Archive for June, 2011
I may have been solo in a boat but by no means was, this a challenge I undertook all by myself. So many people have helped me along the way so I just want to use this space to say thank you to those people individually.
Firstly my sponsors,
When I set out to do this challenge I knew getting to the start line would be impossible without the support and assistance of sponsors. I was looking for brands and companies that were as excited by the challenge as I was. They had to have the bravery to put their name to something which had risks associated with it. They had to be bold and daring. I found some great companies who fitted the bill.
So a special thanks to Fyffes, Rowhire, 53 Degrees North, Extreme Ireland, Relinquish Clothing, PowerBar, Fifty Digital, Brodericks Brothers, Feed me.ie, Crewroom, Timex, Numa Optics, Soleo, Beyond First AID (EPAX), The Little Coffee, O’Leary analytics and the Talbot Hotel in Carlow.
My support Team,
I spent almost 2 years training for my row across the Indian Ocean. I was fortunate to have Toby Garbett as my trainer during this time. I had a lot of things to worry about when crossing the Ocean. The one thing I was never worried about was my physical ability to get across. I knew I was strong enough and fit enough to get across. This was all down to the training program which Toby designed for me. I can’t thank Toby enough for his efforts and patience along the way. It’s not an easy task to take a “non-rower” to the standard required to get across an Ocean with just 2 years of training.
There are some people you meet in life that astound you with their generosity and willingness to help. Only Rob and I know the extraordinary efforts he made on my behalf to make my dream of rowing an ocean happen. In addition to this he kept me updated with weather throughout and was on hand to help at 1am in the morning when I needed help. Rob I will be forever grateful for your help and support.
As anyone who has been reading the blog will know Emily was my PR lady and all round media guru. She ensured over the past year or so that you would have to be living under a rock not to have heard about “the naked adventurer”. Emily, thank you so much for all your help and support. You have been my right hand women through all of this. You stuck by this and put your reputation on the line for this challenge and quite simply I would have been lost without your help and professionalism.
A few personal ones,
I have had a lot of surprises throughout this challenge but by far and away the most astounding thing to me was the enormous support and encouragement I have had from members of the public. So many of you were kind enough to support my chosen charity and to give your time up to help me along the way! Thank you to everyone who has helped
A quick word of thanks to Paddy Behan who was good enough to help me and give up his time when I was learning to row at Carlow rowing club! Thank you very much Paddy. I know you will hate the fact I even mentioned you. A further testament to your character!
There are so many other people I met while in Australia and they all blew me away with their generosity and all round enthusiasm for my challenge. So if you can indulge me for a few more minutes I would like to just thank a few of these people also.
“Jez” and all the crew aboard the Gerrard on the Abrolhos islands! Thank you for all your help and assistance.
Ashley Newton + Family and friends, I really was astounded by your generosity and that of your family. You got me back on the water and invited me to your family home as a perfect stranger. When I told everyone back home how good you had been they were even aghast at how good you had been to me. I enjoyed the slagging and the humour. You made a difficult situation an enjoyable one. Thanks again for all the help both in Geraldton and on the Abrolhos Islands.
The North Islanders;
On North Island I met some of the most colourful characters in one of the most unique places on earth. Thank you for the amazing hospitality you showed me there. Jeff + Family, Steve and Keryn, Jeff F, Tom, Blake, Bulldog, Cliffy, Terry and so many others. I really an indebted to you all!
I am sure I will have left out some people along the way so please accept my apologies if I have not mentioned you here. There are a few more names I would like to mention, Greg in Bunbury. Thank you sir, for looking after me so well! All the crew on board the fujisuka, Bunbury sea rescue and Perth water police.
There are a whole host of people in my personal life; without whom, this challenge wouldn’t have been possible. There are too many to mention here and I would rather thank those people in person.
So I hear you I hear you…”enough of thank yous” already!” So what next I hear you ask?? Well that’s the 64 million dollar question.. But I am in the process of making up my mind on some things and I will post them here soon as to what comes next for the naked adventurer.
