The last few days I have been spoiled. I have been in calm waters, enjoying the company of dolphins, whales, seals, and even the occasional human (the marine biologists at the Farralon Islands). The rowing has been easy, rhythmic and regular, like flat-water rowing. At night I have been gently rocked to sleep by the ocean, so although I’ve only been sleeping about 4 hours a night – while I try to put as many miles as possible between me and the coast – I have woken up feeling relatively refreshed.
But yesterday I rowed out of sight of land, and today the weather has changed. The headwinds have risen, making the rowing much harder. I have been bludgeoning my way through choppy waters, rarely getting both blades in the water at once. This evening I had rudder full on, and rowed with one arm only, trying to stay on course, but despite my best efforts I covered less than half a mile in two hours.
So now I have put out the sea anchor (a large parachute on a long rope attached to my boat, put out into the water, which stops me being blown too far off course) and have retired for the night. The Brocade is pitching around, so it’s not going to be the most comfortable of nights, but at least the sea anchor holds the bow into the waves, so they run down the sides of the boat rather than hitting her sideways-on. Last year when I lost my sea anchor the 20-foot waves were barreling straight into the side of Brocade – which was what led to me capsizing 3 times in 24 hours and the ultimate abandonment of that attempt. This year I have an extra sea anchor on board – just in case.
So today has not been so much fun. No wildlife sightings to cause excitement, and no satisfaction to be gained from watching the land receding into the distance – just miles and miles of grey, choppy seas.
But I’ve been through worse, and if my resolve starts to falter, I just picture Hawaii, or the absolute euphoria of arriving in Antigua after the Atlantic row. As Captain Webb, the first man to swim the English Channel had for his epitaph: Nothing great is ever easy.
I’m not sure that what I am doing is “great”, but I do know that the bigger the challenge, the greater will be my sense of achievement when the goal is accomplished.
[photo: It already seems so long ago. The Brocade at the Golden Gate Bridge on Saturday night. Photo by Aleksey Bochkovsky]