 8-9 days! It was a cloudless sky too, but the sun's heat was negated by the wind; as we have water aplenty now, it is less of a problem and anyway we are now working to top up our arrival tans! They are pretty impressive already after all this time. Bumper looks even more of a South American circus entertainer and my hair has bleached almost white. It is lovely to be discussing food, as we have done all trip, but now to know that sometime next week our dreams will be realised by supermarkets, room service and McDonalds! We both have very painful salt sores on our nuts at the moment, and the action of rowing and the motion of the sea elicit squeaks of discomfort at odd times. I also have sores all over my bum, so I am in chats and lying on my back or front to sleep is equally uncomfortable. Yet one more consequence of all this time at sea.
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 15o 43' 19"
W 53o 38' 19"
Day 67 17.12.97 - Bumper
32NM. During the night the winds dropped and our progress became increasingly slow. We have therefore had one of those extremely hard days today with very little progress, when the boat feels like trying to row a bathtub of sand. There is a sense of being so near yet so far, 50 miles a day would see us home in a week, however 30 would mean nearly two weeks. Morts has been putting more work into our amazing lunch at his parents house. I now know that he is going to overdo it in a major way - it will be great. The thought of getting back to land is all consuming and it is so far removed from our present existence, one wonders if it will ever happen.
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 15o 38' 45"
W 54o 10' 40"
Day 68 18.12.97 - Morts
44NM. Gradually, during the evening and night the wind and sea rose favourably but we only managed 19NM to 0800. Today, however, we have pushed out a tremendous 25NM up to 1800. Sally really is fun to row in these conditions. At 54° 45'W we passed the 8th and last way point - excluding the destination, obviously - and as I write we are 303NM to go, sub 300 and 55°W chuff chart points are upcoming. The last of our 200 Blackfriars flapjacks was eaten today - they have been great. We are now on meagre rations indeed: 1 x oatmeal biscuit and 2½ fruit biscuits for breakfast, 1 x pudding for lunch and 1 x main meal and ½ a bag of nuts for supper. Under 2000 calories but we can survive. A ship would be a treat nevertheless! During the night Bumper planned - and today we have discussed - his design for a sled for a two man unsupported Antarctic crossing, not yet achieved. That is our ultimate goal but probably seven years away. Sooner, we would like to climb Mount McKinley in Alaska. Neither of us can wait to get back to the world to get on with all these plans we have made over the last 10 weeks. If the weather holds, we have a bit of luck and we can drop south, a week from now - Christmas Day - and we may be sitting in a bar or a restaurant in Barbados. What a thought to motivate me tonight!
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 15o 24' 14"
W 54o 54' 27"
Day 69 19.12.97 - Bumper
31NM. More weeds in our garden, things were going too well and so a nasty southerly wind has blown up. This is slowly pushing us to the north and further away from the southerly latitudes we so strive to achieve. This developed at first light and has continued up to 1800 local, the forecast gives hope of a change of direction to an easterly. At present we are sat not rowing as it is futile as we can barely make 1NM per hour together. It is this hopeless plight which really does drive one to despair, the old 2 steps forward 1 back is constantly playing with us. We are not down, we are too close to land for that, but we do not look like making B for Christmas Day and that is a little sad. Today we have spoofed for all the equipment on the boat, a pretty fair outcome, Morts even won my shorts and I got the broken radio.
P.S. First shark seen today.
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 15o 25' 42"
W 55o 25' 52"
Day 70 20.12.97 - Morts
39NM. I don't know why, but - along with 30, 50 and 100 - I always thought of Day 70 as a watershed, the transition from a long to a very long crossing. This journey certainly now seems very long! The same length as one of my terms at university. After supper the wind abated but rowing was still very slow. It was, I think, a mark of just how tired we really are, that as soon as we altered our schedule, our bodies - adapted to our current sleep cycle - went haywire and we were in bits. We therefore got some sleep from 2230 to 0430. By then the wind had become a light easterly and we cracked on as normal. Today, in very hot conditions with little wind, we have made excellent distance. It can only be current and, the more so as it seems due west, it is most welcome. Barring strong NE winds to push us SW, we have almost accepted that Barbados is out of reach and so we are heading due west. At 59° 26'W, which is the longitude of the eastern edge of B, we will have officially crossed the Atlantic. That point is only 202NM away, while B - on a diagonal from us - is 245NM away. What happens when we cross the line we don't know - another 60NM west to another island or will a Challenge yacht come out and tow us into B? No matter. Our aim now is to cross that line asap. We are very, very hungry: at sun up this morning a yacht passed within 300m of us. Despite the radio, 2 x flares and our foghorn, no reply. No doubt all asleep. Frustrating and very unprofessional. No sport on the World Service today due to our defunct radio. Terribly sad. At 1440 GMT, an aeroplane flew high overhead on a direct line from Europe to Barbados. Are any of our friends and family on board we wondered?
