Ferocious tropical sun, roaring wind, steep breaking waves. Today was
not an unusual day, but nor was it my favorite kind of day for rowing.
It was too windy to put up the sun canopy, which in wind speeds over 20
knots flaps around and biffs me around the head. So without the canopy I
was exposed to the full force of the sun. And the steep contours of the
waves made it difficult to get a good connection between oar and water,
exacerbated by a strange phenomenon: The sound of the wind and waves
seem to send a message to my limbs, saying – bad rowing conditions,
hence bad rowing.

I've found from experience that on days like this the best way to avoid
rowing like a moron is to insulate myself from the elements as much as
possible, ignore what the conditions are doing, and put my body on
autopilot. It rows much better without my brain interfering.

I do this by making like a teenager. I pull my baseball cap down low and
stick the earbuds in and plug myself into my iPod. Apologies to those
purists who would have me commune with nature in all her moods, but in
present circumstances I feel justified in doing whatever gets me through
the day.

Today, my choice inspired by podcast partner Leo Laporte's vacation
destination, I chose the audiobook of "Lost on Planet China" by J
Maarten Troost. And he has thoroughly put me to shame. I absolutely take
my hat off to him as the champion of intrepid eating. He succeeded where
I wimped out and failed. When faced with a potential squid dinner oozing
to death on my deck, I discarded the notion as too gross to contemplate.
Not Troost.

Throughout his travels in China he struggled with the language barrier,
especially in restaurants. On one occasion he finds himself presented
with a bowl full of 10 live squid. He contemplates his lively dinner. He
asks the waitress what he is supposed to do. She tells him. He braces
himself, wondering if he can do it. Yes, he can. One by one, he takes
the live squid out of the bowl of water and pulls their heads off, then
dips their bodies in vinegar and eats them. Every last one. Leaving just
a pile of squid heads on the side of his plate.

Wuuuhhhuuuuu. Eeeewwwww. Eeeeessssshhhh. I thought I was a brave eater,
pickled jellyfish being probably the weirdest thing I've ever eaten. But
raw live squid absolutely trumps that.

He also packs a lot of interesting facts into the book. Such as:
– 1 in 40 Chinese have a car, vs 1 in 1.25 Americans
– The Chinese burn as much coal as the USA, Japan and the whole of
Europe combined
– In 2005 they built enough new power stations to power the whole
of the UK. In 2006 they built enough new power stations to power France
– One third of the particulates polluting the air in California's
Central Valley comes from China.

This makes for sobering reading. It's clearly essential that any global
initiative on CO2 emissions needs the buy-in of China and the other
rising industrial superpowers. But that is going to require some
seriously impressive feats of diplomacy in Copenhagen this winter. Can
it be done? I think it can, but will need an approach that shows empathy
with China's economic goals. I am no diplomat or politician, but it
seems to me that all countries need to find a vision of a sustainable
long-term prosperity based on sustainable long-term energy sources. It
would be challenging, but very impressive, if the developed countries
can hold hands with those still developing, and move together towards
that vision of the future, working with them to solve the problems that
affect us all.

An afterthought on J Maarten Troost. Now there is a man I'd like to get
on the end of the phone right now. He knows all about the islands of the
Pacific, having lived on several of them, including Tarawa and Tuvalu
(presumably Funafuti). If anybody in the world can tell me which of my
potential destinations has the best beer, I'm sure it would be him – and
probably a wealth of other more essential information besides. One of
his earlier books was called "Getting Stoned With Savages". I wonder if
he'd be amenable to Getting Phoned By Savages …

[photo – earbuds in, and the "ocean feral" look]

Other Stuff:

Today I was rowing straight down the pink line – the line on my
chartplotter that leads from where I am now to Tuvalu. But as I get ever
closer to the ITCZ and the NECC, things could still change. We're busy
researching all aspects of our options right now.

Sandy – thanks for the mention in the blog roll. Not often I find myself
in a list alongside Demi Moore and Angelina Jolie!

Michelle – thanks for the offer of the house in Hood River. It might be
a bit too tempting to socialize instead of write, but otherwise that
would be perfect. Can I let you know nearer the time?

Special hello to Sandra and Ian Williamson in Oxford – glad to hear
you're well and Facebooking! Ahhh, happy memories of college days,
especially the beer cellar!

Quick answers to quick questions:

Q: What brand electric watermaker would you recommend on an ocean
A: I use the Spectra Ventura 150 – still the same one I used for the
Atlantic voyage. I run it for about 45 mins a day and it produces enough
to fill a 10 liter jerrycan and a bucket. Works great.

Q: Why are you a Mac on land and a PC at sea?
A: I prefer the Mac, but when I did the Pacific Stage 1 I needed a PC to
interface to the Iridium satphone so I could upload blogs. There is now
a product called OCENS that allows a Mac to talk to Iridium, but I'd
still rather trash a PC than risk my precious Macbook!

