Alone but not lonely
Splinted (and splintered) oars

12 Jan, 06 – 20:21

For GPS position, race position and miles from La Gomera, see

Question: You;ve stopped telling us how you’re feeling. Are you lonely? Or has it kicked into being wonderful yet? And when you get a text, do you stop rowing to read it immediately (desperate for contact) or do you wait until your next break?

A: Before answering the question I had to think hard about what loneliness means. If it is a yearning for the company of a kindred spirit, then I have occasionally felt more lonely in a crowded room than I have done out here. Loneliness has not been one of my demons.

I speak to my mother for about 15 minutes most days – usually quite businesslike, about sponsors, website, messages etc – and I get my texts, which I pick up 2 or 3 times a day. This seems to be enough human contact for me. I look forward to these times, but I’m not desperate for them. I’m quite content with my own thoughts for company.

No, the demons that plagued my first month on the ocean were feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, frustration. How could I not have realised this was going to be so hard? What had made me think I was up to it? Why was I not going faster? Why could I not settle into a satisfactory routine?

Those feelings have now started to dissipate. There have been a number of contributing factors.

First, a couple of days ago I was thinking about an after-dinner speech I’m due to give in New York in April, and planning what I could say I’d learned from this experience. That exercise helped me reconnect with the reasons I undertook this challenge in the first place. I realised I’m achieving those objectives. That cheered me up a lot.

Second, I’ve finally adapted to my new lifestyle. I no longer ask myself at the start of every rowing shift whether I want to do it. I just get on and do it.

Third, I’ve started being kinder to myself. I’ve overcome some of my perceived weaknesses, and accepted others, and I’ve started to be more appreciative of my achievements.

The last few days have been increasingly enjoyable, and already that ghastly, miserable first month seems like a fast-fading nightmare. But it’s still a fragile joy – I’m not yet taking it for granted, and I’m nurturing it carefully. There’s still a long way to go, and possibly there are more trials in store for me. But I feel much better equipped to deal with them now than I did a month ago.

P.S. After I’d written this I spoke to my mother and found out more about the misadventures happening elsewhere in the fleet. It made my psycho-worries seem very trivial and self-indulgent.

It also made me rather nervous, and I looked at the ocean with a renewed sense of respect and even a glimmer of fear.News of Chris Martin’s capsize, in particular, had scared me. As an outlet for my nerves I spent half an hour setting up the sea drogue just in case things get too lively and I need to slow the boat down. It gave me some slight sense of security. I’d been advised not to use it if I want a fast time. I think I’ve blown the fast time anyway, and I’d rather get there slowly than not get there at all.

A special thank you to Diana Hoff – I think about you often, and am proud to be following in your footsteps/ rowing in your wake. (Note: to date Diana is the only British woman to have succesfully rowed solo across the Atlantic.)

Kim from Denmark and Clarkie Sargent: well spotted. Three out of my four oars are now damaged. But I dismembered my telescopic boathook into 2 sections to make splints for the 2 least damaged oars (see photo). I’m rowing with the one good oar and one splinted. The other splinted oar and the bendy oar are on guardrail duty. So no need to summon extra oars, and my unsupported status remains intact for now.

Thanks also to Guy, John (answer re desert island discs under consideration), Lizann, Mike C, Mark and the patients at Craig Hospital in Colorado, Philip Goodier, Caroline Haines (thanks for the generous donation, and for the congrats on my 2 achievements today – 1000 miles and overtaking Move Ahead).

Wind: NE to ENE
Weather: sunshine and cloud, occasional shower
Sea state: rough
Hours rowing: 13

With thanks to Roxy Music for today’s headline.

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