Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Day 35: Swimming with the Fishes

After much less deliberation than expected, I went in the water tonight around 7PM and scraped the bottom of the boat. I couldn't see the bottom, but from my map my best guess is that it was between 8,774 feet and 8,869 feet deep (2,675 to 2,704 meters)! I actually didn't plan to go in the water today, as the seas aren't all that calm (10-15 feet, maybe?) and by the time I started thinking about it, it was already getting late in the day.

Here's how it went down... Rowing along in the middle of the PM shift, and the boat's feeling slower than ever. I still haven't scraped barnacles and it has probably been long enough for there to be some growth under there. Maybe I'll see if I can feel anything under the waterline? So I reach under as far as I can and to my surprise the hull is like a shag carpet of barnacles! Bad news...

So I think, OK, well, I hear there are supposed to be light winds next Tuesday; I'll go under then. Then, well, winds are supposed to be good until Monday night; do I really want to waste five days of good winds by not scraping the bottom? Nope.

So I dig out my mask, snorkel, and barnacle scraper (a plastic cement spreader), tie a rope around my waist (other end to the boat, obviously), and I'm ready to go...technically. Then I climb over the grab rail and proceed to sit on the gunwale for at least 5 mins, thinking... "what time of day do sharks typically feed?"...and "don't freak out if you go under and see a Dorado. It's not the same as a shark"...and "it's OK, you can put this off till tomorrow"...

Then finally I'm in the water...first thought is "oh, crap I'm in the water!" Second thought is "scrape like hell' I do. All the way around the boat, and barnacle carnage everywhere. Small fish with black and white vertical stripes stuck around to feast on the now-homeless barnacles, but they were the only fish I saw. I even put my head under the water to scope out the hull to be sure I got every last one, bow to stern. At one point I even looked down and saw nothing but bright blue, which was actually slightly reassuring.

I clamber out of the boat wet and cold, but mission accomplished! In hindsight, and based on my terrible mileage numbers for the past week, it seems that I started to slow down around Day 25, which means I need to scrape the bottom about every three weeks. That means I'll have at least a couple more reasons to go for a dip before Antigua.

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



LovelyLL said...

Wow!! I'm glad you got that over with! Love your description of the barnacles being like "shag carpet".

ΞЯІПП said...

I just came across your blog here and it was so amazing that I ended up reading the entire thing!

This is an absolutely amazing adventure that you are undertaking. It is absolutely inspirational. I am glad to hear that the barnacles are gone safely without any shark encounters!! Hopefully some of those little fish stay around to keep you company or to eat the barnacles as they develop!

take care, and I look forward to reading your continuing story.

Erinn from Toronto.

Anonymous said...

i think you need a shamWow.


Anonymous said...

After being on the ocean by yourself for so long, do you think that the sounds and smells in a cities will seem more intense, and maybe annoying? I think it is an incredible journey you are on. Any plans for your next adventure? Have you ever considered being an astronaut for NASA? I think you would be very good at space walks.

Anonymous said...

If you did become an astronaut( as I sugested in previous comment), I bet you wouldn't have any trouble remembering to keep the hatch closed.


Marlene said...

Hi Paul,
How cold was the water? You said you were cold but I don't if it is cold like us. I believe it got to about 17 degrees here today. Not exactly warm but they say that Saturday will be in the 40's which will be very nice. I would love to see some blue ocean from a white sand beach while the sun is beating down on me.
If you have to scrape every 3 weeks I calculate you will have to scrape 2 more times. Do you think that is right?
Love, Marlene

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, for your next ocean trip, you could invent a small camera with a light, on the end of a pole. You could stick it underneath your boat, when you need to, and check barnacle growth.... and sharks!


Anonymous said...

So does your boat feel faster now that you've had a day to row with no barnacles?
I don't know if I could have just hopped in the water like that, but I guess if you want to get home you do what you have to. I'm glad everything worked out. Phew!


Anonymous said...

It is confirmed....You have mucho grande cojonos!

Anonymous said...

I was reading an email sent to me today titled "questions to ponder" Some were quite interesting, while some were ridiculous...
however, I came across one that was fitting to the ocean depths you spoke about....
"how much deeper would the ocean be if sponges didn't live there?"
ba dum chhh

oh, and happy 5th my friend

keep it up

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

Hi Buddy - Whoosh - such a big adventure! I was happy to hear about the tethered part - hold onto that idea. It must have been an amazing sight to see all that 'growth' - something else to add to the Amazing Things list.For anyone who thought you might get bored out there, these maintenance reports cure that idea.You have a jam packed schedule! Next report should include info on whether or not you feel like you picked up speed. But, once you got totally wet - how will you ever get dry?You are doing a fabulous job - keep it up - we're with you in every way that we can be - xxoo-

Gabby said...

So how long were you in the water? WOW- I feel like I held my breath until I reached the end of your post! Hopefully you will feel the difference when rowing today!
I'm still in awe that you are out there...The Sessa gang continues to root for you :-)