Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Day 13

Hi again, everyone,

Thanks to Joy for filling in for me yesterday. Before I get into what's going on today, a little about yesterday.

All started well yesterday morning and I came out of the cabin to see two bright airplane exhaust trals running perfectly parallel to each other against a blue sky -- almost as if to say "You're not alone out here!" After that little tidbit of warmth and fuzziness, I got down to rowing and had a pretty good morning, with time to contemplate some of life's pressing questions, including "Would I rather have popsicles for toes or Pez dispensers for fingers?" (thanks, Anna).

Uneventful lunch break then in the afternoon shift the wind and seas kept building and building, which meant I was going faster but also getting exponentially wetter and more intimidated by the growing waves. After a particularly big wave broke right next to and into the rowing position, filling it with water (again), I finally called it a day around 6 and put out the sea anchor in hopes that things would quiet down overnight, as they often do.

I crawled into the cabin last night cold and soaking wet (which guaranteed that the cabin would be wet all night, too), skipped dinner, made a couple phone calls back home, and tried to ignore the pounding that the boat and I were taking from the waves outside. Despite the fact that the sea anchor keeps my bow to the waves, they don't all come from the same direction, so I can take a few pretty solid glancing blows from the side as the boat corrects. No fun, but thankfully the boat is designed for just these sorts of situations, so its more uncomfortable than it is unsafe.

Morning comes and the waves haven't shrunk and instead have gotten larger. My dad somehow is awake at 4AM EST and texts to say that the wind will be moderating little in the next day or so, meaning I can wait around for another 24 hours and things might be better outside -- not the most appealing scenario. I tried a phone call to four-times ocean rower Simon Chalk at Woodvale Challenge (who's also doing weather for me) to see when the storm that's blowing through and causing all these waves would settle down. Despite the shaky satellite connection, the answer was clear: "This isn't a storm, this is the trade winds and it's like this all the way to Antigua." Shows what I know.

The lesson: get used to the bigger waves and to rowing soaking wet, and both will get you to Antigua faster. So today I salvaged about a half day of rowing and hope to be back on track (and faster) tomorrow.


P.S. I had my first sighting of phosphorescent plankton tonight. I've been trailing a knotted rope to help keep my stern to the waves at night when I'm trying to sleep. When I stuck my head out of the rear hatch tonight I had a 50-foot trail of greenish-blue-lighted water following me.


LovelyLadyLumps said...

Yikes!! Sounds like scary stuff!! Keep up the good work, you're kind of a big deal!

Anonymous said...

Hey Paul,

Just catching up on your past few posts and glad things are going well. Sounds like every day is a new adventure. We (here in Marketing) were getting a kick out of your cabin pics - images of all the teachers having to think fast when Ms. January flashed across their screens. Seriously, hoping you see more wildlife (although no sharks) and the tradewinds calm for you. Happy trails!


Sheila said...

Hey Paul!
Sorry this is a little late. My internet connection is screwy.
I'm house and dog sitting and the three little dogs all say hi too! One even has a pink hoodie, lol (I didn't dress it, i promise!)

A suggestion for the bird's name (taken from the bird messenger in the lion king) - Zazu. Though Wilson is a familiar name ;).

I'm sure you're not missing the snow... Keep it up! :)


Brent said...

I, too, have had a photophorescent blue-green trail behind me a few times in my day. It's usually preceeded by a taco dinner from Taco Bell. How did you find Mexican in the middle of the Atlantic?

Keep it up bud, love reading your stories.

Anonymous said...

ayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy buddy!!!

me no like rain ....but me don't like terry either!!! You no tell me bout the rain and the water. You want donut??? come round back i get you donut or bagel.

You no tell me!


Anonymous said...


Enjoyed this post - especially the bit about the rough ride being all the way to Antigua! Hang in there!


Seshat said...

Paul -

Once there was a sailboat captain who sailed out of Dog River near Mobile Bay who manned his ship with only women (and no motor) every Thursday night for the weekly club races -
(lucky man, eh?)

On one of these trips, a young woman from Conklin experienced the phosphorescent plankton - as it covered her body - and illuminated youth at it's best -
during the wait for the Dog River Bridge to rise and allow passage which provided time for a free swim -

and again, a few years later - the same young woman swam with her husband-to-be off Gulf Shores to find both covered with illumination of the phosphorescence -

It's a golden, magical substance that you will have to experience when you can be IN the water instead of ON the water -

We can share those best locations when you get back to NY!!!!

You are amazing!!!!!


Anonymous said...

Sorry the waves have kicked up, but if the trade winds are going to get you home faster then I am sure you will learn to get used to it. Hope all your Rob and Big episodes are keeping you in touch with the real world... however strange their world may be. Keep up the good work. And Joy I am glad you found your car... girl you worry me!!!


Fred Bostrom said...

I somehow got my comment down in Day 7 so I'll leave it again here. It's great to see your GPS tracker heading West. Each time I see a degree being added onto your West Longitude I have a little celebration. I'm cheering hard for the trade winds to keep pushing you on.
Fred Bostrom

Anonymous said...

I'll think of one of those questions for you every day you are at sea. For now, my fail-safe standby is "would you rather have shoelaces for fingers or consume a blood lollipop?"

Anyway, everyone here at Fordham is cheering you on! I would send you good thoughts of beautiful weather but I think it's supposed to start snowing here later on. Either way, I love you and I'm just so proud that you're doing what you're doing.

And I hope you remembered to put "Strangers in the Night" and "What's Beef?" on your iPod playlists. I currently tenaciously disapprove of your selections to date, as they are country and all, but you have a chance to redeem yourself.

Stay safe and dry (or as dry as possible!).


Marlene McElligott said...

