An account of the decision to abort the 1998 Atlantic solo rowing  trip.
                                            by Richard Jones

 

     After receiving the row boat from the shipping lines, it was  transported to the Belem Harbor in Lisbon. I worked on boat all day Tuesday, and that evening it was lifted from  the dock to the water. I spent the night in the harbor, then left at  6:00 AM on the outgoing   tide. My support team followed in sailing yacht. My goal for the  day was to row 20 miles to Cascais, another harbor further down the coast. Riding a six knot, outgoing tide, I quickly
covered the distance by noon. I anchored in the harbor, while my  support team made arrangements with another yacht that was anchored beside me, to  follow me out to sea for  the first few miles.
     The next morning, at 8:00 AM, I headed out to sea followed by my team members aboard the Cloud Nine sailing yacht. The day was perfect. The sun was bright, no clouds in the sky and the sea as smooth as glass. The support team followed for an hour, then turned back. I was now on my way, following a southwest course towards the
Island of Madeira.
     I knew that my primary effort, in the first few days, was to put as many miles as possible between me and the coast. I rowed all day, until I was out of sight of land and finally quite at 9:00 PM. I could tell I was between two shipping lanes, as I could see boats passing on either side of me. All night long, my radar detector kept buzzing.
I would get up and look to see who was around, but always the ships were far away. About 2:00 in the morning, I
noticed a light house high up on a cliff and lights along a shore line. Not having seen them when I went to bed, I wasn't sure where I was, but decided I'd figure it out in the morning. Friday morning was grey and overcast. In the distance, I could breakers crashing on the shoreline. My GPS indicated I had drifted a considerable distance up
the coast, in the direction of England and Scotland.
     At the moment, I wasn't concerned with the northward drift of the boat. My main concern  was to get away from the coast. I started to row west. After I had  reduced the risk of being blown back into the coast, I would then resume my southwest course. About noon, the wind began to blow, pushing me back towards the coast. By 2:00 PM a great storm was beginning to develop. Winds were 15 to 20 MPH and gusting at 20 to 25 MPH. Seas were
building to 30' and rain was falling in torrents. Had the wind been blowing in my direction, I would have continued to row. It was not difficult to row is such big seas, even though my progress was slow. However the northbound current and the winds blowing on to land forced me to deploy my sea anchor. At 4:00 PM I called it a day and
crawled into the sleeping compartment where I was warm and dry. All night the storm raged. How bad it was, I'll never know, as I was comfortably secured inside my cabin. At 8:00 Saturday morning, I exited my cabin. The
wind had subsided, but the seas were still large. My GPS indicated I had continued to drift north, but the anchor
had kept me from moving onto the coast line, even though I was close and could still see breakers on the shore.
Fighting motion sickness, I hauled in the 300' of sea anchor line. The sickness kept me from eating. ( I could chew my food, but was unable to swallow it.) I was concerned about becoming weak and not being able to row. After resting for a while, I began to row west, through 30' swells. Progress was extremely slow. After a few hours,
while resting from motion sickness, the overwhelming feeling came over me that the trip had come to an end.
I was to leave the area and return to the harbor at Lisbon.
     I was disappointed at the prospects of doing so, but knew, in my heart, that the decision was a right one, even though I didn't know why. Later that day, I discovered that my desalinator pump was not working; I was still getting salt water. The loss of the pump alone would have doomed the trip. Unable to row against the northbound current, I radioed for assistance from a passing sailing yacht. They towed me back to the harbor in Lisbon. That
evening and all the next day, a tremendous gale blew. Had I been far out to sea, there would not have been a
problem, but being so close to land, I once again faced the possibility of being blown onto the shore. One week later, an even greater gale blasted the area, a remnant of hurricane Jeanie.
     I had to wait two weeks before receiving a shipping container. During this time, I lived in the boat, on a truck loading dock. I've been home about 4 weeks now and the boat will arrive in Salt Lake City the middle of December. The water pump and a ballast tank water leak will be fixed.
     Future plans: I anticipate doing a shakedown cruise through the Gulf of Mexico in the spring of 1999, from Brownsville, Texas to Tampa, Florida, about 1,000 miles. Then, if conditions and circumstances are right, I 'll make another attempt at crossing the Atlantic in September.
     As a side note, in checking the internet weather map, I see that a hurricane, probably the last one for the 1998 season, is approximately 800 south of the Azores, right about where I would be, had I continued with my journey.

Richard Jones