The Boat – first visit

Last Wednesday Steve and I went down to see how my boat is getting on, and to chat to Justin about some of the details. It was a brilliant day, and seeing the boat makes it all that much more real.

It has pride of place in Justin’s workshop, and looks beautiful (I think the boat is probably an ‘it’ until it is ready and has been launched, when it will become a she).

I sat in it, imagining that I was alone on the waves, far away from anyone. The boat feels quite big to sit in, but will definitely feel tiny out on the big ocean.

It is similar to other ocean rowing boats that Justin has built, but with improvements and adaptations. There is a space for the anchor to live right in the stern, and my sleeping space is slightly indented, meaning that I will be more snug and will not roll around so much. It also means that the hatches on each side of my bed are a little deeper than usual (more space for snacks!), and I can use them a bit more like shelves and a desk.

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Justin and Will are working hard on getting the boat ready in time for the end of February, so each time I see it there will have been a lot of changes. It’s only a matter of weeks until I’m rowing it.

I can’t wait!

 

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New sponsor! Excalibur joins the team.

It is brilliant to be able to welcome Excalibur Communications to the Pacific Solo Row team. excalibur

Excalibur provide communications and IT solutions for businesses across the UK. They’re forward thinking and I really like their broad view on the influence of technology across society – check out their posts on tech trends for 2014, and wearable tech!

Their sponsorship takes me one step closer to the Row in June – continuing the boat construction (watch this space for build pics soon!) and working on the logistics of getting everything to California in time for race prep. Excalibur say:

“Excalibur are proud to join the Bristol community in supporting this inspiring attempt. Elsa, we wish the best of luck for a safe and successful journey”

Thank you so much to James and his team – your support is invaluable to me and I very much look forward to working with Excalibur in the coming months. Check out Excalibur’s site for more information about their work.

 

Elsa is still looking for more support. Do spread the word  – who knows…your next-door neighbour or long-lost cousin might want their logo/name on a boat!

Week -21: The London Boat Show and Other Adventures

Steve and I went to the London Boat Show last week to meet suppliers, discuss sponsorships and even catch up with other ocean rowers. I met some of the lovely girls from the Coxless Crew, who are busy preparing for their own big adventure this summer (although unfortunately I missed some other rowers who were there). It was a whirlwind time at the Boat Show and I still haven’t gathered my thoughts and my business cards together enough to catch up with everyone that I met. We saw a lot of very big, shiny boats, met a lot of really fascinating and friendly people, and I’m looking forward to seeing what grows from the seeds we planted there.

 

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With a bit of time to spend in London after the Boat Show, we went to have a look around the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. They were both really interesting, with some highlights being the Environment Gallery at the NMM, and the display and talk about John Harrison and the longitude problem at the RO. The ability I will have to navigate and communicate while I’m out on the Pacific is so different to what was on offer just 300 years ago, when longitude could not yet be calculated accurately, and there were no satellites to aid communication.

“For every 15° that one travels eastward, the local time moves one hour ahead. Similarly, travelling West, the local time moves back one hour for every 15° of longitude.

Therefore, if we know the local times at two points on Earth, we can use the difference between them to calculate how far apart those places are in longitude, east or west.

This idea was very important to sailors and navigators in the 17th century. They could measure the local time, wherever they were by observing the Sun, but navigation required that they also know the time at some reference point, e.g. Greenwich, in order to calculate their longitude. Although accurate pendulum clocks existed in the 17th century, the motions of a ship and changes in humidity and temperature would prevent such a clock from keeping accurate time at sea.” (Royal Observatory)

Something evidently needed to be done, and the story of longitude is far more interesting than it might sound. I’m amazed every time I think about how relatively recent this problem was. Have a look here for the rest of it.

 

In the middle of the NMM is a huge floor map of the world – perfect if you are planning adventures of any kind on a large scale. We had lots of fun recreating the journey I’m going to make – in record time!

 

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After I’d written my blog last week, I found myself on the phone to Australia recording a radio interview – at 11pm on a Sunday! It was a really friendly interview, despite a bad line, and I look forward to another one from the middle of the Pacific. Have a look at the article about it, and listen to the interview.

Week -22: Happy New Year!

I spoke on the phone this evening to a dear friend who I haven’t seen for far too long. It reminded me how many things I’m missing out on and putting to the side in all the preparation and planning for the row, but also how many things I’m learning, and how many new experiences I’m having. It’s tough, but I knew to expect that. This is a big push right now, and it will carry on being a big push until at least September, but I wouldn’t miss it.