Hi Paul (and Joy),
It seems that Brooklyn may end up with as much attention from this trip as you do :)
Since I am a person who has a deep seeded fear of drowning, reading about the huge waves made me breathe a bit quicker and be very thankful that I am on dry land. It has again snowed tonight and I did find myself thinking that there must be some island that has sunshine, white sand and a book that I could go and sit on. I am sure you are seeing lots of sunshine and can't wait for the sight of land. Do you have an idea how many more days or is that liking asking your parents "are we there yet?"
Thanks for thinking of us and praying for us. I know that Robert is right over your shoulder encouraging you and watching over you. He was so excited about your trip. Take care and send some sunshine our way. Love, Marlene

Margaret Bowling said...

Now that made me laugh because as I was reading your blog I was already preparing this email and was going to say 'sounds perfect, get back on the oars'. And then I got to the bit about Simon saying you'd hit the trade winds. Brilliant. And of course he's right. Yes, you will get totally soaked but you need to row through it. If you're picking up more than about 6 knots then the odd dip of the oar to keep you on coarse is often enough and you'll find the boat moves with the current and winds without as much effort from you. Basically in bigger seas you can surf/steer your way along rather than having to row the whole time. Once you get over about 10knots you'll start to feel pretty freaked out but roll with it - stay loose and steer your way through it - it's an incredible adrenaline rush!
Good to put out a knotted line at night but I'd be wary of using your sea anchor unless you are actually being pushed backwards. It slows you to a standstill and you can cover much better ground if you put out a drogue which will angle you into waves and keep you safe but also allow boat to keep moving with currents. Do you have one?
You'll adjust to the conditions. Push the boundaries of what feels comfortable and you'll start getting a lot out of it. It's one hell of a ride!

Anonymous said...

I appologize for not staying in touch. If you pass by Cozumel stop in for a Dos Equis and shot of Tequila at the bar.


Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,

We watch in awe as you continue your momentous undertaking. Standing in the shower the other morning I contemplated the fact that I have never known a true adventurer before and it gives me a sense of pride to know you. I guess some of it may be living vicariously through you! You continue to be in our prayers and we trust that whatever the trades throw at you, you will overcome. Speedy and safe journey home, Paul

Dave & Christy

Keely said...

Sorry to hear that you've met the tradewinds, but it sounds like you're getting some good advice, and I know you will pull through them. Stay warm, keep contemplating the life questions Anna is posing, and stay safe. I've been posting your daily entries outside my cube, and it has created quite a following in the office at Panera. Safe travels!!

John said...

Hey big fella,

Good to hear from you again, although it sounds like things are getting tougher. Keep battling big guy.

Not much to report on the biased sports report. I guess the Braves signed Derrick Lowe for $60 million over 4 years even though he was 14-11 last year and is 36 years old. I'm amazed the Mets didn't sign him. I think John Smoltz decided to retire also. And Ricky Henderson inducted himself into the hall of fame in the third person.

K, good luck, happy rowing.

k-Rock and Wild Bill said...

Hi Buddy - Outside the window it's minus something degrees and dropping - but inside on the screen saver we have warm and sunny Marina La Gomera - it's like we're right there with you - only we are dry. Liz has always scolded me for 'over-thinking' things - but I feel like I failed you by not making a few points - like 'you know, you might get sea sick' or 'you know, you might get wet out there' -maybe you would have been better prepared. I may be a failure as a coach, but remember that I'm great cook - everything we have from now until you get back is just practice for The Homecoming Spread! Be well, experience all the experiences, know that we are thinking of you. xxoo.

Anonymous said...

Hang ten dude!

Sounds like wave surfing will be added to your resume.

Sights at the NRRA:
1. Seagulls floating on ice floes.
2. Brian having snowballs thrown at his car
3. A parking lot that is literally an ice rink.
4. No rowing.

I think you are in a better world!


Alex B said...


I enjoy checking the blog. Hang in there bud, we are rooting for you!!!


Anonymous said...

Hi Paul-
We have a big bulletin board in our classroom to keep track of you. Your boat moves across a string toward Antigua as we hear about your mileage. We thought the dolphins and sea turtles were a big deal, so we added those to our map. Here is a summary of this week's discussion:
"We hope you are safe. Have you seen any sharks or whales? How about fish? Will it snow in the ocean? Has your boat tipped over?"

Comments from Ms. Raub's Kindergarten class

Andy Hasselwander said...

Hi Paul.. A boat out in front of you--The Artemis, which has 13 rowers--has hit something which sheared off its rudder... guess is a whale or a log. From their site:

January 13 2009
From Hermione Macfarlane

20.00hrs - Whatever the submerged object was, it was large. The rudder was sheared off at water level. Having taken stock of the situation, a new rudder has been made but at the moment it is impossible to fit it into position as it is dark and the ocean swells are running 4 to 6 metres and the wind is still strong. To make a positive of the present situation this period of forced inactivity will allow the team to rest thro’ the night. Daylight & sea conditions allowing, they will hopefully rig the makeshift rudder and get going as soon as possible. These men are the best and have all showed true grit and soon will be getting on regardless of all this inconvenience.


16.00hrs -
Just had a message from Leven. They have had to deployed their Sea Anchor as unfortunately they have lost their rudder due to hitting an underwater object, either a container or a whale. THEY ARE ALL SAFE AND IN GOOD SPIRITS. The wind is strong and blowing about 25knots so have to wait until it slackens. They are taking stock and will try to effect a repair as soon as possible but this may take 2 to 3 days. I have to emphasise that they are all fine but as sick as parrots as they were going so well. More later.

Rob said...

Hey man, keep it up. And just think, the waves could be worse. pretty much everyone in America is currently freezing their butts off. Here in Chicago, the high tomorrow is going to be -1. Enjoy your phytoplankton.