Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Departure is on for 8AM tomorrow! My port clearances came through yesterday morning and I woke up to a beautiful morning in La Gomera. After heavy rain and strong wind from the South for two days, today was clear and warm with only a few wispy clouds in the sky. The weather looks good through next Wednesday and beyond, with North East winds and seas of 3-4 meters or less for at least a week and probably longer. Tomorrow's forecast map is below:

The forecast is ideal for the immediate challenge at hand, which is to get South, South, South. The weather this year has been unusual to say the least, as some storms in the North Atlantic have had smaller fingers of wind and weather that have extended far more South than usual, which has made the weather here terrible for the last three or four weeks. With that in mind, my immediate goal is to head South as quickly as possible until I get to 20 degrees or so North latitude, which is 700+ nautical miles South of my current position (~28 degrees North). Below 20N, the equatorial trade winds are much more consistent than they are up here, which will help me to accelerate Westwards when the time comes. In my mind, I'm shooting for a point at 20N 30W that is 856 nautical miles SW of here. This landmark may be a little too far West given the importance of getting South this year, but we'll see where the weather takes me. If I hit 20N a little further East that'd be ok too.

Right off the bat I'll be focusing on getting past the end of El Hierro, which is an island 30 miles or so South West of Gomera. Once I'm clear of Hierro I won't have to worry about hitting land until Antigua!

To be honest, Hierro doesnt worry me, but there are a few things that do:

1) Seasickness - I'm expecting to be deathly seasick for at least my first three days. In college I went on a short cruise (the Norwegian Majesty -- a great ship!) from Miami to Mexico and back -- I was seasick the entire time and swore that I'd never go on any more silly ocean trips. Oops!

2) Nights at Sea - I'll be able to hear the waves but won't see them though they'll all around me. I'm hoping for clear skies and a decent moon to start so I can get used to night rowing. Even so, there'll be lots of things I wont be able to explain, which will require some mental feats of strength.

3) Sleep deprivation - I've slept in the cabin plenty of times, but the constant action of the boat and stress of adjusting to life on the open ocean will surely keep me from getting much rest early on.

Well, I guess thats all for now. I hear its snowing back home, which should make for an interesting New Year's Eve. Drive safe everyone.

Next update from the ocean, but you can track my progress using the map linked through The beacon on my boat sends updates independant of my e-mails, so keep an eye on that if you'd like.

To the Atlantic!


P.S. If any of you party animals are still up at 3AM EST, I'd appreciate a toast!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

BEARD WATCH: 12/31/08

By popular demand, here's an update on my expedition beard growing successes of late:

On top of adding to my grisled good looks, this beard will give me some protection from the sun and a place to hide snacks for easy access while rowing.

Given that I've been at it for less than a month, I give this beard a 6.5 out of 10. I've still got some work to do to match these bearded wonders of the world:



Monday, December 29, 2008

More Pictures

Sorry for no update yesterday, but I dont think you missed much - its really been the same routine. On a more interesting note, here are the pictures of the big Jesus statue that overlooks the town of San Sebastian, which I visited last week (Christmas Day, I think?).

Below is a view of the Atlantic looking South - the direction I´ll be heading immediately after rowing out of the marina. The first quarter or so of the trip should be a mix of South and South West. Progress in either direction will lessen my chances of getting clipped by the remnants of a low pressure system in the North Atlantic, and increase the likelihood of catching the equatorial trades that will help me make progess West to Antigua.

In other news, the weather window still looks pretty good for the end of next week. The winds from the North East are pretty weak to start, but should build through the weekend and continue until at least Monday (probably longer), which would give me a minimum of five days of good winds to get started.

The seas will likely still be coming from the North West (remants of a big low in the North Atlantic, and the South and West wind that will be here until Wednesday), but that shouldnt keep me from picking up some Southerly mileage when I finally get going. Waves are predicted in the 2-4 meter range, which on the Atlantic is still pretty small.

In the next day or two I´ll write with some details on the important decisions that will need to be made in the first few days out and what life on board will be like (as far as I can predict) for the first week.

Thanks for your continued support during this tedius part of the expedition -- it´ll get more interesting soon, I promise!