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 15o 24' 13"
W 56o 04' 35"
Day 71 21.12.97 Sunday-Bumper
56NM. A good night, followed by a good day of rowing. We entered Nord Antilles, our last sea area, at 1900 local. We had not intended to enter this area, but instead to move into Sud Antilles, however, we have not been able to get south below 15°N and now have virtually no chance of reaching B unaided. I have no doubt our adventure has more than one twist in its tail left. Questions like, where shall we land and where is our next meal coming from?
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 15o 19' 39"
W 57o 00' 21"
Day 72 22.12.97 - Morts
50NM. Another good total in very hot conditions. While Barbados is still 160 odd miles away, the longitude crossing point is now only 96NM away. Wonderful, and just as well as we have today finally run out of rations. With a little help from the Erradale, 50 days rations have been spun out for 72. Now, however, we are going to be hungry for a few days. There is not a morsel left on Sally; we have also run out of coffee and so are reduced to a few Earl Grey tea bags! We still hope that Motorola or 3-Com will meet us in the next 48 hours, give us food and a tow to B once we cross the line. Pigs might fly, however! We have also run out of lavatory paper and, as I write, Bumper is cutting off his t-shirt sleeve for replacement use!
P.S. I have never said this before but, blimey, I could kill for a fag right now!
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 15o 17' 48"
W 57o 50' 13"
Day 73 23.12.97 - Bumper
Another good day of rowing and a total of 50NM, which leaves only 45NM to go. At 1700 we spotted a yacht 5NM to our east, to our delight it turned out to be Motorola, the Challenge Business support yacht, what a stroke of luck. After having made contact with them and told them of our situation they supplied us with 2 Mars Bars, 8 boil in the bag each and 2 beers, all gratefully received. They have also agreed to tow us to Barbados when we reach W59° 25', the point at which we will have crossed the Atlantic. We will be in Barbados for Christmas, what a wonderful thought. We can hardly contain our joy at the thought that the end is in sight.
Posn: As at 18.00 Local N 14o 58' 16"
W 58o 40' 19"
Day 74 24.12.97 - Morts
46NM. Rowed hard all night and all day in poor conditions. Motorola appeared once more soon after dawn and shadowed us: at 1930 GMT, after 73 days and 10½ hours we crossed longitude line 59° 25'W, 97NM due north of Barbados. We have done it! We have rowed across the Atlantic Ocean. Once we had hooked up Sally to Motorola to tow (she looks so small!) and come onto the ship, we learnt just how slow we have been and just how poor our route selection was. No matter. Sitting here now on Motorola, a couple of beers inside, I can feel tiredness beginning to wash over me but also overwhelming pride and satisfaction at our achievement. We are due in Barbados some time after midnight tonight - we don't know who, if anyone, is waiting. Most of all I am looking forward to seeing land after all these weeks. And then the food and beer!
Posn: As at 15.30 Local N 14o 56' 25"
W 59o 25' 00"
Day 75 25.12.97 - Morts
Pretty much the perfect day, starting with champagne on deck on Motorola at midnight. We were dropped off 500m from the finish and rowed in as it got light. Port St. Charles is beautiful and we had a fantastic reception; not only from Emily, dad, Annie and Geoff but several other rowers and their girlfriends had come out at 0500 on Christmas morning. Bumper and I were initially a little nervous but adrenaline soon took over - champagne and food were everywhere. We are staying at the ideal Sugar Cane Club and spent the day talking, reading letters/cards and revelling in being on land. Green everywhere is so beautiful after 2½ months at sea. Bumper and Emily got engaged in the afternoon, Christmas dinner was very chill. A wonderful 24 hours!
At last the day we had been working towards for some 2½ years had finally arrived. For some strange reason I felt nervous at the thought of arriving. I will never forget rowing into Port St. Charges and gradually hearing the sound of our family and friends and the sight of red flares being fired into the air. Emily jumped onto the boat, we were greeted with champagne and cheese sandwiches, it was like being in a dream. We wobbled around for the first few hours but I managed to find the energy to drag Emily off down the beach and finding a suitable log I asked her to marry me and to my joy she agreed. The beginning....!
Posn: As at 18.00 Local Barbados!
"Men and women (who) set themselves the challenge of going beyond the limits of every day endurance ... are in a thrall to a driving force within them which pushes them onward - a force which they seem powerless to resist. The force has no name but its function is to explore the potential of the human species to adapt to conditions that are both challenging and dangerous"
Mary Russell (Taken from a small travel book, one of mums daily presents, opened at sea)
And so in the strife of the battle of life
It's easy to fight when you're winning:
It's easy to slave, and to starve and be brave,
When the dawn of success is beginning.
But the man who meets despair and defeat
With a cheer, there's the man of God's choosing:
The man who can fight to Heaven's own height
Is the man who can fight when he's losing.
(A copy of this poem was fixed to the wall of the back cabin of Salamanca)