The Row

Well we made it! Sorry, we did take awhile, and it may have looked like we were dilly-dallying around Bear Island but I assure you we were doing our very best to keep on course! It’s been 2 weeks since we landed on terra firma and it’s been nice to experience the renewed appreciation of modern life comforts, like dry socks. What was life like upon Lady Susan? It’s difficult to write one blog that’s not the size of a book about the whole row so I’ve just listed out some highlights or important parts of boat life.

  • Leaving Tromso and getting stuck under the bridge
  • Experiencing some wind for the first time in the boat in the fjords
  • Waking up to a blue sky day surrounded by sea and mountains
  • 1/2kg of peanut butter finding itself loose in the snack bag
  • Entering the open sea but then deciding we’d shelter from the storm
  • Harbouring up in Torsvag for 5 days while the heavy weather passed, all the while questioning whether we should have gone for it.
  • Confused by our weather router who kept talking about a westerly when we could see easterlies, only to find out that “he sometimes gets confused between the two, must be a dyslexic thing…”
  • Rowing into open sea again and taking 3 days to lose sight of the Norwegian mainland cliffs
  • Saw dolphins and whales on our second day in the sea
  • Really struggling to sleep during the 2 hours on, 2 hours off routine, and feeling the effects of sleep deprivation.
  • Taking 2 hours to deploy the para-anchor for the first time
  • Being tailed by what we thought was a Greenland shark but may more likely be a basking shark. We do know is it was mahoosive.
  • Constantly looking at the compass and the course over ground (COG) while rowing and not using the auto-pilot.
  • Desalinating water with the watermaker and fretting about battery levels.
  • Cleaning salt crystals off the solar panels to keep them efficient.
  • Cleaning the deck
  • Peeing precariously over the side and using the blue bucket, aka mobile loo.
  • My ‘missing the bucket’ incident
  • Wet wipe washes
  • Cabin fever as we spent 2 days in the cabin with only a pack of cards for entertainment and then two days later prepared to spend 5 days in there – 5 days in a cabin that you can just lie down abreast and can only sit up in, with nothing to do. Lots of sleeping
  • Drinking our bottle of Kilchoman whisky
  • The Morrocan Chicken Couscous incident – whether I was holding it in a stupid place or Rob should have looked where he was sitting, it was the inside of Rob’s sleeping bag (and therefore Rob) that took the brunt of it.
  • Medical kit was more than handy! Prescription strength pain killers that Rob took throughout for his back, Diazepam for those para anchor moments, plasters and bandages for various cuts that you couldn’t keep dry and antibiotics for infected cuts
  • The amazing “ClimbOn” balm that looked after our fingers and hands and seemed to cure blisters before they could develop.
  • Rob repeatedly knocking his head on the cabin
  • Living off hydrated ration packs and living with the incessant wind that it seemed to induce – it was disturbing that both our bench-warming rippers smelled the same.
  • Spotting Bear Island in the mist
  • Realising we won’t be able to stop off at Bear Island because an easterly wind was pushing us away from it.
  • After passing Bear Island, and trying to catch glimpses of it for so long, not able to get rid of it as it sat on the horizon like a bad smell.
  • Beautiful sunsets and sunrises, with two hours between them.
  • Southerly winds forecast and learning how to surf the waves – so much fun
  • South-westerly waves getting too big and pushing us in the wrong direction so decided to release the para-anchor – very sketchy moment
  • Waking up after long sleeps unable to bend swollen fingers
  • Muscles aching, back breaking
  • Talking about the weather
  • Nothing ever drying
  • A wave getting into the dry cabin after keeping it dry for so long, then another, and another, until the cabin’s name became an unfunny irony.
  • Rob really went off the puddings and couldn’t eat anything sweet, so it was main meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert.
  • Hot chocolate, and wishing I’d brought a hot water bottle to bring feeling back into numb feet
  • Whales, dolphins, sharks, seagulls, jellyfish, puffins – the only species we saw throughout the row
  • Looking at 360 degrees of sea and sky and appreciating the rarity of complete isolation
  • Spotting a foggy Svalbard in the distance
  • Deciding to get closer to see the land and finding ourselves in the bay of death! That’s our name for it as we had to break through two spits or reefs (we’re not sure), all we know is that huge waves were crashing over this thin stretch to get out of the bay and we had to cross it. Rob skilfully directed us.
  • The mist rose and Svalbard was revealed in all her glory and we had two days of rowing up her western flank and then into the fjords where Longyearbyen is sheltered.
  • Second last day we thought we would just have it easy cruising in and then had one of the hardest 8 hours of the entire row, and then on the last day, again thinking we’d made it, encountering an unexpected headwind and really struggling to finish the job. You’re never there until you’re there and one thing we learnt is that when it’s going good, keep going and make the most of it.

We’ve got a video of a few clips from the row that I’ve thrown together.

2 thoughts on “The Row”

  1. Congratulations to you both. A remarkable feat of endurance and a job very well done. Inspirational.

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