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Less than a week?

Short update today. The weather still looks promising for departure late next week. There's a good-sized low pressure system passing through Wednesday, after which the winds calm down on Thursday and start to bulid from the North on Friday and continuing through the weekend.

The challenge here in Gomera is still mostly to pass the time. I'm starting to get into a pattern of hanging around the boat in the morning, going for a run in the hills around town in the afternoon followed by a quick swim at one of San Sebastian's black sand beaches. Then its back up the hill for a shower before dinner, internet, a walk around town, and bed. Needless to say, this routine may not sound so bad after a couple of weeks out on the water...


Friday, December 26, 2008

A (fragile) window?

A glimmer of hope on the horizon -- though the forecast is 132 hours out, it looks like the weather I need to leave may finally materialize late next week. A low pressure system is forecast to blow through next Wednesday, followed by what looks to be at least 48 hours of light but Northerly wind (from the North, blowing to the South). Whooo! I hope it holds up...

Ok, on to more exciting things. This town seems to have a thing for climbing Santas, which, despite my love of Christmas, I had never seen before:

Thanks Joy for posting some pictures of what my departure will look like. A couple more are below:

I´ll also post some pictures of the Jesus statue that overlooks San Sebastian as soon as I can figure out how to get them off of my camera. You can almost see it at the top of the hill behind my boat in the first picture above.

Now, on to the more interesting stuff --

Robert, Marlene - I absolutely love the fact that they Yankees are spending money this off season, especially to pick up pitching. I wasn´t the least bit impressed with the Nick Swisher signing (highly overrated throughout baseball thanks to Moneyball, and he also killed my fantasy team two years ago). Sabathia was an average pitcher a couple of years ago, but seems to have found some magic recently. I hope it lasts. Not a huge fan of Burnett yet, but I can quickly be convinced if he steps up and wins some close games early on. I like Big Tex, but for some reason associate him with Hank Blalock, who has been spotty since getting lots of hype in 2004. With that said, it´d take a lot for him to be worse than Giambi who had a bigger contract. Can´t wait to go to a game in the new stadium. Frankly, I thought the old one was a dump, despite all the history there.

Joy - not sure what to make of your last picture. I´m pretty sure that was a close to life-sized cardboard stand-in for me that you all ate dinner with on Christmas Eve. Really weird.

Gary M - Port clearances here have been straight-forward but were complicated by issues that weren´t a fault of mine or of Antonio, the port captain in Tenerife. Would be happy to elaborate when I get to Antigua but should leave it at that for now.

LovelyLady - I never get Christmas carols out of my system. Seriously, no one should go 11 months without hearing Dominic the Donkey (Heee Haw, Heee Haw!). Haha...yeah, I did it.


A Different Kind of Christmas

Merry Christmas! It's Joy this time, writing from home in Binghamton, NY, where 3 of the 4 Ridleys are spending a somewhat strange Christmas without Paul. We talked to him earlier this evening, and he still sounds frustrated about being on land, but his Spanish is improving-- he's got "cerveza" and "vino tinto" down pretty well, but he still needs to work on the translation for "give me back my port clearances, por favor". Unfortunately, he's still got time to practice before the weather improves.

In the meantime, he made a Christmas pilgrimage to the top of a cliff that overlooks San Sebastian, to visit "Jesus" (pronounced the Spanish way, of course), in the form of a giant statue keeping watch over the town. Paul asked Him for Northeast winds at 10 to 15 knots, but so far no luck. Santa must have passed on some gossip from the bon voyage festivities....

The theme of Christmas Eve services last night seemed almost as much Row for Hope as the birth of Christ (unintended consequences of a December launch, I guess). It was great to see how supportive people are, though. Thanks to everyone who's been following the blog -- we all (Paul especially) read every comment, and the encouragement really helps! Luckily for Paul, it sounded like The Blue Marlin was set to open again tomorrow, which also helps. Nothing like a little rum and lemon to lift holiday spirits.

I hope everyone is enjoying their holidays! And Paul, we know spending Christmas away from home is one of many sacrifices you've made for this cause. We're so proud of you! And don't worry, we didn't bruise ourselves with chocolate oranges without you. We're saving them for next year, when you'll be home again and those same chocolate oranges will be nice and hard. Warm up your knees....

