Christ Church, Oxford

What a nice surprise, when something arrives on budget, ahead of schedule, and exceeds expectations.

I was living in my old college, University College Oxford, for much of June, and it seemed like a good opportunity to get my Atlantic blade painted up, as there are signwriters in Oxford that specialise in that sort of thing. But I was chatting with an aspiring ocean rower, Sarah Outen from St Hugh’s (conspicuously bald, having just shaved off her alopecia-stricken hair – watch out for her in ocean-rowing circles), and she recommended that instead of the signwriters I should go to the Clerk of Works at Christ Church.

So I tracked down Karl Lemar, blade in hand. This was one of the two oars that lost its spoon on the Atlantic, and at the time I’d chucked it in the forward cabin, already thinking it might make a good trophy. I’d then whiled away several rowing shifts designing a suitable symbol in my mind, but when I tried to draw my design on paper I couldn’t manage to make it look right.

So it was rather a half-baked idea that I presented to Karl. ‘Err, well I think I’d like the yin and yang symbol in the middle, and a compass, and a couple of crossed oars, with maybe a dolphin and a rose in there somewhere.’

Turned out Karl was no stranger to the sea himself, having spent 25 years as a submariner, and although he was a man of few words, I got the impression he was pleased to help.

Front of Blade
Detail on Back of Blade

I am very impressed and extremely pleased with the results. He’d brought all the elements together with far more artistic flair than I’d managed in all my hours of pondering. I’ve already booked him in to do the Pacific oars – although hopefully those spoons will have to be cut off rather than being severed by the force of waves in mid-ocean.

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