Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Ultimate Packing List

First, a quick brag:
Voted #3 in Top Ten Adventure Twitters by Outside Magazine - woohoo!

Now, on to the news...

The Brocade is now comfortably ensconced in her new home at Pacific Shipyards International on Pier 41. I had spent much of the last 8 months, almost ever since I landed in Hawaii, trying to find somewhere suitable to store her - with absolutely no luck. But like London buses, after none for ages, two come along at once...

Yesterday afternoon I was holding the fort in our "downtown office" at Waikiki Yacht Club while Nicole and Joel took the truck to tow Brocade from Pier 21 to Pier 41 so she could be repainted. Pier 21 was supposed to be for storage only, and we had already been pushing our luck by doing so much boatwork there. I had just received a rather terse note from the owner, asking me to move all my "crap" (his word) from the area around my boat. So painting there was definitely out of the question - and besides, the warehouse was so filthy that her pristine post-painting appearance would not have lasted for long. No point making her all pretty if she was just going to metaphorically roll in the mud. So as I Tweeted yesterday, a new location was urgently needed.

As I was catching up on my emails I came across a suggestion from Sindy Davis, blog reader, supporter, and now an in-person "real" friend as well, who suggested aircraft hangars. We had already tried a few such leads, but she sent me a link to Air Service Hawaii, which we hadn't tried before. Not an immediate win, but a relatively short trail (only 4 phone calls) led me to Dan Espiritu, who immediately offered me space near Honolulu Airport at a huge discount.

My text to Nicole, celebrating the good news, crossed with a text from her saying that the guys at Pier 41, Pacific Boatyards, had welcomed the Brocade with open arms and offered her accommodation for as long as she needed - plus paint, under cover storage space, crane services, etc etc. This rather trumped the airport option, as the extra manpower and free paint would save us loads of $$$. Fantastic!

So now Joel is busy at work, prepping and painting the boat (see pictures), while Nicole and Conrad, local filmmaker and our new best friend, shoot footage of the works in progress. And I try to figure out if I have everything I need to sustain me for 100+ days at sea. Ocean rowing is almost unique amongst expeditions in that it is impossible to pop down to the corner store for anything that I have overlooked. I know of a crew of two guys who had to share a toothbrush the whole way across the Atlantic....

So here is my packing list so far - let me know if you see any omissions, but within reason, please. Every pound of weight is another pound I have to row across 2,600 miles of ocean!

Sawyers oars (4)
Rowing seat + spare wheels
Cushion pads and packtowel covers
Para anchor x 2
Leecloths for bunk
Manual bilge pump (in addition to fixed bilge pump)
Tripod mount
Handheld VHF radio x 2

Compass x 2
GPS x 3 (plus the one in my iPhone)
Toughbook PC x 2
Iridium satellite phone x 2
Tracking beacon
iPod x 5
iPod headphones and waterproof bag
Spare batteries for everything
Inverter (US)
Pentax waterproof camera
Ricoh 500SE waterproof camera with geotagging

Axe (don't ask - was required by Atlantic Rowing Race rules, and is now part of the furniture!)
Marine flares
Immersion suit
Grab bag
Type-4 Coast Guard Approved Flotation Device

Vitamins, minerals, supplements
Nuts and seeds
Seeds for sprouting
Freeze-dried food
Tinned fish

Pillows for bunk
Ocean Sleepwear sleeping bag
Silk inner sleeping bag
Rowing shoes
Sun shades for hatches
Red ensign
Hawaiian flag

Grease pencil (for marking up miles on whiteboard)
Reading glasses & case
Log book
Knife and sharpening block

Knife, fork, spoon, teaspoon x 3
Mugs with lids
Water bottles
Seed sprouter
Measuring jug
Wooden spoons/spatulas
Hand pump for jerry cans x 2
Bungee cords
Assorted food storage jars
Jerry cans for water
Spare water bags for extra ballast
Thermos flask
Clips for sachets of food
Drybags for storing rubbish
Ziplock bags

Washing powder
Washing up liquid
Hospital-grade antibacterial cleanser
Windproof lighter x 4
Brush and dustpan
Cloths and pot scourer
Bottle brush for water bottles
Scrapers for scrubbing bottom of boat
Bucket x 3

Baseball caps
Fleece and long trousers for evening shift
T-shirts, shorts, sports bras
Rowing gloves
Anti-UV sunglasses & case

Cord (lots)
Sewing kit
Snorkelling mask

Soap/shower gel
Dental floss
Alcohol/tea tree oil wipes
Cream to prevent chafing
Body lotion
Body scrubber/ chamois leather
Sun lotion by Green People

... and cuddly toys!