Q: Do you see many airplanes overhead?
A: No, none at all.

Q: If you had a can or bottle of beer couldn't you attach it to a line
and sink it a 100 feet or so to chill it? Would the water temp 100 feet
down or more be much colder than the surface water temp?
A: Oh, I'll just go hop over the side and check….

Weather Report:

Position at 2110 HST: 07 49.416N, 174 03.477W
Wind: 20+ knots E
Seas: 6-9ft E, choppy
Weather: rough night last night – probably roughest yet. Hot and windy

Weather forecast, courtesy of weatherguy.com:

As of Monday, 06 July 2009. The easterly trade winds have turned more
northerly still around the 15-20 kts range with periods of lighter
winds. Wind speed gradually abates beginning 08July to become 5-12kts by
10July. As the winds abate they shift to ESE-SEerly direction, which may
make it harder to row southwards in headwinds. Seas abate to 3-5ft.

Sky conditions: Mostly cloudy with low level clouds. Isolated

ITCZ: The Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) has quieted since last
report so maybe the passage through will be less dramatic. Convective
clouds have become fewer. The northern ITCZ edge has become diffuse but
the axis is along 170W to 180W between 03 00N and 04 00N. As of this
morning, winds south of 08 30N to the Equator between 170-177W were from
5-17kts with only isolated rainshowers of moderate strength.

Ocean Current: Still looking for the current to become Eerly flowing at
about 06 00N in the North Equatorial Counter Current. We will see how
this can aid your passage across the Equator.

Forecast below is for a SWerly course.
Date/Time HST Wind kts Seas (ft)
06/1800-07/1800 ENE 15-20 6-8
07/1800-08/1800 NE 15-20 6-8
08/1800-09/1800 NE-E 10-15 5-7
09/1800-10/1800 E-SE 7-12 4-6
10/1800-11/1800 SE-E 5-10 3-5

Next Update: Thursday, 09July


  • I prefer my squid steamed on paste with garlic and lemon. Leo should hire a guide when traveling though a low income country like China. An English speaking college student would love the opportunity to earn some spending money.

    What is your degree from Oxford in Roz?

    The strong winds and waves can jar the body and mind. Your experiences crossing the Atlantic make a day like today seem like just another day. Keep strong.

    Cheers ~ Gregory

  • The oddest thing I ever ate was sheep's testicles. Not the tastiest thing ever but it was presented as a delicacy when I was travelling and to say no would have been impolite.

    In 'things Roz has inspired me to do' news I have decided to try to get a community garden going in my local area. We're in the inner city and housing density is fairly high so few people have back yards for the growing of fruit and vegies. I have just about convinced the local council to provide some land (a little bit more sucking-up should do the job) an am slowly getting other like-minded folks to join me. when it gets difficult (I am not good at being nice to bureaucrats) I tell myself it's easier than rowing across an ocean and not nearly so rough on my bottom 🙂

  • Our household had been on reduced plastic bag but after following your blog, we moved to NO plastic bag completely.

  • In Korea, you pick out the squid you want from a tank. Then they chop of it's head and cut the tentacles into smaller pieces. It wiggles around on a plate for a good hour so while you eat it you have to be careful to chew thoroughly so it doesn't stick to the inside of your throat. It took serious guts (and beer, let's be honest) to try that…I can't imagine pulling off the head myself!

  • Thanks for answering my question. I always thought it would be really odd to not see any planes in the air…and when 9-11 happened, there were a few days where there wasn't a single one in the sky. It's nice to know all the lights you're seeing at night are stars!

    As far as eating…I'd have starved. I like my squid deep fried and seved with shrimp sauce. The oddest thing I've ever eaten was alligator jerky…and…eww.

  • Food is always a good topic, specially when communicating with someone who has limited access to it.
    So for fun here're a couple of foody stories.

    When I was a kid I used to like sucking a mint candy and setting it wet near an ant colony. Those insects would climb on the candy and get stuck. There was something I must have liked about this but don't remember what.

    And once I bought a box of oatmeal and when I started eating it cold with milk it had this delicious rasberry flavor. I thought it was a new product and checked the box only to realized on my third or fourth bit that the oatmeal started flying off the bowl. 100's of Moths!

    Speaking of insects, so many of them on land but I suspect none around you? How strange.

    Sebastian in San Francisco.

  • In Japan, I've eaten crickets that had been glazed in soy sauce and sugar–crunchy and weird, NOT recommended.
    Took a pass on marinated squid guts, also in japan.
    I have come to appreciate Japan's sticky, viscous fermented bean dish, called 'natto.' It's especially good when mixed with wasabi and green onions, and eaten with hot rice. Mmmm!

