Typhoon tracks from the 2008/2009 season
Map showing tracks of typhoons in 2009

Further to my blog about the perils of adverse winds and inconveniently-placed islands in the Western Pacific, I sat down and browsed through the wind patterns for the various months of the year on the COGOW website – and thought I’d found a solution. November to February looked just lovely – nice winds out of the East, whisking me gently towards Australia.

So I emailed Lee Bruce, my weatherman (not to be confused with Bruce Lee, who is somebody else entirely). And found out why he had not suggested this alternative. It’s typhoon season. About 5 cyclones near my route each season.

His understated opinion on this was: “Lots of possibilities when it comes to TCs. Waves can be 5m to 10+m, and changeable depending on your location and the cyclone’s movement and strength. Although the storm that hit Pink Lady [another rowing expedition routed by Lee, that ended rather dramatically] was not a hurricane in the strict meteorological definition, it was like tangling with a CAT 1 cyclone. So there’s enough to worry about with TCs, and I would lean toward avoiding that season if you can.”

Bruce Lee. Who is not my weatherman.
Bruce Lee. Not my weatherman.


I was almost tempted – which would I prefer? 100 days of frustration and discomfort, or 90 days of fair conditions + about 10 days of abject terror, spent strapped to my bunk as my boat rolls around in 30 foot waves. An interesting philosophical question that might reflect on general attitudes to life – which would you prefer? The crazy rollercoaster ride, or the constant grind?

But I suppose safety must come first. So typhoon season is best avoided, no matter how unappealing the alternative.

So it’s a big NO to typhoons – although a tycoon or two would be handy right now, as my fundraising endeavours continue to yield precious little.


  • Well, since you ask Roz, I’d go for the 90 days fair and ten of abject terror. I have known abject terror – not for ten consecutive days but I’d have the 90 days to look back on while lashed to my bunk inside that little plastic box for ten days. It will be only ten days, right?

  • If you are certain that your boat can withstand the abuse, why not try it in the November to February window? You’re not guaranteed of a TC where you are located, it’s still only a possibility. You’ve proven that you’re wise and hearty, and if the boat can take it, there’s really not much of a safety risk, even with a TC. It would be extremely unpleasant if you were to encounter a tropical storm, but that’s an IF. Besides, you’re the one who said that you have to take risks in life and step out of your comfort zone sometimes. I think it’s your best chance of getting where you want to go. Oh well, just one guy’s opinion.

  • As you would guess Roz, those clowns above talking about taking a risk in typhoon season in a small craft have obviously never been deep offshore in their lives, or they would know better.

  • @David Tangye – Roz is the one who posed the question, “100 days of frustration and discomfort, or 90 days of fair conditions + about 10 days of abject terror…which would you prefer?” We were just giving our opinion. No need to be rude and call people “clowns”. Does it make you feel better about yourself to put other people down? Let’s try to keep it positive here, please.

  • I dunno Roz, initially I was thinking the crazy roller coaster ride might be exciting, and the long slog of frustration and discomfort does not appeal … but Rozling comments above give me pause as I remember the joke:

    Hear the one about the statistician who drowned while crossing a river with an average depth of 3 feet?

  • I don’t know, Roz. Having never known abject terror, I don’t feel I could make the call. I think we should keep in mind that you’re using “crazy rollercoaster ride” as very loose metaphor. The reason for abject terror on the high seas in a typhoon is for really good reasons. Anything could happen. Engineers can design a boat extremely well and do everything they can to make it able to withstand a pummeling by the ocean, but that doesn’t guarantee that it will. It’s the ocean, and it can crush anything. A rollercoaster, on the other hand, is a pretty controlled situation with known stresses and the safety devices and design to handle it. Altogether different.

    I keep wondering if there’s any route that could use the currents to propel you perhaps on a longer, but less frustrating route to the coast of Australia (maybe the north coast?), like how the moon missions used the moon’s gravity to whip the capsule around the far side and back toward the earth.

    My advice, keep talking to the sailors who’ve gone through it.

  • I’d like to refer people to the Pink Lady link above. Here it is again: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-313316/Rescued-rowers-dry-land-sea-drama.html. Terror is one thing, and I know I can handle it. But disintegrating boats is another thing entirely.

    Joan – good advice to keep talking to sailors, but the trouble is that sailing is very different from rowing. Sailboats can quite happily navigate across the wind, or even beat upwind. Rowboats can’t. There is only one other solo rower who has taken a route anything like mine – Mick Bird – and I think I’ve already extracted all the information that I can from him.

    So now it’s just down to me, my weatherman, and Mother Nature. Mother Nature is keeping her opinions to herself, so I’d best listen to my weatherman. And he advised avoiding cyclone season.

  • Joan; you could Tap into Shaun Quincey’s endeavour – tasmantrespasser.com – to see how he is faring at the mo. He is rowing from east Au to NZ at the tag end of cyclone season.

  • There seems to be some concern that Pink Lady’s integrity may have been compromised by modifications. As far as I know, Roz’s boat has had only a small extension to the keel and additional ballast; neither would weaken the hull (which is of carbon-fibre-reinforced resin). If a rough sea were to hurl it against the edge of something hard and massy (such as a railroad tie) then it might be punctured, but even then only one small compartment would be damaged – it would not cause the boat to break in half. It will be very interesting to know just what damage the Pink Lady suffered.

  • Hello just stumbled your blog and been browsing around some of your entries and just wondering why you selected a WordPress site dont you find it difficult to do anything with? Been thinking about starting one.

  • Howard – the site was set up for me by Archinoetics last year while I was on the ocean. Even though the choice was kind of made for me, I find it pretty versatile. I believe it is the most popular platform for blogging. But I’ve also heard that Squarespace is very good.

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