Monday, February 2, 2009

Day 33 - Liv Meets the Nordic Cosmos

Around noon today I'm rowing along in a relatively calm sea, rowing, rowing, the middle of contemplating life with some David Gray on the iPod. As I'm rowing along, I think to myself..."was that a beep?"...then again..."Yeah, that sorta sounds like a beep..."

Then I take a glance to my immediate left and..."OH #%@#!"

I'm staring straight at the enormous bow and reddish brown hull of a huge freighter headed right at me and maybe a quarter mile away. Close enough that I can clearly see waves being thrown up from its bow cutting through the water, and I know it's moving fast. Quick, turn on the VHF, channel 16:




A few seconds pass...and I see cloud of black smoke coming from the ship's half-dozen smoke-stacks. The captain is gunning the engines to make a turn, and I gradually begin to see more and more of the ship's port side come into view...this is good!

By this time I've poked my head in the cabin to check my chart plotter. I notice that the AIS alarm (which had been beeping) was reading "Closest Point of Approach - 0.00nm". Wow. That's close!

Then from the VHF...

"This is Nordic Cosmos, sorry Liv I didn't see you on the radar and wasn't looking at the AIS. I see you now. Turning to starboard."

My reply, "Thanks! Sorry for the scare, I should have seen you coming. Good to hear from you though, I'm 33 days out of the Canary Islands bound for Antigua and you're my first sign of life in two weeks."

"Wow. Is everything ok? Is there anything you need?"

"No, I'm fine. Where are you coming from?"

"OK. Coming from the United States."

"Do you see me on your AIS?"

"Yes, sorry. I see you now on AIS but didn't see you on radar."

"OK, good to know I'm still transmitting. Well, good to talk to you. Have a good trip."

"OK, Liv. Standby channel 16..."

So, how's that for some excitement? In hindsight I don't know why he didn't have his own AIS alarm set. Who knows how close we would have ended up, but the answer is at least "pretty close" and much too close for comfort. At the closest it got (after making its turn), the boat looked something like a 4-iron's distance 200 yards or so? Yikes!

Well, lessons learned today include:
1) iPod headphones in one ear only
2) If I hear a beep, or think I hear a beep, at least take a look around!
3) Don't get so caught up in contemplating life that I forget my surroundings, even if I haven't seen anything but ocean in weeks.

After the excitement was over I got out the camera and took some pictures. These are not zoomed in, and will serve as the most recent installment of BEARD WATCH, marking just under two months of growth:

Thanks to all who have supported this expedition and important research at Yale Cancer Center with a donation to Row for Hope. If you haven't donated, or if you would consider donating again, it would be much appreciated. To donate online use the link in the upper right-hand corner of this page or visit



John said...

holy crap! That is infinitely more exciting than the Super Bowl! haha. Glad you're ok bud! More pictures! Have you swam yet?

Anonymous said...

Holy S%#*! Someone is obviously looking out for you. Glad it was a near miss. Must have been nice to see life... would be better at a greater distance from Liv! Happy to here things are going so well. When looking at the GPS tracker you can really see how much progress you have made. Still following your adventure on your blog regularly. Encouraging others to donate to the cause. Take care.


Melissa M said...

That is so scary, but how cool is that picture with the boat in the back?!

Eric Church back on track and started touring again. When you get back, we are going!

Anonymous said...

Are you a leprechaun?

Brent said...

I get lost in David Gray's ballads too. I tried raising $3 million to get you a Superbowl commercial, but unlike you, I am wildly unpopular. As a result, the 50 bucks I managed to finagle from my coworkers bought you a sweet .0005 second spot after Doritos. It was still better than CareerBuilder's.

Keep going strong big guy, we're all thinking about you. Looking forward to more stories. Hopefully less perilous than this one.

Anonymous said...

Holy Boat Crunch Batman!

Glad to hear you woke from your reverie. Get the middle school math class to compute the odds of you and that ship meeting! Remember you physics, no objects can occupy the same space at the same time :-)

You look great! I can't speak for the ladies but your beard looks great!

You should have finagled some fresh hot food from the captain that tried to mush you!

Glad to hear things are well.

How's the water maker?

Did you try to adjust the oars?

More snow coming to Fairfield Cnty again tomorrow, enjoy your weather!


Corey said...

Nice Beard!

Anonymous said...

what did you trim off the soul patch????


Marlene said...

Hi Paul,
Wow, that must be what an ant feels like when it sees a foot coming up on it. That may also be the reason you aren't allowed to drive with headphones on. I wonder what the probability is of meeting another boat will the whole ocean out there. I guess it is better than I would have thought.
I was all excited about a possible snowday tomorrow and then this "big" storm that was supposed to come ended up being nothing. So I guess it is off to work tomorrow as usual.
I have to say that your beard really makes you look like an adult. You are actually older now than I was when I babysat you! I was 23 the summer I babysat for you and Joy. How is that for some math!
Is the seagull still hanging around or is he long gone? Take care. Love, Marlene

Dan said...