Fujisuka fujisuka fujisuka …this is ocean rowing boat…
So after two capsizes can your day get any worse. I thought not, but I was about to be surprised. It’s funny now but at the time I felt almost calmer at sea having being capsized twice. I knew what it was like now and better still I knew that the boat would deal with it and perform brilliantly so any fear of the unknown had been cast over board with the two missing oars. I felt really positive going to sleep that evening. I havd had a good day at the oars after the capsize and made good ground. The gps was still ticking off the miles when I stopped rowing meaning free miles. Heaven to an ocean rower. Better still the weather although rough looked set to keep helping me for s the next few days.
So I lay back in the cabin that night feeling enormous sense of acheivement. I woke up the next day ready to plough into another day. It’s was a nice day, still big waves but the sun was shining. Meaning some charge for my batteries and the solar panels. Good news in that I was able to play my music on deck. It’s an enormous boost to be able to sing out loud to yourself in the sure knowledge no one can here. It’s like and exaggerated version of singing in the shower when your home alone. When a favourite song comes on its as if the oars become lighter and winds blow stronger in your favour. You become almost emotional at the thought that you are out there rowing an ocean, doing what you set out to do. It’s hard to explain.
That night after a good days rowing I decided to treat myself to a movie. Old school with Will Ferrell. Bizarre watching a movie and laughing to yourself on your own at sea. Not an experience many people will have. So after a long day it was time for bed.
I drifted off to sleep pretty quickly inspite of the fact the waves were big and wild. It becomes normal to you after a while. It’s actually quite soothing and apart from the odd being crash on top of you and jolt across the cabin you do feel safe and conformtable.I was however about to experience the biggest jolt I have ever felt.
As I lay there lost in thoughts about arriving in Mauritius and everything that could bring I was hit with what I can only describe as a car crash impact. I didn’t hear anything coming. Normally you can hear big waves sneaking up on you before they crash over the boat but this time nothing. Just bang and I was airborne and heading for the cabin wall on the other side. I thought I have just been hit by a ship. S*it I am probably going to sink and the ship probably hasn’t even realised. I jumped up and went outside expecting to see a ship moving off as if nothing happened. But there was nothing just a big wild ocean and pitch dark. I jumped up on the cabin and crawled down the solar panels trying to hang on as the waves hit the side of the boat. I needed to make sure there was no damage to the boat and she was still ok. Thankfully she was fine. I went back inside to the cabin a bit shaken but all was ok. Or so I thought. I turned on the caning light to survey the mess left by the impact. There was stuff everywhere. My mattress was soaking as water hand leaked in through the water maker inlet pipe whe. She was flipped by the wave. I thought this is going to be a horrible nights sleep but hopefully I can dry everything out tomorrow. And then I lookeddown and discovered blood all over my legs, arms and hands. I didn’t feel any pain or realise anything was wrong up until then. I looked all over myself. I was naked and wet from being outside. I put my hands on my head as i was sweating, except I wasn’t sweating. It was blood and coming from my head. K Keith remember all that first aid training from seatec in Westport. I pulled put my kit and looked for my only mirror on board. It was smasked I tiny pieces. I couldn’t see how bad the injury was on top on my head but it felt fairly substantial. I tried using a cd as a mirror. Useless. So I dug out my Go PRO camera and filmed the top of my head and the. Used the memory card in my laptop to play it back. It was not pretty viewing . The reality of the injury meant that I knew instantly I would most likely need some help to stitch it.I reckoned it would need about 15 stitches. Had it been on my arm or elsewhere I would have stitched myself up. The waves were still crashing against the boat as I tried to stop the bleeding. As soon as I felt I had it under control I put a ‘pan pan’ call out on the VHF radio (a pan pan call is the short code used for a medical assistance call on marine radio) . There was no reponse. No one was within range. There were no ships appearing within a 48nautical mile radius according to my automatic identification system (ais). I decided to make a satellite call to my support guy in the UK. I told him the news and that the boat was fine and I was not in any immediate danger. I was reluctant to request help from any ship that would pass at night. The thought of a 250metre ship trying to get close to me in big seas was not appealing and given I felt the bleeding was under control I felt it better to wait until the morning. I agreed to call my support man again at 7am oz time and we woudl explore options on how to get help. I did not need a full scale rescue. I was ok, However I did need medical help as there was no way I could leave the injury go like that with three months of rowing in a harsh wet environment.
