Friday, August 28, 2009

Day 96 - Announcement: Changing Course

It seems to be my karma in this lifetime to be faced from time to time
with tough decisions – and this one is up there in my Top Ten Tough
Decisions Of All Time. I spent most of last night agonizing over it. The
night seemed hotter than usual in my cabin, and I was – literally and
metaphorically – sweating over my options.

It had been just a week since I declared my intention to head for
Tuvalu. My weatherman had assured me it was possible, although certainly
not easy, requiring me to cut directly across the prevailing winds. And
I wanted to believe it was possible, not least because Tuvalu has become
synonymous with the human impact of climate change, which is the key
message of this stage of my row as we approach the crucial summit in
Copenhagen. I knew getting to Tuvalu would be challenging, but I was
prepared to put in the hard work to make it happen.

However, a few things had changed during the course of the last week. I
had discovered that the coordinates I had for Tuvalu were for the
westernmost island, not the capital Funafuti, which is the easternmost
island. This would make it much harder to reach the capital than I had
realized. Then some brisk easterly winds had halted my progress for 36
hours while I waited on the sea anchor – this had two implications.
First, it would only take a few more days of such winds to put Tuvalu
beyond my reach. And second, if I had to use the sea anchor on a regular
basis to stop westward drift, it would take me much longer to get to
Tuvalu. And time was limited – by my water supply.

Since my watermaker stopped working I've been relying on my reserves of
water, but some of my water bags had leaked. And my water consumption is
much higher than it has been on my previous rows, due to the heat. So
less water supply + higher water requirement = bad news. I do have a
backup manual watermaker, but I was already going to have to row 16
hours a day to maintain the necessary tight control over my course, so
then pumping water for 2 hours a day (manual watermakers produce water
drop by drop, rather than a steady stream) was not an attractive option.

So the worst case scenario was pretty bad. There was now a substantially
increased risk of running out of water, and possibly missing Tuvalu
altogether and spinning off into the great blue yonder. Oh, and the food
situation wasn't looking too good either. I was concerned.

After churning all this over and over in my head for half the night,
part of me still resisted changing my mind. I wanted to go to Tuvalu! My
imminent arrival had been announced on the radio, I was due to meet with
members of the government, we had storage arranged for my boat… and of
course I wanted to find out more about how they plan to be the world's
first carbon neutral nation.

I was unbearably hot in the cabin, so I went out on deck to cool down. I
looked up at the stars and the setting moon. They helped me get a sense
of perspective on the issue. Ultimately, although the message is
important, it helps if the messenger is a) alive, and b) has not had to
rely on some fossil-fuel guzzling means of transport to come rescue her
if/when she seems in danger of disappearing over the horizon with no
water and no food. So, it seemed, the choice was clear. The sensible,
responsible thing to do would be to change course for Tarawa. I could
reach it relatively easily (or as easy as ocean rowing ever gets) well
before I ran out of sustenance – and without having to rely on outside

So I swallowed my pride and admitted to myself that it made sense to
change course. First thing this morning I rang Ricardo, my Lisbon-based
weatherman, and we talked it through. He was totally supportive of my
decision. Then I spoke with Nicole, my program director. She, too, fully
supported me – even though this meant that a lot of the fantastic
preparations she'd lined up for Tuvalu were now moribund, and she'd have
to start over again with Tarawa. By the end of today she had already
worked miracles – people had been informed, flights were booked, and
plans were coming together.

I feel hugely relieved by this decision. It has been a tough one, but
the cold dread and anxiety of what might happen if I missed Tuvalu has
been lifted from me. It would otherwise have hung over me every day
until I made – or failed to make – landfall.

So now it is all suddenly very imminent, and the energy levels in
TeamRoz have skyrocketed. With just 300 nautical miles to go, I am
hoping to arrive in about 2 weeks, around Sept 9th, so this doesn't
leave much time – and lots to do. On Sunday Nicole and Conrad (our
filmmaker, who by the grace of the many generous Rozlings is going to
come out to Tarawa to film my arrival) will leave Hawaii for Tarawa to
start lining up the multitude of logistical arrangements.

I'd like to take a final opportunity to enjoy some "alone time" before I
make landfall. Call this my Walden time. So I'm going to go
incommunicado and take a few days out from social media, and hand over
to Nicole to do the blog. Her life is going to be much more interesting
– and hectic – over the near future anyway. She will be posting updates
on this blog from tomorrow until Sept 2nd, when I'll return from my
self-imposed exile, and from then until my arrival Nicole and I will
blog on alternate days. Amongst the trials and tribulations of an
expedition program director, she'll be sharing details of the
preparations for my arrival, her first impressions of Tarawa, and how
she is being assisted by celebrity contacts (thank you to author J
Maarten Troost!).

I hope you'll enjoy these final stages with us. I'm really excited to
see how everything develops over the coming 2 weeks. Nicole and Conrad
are going to have their work cut out – to find boat storage, boat
transport, accommodation, even internet access – and, of course, a
source of ice cold beer! So join with me in wishing them huge amounts of
good luck in pulling all this together in an impossibly short timescale.
They are going to need it, but if anyone can pull off a miracle, it's

[photo: Go west, young woman! Tonight's sunset was a bit drab, so here
is one from the archive…]