Harry Martin-Dreyer and Alex Bland have started their amazing challenge to row across the Atlantic Ocean from Gran Canaria to Barbados raising money for Cure Leukaemia and JDRF the type-1 diabetes charity. They've already raised a staggering £127,000 already and they are a week into their amazing journey. Click here to show your support. Here is their first blog entry all the way from the wild seas of the Atlantic:
7 Days & 14 Hours At Sea
After an eventful first week at sea the enormity of this challenge is now really starting to hit home. We left Gran Canaria under the cover of darkness with only a handful of local acquaintances to wave us off - it was a moment we had waited a long time for but when it came it was unceremonious and strangely surreal. The moon shone, the wind was light but finally in our favour and having lost the toss I began the first of the relentless 2 hour sessions at the oars. The first night was thankfully uneventful but nothing could have prepared us for what was to come. By morning we were out of sight of land and in the grip of some strong northeasterly trade winds. These were after all what we had been waiting for but the sea state had risen accordingly and all of a sudden it was like being thrown onto a crazy roller coaster, both physically as we fought tirelessly to keep the boat on coarse and the right way up, and mentally as we were forced to seriously question our sanity. And that in a nutshell it what the past week has been like - talk about a baptism of fire!
It's fair to say I think we spent the first 3 days and nights fuelled on nothing but adrenalin and generally in a state of terror. On our second night we were both washed off our seats on numerous occasions - at one point, when the entire boat was engulfed by a wave, I clocked the speed reader at 17.5 knots as we surfed seemingly in it rather than on it. I know now what people mean when they talk about a wall of water. Great fun but terrifying. As if this wasn't enough, also on our second night, we were also forced to let off a flare in order to prevent a near collision with a sailing yacht which passed 20 meters from us seemingly completely oblivious to our presence - so much for VHF radio and other modern equipment. This yacht wasn't using any of it. On our third night we were hit from behind by such a big wave that a bolt connecting our rudder with the steering arm sheered off. The result was harry sticking half out of the back hatch at 3am with tools in hand as I tried to keep the boat on track and kept look out for the next big wave that might flood the cabin. A quick note on the joys of rowing at night... I was expecting incredible stars and long nights listening to audio books. Instead, every night so far we have been dressed head to toe in full wet weather gear to protect ourselves to a limited extent against the endless buckets of sea water coming over the boat and the occasional intense rain storm. You can hear the thunder of the waves breaking before you see them, which is extremely unnerving, and there is moment where you have to hope it breaks before or after you and not on top.
In many ways to have had such rough weather so early on has enabled us to quickly get a feel for what this little boat is made of - we've had a few near misses but it will clearly take a big force to capsize her. The added benefit is, as I hope our tracker shows, we have got off to a flying start.
Morale on board has taken a knock lately as the first adrenalin fuelled days has caught up with us and the relentless 2 hour on 2 hour off routine takes it toll. Our hands and feet are now looking very worse for wear with salt sores and blisters and needless to say our bums are in a world of trouble. Life on board has also taken some getting used to. Our tiny cabin is now almost as wet inside as it is outside so at night it is impossible get dry. Neither of us look forward to the nights. In the day time it is like a sauna. On the plus side, we continue to make good progress and as each day goes by life becomes very slightly more bearable. Importantly we have both now mastered the use of the infamous poo bucket - precarious is a word that springs to mind!
I am now due on the oars again. Until next week...!
Alex & Harry
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