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. 🙂
Now that Elsa is safely back in the world, she'll be posting directly rather than via satphone/campaign manager linkup. It's wonderful to have her here in person, and I'll be gradually transitioning out of my support role and back to the day job.
Elsa's got lots to share, so keep reading if you'd like to hear more about her ocean adventures! I may make the occasional guest post but she'll be the boss going forward (same as always, actually!) Sign up to the newsletter via the box at the bottom of the front page to have things delivered directly.
If you're interested in booking Elsa for talks, articles or anything else, please get in touch.
PS: I know 'over and out' is a bit of a radio faux-pas, but it works in this context!
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It was fantastic to be able to take delivery of the boat that will take me across the Pacific! Justin and Will brought her up from the SeaSabre workshop, and we all took a spin around Bristol Harbour to test her out.
After completing my Sea Survival RYA course last Sunday, I’m now fully qualified for the ocean row. The timing couldn’t be better, as I’m picking up my boat this coming weekend, and also today hit the ‘100 days to go until race start’ marker.
Fewer people are inclined to spend the day learning how to survive in a small, wet life raft during the winter months, which means that we were a very small group in the Training Room of Greenwich Yacht Club on Sunday. The morning was theory based, and ranged from what to keep in an Emergency Grab Bag to why one might start to crave fish eyes (Vitamin C), while the afternoon was about getting into the pool and going over all the practical steps. It was great for me, as I was able to ask lots of questions, and have a go at dealing with the life raft by myself.
Much of the focus of the morning was on how to avoid things going wrong in the first place, and how to be best prepared for anything that does go wrong. Although the afternoon that we spent in the pool was fun, I definitely want to avoid ending up in a life raft in the middle of the Pacific – they are pretty unstable and uncomfortable. Hawaii is by far the preferred option!
Thank you so much to Nigel of Laminar Sails (Greenwich Yacht Club), who sponsored me through this course, and who was a dynamic, patient and downright excellent course tutor!
I spent last weekend at the Adventure Travel Show in London, helping out on Dave Cornthwaite’s Say Yes More stand. Everyone on the stand – Luke, Louis, and Dave himself – was lovely, and the atmosphere there was a great mixture of relaxed and proactive.
Dave Cornthwaite has hit on a project that I’m pretty envious of – he is part of the way through undertaking 25 journeys using non-motorised transport of at least 1,000 miles each. He is also the founder of Say Yes More – like it says on the box: live life with passion and a positive attitude.
I chatted to a lot of different people over the two days, and was pretty chuffed to catch Sir Ranulph Fiennes speaking – I don’t think I’ve ever heard so many crazy and difficult experiences packed into one hour before! I was also excited to meet explorer David Hempleman Adams – by a strange coincidence I had just been listening to his Desert Island Discs a couple of days before, and it felt slightly unreal to then be meeting him in person so soon.
It’s been a long time coming, but we finally have a video about the row – my preparations for it and the cause that I’m rowing for. Hopefully this will make it more real for everyone. I’m really excited about it, and want to say a big thanks to Guthrie Freeman for all the filming and editing – there would be no video without him.
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.
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.