 

Training is going really well. I’ve got some fantastic support at Nuffield Health, where Tom has been coming up with some excellent and exhausting training programs for me. I’m on a new training routine now, with a real focus on strength and muscle building, and I’m excited to see how that works out over the next six weeks or so. I’ve got Nutrition and Physiotherapy sessions lined up too, and am starting to feel like my body is getting more ready for the challenge ahead. If only fundraising were as easy!

New Year’s Day saw me and Steve on a big hike up Offa’s Dyke national trail from Chepstow. It rained almost the entire time. I fell over and slid down a muddy slope and we spent the rest of the time clambering over, under, round and through a lot of lakes and fallen trees that shouldn’t really have been there. All in all, an excellent way to start the year.

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After the fall...
After the fall…

 

As I was half way through writing this post, I got a call from ABC Radio Australia, wanting to record an interview over the phone. If felt like an unusual thing to be doing at 11pm on a Sunday, but was really enjoyable and fun to do. Hopefully it will be on air in the next 24 hours, and then online after that – keep an eye on the website, and I’ll post a link to it.

 

Big thank you to a couple of generous anonymous sponsors – we’ve still a long way to go but things are moving in the right direction. Every donation makes a real difference to the project!

 

We’re heading to the London Boat Show this week to see what we can raise in terms of sponsorship and support. Look out for us if you’re there Monday or Tuesday!

Week -24 and -23: Boat, T-shirts and a big push forward

As I look forward to the year ahead, and think about the resolutions I’m making and the things I want to achieve, the Pacific looms pretty large. I had a lovely few days at home, seeing relatives and friends over Christmas; we played games, ate chocolate, went on walks, and I tried to put rowing and fundraising out of my mind for a short time. Of course it didn’t stay out of my head entirely, but Christmas did give me some breathing space, and I’m now ready to hit the ground running.

Even with the holidays it has been a busy couple of weeks, though.

BOAT – I have signed for a boat! It is going to be built by Justin Adkin of SeaSabre – an experienced ocean rowing boat builder who has rowed the Atlantic Ocean himself, and is therefore in an excellent position to give advice and make decisions on the boat. It is hugely exciting to have Justin on the team, and I’m looking forward to seeing the boat grow and develop over the next 6-8 weeks, to become my companion for the Pacific. Photos and more details to follow in due course.

I’ve also paid the first instalment towards the build of the boat, which means that this has just got very real! I owe another instalment by the end of January, and then need to pay the rest by the end of February. If at any point you’ve thought that you might like to support this endeavour, now is the time!

The colour of the boat will be decided on by early February, so any big company or donor hoping to gain title sponsorship has a month to stake their claim and choose the colour and name of the boat (as well as splash their branding all over it). Now is the time to sponsor.

In other sponsorship news, these last few weeks have brought a number of generous anonymous donors to the challenge, as well as WP Engine, who are hosting my flashy new site. I also have the talented students of Clifton Hill House in Bristol to thank, who organised two fundraising concerts in the run-up to Christmas. Both concerts were of a really high standard, and the collection boxes felt nice and heavy afterwards. Those weeks in December were overwhelmingly busy, so I’m only now able to sit back and appreciate how much time and effort everyone put in. Thank you again to all sponsors and supporters – this is a tough challenge (even just the fundraising bit), and having you behind me makes all the difference.

There is one winging its way to him that will fit a little better!
There is one winging its way to him that will fit a little better!

Finally – T-shirts! We have fantastic orange or blue T-shirts available to buy, and there are even kids sizes available. You can look fashionably unique AND tell the world about this crazy woman who will spend three months splashing across the big blue ocean. What’s not to love?!

Week -25: A new sponsor and a theoretical master of yachts…

This week’s blog post will be brief, as Steve already blogged earlier in the week about Blockchain.info coming on board. This was the most exciting event, and such prominent support from a Bitcoin company can only be a good thing. Thank you again to Blockchain.info – I’m so happy to be working with you!

Second only to that was passing the last two parts of my Yachtmaster Offshore Theory qualification. I’ve said before that I wanted to complete it before Christmas, so it’s really good to have done that, despite things being very busy at the moment. The last paper, which focused on meteorology, was particularly interesting, and I feel almost like a whole new language has been opened up to me. I’m really looking forward to carrying on the learning – just now without the pressure of an exam to pass I can focus on the areas that will be most useful for the row.

Getting my Yachtmaster certificate - looking tired from all the revision!
Getting my Yachtmaster certificate – looking tired from all the revision!

Until next week…

Week -26: SIX months to go!

