Day 5: Sid the Sea Anchor Makes His Debut
16 Aug 2007, The Brocade
Ever since I set out I have been rowing against the wind – and ocean rowboats are not designed to do this. They are bulky and present a lot of wind resistance. But luckily the winds have been light so I have been able to make headway. But today the conditions started to get slightly more challenging. The wind was coming straight out of the south – the direction I am trying to go in order to get into the helpful tradewinds.
As well as the wind getting stronger, the swells were also getting larger, making it difficult to get both oars in the water at the same time. It’s tougher – both mentally and physically – rowing across these lumps and bumps than on smooth water. I don’t mind rough conditions when they are carrying me in the right direction, but when they are against me I find it harder to maintain my zen calm and towards the end of the day was getting distinctly grumpy.
Eventually I’d had enough and decided to debut my new sea anchor, Sid the Second, made by Para Anchors of Australia. (Sid the First had to be given his liberty just 2 days from Antigua on my last row – see Part 3 of my Atlantic video). A sea anchor is a large parachute on a long rope that is attached to the bows of my boat, and stops me from being blown too far backwards. I’ve put Sid out to preserve those hard-won miles while I get some rest.
The old body is bearing up pretty well so far, with no evidence yet of the shoulder problems that plagued me on the Atlantic. The only physical damage so far is a nasty case of sunburn. I have been religiously applying my Green People sun cream every day – although despite my best contortions I have not managed to find a way to reach that awkward bit in the middle of my back – the one big downside to being a solo rower.
There was just one day that I left it late to apply the sun cream, and that was Day One – I was fooled by the fog cover that day into underestimating the strength of the sun. I know for sure that it happened then because that was the only day that I wore clothing, and the outline of a Y-back sports bra now indelibly imprinted on my back is a telltale clue. Everywhere but the Y, my poor red English skin is now erupting into very unattractive bubbles, that will shortly even more unattractively peel off in huge swaths. I look some kind of hideous warty monster. I hope to look more like a human, and less like the creature from the black lagoon, by the time I reach Hawaii.
P.S. Some good news – I have now officially crossed the Line of Death, aka the Line of Rainbows and Happiness (depending on your point of view or liking for dramatic hyperbole) and am now very unlikely to be swept ashore by winds or currents. I am past the point of no (involuntary) return.
Henley remains one of my favourite events in the English summer calendar – quintessentially English, done the way it has been done for over 150 years, and mobile phones banned from the Stewards’ Enclosure – how civilised! A big hello to all the friends we bumped into yesterday – thanks for making it such a memorable day, and good luck to all the crews who are still hoping to make it through to the finals on Sunday.
Tomorrow night I’m off to a rather different English summer event – the Summer Stampede at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The wildly popular and awesome Mumford & Sons are being incredibly kind in supporting my partner’s charity, the Plastic Oceans Foundation, so we’ve been granted concert tickets, backstage passes, and invitations to the after-concert party. Woohoo! #perkofthejob! 🙂