I got off the phone and lay there naked on the wet matress and clocked watched until 7am. I couldn’t help think this could spell the end of my ambition for this year. I hoped I could get towed back to the abrolhos islands and maybe get patched up and leave again but I knew this was unlikely. I then thought I would end up back on the mainland and that I could take the boat up north and leave again. All these ambitions quickly disapated when my rescue came.
The next morning at exactly 7am I called rob as discussed. He had been trying to contact a few of the local fishermen on the Abrohlos islands but was having difficulty in doing so. In any case given my location it would be dark before they would be able to get to me putting me in the same position as the previous night. I wanted to avoid this if possible. We ended the conversation and he set about looking at other options.after a few hours passed, I heard a voice on the VHF radio. Rowing boat rowing boat rowing boat, this is MG fujisuka, MG Fujisuka, MG Fugisuka. Do you require assistance? My first reaction was, how do they know I need help. It turns out that my support person had contacted the Perth water police and they had known there was a Japanese cargo ship near to my location. So they contacted me about 18nm out from my location. It was a mixture of delight and dread at the same time. I could see the ships details pop up on my AIS (automatic indentificatiom system) screen. It was 200m +in length and 33 m wide. A big big ship. I called my team on the ground And told them help was on the way. At this point I thought great, I should be able to get stitched up or glued back together and get back on my boat and head off again. This turned out to be impossible given the damage that was about to be caused to the boat.
As the boat got closer and closer, it got BIGGER and BIGGER. I can’t really describe how big these ships are and they look even bigger when u are on 23ft rowing boat. The chief officer called me on the VHF as they approached the location of my position which I had given them. He said I can’t see you. Not music to my ears! He asked can you see me. Yes yes I most certainly could even though he was about 3miles away and it was a big swell. He kept getting closer and closer and getting bigger and bigger. All the while I was standing out on deck with waves crashing over the side. I kept thinking, how will get close to me in this sea without doing me some serious damage? At that poi thou just have to stop worrying and put your trust in them and assume they know what they are doing. Easier said than done.
I had my para anchor deployed at the time which was slowing drift down and helping to keep me pointed in the right direction into the waves. It’s like an under water parachute which is on a 100m rope which pulls out from the front of the boat and gets taken by the current. It was pulling me south towards the ship. As she approached me they still couldnt get a visual on me despite the fact that all the crew were looking for me. My boat is so small and of course it’s White meaning it’s very hard to spot whe. There are lots of breaking waves on the ocean. I used a red flare to help them spot me. They managed to find me on there and approached me slowly. All the while I was talking to them on deck with my handheld VHF. I informed the officer that my para anchor was deployed and that if he was passing me he would need to give some leeway for this. If this got caught in his engine I could end up being pulled under water. He dulely gave this leeway and passed me a few time sto establish the best way to get close to me. Eventually he came to a stop and I drifted up to the port side to this massive ship, getting very wet at the time with all the breaking waves crashing over the side. My “rescue” was about to get a little more dramatic than I wanted.
As I came within a few feet of the ship, a wave pushed my into the side of the ship and my boat hit the ship. A that exact point, another wave came and lifted the boat up and over turned her leaving the boat upside down with me underneath the water. I was being pushed up against the side of the ship and I thought, is this how this is goi g to end now? I looked up 50ft and seen the crew all with there hands on there head. They could do nothing. It was down to me. The boat self righted and I climbed back on to the deck. She was being slammed into the side of the ship.I just kept thinking, crap crap, don’t damage the boat. They ship lowered some ropes to allow me to tie my boat onto the port side of the ship. I tried to grab these lines but the waves made it a fairly difficult task.eventually I managed to get hold of one. I began to try and tie her on. Again not an easy task as they waves kept moving me resulting in the rope being pulled put of my hand. I managed to get it tied off and then a big wave came and the ship went up and I went down which pulled the rope handle straight out of the boat leaving a whole in the carbon fibre. I looked at it and realised. It was the end of my row. But there was no time to consider how it might be fixed. I needed to find another place to tie her on. I got it done. And the. She was finally sitting a little better in the water.