This is from a training row Paul did on Sunday. My dad, Nadine, Liz and I were all disappointed to leave before the actual launch, but as Paul pointed out, it will look a lot like this:

Paul's getting good at waiting and watching the ocean...

I wish I had a sane explanation for this one. I'll just say Christmas dinner was not the same without the real Paul at the table.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve in La Gomera

December 24th is Christmas Eve here in La Gomera too, though this will be one of the more unusual in recent memory. Of course, the restaurants (and bars!) are closed so I'm celebrating this one in my apartment with a Christmas cocktail in hand. Luckily, I've never been one to be without Christmas carols, and this year is no exception. As I write this, Celine Dion is nailing the high note in "O' Holy Night"...she's got pipes! Wow.

Next up is the Otis Redding version of "White Christmas," which I happen to listen to all year around. I highly recommend it.

Other than that, things are pretty much business as usual. The weather forecast remains terrible for at least the next seven days (through December 31st), which really boggles my mind. I've been here for almost two weeks, and in that time there have been only 36 hours when I could have left, which happened to be immediately after my port clearances were suspended by the Spanish authorities. Though of course you can never predict the weather, the North East trades in this part of the world are remarkably reliable in nearly every year but this one. In fact, the winds that I need are there as predicted and sitting 300 miles or so South of the Canaries. The problem right now is that a string of low pressure systems, most of which passed over the Northeast U.S. a week or so ago, have been stirring up the weather all the way across the Atlantic. I've talked to a few people that live aboard their boats in the marina, and the consenus is that this weather is almost unheard of, and most have never seen the strong West winds that are predicted here over the weekend.

My only consolation is that if I did get out on the 18th as planned I would have been in for a really tough first two weeks and would have been on sea anchor for all but a day or two. Maybe that's enough of a Christmas present?

Merry Christmas to all, and many thanks for the support and continued entertainment!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Getting Comfortable

Hi everyone,

The expedition is entering a new phase early this week, as it has become a waiting game for a couple of reasons. As I´ve written about recently, I´m still in the process of waiting for my port clearances to be renewed by the Spanish authorities. We´ve known that this would be a hurdle we´d have to clear, but I remain optimistic that they´ll be taken care of in the next few business days, though of course the Christmas holiday will slow the process quite a bit.

The next issue is even further beyond my control -- the weather. To get clear of the Canary Islands I need at two or three days of wind from the North or Northeast. Fortunately, tradewinds from this direction are common at this time of year and should be increasing in regularity and strength as time goes on.

Unfortunately, Northeast winds are nowhere to be found. The weather forecast I use ( goes out a week and shows that there are no signs of good weather through at least December 30th. In fact, there are very rare but strong winds (30+ knots) predicted from the West, of all places, that are associated with a huge low pressure system coming across the Atlantic, which will be here through early next week.

The map above is for next Tuesday :(

So, the next question is then ´What should I do to pass the time while I´m here by myself waiting for the weather to improve?´

On top of the ongoing training, small projects on the boat, and hanging around the dock, I´ve come up with a few options:

- Gomeran whistling language lessons (yes, this exists...)
- Raise pigeons (a neighbor in town does this)
- Get a job at La Gomera´s only pub, the Blue Marlin
- Buy and Santa costume and rent myself out for parties
- Watch my beard grow
- Spanish lessons
- Guitar/piano lessons

More ideas would be much appreciated...

Merry Christmas!


Monday, December 22, 2008

Pictures from La Gomera

Below are some pictures from Saturday, when we rented a car and explored the interior of the island.

The top of the volcano that created La Gomera is home to some of the only tropical rainforest in Europe. Once you get over the hairpin turns and speeding tour busses, the scenery is amazing.

Liz, me, and Joy overlooking the Atlantic. My sweet sunglasses are thanks to The Rudy Project.

A view of a tiny farming village on the northern side of the island. Note the waves coming from the north -- the right direction for my row. North to Northeast winds should be common here at this time of year but are nowhere to be found at the moment.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Killing time...