Grab Bag containing:
4 chocolate bars
4 small bottles water
Anti seasickness tablets
First aid kit
Fishing kit
Glucose sweets
Emergency rations
Grab bag
Lightsticks (6)
Personal EPIRB
Pocket strobe light
Red hand flares (2)
Signal mirror with whistle + float
Silva compass
Spare torch bulb
Thermal foil blanket
Tool kit
Waterproof torch
Fishing line and weight

Toolkit comprising:
10" mole grips
5 piece screwdriver set
6" adjustable spanner
6" pliers
Alum keys
Any specialised tools for equipment on board
combination spanners 94 - 10mm
junior hacksaw and blades
Stanley knife and blades
marine sealant
Amsoil Heavy Duty Metal Protector
epoxy repair kit
pack of metric drills
penetrating oil, WD40
reflective tape
self amalgamating tape
duct tape
small hand drill
set of metric drills
cable ties
Wet & Dry Sand Paper
Tape Measure
Alligator clamp, C-clamp
Electrical spares:
20 by 5mm 2 amp Fuses x 3
10mm nylon P clips x 4
10 amp fuse x 3
Twin pole plug ( cigar ) x 2
Nav light and bulb
Spare bulb for internal light
5 amp fuse x 3
Insulated Crimps x 5
Yellow Male Crimps x 6
20 by 5mm 1 amp Fuses x 3
Liquid Electrical Tape
20 by 5mm 3 amp Fuses x 3
20 by 5mm 5 amp Fuses x 3
Ties 3 sizes x 40
Mini Torch
Female Crimps x 4
Fuse wire 10m
spares for bilge pump
spares for watermaker
spares for steering system
spare seat
spare rowing gates
spare CO2 bottle for lifejacket
spare batteries
spare rudder pintles

First Aid kit:
Anti inflammatories
Dioralyte (for seasickness)
Ibuprofen gel
Micropore (tons!)
Seasickness patches
Deep Heat
Ice packs
and a lot more besides - thanks to Expedition Doctor Aenor Sawyer!

Other stuff:

Happy Shiny Boat

Thanks to all who took part in a lively debate on Twitter and Facebook about what colour to repaint the Brocade. I took all these votes into consideration, but in the end had to come down on the conservative side and go with silver again because:

- it looks good with any colour sponsor stickers ...
- it doesn't get too hot to the touch
- if we have to do any creative editing with the video, using bits out of sequence, it will avoid having glaring continuity errors
- and, ultimately, I just couldn't imagine her being any other colour!

But there will be little "accents" of colour (she says in her best camp-interior-designer voice) with sponsor logos, seat cushion (orange), and so on.

Pacific Paddler

I went paddling with the outrigger canoeists of the Waikiki Yacht Club last night - earning ourselves a beer or three (and WHOSE idea was the tequila?!) in the yacht club bar last night. And paddling is meant to be good for your health?!

About to dash out of WYC to go do a live interview with Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central - catch it here!

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Women of Personality - Who Me?!

Rohit Bhargava of Personality not IncludedImage by Amit Gupta via Flickr

There is a wonderful vibe in Team Roz at the moment. This is a big year for us, and it seems as if everything in our lives so far has been preparing us for this moment. All the skills, contacts and experiences that Nicole and I have ever had seem to be relevant to our mission for 2009 - to launch a rowing expedition, sure, but more than that, to add our voices to a movement towards a greener future, riding the wave of social media to spread the word. Here is one example.

A few weeks ago Nicole introduced me to her friend and former colleague Rohit Bhargava of Ogilvy PR, author of Personality Not Included: Why Companies Lose Their Authenticity And How Great Brands Get It Back. Rohit is an emerging guru of new media - and a great guy with plenty of personality of his own.

That meeting led to Rohit inviting me to contribute to an ebook called "Women of Personality" - described as "A compiliation ebook featuring contributions from 20 visionary female entrepreneurs sharing their secrets of success."

