A small event with lots of friendly faces, a beautiful space, and delicious canapés and drinks provided by Duncan Lawrie Private Banking. I gave my first talk since the row – it proved quite difficult to choose what to talk about, and which bits to focus on. Before I went, there were clear limits to what I might talk about; now I’m reflecting on two months’ worth of vivid experience, plus over a year of training and preparation. On Wednesday I picked just a few of the most vivid memories and moments from the row, and then answered questions at the end. There was talk of big waves, starlit nights, dolphins, soldering, microplastics, the unknown creature of the night, and broken oars.
Thank you so much to everyone who was there – sponsors, charities, supporters, friends and family – it felt like a very special event. Special thank you to Duncan Lawrie for their fantastic hosting.
Before my talk I also showed the rough cut of a video about my row. This is currently being tidied up for everyone to see, so keep an eye out for it on YouTube in the coming weeks…
The last few weeks have been about getting safely to land, recovering, sorting Darien out, and enjoying some much-needed relaxation in the sun!
It’s been an interesting experience writing this blog. I’ve had something half-written for the past week and a half, but I’ve found it a lot harder to focus on it than I did during the row. Out there I was exhausted, and was constantly concerned about the implications of taking time out of rowing, but writing was always a highlight of my day. It was a chance to communicate with people, to share what I was experiencing, and to reflect on how things were going. On land there have been so many more stimuli – even just sitting down at the computer to write I feel distracted by email, social media and the internet all jostling for attention. When I was rowing all of this was limited, and suddenly I have to make an effort to focus again. I’m once again experiencing everyday life with other people, and writing is one of the many things that happens in a day. Now I’ve given myself the space to sit down properly and write, however, I’m really enjoying it and appreciate the space to reflect on the experiences of the last few weeks.
The difficult decision to ask for a tow has proved to be a good one. Shortly after I arrived in San Diego, news of Hurricanes Julio and Iselle started coming in. Julio sped right over where I’d been headed towards, and Iselle crossed the path that I would have been on had I not changed course to head for Mexico. Watching the 140 mph winds swirl over the ocean on the news, I felt very lucky to be safe and sound on land, with Darien snug in a quiet marina (thankfully everyone else in the Great Pacific Race is also safe).
Lots of people have asked me what it was like stepping onto dry land again after two months in an ocean rowing boat. I actually had the strange experience of getting used to the completely different motion of the yacht for three days before I made land, meaning that the experience was probably a bit less dramatic than it might have been. There was some wobbling, and my legs are still weaker than they were, but I think my body was just enjoying being somewhere that wasn’t moving for a while.
As we sailed into San Diego, I spied a little group of people on the end point of Shelter Island waving banners and balloons. I could hear them shouting from the shore, and could see Steve in his bright orange ‘Pacific Solo Row’ t-shirt. After the faff of setting Darien free from Cloud Nine, I rowed the last bit to shore to be greeted by the big smiles of the welcoming gang. Within minutes of landing, we were soaked by a sudden downpour, leading to an extremely bedraggled group making their way into the Silver Gate Yacht Club for lunch (I remain only partially convinced that this was unusual weather for San Diego…). Silver Gate is an historic yacht club with a swanky new clubhouse, and they very kindly made me a guest member for the time I was in San Diego. I feel privileged to have been hosted by two such welcoming yacht clubs, one at each end of the row.
As well as being over the moon to see Steve again, it was also pretty special to be reunited with Maryand Jim in San Diego, two of the other solos who left Monterey with me back in June. We missed Daryl(fourth solo, now back in England), but raised a glass to him from the comfort of the Silver Gate bar. Jim lives in San Diego, and Mary has been continuing her row down the coast, so we were all able to share stories and experiences from the ocean.
Due to the difficulty of changing flights again, Steve and I have a bit of time to explore California before heading back to the UK. We’re off to Yosemite National Park for some camping and hiking, which will be the first real test of my weakened land legs. Darien is on her way back to the UK, thanks to Wallenius Wilhelmsen and the amazing efforts of the Brock family, our wonderful, constantly-generous hosts from Monterey.
Thank you so much for all the lovely comments welcoming me back to land – I’ll be back in proper contact once I’m home and able to internet more regularly. 🙂
I’m really excited and proud to be able to welcome Natracare on board as a Silver Sponsor. Their ethical and environmental values make me really happy, and I was bowled over by how lovely the whole team are when I met them.
Natracare makes organic, natural, biodegradable feminine hygiene and baby products. All their products are chemical and additive-free, and are certified free from animal testing. Their philosophy is summed up as: “Mutual respect for the material and functional needs of people in balance with the responsibility to produce products in a measurably sustainable, ethical manner. To support conservation of the earth’s natural resources by using only certified organic and natural, plant-derived, renewable materials which can demonstrate the lowest measured carbon footprint and highest environmental credentials.”
As well as jumping on board as a Silver Sponsors, Natracare have provided me with enough organic, biodegradable wipes to see me through the whole adventure.
One of the areas that I am highlighting through this row is the issue of plastic pollution in our oceans. Natracare is well ahead of most in this, having already banned all crude oil plastics from their products.
Finally, Natracare are celebrating their 25th birthday this year – why not help them celebrate by trying out some of their products?
