WHAT Are You Doing?

“So, what’s new?”

“I’ve decided to row across the Atlantic Ocean.”

“Say WHAT?”

This is a typical conversation for me these days. I’m delighted to have some more information online now so I can direct my friends and family to the website to get more information. So, what is it that I’m doing exactly?

Inevitably people initially picture me pushing off shore in a dory and hitting the high-seas over the North Atlantic from Scotland to Canada like my ancestors once did (not in a rowboat, mind you). I will not be rowing the North Atlantic. People do that. But, no, my route is a bit closer to the equator. I will be launching from The Canary Islands, a group of Spanish islands off North Africa, and landing in Antigua, an island in the West Indies / Caribbean Basin.

This came about just this past summer when I obsessively watched the first Pacific Ocean race – The Great Pacific Race. Something clicked in me and I knew I had to row an ocean. It’s hard to explain, but I’ll try to do so in a future post. That’s how it started. I knew I wanted to row solo, but, the Pacific Race doesn’t allow solo entries so I looked at my options.

I read a dozen ocean rowing books, tons of blogs, and researched everything I could. Some people go independently – either using their own marketing campaign with predetermined sponsors or funding the trip themselves. I knew given my situation, that the charity and sponsors would benefit most from the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge because they provide such extensive international exposure and marketing. The Win-Win-Win is what I’m after: corporations cover costs/gain exposure from race and community contribution through the connection to the charity; the charity benefits from the event, the marketing, the campaign, and attention (effectively saving lives); and I get to row an ocean.

The process from now to December 2015 is all about preparation: raising money, forming partnerships, getting the boat, equipping the boat, getting myself physically prepared, and much much more. There are a million details that must be taken care of. But, the most important task is getting the boat. The boat is my life in the race.

The boat is approximately 20 ft long and 6 ft wide. It has sealed cabins at both ends. One cabin is for sleeping and holds the command centre where I call home on the satellite phone, send my blog updates, check my position and progress, and charge up my iPod, watermaker, and other electrical devices. The picture is of Sarah Outen prior to her Pacific Ocean row from Japan to Alaska. This will give you an idea of the similar size and structure my boat will be and all the stuff that it will hold for my 3 month journey.

Believe it or not, it all fits in there and it’s all necessary.

Rowing solo isn’t the most popular choice for ocean rowers. The psychological aspect of being alone for that long can be a serious barrier. Many people choose to go in pairs, or teams of 4 (or more). This gives you someone to talk to, someone to watch out for you, to help you, to hopefully motivate you, and watch for freighters while you sleep. However, I have not chosen that. And I feel really good about it. I know myself and I know that solo is really the way to go for me. With teams they tend to work in shifts of 2 hours on / 2 hours off. On the 2 off hours they eat, and sleep as much as possible. For me, I’ll be rowing as much as I can (10 hrs to 16 hrs if I can hack it), then sleeping through the night. I work nights right now and I pretty much spend the whole night alone, so I’m comfortable with alone.

They say that rowing across an ocean is 95% mental and 5% physical. You obviously need to be trained for the physical aspect, but even that will only function under the strength of the mental, or, more accurately, the heart, the spirit.

So there’s some more information for you about what exactly I’m doing. I’ll be writing more and more as I continue on this journey, first to the starting line, then across the ocean. I can’t wait!

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