As I began writing this post I realised that today marks exactly six months until I row out of Monterey Bay to spend three months pulling through the energy of the Pacific Ocean by myself.  I’m torn between huge excitement and sheer panic at the amount there is still to do in terms of preparation. I know that logistics and funding will all get there in the end, and that things are moving faster and faster in the right direction recently, but I also know the length of the ‘to do’ list… The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Rowing Race started on Wednesday, and as well as wishing all the crews the very best of luck, I’m following their progress closely, imagining myself in their position in half a year.

This week is also notable in that I’ve done more public speaking in the last eight days than in the last eight months. The past few days have been a jumble of meetings, emails and training sessions, but the most constant feature has been presentations. Following the London Bitcoin Expo last week, I spent Tuesday morning at a presentation session, led by public speaking expert Dr. Margarida Dolan. Everyone who was there was filmed whilst doing a presentation and we were then able to critique our performances as a group. For someone who finds speaking in public a nerve-racking experience, this session was extremely helpful and I hope to do more work with Margarida in the future.

 

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Photo courtesy http://ph0t0.co.uk/

 

On Friday I was able to put my presentation skills to the test at the University of Bristol’s Annual Meeting of Court. I’d been invited to give a small presentation on my experience as a student at Bristol (of course also taking about the row) to a room of a couple of hundred of the major decision-makers of the university, including the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor. I was pretty nervous beforehand, but it was a brilliant experience. I had so much positive feedback and some really interesting conversations at the lunch afterwards. Hopefully there will be some photos from the day to follow.

I had my Health MOT and first personal training session at Nuffield Health this week too, and am really looking forward to getting stuck in to my new training routine! Because of my club foot I’ve always struggled with finding ways to train my legs equally. I have limited flexibility in my right ankle and muscle wastage in the calf, so am unable to do regular squats and similar training exercises. It can be incredibly frustrating, as I know how useful these exercises would be for my training. The good news this week is that I may have found a way around this with the help of Tom, my personal trainer. We tried a number of single-leg exercises using a TRX Suspension Trainer, and this is looking like it will be a good compromise as it doesn’t require me to flex my ankle as much. I’ll monitor how this goes in the coming weeks, but am pretty excited about it, and feeling really lucky to be able to work with Tom for my physical training.

I’m really looking forward to a short break at Christmas as I’ve been feeling absolutely exhausted and still have a couple of really busy weeks ahead. I’m also feeling really positive though, and happy with how things are moving. As ever, Steve is proving absolutely fantastic as my Campaign Manager. He is currently working wonders with a redesign of the website – have a look at it this week and see what you think.

Week -27: Bitcoin and First Aid

Another really busy week has flown by, and the Pacific is beginning to feel closer than ever.

One of the big moves forward this week is that we are now also accepting Bitcoin as sponsorship/donation towards the row (see Steve’s blog post from last week). We had our first donation within a few hours of opening up to Bitcoin, which is really encouraging – a big thank you to the generous mystery donor! Thanks also for all the other Bitcoin donations that have been coming in over the past couple of days. It’s really good to see this move forward being embraced. On Saturday Steve and I exhibited and spoke at the London Bitcoin Expo, which was quite an experience. We spent all day talking to people, and gave presentations on each of the two stages as well. It was a long and exhausting day, but really interesting talking to so many different people, and has hopefully made more people in the Bitcoin community aware of the challenge. We are also really grateful to Alex for fitting us in so late in the day.

On Sunday I took my RYA First Aid course, which is one more ticked off the list and that bit closer to being qualified to do the row. Discussion of hypothermia, concussion and seasickness was mixed with learning how to perform CPR and the right way to bandage up different injuries. On course, a lot of what is covered in the everyday First Aid course isn’t quite relevant to the solo ocean rower! I won’t have anyone with me who can be saved by CPR, and I won’t be able just to phone the hospital if I have an injury! It was good to remind myself of the basics, but I think I’m going to look into doing a more directly relevant course as well, such as first aid in a remote environment, or for the solo adventurer.

IMG_0181 - CopyIn sponsorship news, I have joined Team Buff UK, and have just received a brilliant selection of products from Buff. I used a Buff throughout my jungle expedition in Borneo, and know how multifunctional they are. I’m looking forward to testing these ones out on training trips over the coming months!

Week -28: Yachtmaster, boat hunting and Dartmoor

 

Another busy week has flown by – I can’t believe we are nearly in December already! Just a short post this week as I prepare for another seven days of rowing preparation.

 

On Thursday I passed the most difficult of the Yachtmaster Theory papers – the one on chart work and tidal curves. I still have to take two more exams to complete my Yachtmaster qualification, but these should be quick work compared with the one I took this week.

