Friday 17th January 2014
Hour by hour, stroke by stroke, our crazy Atlantic journey continues. As you may have seen from the tracker, over the weekend and for much of this week we have made slower progress owing to the loss of the loyal trade winds which had thus far been spurring us on. From Saturday morning the winds gradually died away and as the sun set on Saturday evening we found ourselves, for the first time, becalmed on a flat and eerily silent ocean. The absence of sidewinders and any waves at all for that matter was a very welcome change but perhaps most striking was the staggering quietness. Since departing the Canary Islands our ears had become acclimatised to the constant roar of the swirling sea but with the wind and the waves it disappeared leaving the only sound to be the rolling of the seat on the runners and the wash of the oars through the water. Patches of glowing phosphorescence emerged with each stroke of the oars, shooting stars streaked across the sky and the stars shone as bright as I have ever seen them. As nights go, it was a great night and it reminded me that against a backdrop of relentless tiredness and monotony, this epic journey has been interspersed with moments on which I will undoubtedly look back with nostalgia. In our every day lives few of us have the luxury of time and beautiful surroundings in which to enjoy complete unadulterated contemplation. If there is one thing rowing across an ocean affords you, it is that.
On Monday we went through the '1000 miles to go' point which psychologically was a big milestone all be it marred by the fact that we positively crawled through it, using all our strength in the 30 degree heat to row against what had temporarily become a slight headwind. On the plus side, the calm weatherenabled us to tackle a number of general housekeeping jobs that were long overdue. The cabin was given a thorough spring clean and most notably, despite having seen a shark a few days earlier, harry dived in and set about scraping the hull free of barnacles and seaweed to yield a very welcome extra half knot of speed. Wish we'd done it earlier! Subsequently I too took the opportunity to have a swim and must admit to having felt a certain discomfort at swimming in miles of deep blue open ocean. That said, having been cooped up on our little boat for so long, it was a very liberating experience. A further benefit of the calm weather was that it provided an opportunity for me to redeploy my fishing line. You can imagine my delight when the sun rose one morning to reveal a group of large Dorado (brightly coloured prehistoric looking fish that are apparently excellent to eat) lurking in the shadow of the boat. I wasted no time in chucking a line overboard and within 10 minutes the reel sprang into life. It turns out these fish do not come without a fight and at 20 to 30lbs in weight it proceeded to dart off in fits of energy, often leaping out of the water in a spectacular show of defiance. Needless to say, following one such leap the hook was dislodged and the line went slack. Half an hour later the rod again bent over and the same excitement was repeated until this time, much to Harry's amusement, the line snapped and flew back into my face. My efforts continued but it seems thereafter the Dorado disappeared and with them the prospect of some fresh fish for our lunch. I shall keep trying!
A quick note on our brief shark encounter... I had just finished my session at the oars and was looking out over the back of the boat when I noticed a long dark shadow snaking some 10ft in the water behind. Supposing is was a dolphin I looked around to see if there were any others but it seemed to be alone. It was too small to be a whale and then, as the boat slipped down a wave I noticed the unmistakable fin and tail fin momentarily break the surface. I have no idea how long it had been there but fortunately it only lingered for 5 minutes and then was gone. In the circumstances part of me was glad to have seen the shark but I would be quite happy not to see it again. In terms of other wildlife, we have seen more dolphins, the same trio of birds swing by periodically and, as I forgot to mention in my earlier wildlife update, we emerge most mornings to find at least one lifeless flying fish marooned on some part of the deck. Whilst not quite the Life of Pi experience, so far Harry has taken one in the chest but thankfully I have been spared a direct hit.
As I type the clouds are reappearing and it looks like the trade winds are re-establishing themselves meaning we can start to make some decent progress once again. Tonight we will be going through the final third of the way marker (woohoo!) and generally there is a quietly positive feeling of being on the home straight, all be it with our destination still over 800 miles away. Believe it or not Harry and I are still talking to each other - indeed there are few topics that we haven't yet discussed, but as Harry mentioned in the previous update, after such a long time at the oars the relentlessness of this ordeal is more apparent than ever and boredom is just one of the many daily battles to be fought. To this end, huge thanks to all of you who wrote us a message at our fundraising dinner and again to all those that have sent us riddles, rude jokes, motivational quotes and general messages of support via email. Due to our painfully slow satellite internet connection our support team accumulate them for us and we retrieve them every other day or so. It is incredibly comforting to know so many people our following our progress and the messages provide a very welcome and much needed distraction.
Onwards and westwards we go!
Alex & Harry
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