This week we also said goodbye to our trusty towing vehicle, kindly supplied by AMT Vehicle Rental. It has been our companion for the last couple of months, towing the boat to schools and events, on training trips, and finally down to Southampton for the final time. AMT have been so supportive – even branding up the vehicle with my logo and website! They specialise in Prestige and Executive Vehicle rental (we were a rather different sort of customer from usual), so check them out if you’re thinking of treating yourself.
Have a look at the gallery for more pictures of AMT Hammond in action.
Last Tuesday we drove my little orange boat onto a huge green ship, called Oberon, and waved goodbye as we left her there. Oberon sailed that evening, headed for LA via the Panama Canal. The next time I see my little boat will be when we meet her at the other end, ready to drive her up the coast to Monterey. I can’t wait!
Shipping can be an expensive business, but I’m hugely lucky to be sending the boat courtesy of shipping company Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics. They are a great company to be working with, particularly as their vessels are eco-friendly and fuel efficient, and they are able to deliver quicker than all the other options we had looked into. Their remit is to “deliver innovative and sustainable global shipping and logistics solutions for manufacturers of cars, trucks, heavy equipment and specialized cargo.” Wallenius Wilhelmsen has been absolutely brilliant to me, and I look forward to seeing my boat safely delivered at the other end.
2400 miles: 2400 women. We’re getting some amazing nominations pouring in. Nearly 150 miles have already been dedicated to inspirational women across the world, across time, and even across the boundaries of fiction and reality. Steve has been doing an absolutely heroic job of getting them up on the website – have a look here.
As I’d hoped, we’re seeing people nominate many different women for all sorts of reasons. Some are well-known, others not. Many are close to home – mothers, especially. Some are not known personally to those who dedicated the mile, but may have touched millions of people throughout their lives. I can’t wait to see who else is nominated, and what other stories lie behind each name.
As the dedications keep coming in, I’m thinking more about what it’s actually going to mean to me when I’m out there. Each day I will have different names, people, and stories to focus on. They will be sharing my journey, and I expect they will affect it profoundly. I know that thinking about them will really help me to keep going when things get tough.
We still have over 2,200 miles waiting to be dedicated and I’m so excited to see who they will be for. Time is starting to run short though – I’m heading out to California in less than five weeks’ time, and will be rowing away from land shortly after that.
Thank you all so much for everything you have done for the row so far. Your support, advice, sponsorship, suggestions and contacts all make a world of difference. Please keep supporting and help me reach 2,400 fully dedicated miles, ready to start the row in June. If each person who has dedicated a mile finds just five more people who will dedicate one as well, we’ll soon be on the way to making the most of every mile.
Thank you so much to everyone who came to this event at MShed on Wednesday 2nd April – it was brilliant to see so many familiar faces, as well as some new ones. We ran another in a series of capsize tests and held a fundraising auction. Some very generous sponsors, along with some very generous bidders! Items included a fully kitted out bicycle from Bike UK, First Class treatment from Bristol Airport, some pampering goodies from Lush, cases of wine from Naked Wines, Luxury Car Weekend Rental from AMT Vehicle Rental, some generous individual donations, and a fantastic painting by Dirk Larsen. We have also been donated a wonderful holiday in the Isles of Scilly by Tresco Island, which will be up for auction soon!
Huge thanks again to everyone who helped and supported – I really appreciate it. Thanks also to MShed and Business West who made it possible.
On Saturday we headed down to see Justin at the SeaSabre workshop to get some of the final things fitted on the boat. Liferaft straps, Jetboil holder, new (longer) seat rails, and various other straps and attachments all went in. Only a couple more bits and pieces to go on in Monterey (plus a lot of food and kit), and she’ll be ready to go!
Sunday was a water day. Battling an unusually low tide near Padstow, we made it out with both boats and everyone still intact, though rather wet. I got some rowing training in while some super clever friends in the other boat managed to do some aerial filming of the boat using a GoPro attached to a hexacopter. Scroll right down to the bottom of the page for the video.
It’s really great to be starting to get a feel for the boat now – I can’t wait to get out there!
It was scarier than I thought it would be to be stuck hanging upside-down inside the cabin, with green water lapping at the hatches, creaks and groans coming from the boat, simply waiting for it to self-right again.
With BBC Points West looking on, we capsized the boat three times in Bristol Harbour with the help of Andy and his wonderfulteam of volunteers on MShed’s crane, as well as the Harbourmaster’s boat.
The first attempt was just to see what would happen if we capsized the empty, unballasted boat in flat water. She lay very comfortably upside-down, making no attempt to self-right.
Secondly, I got into the cabin and strapped into my harness to be capsized – again unballasted. The boat was more unstable, but still wouldn’t self-right, even after a good four minutes of struggling.
Third time lucky – we put 50kg of coal into the boat as ballast (the only thing we had to hand that was heavy enough), strapped me inside again, and capsized her. Almost immediately, she came round again.
Conclusion: ballast is very important if you don’t want to be trapped upside-down in your cabin in the middle of the Pacific!
BBC Points West coverage of the tests (with apologies to every other European crew at the end there!)
When I was speaking at the Winter School Games, I met Councillor Alan McMurray of North Somerset Council. He was really interested in my row, and invited me to speak at a Civic Lunch celebrating community sport in North Somerset. I was pretty chuffed to be speaking alongside an Olympian and a Great Britain gymnastics champion.
It was a lovely event – despite feeling exhausted from being out training with the boat the night before – and there were some great questions from the audience.
I had the boat with me, so we positioned it outside the hotel so that people could have a look at it afterwards. It made quite an impression!