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Friday was spent doing more boat hunting. I’m still trying to get my head around all the different options, and know that I’ll need to make a decision on which one to go with soon. Some really beautiful boats, some with exciting stories of their own, some still waiting to make their first journey – I’m so looking forward to making a final decision and getting to know the boat in which I’ll row to Hawaii.

Steve and I made the most of being away from Bristol on our boat hunting mission by heading out to Dartmoor for some frosty wild camping and hiking. It was amazing to be out of the city and on open moorland. The air was fresh and clean, the sun was shining, and the night sky was bursting with stars. It felt good to be doing some outdoor training, and was also a great opportunity to test some kit (in particular, thermal wear donated by outdoor wear specialists, Carinthia, which worked exceptionally well and kept me warm throughout the frosty night).

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In other sponsorship news, Nuffield Health in Bristol have very kindly put me on their Wellbeing Membership programme, which will give me some one-to-one training as well as the use of their outstanding facilities. I start with a ‘Health MOT’ in the coming weeks – it’ll be good to know how I’m doing and how far I have to improve over the next six months. The training so far seems to be paying off, but I look forward to examining all those niggly areas of improvement in more detail.

Week -29: Explore!

 

Explore 2013.

What a weekend!

Held in the fantastically inspiring surroundings of the Royal Geographical Society the Explore weekend happens every autumn and brings together the most concentrated group of explorers and would-be explorers in the world. This was my first experience of it and it was brilliant.

Sunny morning walk through Hyde Park on the way to the RGS
Sunny morning walk through Hyde Park on the way to the RGS

The lecture theatre on the Friday night was full of big names in the world of adventure, field research and exploration. Throughout the weekend I found myself having cups of tea with people I’ve admired from afar from a long time, getting first-hand advice from the experts in ocean rowing/working with plastic pollution/organising expeditions, and sitting next to people who have just returned from amazing adventures. From Quincy Connell, who is off to work north of the Arctic Circle next week, to Lloyd Figgins, a seasoned adventurer who has rowed the Atlantic; from Emily Penn, doing exciting work researching and teaching about plastic pollution in the oceans, to Dave Cornthwaite, an adventurer with numerous challenges on the go including his campaign to ‘Say Yes More’; from Roz Savage, the first woman to row solo across three oceans, to Nigel Winser, scientist and Executive Vice President of Earthwatch – all these people and more gave me huge amounts of time, support, inspiration (or all three) over the weekend.

One of the highlights was the ‘Oceans’ workshop on Saturday afternoon, chaired by biological oceanographer Helen Findlay, accompanied by a hugely experienced panel. Some samples of plastic collected from the ocean were passed around, which made what I am trying to communicate with my row all the more real. A good number of the ideas and contacts I’ve come away with from this weekend relate to ‘citizen science’: scientific research carried out by non-professionals, often in the field. There are numerous pieces of research I might be able to undertake from my little boat on the Pacific – more to follow I hope.

Plastic particles in a sample of ocean water
Plastic particles in a sample of ocean water
Plastic taken from the stomach of an albatross
Plastic taken from the stomach of an albatross

Another highlight was becoming one of the two winners of the ‘RBS-IBG Explore 2013 Risk Assessment Competition’! (obviously a greatly sought-after thing to win). I had to complete a three point example risk assessment for my project, taking into account likelihood, severity, and risk management. I assessed the risks of falling overboard, a shark attack, and the watermaker breaking or running out of electricity. All three severe-to-fatal if they were to happen, but all of rather differing likelihoods! The more one considers the potential risks in advance, and the ways to minimise these, the better. My prize was a £50 training voucher for a course of my choice with Training Expertise. Now I just need to decide which one to go for! This was an especially nice thing to happen, as the prize was presented by expedition leader and safety trainer Dom Hall, who led a two month expedition I went on in 2005 to the Maliau Basin in Borneo. 🙂

I’m feeling very exhausted at the end of such a busy weekend, but also really revitalised. It is fantastic to meet other people who are also undertaking crazy adventures, as it can sometimes get a little lonely sitting at my desk and emailing potential sponsors.

In sponsorship news, I’d like to thank Kakadu and nuun, who have both sent me product towards the row in the last week. Kakadu produce kangaroo skin golf gloves, which have proven themselves in ocean rowing in the past – I’m really looking forward to trying them! Nuun produce portable hydration tabs that add electrolytes to drinking water to aid training and recovery – these will be particularly useful when I’m hot, sweaty and thirsty on the boat!

Thank you to everyone for this last week.