(Visionary - who, me?! Hey, why not?!)

And within the first 24 hours (ahem, sorry, Rohit for being so late - been a bit busy) the ebook was going great guns in the new media world...

- Dozens of tweets about the ebook using the hashtag #wop
- 14 requests by email from women to be part of the second edition
- Over 600 clicks on the twitter link
- Almost 2000 visits to the page to download the ebook
- Average time of engagement on the campaign page was OVER 4 minutes!
- Over 100 downloads of the ebook on Scribd of the uploaded version of the ebook

And the good news? You can get the entire book FOR FREE simply by clicking here!

(And great to see Podcast Sister Krishna De included in the ebook - click here to listen to my interview last Christmas with Krishna.)

I realize that to many, this "new media" might be seen as the preserve of geeks and early adopters, but I am excited by its huge potential to broadcast a message - whether that is inspiration, education, or environmentalism. When this year's eco-initiative is unveiled, I hope there will be lots in there to make even the most sceptical of un-geeks to say, "Wow, cool!" and feel the urge to share it with their friends. And don't worry - I'll show you how. No geekiness required!

Just one final note - how come all the other women in the ebook look so fab and glamorous and I don't? Ah, I'd just finished rowing 2,700 miles - maybe that's it!

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy (B)Earth Day To You!

Happy Earth Day to you! And Happy Earth Day to the Earth - 4.7 billion years young today, or 6,000 years for the creationists. Either way, pretty darned old. Earth Day was created by Gaylord Nelson in 1970, and was designed to inspire appreciation and awareness of our planet. I’ve been thinking about the Planet Earth a lot today, on many different levels.

First, the technological level. Several developments on this front today.

This morning I was emailing with the Googlers about how we’re going to include Stage 2 of my Pacific row in the Exploration layer of Google Earth. My postings from the ocean – blogs, photos, videos, and maybe even Tweets – will be geotagged so they are associated with the particular location where I sent them, as I wend my winding way across the Pacific.

Later today, Jim, my director of technology, emailed me to suggest adding a map to my website, using GeoVisitors, that will show the location of my website visitors. This sounds really cool. A Google Map would show a little marker for each visitor. I love this kind of technology – such as Twittervision, which shows who is doing what, and where – a fascinating insight into human activity around the world. Watching it makes me feel incredibly connected to this amazing, incredible species called humanity.

Which brings me to the emotional level. Filming Ian and Joel earlier this week as they worked on my boat’s electrics, it struck me as interesting that when we install certain kinds of electrical devices they have to be “earthed” – connected to an object that connects to the ground, so that excess energy is safely discharged. I wonder if human beings are the same – that we also have to be “earthed” in order to function properly without blowing up. We feel at our best when we are connected to Mother Nature and “grounded”.

And then there’s the macro level. Seeing all these images of the planet makes me feel a strong sense of its fragility. It looks so small – just one tiny globe spinning through a vast expanse of darkness.

So I’m going to mark this Earth Day by renewing my pledge to do all I can to reduce my own personal impact on the earth, and by writing this blog – today and every day as I cross the ocean this summer – to try to inspire others to do the same. It would be nice if we remember to cherish and respect the earth every day of the year. Our planet is our life support capsule, and the only one we’ve got. So let’s treat it with the love and respect that it deserves. Our lives depend on it.

And on a lighter note…

T-shirt seen today in Waikiki: “Keep the planet clean. It’s not Uranus.” ☺

Other stuff:

Today our plans to move the boat to a building on Ala Moana Blvd fell through. Just not enough time to complete the paperwork and insurance arrangements. I would have been willing, but it takes two to tango.

So I am temporarily out of options. I really need a large, covered space, where I can lay out all my provisions and equipment, get it all organized, and then pack it on board. I have tried every avenue I can think of, so far without success. The team is on the case, but if anybody knows of such a space, please contact me via this website or on Facebook. Specific suggestions only, please!

Last night Ian, director of boatworks, reached the end of his stint in Hawaii and left to go back to the mainland. Thanks, Ian, for all your good work. We miss you already!

Huge thanks to Steve at International Paints, Bobby at Pacific Shipyards - and most of all @sistaliz for finding some blue antifoul paint for my bottom!