But how do I get on board??? rope ladder appears! Oh really, that’s how. So I looked up knowing I had to climb up this 50ft rope ladder on a moving ship at sea. I have no fear of heights at all but it was a daunting task after everything else. But I and to get on with it and I did. I did think half way up that if I fall here I am going to fall straight back down on the deck on my boat. And that would be “GAME OVER”.
I made it to the top and got on board the boat surrounded by inquisitive faces all eager to make sure I was ok but equally curious about this mad guy in the ocean. They walked me inside to the medical room. My sea legs for my boat had very much kicked in meaning I staggered all the way to the room. I think the crew found this quite funny. They gave me a set of overalls and I got out of my wet clothes. I sat the and they shaved a line where the cut was so they could treat me. The opposite of a Mohican! They did a great jof patching me up, but I was impatient as I was concerned about what was happening to the boat.
Would they take the boat and if so would they be able to lift her on board. I knew they were bound for Bunbury in south west Australiaand I knew I would have to go with them to there destination. Eventually I was all banged up and i rushed outside to see what was happening . They were trying to lift her on board using one of the small fixed cranes on board. The crane had no reach on it meaning the boat would be very close to the hull of the ship whe she was being lifted which would result in her being bumped on the way up given the sea conditions. They were also having difficulties getting straps around her from the deck so they were attempting to lift her from relatively week areas and from one side putting enormous strain on the boat. I stressed that this would result in damage and politely requested they approach it a different way. The language barrier proved to be exactly that. They had just come to my aid so I felt I couldnt be too forcefull about how I dealt with them. They were doing there best in very difficult circumstances. I knew it was a tough task and they were not obliged to take it at all. So I had to look on and try and offer some guidance where I could and just hope the boat would be ok.
But she wasn’t. I watched with my hands on my head cringing at every cracking sound. She was being bashed and I could do nothing. The calculator in damaged head just kept thinking “f*ck f*ck f*ck”. Eventually she was lowered onto the deck and I sur eyed the damage. Not pretty. She will need a lot of work to get her back in shape. There is nothing which can’t be fixed but it won’t be cheap. Somebody asked me recently, do you know what boat stands for? “BETTER ORGANISE ANOTHER THOUSAND” well how true that turned out to be!
But I was fine and the ordeal for the boat at least was over also. Unfortunately so was my row for 2011. I cant begin to explain how disappointed I felt then and how gutted I still feel. I would spend the next few days on board the MG Fujisuka travelling to Bunbury. The crew were amazingly welcoming and did everything they could to make me feel at home. I cannot thank them enough for all there help and indeed for coming to my aid in the first place.
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
It’s sometime which resonates with me right now. It’s been such a difficult two weeks. People always say the most difficult part of rowing an ocean is getting to the start line. Well ‘its not true!’
As all of you will know up until my accident the weather was really doing its best to push me back to Oz. It felt like there was a magnet sucking me back all the time. It would let me get so far and the then bang winds changed and I am back.
After a bit of a stopover on the Abrohlos islands I finally managed to get going last Saturday week. The first day back at sea was wet very wet and fairly rough. But I really didn’t care because for once the boat was being pushed by a nice south easterly wind making things very easy for me inspite of big breaking waves over the boat and constant torrential rain pounding my face. I rowed for 14 hours straight. My big fear on day one was sea sickness again. Having spent a few days on land I was worried I may well have lost my sea legs. On a boat the size of mine it really is an extreme challenge not to be sea sick for a few days. Those of you who have followed the blog will remember how I’ll I was when I first left Geraldton. I spent almost three days throwing up. Not pretty.well unfortunately my first day back at sea would bring the same. As soon as I went back into the cabin to rest and eat, bang here is comes. I equate sea sickness to that feeling we have all had at some point where you have drank far too much and you lie down and the bed spins and you feel ill. Well imagine that and then trying to eat 7000 calories and row for 12 hours a day. I was happy to discover however on day two back out to sea that the sea sickness had gone quickly. My sea legs came back quickly.
