To herald the publication of my next book, Stop Drifting, Start Rowing: One Woman’s Search for Happiness and Meaning Alone on the Pacific, I thought it would be fun to revisit some of my blogs from the Pacific crossing, adding a postscript either with additional details or a kind of “if I’d known then what I know now….” comment.
I will start this series of blog posts with the 2007 attempt on the Pacific, which ended in a dramatic airlift after just 10 days at sea. As some indication as to how painful that experience was, I chose not to transfer across those blogs when I moved onto WordPress, so I’ve had to delve back into X-Journal to find them. It’s as if I wanted to excise that episode from my history. But 6 years later on and I feel able to write about it calmly and without Valium. You can be assured that the 2007 “learning opportunity” (I don’t like the word “failure”) is covered in its entirety in the book.
Roz is on her way.
12 Aug 2007
At 3.45pm BST (GMT + 1 hour) today, Sunday August 12th, I received a position report from Marinetrack showing that Roz is now at sea. She is thus beginning the first part of her voyage across the Pacific Ocean. Now begins the time of watching and waiting . . .
My comment: poor Mum! I dread to think what I’ve put her through over all these years. She must have been dreading the day that I would set out to sea once again. Better than anybody, she knew how much I had struggled on the Atlantic. Every day until my satellite phone broke 24 days before the end of the voyage, I would speak to Mum. She saw me go through all the highs and lows, the hopes and fears, the triumphs and tribulations of that crossing. I am eternally grateful to her for never once saying, “Well, Rosalind, I could have told you it wasn’t a very good idea”! I find it tremendously humbling to be on the receiving end of a mother’s love that will support me no matter what I choose to do with my life – even if rowing across oceans was the last thing any parent would want for their daughter.
Day 1: So Far So Good
12 Aug 2007, The Brocade
This morning at 6:49 Brocade and I left the guest dock in the harbour of Crescent City, and set out for Hawaii. A small crowd had gathered to see me off, and there was a smattering of applause as I took my first strokes.
I rounded the corner, trying hard to look good. And promptly ran aground on a sand bank lurking just under the surface of the water. The hazard of leaving at low tide. So ten minutes into my big adventure I was standing in shallow water with my leggings rolled up above my knees, trying to heave the Brocade off the sand bank. After a bit of a struggle I succeeded and we were on our way again.
It was perfect conditions for the start. The wind rarely blows offshore here, so the best I could realistically hope for was minimal wind – and that is what I got. All day the wind has been slight. I quickly lost sight of land in the fog that closed in around me.
The silence was broken only by the noises of a few marine visitors – all morning sea lions were surfacing around my boat, popping up from the water like gophers. They would arrive in posses of 4 or 5, snuffling and blowing and generally larking around. There were whales too – large dark finned lumps breaking the calm waters fifty or so yards away from my boat.
This afternoon I listened to an audio book of Robinson Crusoe, which seemed appropriate in the circumstances. It helped to listen to a story where everything happens at snails’s pace – it takes him about month just to make a table – as it helped me lapse into the slower pace of ocean life.
Progress has been slow too. Although the wind isn’t against me, it isn’t helping me either. I’ve rowed for 10 hours already, and need to do several more if I am going to reach my target of 20 miles today.
Better go and get on with it.
My comment: Doh! I really thought I’d got away with my embarrassing mishap, but the following day this photograph appeared in the Daily Telegraph in the UK, under the embarrassing headline “Roz Savage runs aground minutes into journey“. They say that all publicity is good publicity, but I am not so sure! You can always count on a photographer to be where they aren’t wanted.
You might notice “Wilson” – the volleyball with spiky green hair mounted on the top of my cabin. My heroic boatbuilder (actually he was a helicopter guy, but generally pretty handy) Rich Crow, had given me Wilson, signed by many people who had helped support my preparations. Wilson would eventually come to a sorry end, but more of that later…
I remember I got quite sunburned that day. The fog deceived me as to the strength of the sun, and I wasn’t as diligent as I should have been with my sun lotion. I peeled really badly and spent the next week or so sloughing off layers of skin in my sleeping bag – yuck!
I am surprised that I mention having a target mileage of 20 miles. I should have known better, after the experience of the Atlantic, and only ever set myself a target number of hours to row, not a mileage. There are too many variables like winds and currents that affect mileage, so you can drive yourself crazy by setting a specific goal. No point aiming for 20 miles if conditions are such that you’d have to row more than 24 hours a day to achieve it, as can happen. Even if I was keen to put as many miles between myself and the coast as quickly as I could, it still seems an invitation to disappointment to set myself this ultimatum.
Check in again soon for the next instalment.