  • I've shared your blog with several people and my 10 year old niece was inspired to learn more about your adventure and she hopes to share it with her class in Sept. I'm off to Hood River today a 13 hour drive from Calgary which is nothing to a gal rowing across the Pacific!! My new machine proto type "the Water Bar" is being built!! I'll email a picture – I think it is going to change things … big! Keep up the good work and I'll buddy ride across the Columbia for you when I get there!

  • The stats on Chine made a big impact on me!

    I can relate to the going into autopilot mode. Sometimes our brains can make things harder for us.

    Wishing you better conditions tomorrow…

  • Hood River is an amazing town. I love it there you should really think of taking then up on that offer. It would be hard to not socialize but it would be nice to have a chance to do that every once and awhile.

  • The sat-call podcast with Nicole was great. I really enjoyed it. I hope you do happen to see the Space Station pass over one of these nights. We did a Dark Skies astronomy tour in Sedona, Arizona, in January and it was my favorite part of the trip. The astronomer guide kept an eye on his watch and said he had a surprise for us. At a given time, he pointed out an area of the sky near the horizon and said, the Space Station should be passing over right about now. We got to watch it travel across about 3/4 of the sky before it passed into shadow and it was a magical moment, having visual contact with an object in orbit and thinking about the people onboard and how amazing it must be to see our planet from space.

  • To MandS – Roz has friends in Hood River, that is the temptation to socialize that she was referring to. Rita Savage.

  • Hey Roz, Maui bob here,now Tahoe bob. When I found out where you were headed, I started doing some research about it because I was thinking about maybe going there to meet you, just for fun and because I can. We have never met in person but for reasons you know I feel pretty connected when you are at sea. I can feel you every time you open a pack of crackers from Marlene! anyway neither spot is exactly ideal or that easy to get to. Tarawa used to be brit so maybe a cold pint would be easy to find. Its also the most densely populated spot besides Hong Kong in that part of the world. Trying to book a flight to Tuvalu is a real trip. I e-mailed a local there and told her you were on your way, it will be interesting to see if you hear from her. That 44 mile day was truly awesome, when I made the crossing on a 19'er if we made 100 miles a day we where way stoked and I had a sail! kudos on that. later girl friend b

  • Hi Roz, I found a T-Shirt for you. It had 3 octupi on it (not squids unfortunately) and said "INK HAPPENS".

  • I'm just wondering, are you afraid of the risk of developing skin cancer? The sunscreen doesn't seem to be working.

  • Roz, thinking Apollo 13 … do you have some line or twine on board? and a few grommets, marbles, pebbles, bottle caps, chewing gum?

    You could keep the canopy up in a wind if the flapping could be managed. Securing it in two or three spots with line taut to the gunwale or perhaps the rowlocks … draw it down tight.

    Lacking grommets, tie marbles, pebbles, bottle tops, or other objects into the fabric — wrap the canopy fabric totally around a little object (even a little bunch of Larabar wrapper would do) then tie it off with line or twine so it will not tear the canopy.

    Prepare everything in your cabin out of the wind, then all you have to do is tie it down and cinch it up. Not only would it stop the flapping, it might protect you better … how about adding fabric to enlarge the canopy into an extended "side skirt" on the sunny side.

    WOW! Googling, I found this cool page which vindicates your buff solution to several challenges

    Naked Ladies Lead Indian Ocean Rowing Race

    The teams in the Indian Ocean Rowing Race have now been at sea for three weeks, and the race leaders are speeding toward their first 1,000 mile mark. All of the teams seem to be moving more comfortably now as they settle into their routines and get used to life at sea. … As the women on the boat Pura Vida say as they climb naked into their rowing positions, “it is a little bit Arctic.” …

    In contrast, the days can be suffocatingly hot, but the splashing and spray from the waves makes it particularly awkward to pick the right clothing combination. Lin and I found that wearing just bikini bottoms or even nothing at all under a big waterproof jacket was the best approach during the Atlantic Rowing Race – until, that is, we developed our 'spray-deck skirts' (photo left). Made from plastic bags (later recycled), duct tape (gaffer tape) and cord, we fashioned these rather stylish garments to tie round our waists and deflect water away from the seat and our sore bums! It might have looked odd, but the fish didn't mind and they worked really well!

    As usual, you rock Roz!

  • I suspect that a lot of what "bad rowing conditions" are, have to do with the destination we've set for ourselves. There probably is a good direction to row but that our minds intend otherwise. I wonder what it is that forces us against the easier path. It's complex and beautiful and Roz splits that path well. Tarawa or Tuvalu. Will she see herself, the winds, the MilkyWay and as one? It's to understand why we do what we do. To not abandon, but be something other than what we think we are.

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