Jason Fox – Blog day 21-22
Here we are back round to me, as we enter our 4th week at sea!
For this instalment I am going to tell you of a few events that have occurred, some “proper interesting” others more of the mundane type, but hopefully it will paint a picture of boat life for us rogues.
The weather has been a mixed bag. Sunny (nice), very windy which is great for speed (also nice), however, it also brings with it what can only be described as large, aggressive seas (not so nice)!!
Now, during sunny spells the sea, although aggressively large is an amazing cobalt blue! This, mixed with the blue skies of the eastern Atlantic lulls you into a false sense of security that all is well and in our favour! For future reference, don’t allow this to happen!
What I shall now do is run you through an experience that happened at 1542 UTC on day 21.
It started with Ellida in following sea’s (going in our direction) and with Aldo and myself locked tightly in the aft (rear) navigation cabin relaxing after a late lunch consumed after our rowing shift. We were both chatting and looking through the hatch (it’s made of reinforced Perspex) at Ollie and Ross who were in rowing positions 1 and 2. Mat I couldn’t see as he was chilling in the forward cabin.
All seemed quiet and ordinary. Two up rowing with calming blue skies as a back drop. That was until I noticed both Ollie and Ross running towards us at the rear of the boat! This sets alarm bells ringing instantly as it is a standard operating procedure amongst Team Essence rowers. One carried out when the boat is caught up by a huge wall of water (large wave). Now the reason for this action is simple but it normally stops a chain of events that if allowed to play out leave us in a very un-simple situation. The more weight at the back of the boat as it starts to surf the said wave normally tips us off the wave crest and we slide down the reverse slope which will stop us taking on water, leading to a list of either port (left) or starboard (right), it’s from there on to possible capsize!
From the safe, secure confines of our cabin Aldo and I couldn’t help but laugh at the petrified looks on both Ross and Ollie’s faces as they ran up an almost vertical Ellida. This soon changed to looks of shear fear, ones of our own when we realised that we weren’t exiting this wave off the back. It was steep! Very steep! We started to slide down, forwards at considerable pace! No one had the presence of mind to check the speedometer at this time to confirm the warp speeds we were reaching. What we did have time to confirm was that the wave was breaking, and at a very quick rate it started filling our boat. With this we listed very quickly to port, Ollie and Ross were ejected, I actually saw two sets of legs and arms flailing through the air as we then watched it all disappear in the spin cycle that is water and equipment! In the cabin Aldo and I were now upside down with equipment hitting us from all directions. It was at this point that I looked out the hatch and noticed how beautifully and brilliantly blue the sea was when subsurface. I started to relax, it felt like I was peering into a tank at an aquarium. I do believe I was actually looking for fish in an expanse of ocean that dropped to around 4000m. It was then that I saw something pretty and red flash past. Unfortunately it wasn’t a fish! Fish don’t have Reebok Nano stamped into them! Ross’s feet were thrashing around in a bid to try and help all others right the boat.
The boat started to right very quickly with all our weight on a predesignated side for such situations. Once upright and with a hefty amount of water on board I noticed the man mountain Ollie hanging on to the grab rail with all he had. Once he had hauled himself on board he and Ross started accounting for kit and checking boat structure was still sound. They checked Mat was fine (separate story to follow) and then made sure they themselves were unharmed. Aldo and I started the bilge to empty flooded compartments and then reset all the auto pilots and navigation systems as they were alarming. After making sure all was ship shape and Bristol fashion or as near damn it we set off again, this all, in less than twelve minutes after the initial roll. We didn’t lose kit and all row critical electronic kit was saved. Now on to Mat’s small epic. He was, at the precise moment of capsize, opening the hatch to exit the forward cabin. Mat was thrown back into the front of Ellida at the same time as getting showered by Dairy Milk and gas canisters kept in an unlockable storage compartment. It was then Mat also noticed one latch was undone allowing a huge force of sea water to rush in. Mat now insists that he grabbed what was closest to try and Bung said gap. Convenient it was a few Dairy Milks that got sacrificed during this task !! He did, however, have the unwelcome task of bailing the front cabin and sorting it. Something he cracked very quickly and without hesitation.
After such experiences we have huge amounts of adrenaline flowing through us leaving us absolutely shattered and in need of rest. Rest, unfortunately, is something we can’t afford to take and so it’s testament to the team that after these events they dig deep and crack on.
This all goes to show that with all the experience and procedures in place the Ocean is still in charge and it will put you back in your box if you take your eye off the ball or, for that matter, if it just wants to.
Now, I quickly want to talk to you about us. Mentally we are sound, or as sound as one can be when volunteering to row an ocean. We have had next to no conflict and actually been laughing regularly. What has changed is our appearance. We all have heavy facial growth. All that is bar Ross! He will never grow a beard, well not while we have strong North Easterlies!! We have, also, all lost weight! Quite simply put we are five spindly carcasses rowing an ocean! We eat plenty but it just isn’t enough when coupled with rowing 12 hrs a day, sleeping a max. of 3-4 hours a night and putting up with the freakishly cold weather! Mine and all others backsides have withered to nothing and are rubbed raw daily by salt crystals. All in all we are gonna be quite the catch when re-entering civilisation!!
I will sign off shortly but leave you with this:
I woke this morning to Mat saying it looked like we were going to have fair weather and sun. My immediate response was “Mother Nature has obviously got the wrong GPS fix of our location”! Let’s hope I am wrong!!
Take care all, love as always
P.S. I lost my trainers last night!!