15 January, 2016
Dan tell us about the storm, the torture of two men in a tiny cabin, his seasickness, and how Olly’s resilience, commitment and Army training has done them both proud.
Augitna. That's Antigua, backwards.
The last couple of days have been difficult, to say the least. We are both suffering with badly sore and blistered bottoms, despite following all recommendations to the nth degree. My back is in tatters. But a lot better since Olly stepped up and did a couple of double shifts – but this caused issues with him and his ailments – so I was quick to repay some of my debt.
But then came the bad weather. A storm has been on the cards for a week or so, we didn’t know exactly when to expect it, or how bad it was going to be until it hit. At approximately 17.00 GMT we reluctantly threw out our para anchor – a device, similar to a parachute in looks and an anchor in function – is designed to stop our decent in the wrong direction.
With the para anchor deployed, the waiting game began. We knew that the storm was going to last for at least 24 hours, although some said maybe three days. Either way, the thought of any records begin to diminish fast – and the worst thing – there is nothing at all we can do about it. With winds already up around 25 knots and a swell building, we removed all non-essential equipment to the cabin and lashed down everything else.
The Rannoch R20 is built for speed, not for comfort. It’s main cabin has an adequately large area for a man to lie flat – but two men, not so much. What ensued was something out of a torture scene from a horror movie. With temperatures at least up around 45 degrees centigrade – and no chance to open the cabin due to the ferocious storm and the more serious threat of a flood in the cabin – we tried desperately to get some sleep, all the while starring longingly at the digital chart plotter, desperate for it to give us information that we could come off para anchor and get on the oars again.
Sadly, no such luck – and it got worse.
With a 18kn headwind it would be pointless for us to even attempt to battle. While checking the boat over, we discovered that the nylon rudder stock (the block that secures the tiller to the rudder itself) had sheared off in the night, rendering the rudder completely useless and us without any form of steerage.
We had another night without a wink of sleep and the thought of days bobbing like sitting ducks in the swell, I threw up. Just once, and it’s taken me 24 days to do so – but I think I experienced my first bout of seasickness, which put me out for most of the morning – my shaking body crawling around deck looking for fresh air and calories and liquids that I could force down.
Olly worked hard for most of the day to fix the rudder stock, cutting up a piece of 6 ply from our deck hatch and using this and a handful of self-tapping screws and nuts and bolts that we brought out with us. Then in true army style, wrapped a long length of wire around it to windlass it in place – followed by a good fist of duck tape.
We spent the entire day on the para anchor. I knocked up some sort of spray hood to give ourselves some protection from the waves breaking over the bow, as we slept outside in full Musto wet weather gear, to avoid the same disgusting situation in the cabin.
With news from home that we had gone backwards over the last 24 hours, which was expected – but was a lot more real when written in back and white – we were desperate to get going again. We lifted the para anchor around 11.00 for the first, possibly optimistic attempt, and rowed for a solid two hours, two up on the oars, making little or no progress – to then drop the para anchor again.
After some food, drink and a (slightly) lightning breeze, we were off again this time for another solid two hours, with both on the oars, before shifting to solo and starting the shift rotation. The goal, just not to go backwards.So with further trials and tribulations, we are no distance closer to Antigua. Despite this obviously having an effect on morale, we are still relishing the experience and are so totally in awe of what the ocean has to hold for us.
Today, whilst on para anchor, I swam the boat. I’ve swum boats all over the world at regattas – but this was pretty special. Looking up to the white hull, the darkening blue to nothingness below – and seeing the para anchor lines disappear off into the distance was a memory I won’t forget. Needless to say, thankfully (well, thank you Harken, McLube) there was little growth to speak of so an easy job in the circumstances.
A few days ago, before the storm had hit, we each made a couple of calls home – pretty much from the middle. It was really great to hear how excited everyone is at home about the race and our adventure. I hope that these blogs give some sort of idea about what we are up against, but somehow I doubt it. Words just don’t give some of the experiences justice, despite best efforts!
25 days in and, whilst we are over half way, Antigua feels like a very very long way away. I hope to report fair winds and good speeds in my next blog. Until then, thank you all for your amazing emails of support. They are truly well received and really help drive us on.
Thank you also to those who have donated at www.atlantic-row.com