Roz Recommends: on Earth Day it seems appropriate to recommend one of my very favourite iPhone applications - Moonphase by - "apps for the easily bemused". It shows sunrise and sunset, moonrise and moonset, moonphases, plus all kinds of cool celestial information. Favourite features: choice of full moon names including Native American, Colonial, English, Celtic or Wiccan - and "Werewolf Warning"!

[photo: "Earthrise" by William Anders, taken during the Apollo 8 mission in 1968.]

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Brocade - Looking Rough

Ian and Joel have been going great guns on the Brocade, despite less than ideal working conditions. They have had to work on her in semi-secret, because in theory the warehouse where she currently lives is for storage only - but in practice we have been left with little choice, as we haven't been able to find anywhere more suitable to keep her. So we have been covertly empire-building, spreading out our stuff a little further each day, but trying to keep a low profile and not overstep the line. Not easy with such a conspicuous boat!

Yesterday they trailered her over to a boatyard near to the warehouse so they could scuff sand her in preparation for repainting. It would really have been pushing our luck too far to sand her in the warehouse - the other boat owners might not have been best pleased to come back and find their boats covered in a fine layer of silver dust.

It was quite a shock to see her this morning. The last time I saw her she was scruffy and streaky, her silver paint blemished by many months at sea. But she was still recognizably silver. Today she was, errr, well, looking a bit rough. Scuffed, most definitely.

But as with all decorating projects, she has to look worse before she looks better. We have now managed to find a boatyard where Joel can paint her over the weekend. We have to be out by Monday, but that should just about give us enough time to get two coats of "Seattle Grey" on her, economizing by using a painting technique called "rolling and tipping", rather than spraying.

It's all a bit seat-of-the-pants due to the ridiculous tightness of our budget, but we're managing. I am eternally grateful to Joel (of JUNK fame) and Ian for their fantastic work, and their willingness to live with uncertainty as we improvise and make do and mend.

Maybe one day I will have a budget and a huge team like Ellen MacArthur or Alex Thomson, but for now it is curiously life-affirming to see what can be achieved with minimal funds, but a huge amount of determination, enthusiasm, and creativity!

Photos: (top) - Brocade before sanding..... and (middle) after.

(Bottom) rudder fixtures - old (black one, on top) and new (stainless steel, below) - a huge improvement in strength and durability, and our biggest expenditure so far at $1,150. Ouch!

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Adde parvum parvo magnus acervus erit!

"The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn." - John Lubbock

Aloha, friends, from sunshiny Hawaii!

Roz has asked me to write a guest blog about something that is a passion of mine, a project that has Team Roz very excited: the newly launched Education section of

It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time now – even back when I was first working with Roz two years ago. Over the years, Roz has given a number of talks and presentations, many to groups of children. You should see their eyes light up when she tells them about the animals she sees while she’s out on the ocean. They’re thrilled by her stories of battling 20-ft waves, and inspired by her desire to chase the dream of having a big adventure. Roz is a fantastic role model, especially for young girls.

A teacher friend of mine got me thinking: he says that in American education today, the discussion has become almost exclusively about test scores. It’s troubling that the need to inspire children has effectively left the conversation and focus instead centers on the driest, most mundane aspects of learning–test taking and preparation. I’ve heard this sentiment repeatedly expressed in conversations with my brother and other teacher friends of mine, so this is clearly a persistent problem. How sad for us all!

What an opportunity then for teachers to connect Roz with their students by integrating her ocean adventures with their endeavors in the classroom. Her voyage can be used to teach geography, math, science, social studies – just about anything, really. Learning should be fun! I remember all of my teachers’ names throughout the years but the standouts are the ones that inspired me and made the learning process enjoyable. Somehow, they got me to stop chatting with my neighbor and pay attention. Anyone who knows me well understands just what a challenge that must have been! If only I’d had Roz’s Pacific Voyage as subject matter to study…

An educator from New York named Jacob Tanenbaum (pictured) first heard of Roz during her row across the Atlantic. He was inspired by her adventures, and as a result, he applied and was accepted to be a NOAA teacher at sea. We connected with him in New York City in February and talked him through our ideas and goals for an education section on the website. It was a challenging remit with absolutely no financial resources to offer. But Jacob is an absolute star—resourceful, creative and passionate about teaching by inspiring. He quickly drew up an outline and over the following weeks, developed what you now see on the site: a collaborative resource for teachers of all grade levels who would like to use Roz's Pacific adventures to engage and inspire students in an array of subjects. Here educators can upload lesson plans and classroom materials, share ideas and communicate with teachers around the world, and even interact with Roz while she's at sea. Jacob introduced us to SCRATCH, an MIT-developed gaming code that is easy enough for children to use to create games—which can be a fantastic learning tool.