The next morning I was sitting in the cabin getting ready for a big day of rowing when I got hit broad side with a massive wave. The seas were big and were breaking on the boat. It’s not as big a deal when you are rowing as you can point here into the waves and she surfs beautifully down them. It’s actually tremendous fun. I even got the bat speed up to 9.7nm at one point. So i was sitting there eating and then bang, monster wave over the top. I was about to
experience what it’s like to be capsized inside an ocean rowing boat. An experience to remember I can assure you. The fire extinguisher flew out of it’s holder and the boat went violently over on it’s side and I knew I was going to go upside down. So over she went and I tried to hold on as I seen the water move up the hatch on the outide until I was technically under water. I was of course nice and safe inside in the cabin which is fairly water tight. The boat is designed to self right but there is a massive doubt in your head as to weather she will and I was really starting to consider what I would do if she didnt. But she did. It’s felt really slow but I a. Sure it was quite quick in reality.
I was left to survey the mess in the cabin. The air vent was open and so water had got inside the cabin which wet my matress and clothes etc. So I spent a good hour trying to sort that out. The of course I had to get out there and row. I got pushed north east over night with the winds which was exactly where I needed to be. At last some help from mother nature. I could cope with anything as long as I was going in the right direction for once.
So I went outside and put my oars out and began to tie my feet in to the rowing shoes fixed to the footplate. It was fairly rough but again I would be pushed where I needed to go. Bliss! The boat jus drifts when she is not being rowed. I just lock off the rudder and let her drift. There is nothing else you can do. So when you do this she doesn’t t always face into the waves meaning you get hit side on with the waves which makes you a little bit more susceptible to being capsized. So I was sitting there ready to row being hit side on by waves and then I looked to my right. The biggest wave I have ever seen coming right for me and worse still I knew immediately she was going to break right over me. So you have a monent of where do I take cover or hide. The answer is very simple. You can’t. It’s going to hurt and there is nothing you can do. Do I look? Don’t I look? And then wham she hits me and I am immediately thrown to the other side of the boat. I am trying to hang on to the oars that are out so that they don’t hit me in the face. I then suddenly realise that I am about to go for an very unwanted swim and that the boat is going to capsize. Your natural reaction is to grab onto anything to stay on board despite the fact that I am already hooked on with my safety line. So I grab onto my spare oars which are hooked onto both sides of the boat. The act as a handy hand rail when I am walking up and down the boat. But the force of the wave is so great I feel the starboard side oars come away frm the boat as I go under water with the boat. I am about to loose tow oars. Nightmare! My feet are stuck in the rowing shoes and I am attached to the boat under water. I was holding my breath wondering how long I would be under the water all the time the boat is being hit with other waves and your trying to not to get hit with anything. Finally she comes back around and I climb back on board. I stand up, shaking and shocked but I am ok. And then I remember my oars! I look ad they are agonisingly close to the boat but I can’t reach them. I look around the boat quickly to see what I can find to ‘lassoo’ them with but alas there is nothing. I watch in vain as I see them float away. I keep watching as they disappear, a completely pointless exercise. They are going in the opposite direction to the boat so I can’t row after them. So what else do you do at that point?? Simple shout at the sea as loud as you can using every expletive you can think of. then sit down suck it up and row. I have four more oars so ist not the worst thing I guess.
I went back inside and called my support man and told him. I told him I was fine and the boat was fine but I was a bit shaken. It was good to just tell somebody.I felt ok after the call so jumped back on the oars determined not to be beaten and also focussed on getting as far as I could that day. And I did make some great progress. I was now starting to feel like I was making inroads into the 6000km ahead. A bad day but it couldn’t get any worse. Or could it?
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
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In 2011 I am aiming to become the first Irish person to row solo across the Indian Ocean. Although this challenge is vastly different from everyday life for me, I believe I have the determination and sheer single mindedness to achieve my goal of becoming the first Irish person to row across the Indian Ocean, not only that but I will also be the first Irish person to attempt it solo. My other interests include snow boarding, playing guitar (badly), drama, flying and generally keeping fit.
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- Solo in a boat?
I may have been solo in a boat but by no means was, this a challenge I undertook all by myself. So many people have helped me along the way so I just want to use this space to say thank you to those people individually. Firstly my sponsors, When I set out to do [...]Continue reading »
- Do you require assistance?
Fujisuka fujisuka fujisuka …this is ocean rowing boat… So after two capsizes can your day get any worse. I thought not, but I was about to be surprised. It’s funny now but at the time I felt almost calmer at sea having being capsized twice. I knew what it was like now and better still [...]Continue reading »