I’m back home from my trip to the UK where I took a 7-day course to get all the necessary certifications to launch my row boat from the Canary Islands. It was a long way to go for these courses but now the certifications are out of the way, plus, I took another week while there to hire out two different rowboats for test driving. I now have Yachtmaster Theory, First Aid at Sea, Sea Survival, VHF Radio License, and relevant charts, plotters and dividers for setting my course across the ocean.
After a long flight and nearly equally as long a train trip across the country I arrived at my beautiful accommodations where I got a room to myself on the top floor looking south, out to sea. It was a shared house with all the other guys who were taking the course and who are planning to participate in this year’s Atlantic Rowing Race. I think meeting and living with the other rowers was the best part about taking this course. Being able to hear about their campaigns and how they’re getting along, techniques they’re using to raise money, and the inspiration of meeting like-minded people.
The majority of the course was Yachtmaster Theory which was predominantly celestial navigation with some weather patterns thrown in there a bit. It was great to learn what we learned, but I think I’m going to have to take another course to figure out what exactly we learned. I know that we learned how to pass the exam, which I did! But, navigating by the stars or the sun, well, it’s piqued my interest and I would like to learn more. Basically, the course is the quickest and “easiest” way to get the qualifications required by the Spanish officials for launching out to sea from the Canary Islands. And that’s good enough for me. I feel like I learned plenty of practical material as well and as the opportunity arises to learn more then all the better. But, the specific certifications for this row are officially complete.
After the course I got a ride with my new friends Atlantic Tempest to Bristol, UK. I was meeting Elsa Hammond, who rowed for 51 days on the Pacific Ocean before returning to shore due to being blown too far off course. I chartered her, her fiance Steve, and her boat “Darien” for the weekend. They graciously put me up in their home and treated me like a friend (though we’d just met). Elsa and Steve are looking to charter their boat out for another ocean crossing while they finish their PhD’s before deciding what ocean to attempt next. I really like the boat and it was a great experience rowing in an ocean rowboat for the first time. But, the winds were a bit too high to get the full experience of rowing and maneuvering the 7m long boat. When the wind picks up too much, it catches the windage of the cabins and hull and pushes you sideways. Downwind is pretty much your only option and on a small lake, you can’t do that for too long before getting dangerously close to a shore. So, we got a tow away from shore and huffed and puffed through the wind. It was a good experience because even though my route across the Atlantic is predominantly downwind, there will be times when I’m going to have to push against the wind to a degree in order to stay on course. It was great to see how the boat handles, and, more importantly, how I can handle the boat.
The boat “Darien” is a conventional ocean rowboat. It’s made of fiberglass and plywood. It’s very sturdy, but also heavy. On the other hand, Rannoch Adventures has a new design of boat that is light and fast and for this upcoming rowing race, they have their own separate category because they can’t reasonably compete with the conventional boats. They’re typically made of carbon fiber and have a flatter hull shape that more closely resembles a racing sailboat. Some might say that the height of their cabins also resembles a sail and have jovially or bitterly referred to it as a rowing assisted sailboat. There are even more boat options to explore yet. Decisions, decisions.
After leaving Bristol I headed across the country to Burnham-on-Crouch to charter a Rannoch boat along with a Rannoch man (Angus Collins) for some training and education of the boats. Unfortunately, the winds were even worse than over the weekend and no rowing was going to happen for a few days. The good news though, I made a friend, a woman from Scotland who’s also planning on rowing solo and is looking at doing it in a Rannoch boat. We both staying in town and waited for the wind to die down. It did and we got our day on the water. I was rowing in a design of boat that I probably wouldn’t buy (it’s a pairs boat) but it was still great to experience their style of boat and to see how it handled. I was impressed. With two of us in the boat (and Angus steering us) we rowed into the wind, against the tide and easily reached 4 knots. When the tide turned we were cruising at 5 knots. When I was on Darien (alone, mind you) I could barely scratch above 2 knots and the steering responsiveness was also very different. I still have much more research to do and boats to try out before making a decision on what boat to make. But, the thing that stood out for me when comparing the two boats was that they both were affected by the wind because of the surface area of the cabins, but the Rannoch boat was much easier to handle in the wind. The shape of the conventional boats act like sails too. Only they’re like having the sail up with no dagger board in place. You just get pushed sideways, no forward movement, and very little control. That was my impression anyway.
All in all, I had a fantastic experience. I’m looking forward to going back and trying out some more boats.
This trip was super valuable to my preparation and process. Thank you to everyone who contributed to my GoFundMe page. As of this blog post we have raised $2945. To break it down to the tangible items your money has paid for: $1400 to cover €1000 to Atlantic Campaigns for the race fee (only €17,500 to go), and $1800 for the course. The flight, accommodations, and boat rentals for training I paid for myself. At this time, as I continue to search for corporate sponsors to cover the nearly $200,000 in expenses, any new individual contributions will go towards my race fee.
Thank you everyone for your support!!