Please remember: this is an entirely user-driven site. In order for this to work, we need teachers to create, not just use the content. So if you know a teacher, please do share this site with them. Remember, when it comes to creativity, the sky is the limit. We encourage you to use social media tools to share your classroom experiences with others, and with us—you know how Roz loves to blog, Twitter, record podcasts and share photos and videos. Please do the same! We can’t wait to see your creativity in action.

So educators everywhere: if you have ideas on how we can improve the site, please let us know. You can email me directly at Or you can leave us a comment here and let us know what you think!

A heartfelt thank you from Team Roz for helping to make this project a success!

- Nicole

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fortune Favours The Bold - Eventually

This is now the fourth time that I've prepared for an expedition - once to Peru, and 3 x ocean rows - and I'm coming to understand how it works. Here is my general guide to expedition timelines in the countdown to the magical T - the Time when it all comes good and you embark on the next great adventure...

T minus n months (or years): Create To Do list of everything you need to do and buy in order to make it happen. The list looks very long. Get used to it - it's only going to get longer before it gets shorter.

T-n months/years until T-2 months: work, work, work. Pursue sponsorships. Get a few nice donations of product from friendly firms, often repeat sponsors from previous expeditions. Get a few chunks of money from benificent angels, both friends and strangers. Pursue corporate cash, and get fobbed off, passed on to someone else, and often turned down. Pick self up, dust self off, keep on trying.

T-2 months or less: hit the wall. Max out credit card (happened to me this morning in West Marine). Wonder how on earth it's all going to come together.

And then the magic happens. The stars align. New friends turn up to help out. The expedition bank account starts to fill up again. And every time a need is met, or a new friend is made, I get those chills running up my spine as I am reminded that if I carry on doing the right things for the right reasons, life will look after me.

Fortune does indeed favour the bold - but she can be a cruel, teasing she-devil who tests my resolve to its very limits!

Other stuff:

Brocade Update

Ian and Joel are working hard on the Brocade. We have decided to repaint her. I had originally been quoted $12,000 for this job, but we're doing it on the cheap for a fraction of this cost. It might not be quite as pretty, but it will be effective and will protect the carbon fibre hull.

But this led to a difficult decision in the West Marine store - what colour? I am so used to her being silver that anything else seems unimaginable. Blue, red, yellow, black - all seemed too, well, un-Brocadey. So I've gone for "Seattle Grey" - subtle, light enough to deflect the heat, dark enough to reduce reflection and glare, and inconspicuous enough that I won't attract unwanted attention from passing ships.

Having said that, if any potential sponsor would like to throw a large amount of money at me, I'd be happy to paint her sky blue pink with yellow polka dots....

Boatworks by iPhone

Here at Team Roz we love our iPhones. Ian (Director of Boatworks), Joel and the Brocade are at Pier 21 in Honolulu. Nicole (Program Director) and I are 4 miles away in our "downtown office" at the Waikiki Yacht Club. So today, as Ian and Joel have been preparing the boat for painting, he has been using his iPhone to photograph various mystery bits of ironmongery from the boat and then emailing them to me to ask what should be done with them. SO much easier than trying to describe things over the phone. (And if Apple would like to specify the new colour scheme for my boat, I am ready to take their call....)

Sailing, I am Sailing

Last night Nicole, Ian and I went sailing with the merry crew of the Blue Lady, and were treated to the most amazing lava-coloured sunset, followed by an extended version of the usual Friday night fireworks.

A gorgeous evening, but also a strange feeling to be back out on the water with my departure so imminent. As I looked out across the sunset-tinted waves, I couldn't help thinking back to the last time I was out on the ocean... and thinking forwards to the next, when once again, for around 100 days, it will be just sea, sky, and a little silver/grey/Apple-coloured boat...


My book is now available for pre-order on Amazon. A bargain at $16.32! (Nice round number - not! What is that all about? Anyway, excellent value at any price....) Click here to order.