Yikes! I think he finally saw the sun reflected off your beard and started to turn the ship.

Good news though, I won $40 in a superbowl squares pool. So true to my promise, I'm about to make a $40 donation to row for hope. I would encourage anyone else who won some money on the game to consider doing the same. There is no better way to spend gambling winnings!

Anonymous said...

Holy cow- we are so glad you are ok!! nice manuevering and nice pictures and nice beard- i agree really cool with the boat in the background. You should write a book- that was the most exciting thing that I've read in I can't remember with a cliffhanger and a really feel good ending, anyways take care!


Anonymous said...

I say.....mine is better then yours thurs far

leif erikson

Anonymous said...

Kinda' like rowing on the Norwalk River and a fishing boat approaches....Not really! Amazing! Your posts never disappoint! Glad you are well -- keep up the great progress! -- ETS

Anonymous said...

Oh my dear Lord!!! Isn't there some sort of international communication for ocean going vessels to advise to keep their AIS ON????? To WARN that there's a solo ocean rower out there??? Glad that you're OK with wit in tact to note your lessons learned! Be safe.

K-Rock and #1 Wild Bill said...

Hi Buddy - Holy Crap - I choked on my coffee when I saw the blurb in The Press that said 'reports a close call with a large ship'. But how fun was it to talk to something that actually talked back? Unlike your fish and sea gull friends...But, ok, everything worked as it was supposed to - everybody saw everybody and was able to make it all come out just fine. Change your shorts and keep rowing.OK, OK, you have a beard - is it a guy thing? A visible sign of your testosterone level? Trust me, you don't need the beard to boast about what you're made of. We are all getting a pretty good picture of that every day!It's definitely The Right Stuff - xxoo-

LovelyLL said...

Yikesss!! Close Call!!'re furry!!! and cute!

LovelyLL said...

P.S. I think you brought sexy back in the 2nd pic! hahaha

Azure-Dee said...

howzat WOW...that tanker was HUGE..happy to see that you get to live another day.
have you seen any sea creatures like whales...what is the weather like, from your photos it seems warm. keep strong cheers

Kyle Brown said...

I was a little surprised that when the cargo ship radioed to ask if you needed anything, you didn't ask, "Got any Ben & Jerry's?" I guess the excitment of the moment overcame your opportunism...

Press & Sun-Bulletin said...

Hey Paul,

Sorry to hear about your close call, but glad it turned out well. I was able to find some information about the Nordic Cosmos on the web, as well a photo taken by someone who was less worried about getting his rowboat run over. The Cosmos is a double-hulled oil-tanker -- I'll try and paste the link to the whole post below.

Look forward to speaking with you soon.

-- Doug Schneider/Press & Sun-Bulletin

JoAnn said...

OMG Paul! My first comment was going to be HOLY S%#*! OR HOLY Crap... but as I see that's everyones initial thought! Then when I saw the picture of how close... GEEZ PAUL! Anyway, love that beard! Thanks for the pic!
Keep up the good work! By the way IT'S SNOWING AGAIN! UGH! Miss you! Jo @ GA

Michael said...


Anonymous said...

My husband and I were talking about you last night - about how worried I am about you with your impending swim. (Waiting anxiously for you to post that it is done and you are safe.) Then, he wakes me up this morning with news that your post started with OH #%@#! I immediately jumped up and asked if you are ok. Don't scare me like that again! I don't like waking up that way. It did make for a great introduction to my kids about what you are doing. (We weren't sure if it was too big of a concept for them to understand.) Needless to say, rowing for 3 months to go 3,000 was enough to impress them. Now I'm thinking that we won't have to search for someone to be Superman for the Halloween party next year. We will have our own resident super man!

We miss you around here. We can't wait to have you back at GA! Each day brings you closer to home. Keep rowing!

- Denise

Anonymous said...

Holy Bat$@#! Robin - that's a little to close!!!

Paul you did great - I guess we've all come to expect that Keep up the good work.

Hope you liked the Magnet & Blazer Plates!!

Take Care & God Bless

Phil & Margo CTK

Dan Pfeifer said...

Hi Paul,

Wow, that is amazing! What are the odds of meeting a big ship?

I'm still curious, were you or are you affiliatied with the Boy Scouts? I plan on sharing your story tomorrow at our Troop meeting.

Dan Pfeifer

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,

Your last story was a heart stopper, but you handled it in your cool Paul Ridley manner. I probably would have had a fright and flight response and jumped into the water.

Wishing you "Calm Seas and a Prosperous (as per lots of donations) Journey." There is a Beethoven work names this way. It's very beautiful.

Warm regards,

Margit @ GA

Svend Pedersen said...

"A collision at sea can ruin your entire day."

Godspeed, fair winds and following seas.

Rob said...

wow. nice beard hippie.