Stranded in Starbucks - Sorry, on Starbuck Island

My friend Dr Enric Sala continues his Ocean Now adventures in the South Pacific on behalf of National Geographic. For those who love the ocean, do check out the Ocean Now website and their Facebook Fan Page.

Coming Soon...

Tomorrow there will be a guest blog from Nicole, all about our new Education section at Stay tuned!

Photo Album

Nicole and Barry aboard the Blue Lady. And a very pretty sunset. See more of my photos at Flickr!

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Aloha! In Hawaii for Final Countdown

Changes they are a-coming, and currently all for the better. Yesterday I travelled from the mainland to Hawaii for the final countdown to the launch of Pacific Stage 2 on May 24. These next 5 weeks are going to be hectic and exciting. In the 2 months since Nicole came on board as my Program Director, developments have accelerated exponentially, with lots of spooky moments as things we wished for materialized almost magically.

Sometimes to my frustration, I haven't been able to share many of these magic moments with anyone other than my journal, as most of our activity has been about creating partnerships and opportunities for an initiative to be announced soon, and I have a policy not to blog about things that lie in the future. I've learned a lot about how not to build up expectations that foster disappointment, and that things are rarely as good or as bad as we expect them to be. So likewise I try not to build up hopes and expectations amongst you, my lovely readers, in case things do not turn out as hoped. So over the winter my blogs have generally focused on the philosophical.

Now, as we enter the final phase of preparations, the focus will shift from philosophical to practical - and with a bit of luck the unveiling of this year's Grand Plan to Change the World. We're not quite ready yet to announce it yet, but the time is nigh.

Meanwhile, I am going to make a conscious effort to blog more often, to share with you the buzz of activity as all the plans we have been making - for both the expedition and the mission - burst into bloom.

Yesterday was hopefully not typical of this phase. It was a painfully early start, of the sort that makes the alarm clock into Most Hated Object. So I was already tired and my defences were low when I went with Ian Tuller, my volunteer Director of Boatworks, to take a first look at the Brocade. She looked pitiful. Tucked away in the corner of a gloomy warehouse, her paint was chipped, her decks were filthy, and her deck was cluttered with tools and boxes. I had a brief moment of despondency. But rather than dwell in the doldrums, we pushed on through, and slowly the tide turned.

We took out our To Do list and dutifully updated it. Then last night Nicole and I had supper with Joel from the JUNK raft - who is now on board to help Ian with the first wave of essential works to the boat. Today Ian collected the numerous packages that have been arriving over the last few weeks c/o Rick Shema, my weather guy, and we had a grand gift-opening. Thanks to Kakadu Golf Gloves, Green People, Powerflare, and Larabar for their generous contributions.

And as of this afternoon it looks as if we may have a very exciting new venue on which to work on the Brocade - where media, schoolchildren, and passersby would be able to come and view us as we pack the boat for the next row. But that one really IS still speculative, so I won't jinx it by saying too much yet!

So we are on the up, and life is good!

Other stuff:

Various pictures herewith:

Speaking at the Oxford Cambridge Boat Race Dinner in San Francisco on April 14.

With David de Rothschild of Adventure Ecology and the Plastiki project - Pier 21, San Francisco (I really must stop getting photographed with these tall guys! He's 6ft 4in. I'm not.)

Ian Tuller, Director of Boatworks (volunteer)

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Olly Abandons Row - But Lives To Tell The Tale

Today I heard that sad news that ocean rower Oliver Hicks has decided to temporarily abandon his attempt to become the first person to row around Antarctica. His ambitious plan was expected to involve 18 months alone in the Southern Ocean, in some of the coldest, windiest, most inhospitable waters in the world. But extrapolating from his rate of progress over the first 80 days, he realized that it would in fact take him around 5 years to complete the voyage. Wisely, he is now making his way to New Zealand to regroup and consider his next move.

Olly's decision, while no doubt bitterly disappointing for him, allays the fears that I had when I first heard what he was planning to do. Having the maturity and strength to suspend his bid and modify his plans reassures me that ultimately his chances of success and survival will be good. Recently my friend Sarah Outen turned back from her first attempt on the Indian Ocean, but has now relaunched and is making excellent progress at the second try.

Ernest Shackleton, no stranger to polar climes himself, wrote that "It is better to be a live donkey than a dead lion", and just two weeks after the death of extreme skier Shane McConkey it behooves the adventure community to be mindful of public perceptions of risk vs benefit.

But here I'd like to provoke some debate as to how accurate those perceptions are. Do we sometimes lose sight of real risk as opposed to perceived risk? Many people are afraid of flying, but apparently more people die on the way to the airport than die in plane crashes. Risk assessments are complex, and much can be done to mitigate the dangers. What I do in ocean rowing may be pushing the limits of human endeavour, but I carefully limit the risks - through careful preparation, comprehensive range of safety equipment, contingency plans, and the exercise of my very strong sense of self-preservation.

A dangerous thing done safely can be less risky than a safe thing done recklessly.

For example - this looks dangerous - and it is. He died.

While this doesn't look dangerous - but it is. They die too.

And this looks dangerous - and I was scared - but I had limited the risks by setting up a safety line across the roof of the cabin and clipping myself onto it, so the risk of actual death was minimal. Believe me, I fully intend to die at an old age, peacefully in my sleep (ideally while in bed rather than while driving...)

And here I'd just like to point out that we ALL die. Death is not optional. Sooner or later, the Grim Reaper comes for each and every one of us. And this is an important realization. For me it was only when I acknowledged that I was going to die that I started to live. I realized that I didn't have an endless supply of tomorrows, and that if I was going to have a life to be proud of, the time to start was now.

And I commend Olly for doing the same. He has an audacious dream, and he has chosen to go for it. The bigger the challenge, the greater the risk of "failure" - but the biggest failure of all is not even daring to try - and even an adventure that doesn't go as planned can be counted a success if it has provided a useful learning experience.

I can imagine what he must have gone through to reach this tough decision - no doubt he considered the implications for sponsorship deals and finances, not to mention personal pride. But he had the guts to say, "You know what, this isn't working. Let's go back and make some changes and try again." As it says on his website...

The difficult is what takes a little time. The impossible is what takes a little longer.
(Fridtjof Nansen)

Go for it, Olly, and if I can do anything to help then you know where to find me.

Other stuff:

It's that exciting stage of the planning process where mysterious packages are arriving from all around the world. Recent product sponsorships include:
- sun lotion and skin creams from Green People
- vitamins from Biocare
- nuts and seeds from Wilderness Family Naturals
- gloves from Kakadu Golf Gloves
- antifoul from International Paints
- and huge quantities of Larabars from, errr, Larabar!

Next Thursday I fly to Hawaii for final preparations before my launch from Waikiki on May 24. Between now and then I am speaking at eBay (Monday), the Kiwanis Club (Tuesday lunchtime) and the Oxford Cambridge Boat Race Dinner here in San Francisco (Tuesday evening).

Meanwhile, work continues apace on the technology and partnerships that will support this year's major environmental initiative, due to launch later this month. More news soon...

[Photo: me at Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, from a photo shoot with Doug DeMark last month]

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Saturday, April 04, 2009

The JUNKeteers Ride Again

I am in Vancouver for a couple of days - primarily to see off my friends Marcus (of the JUNK raft) and Anna from the Algalita Foundation, as they set out to ride their bikes from Canada to Mexico to raise awareness of plastic pollution in the oceans.

The plan had been that I would join them for a presentation at the Vancouver Aquarium last night. I was due to land from New York at 2pm, leaving nice time for me to check in at my hotel (big thanks to Fairmont for the comp room at the gorgeous Waterfront Hotel) and spend a couple of hours hanging out with Marcus and Anna, plotting ways to save the world (!) before heading over to the Aquarium for the event.

As it turned out, my flight from Newark was delayed by 3 hours, so I missed my connection in Seattle. The next flight was cancelled. The next one was full. So eventually I had to fly via Portland (south) to get to Vancouver (north). It was 11pm by the time I got to my hotel. The event I had flown across the country to attend was long finished, and my carbon footprint for the day was just horrible. That will teach me to take environmentally unfriendly forms of transport!

But on the bright side it was useful practice at being zen in the face of adversity - a useful refresher course before I set out again on the ocean next month.

I finally managed to catch up with Marcus and Anna in time to see them off from the Aquarium this morning. Safe travels, guys - and to all my "left coast" readers out there, please keep an eye out for the JUNK bikers, coming to a town near you!

You can follow their progress on their blog.

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