Short update today. All of the relevant government authorities are closed for the weekend so we spent today driving around the island and up to the top of the volcano that created La Gomera. I have some incredible pictures that I'll post in the morning.

Here's to getting out on the water before Christmas!

Thanks for all of the support - you all have made the last few hectic days a little more entertaining.


Friday, December 19, 2008


Here are some pictures from La Gomera.

- The view of the harbor from our apartment on the hill:

- This is from an interview that a Spanish TV station did with me on Tuesday. We´ll try to get a video from this up as well.

The ritual signing of the wall at the only pub in La Gomera -- The Blue Marlin. A tradition begun in 2003 and carried on by every ocean rower leaving from La Gomera:

More soon...


Politics and waiting...

The latest is that I'm still here in Gomera and waiting for my port clearances to be reissued. We've watched the 36 hour window I had for departure come and go, which has been frustrating, especially because the sea and wind conditions are ideal for a smooth get-away.

The hope is that the clearance is renewed tomorrow, at which point we can start looking at the weather again to see when I might be able to leave.

With that said, the good news is that the boat is all packed and ready for departure. Of course, this would not have been possible without the help of Liz Tomic and Joy Ridley, who have thought through and organized hundreds of pounds of food, the boat.

I'll keep you posted tomorrow on where thing stand with both clearances and weather.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

So close.....

Lots of excitment and confusion in La Gomera at the moment. In short, the departure clearance that I had been granted on Tuesday from the Spanish government was put on hold today with little explanation, at least until tomorrow morning.

If the green light comes through (again) as we hope I'll be off and rowing for Antigua by noon tomorrow.

Given all of the hurdles we've had to overcome during this project it should come as no surprise that another has come up just when it appears that I'm nearing the end of the beginning phase of the trip. With that in mind, we're all optimistic that I'll make it out tomorrow after all, so keep your fingers crossed.

Thanks to everyone for the kind words and encouragement! Hopefully the next news is an announcement that the row has begun.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Another long but productive day...

The title says it all - today was another full day at the boat with the whole team working non-stop to prepare the boat for what will hopefull be a Thursday morning departure. All of the most important projects are done and the boat will be lifted into the water tomorrow morning at 9AM. The rest of the day will be spent with some shopping for last-minute items and little projects on the boat that will be designed to make the first three days as straight-forward as possible for me, as I expect to be very seasick and exhausted while rowing my hardest to get clear of the Canary Island chain..

All for now, but I'll follow tomorrow with a longer description of what the first few exciting days will be like and what to look for after my departure in the critical week of the expedition. 


Monday, December 15, 2008

For the Moment, a Family Affair

I'm Mark Ridley, Paul's dad, and it's my turn to be Guest Blogger, while Paul continues readying Liv for her great adventure.

Paul's step-mom, Nadine, and I arrived on the first ferry from Tenerife yesterday morning (Sunday), traveling with Liz Tomic, one of Paul and Joy's closest childhood friends. Joy and Paul met us at the dock (actually, Liv is practically at the dock herself, still mounted on her shipping pallet). We dropped off our baggage at our hotel, and then set to work.

Paul has spent most of the last several days in Liv's tiny aft cabin, working on wiring, drilling holes and then caulking them up, and shouting orders to his crew (while he's got us). For the moment, this expedition has become very much a family affair. But soon enough it will become an intensely solitary enterprise.

The wind has been blowing steadily here in La Gomera ever since our arrival. The gales have been strong enough to keep all but the largest boats in the marina, and it doesn't appear that anyone will be leaving port until Wednesday at the earliest. We're told that the roughest part of Paul's row may actually be the departure from the Canary Islands, because the winds and currents here make leaving the harbor and rounding the other islands quite a challenge.

The electronics are now up and running, for the most part, so efforts have turned to packing - principally the puzzle of how to get 90-days' supply of food into a space the size of a large foot-locker. Packages of freeze-dried food and Ramen noodles have been scattered about the docks here as food is sorted, packaged and crammed into every available cranny.

It's hard to believe that still, somehow, by Friday or Saturday, everything will have come together and the next phase of the expedition will begin.

It's a priviledge to be part of this adventure, if only in a small, supporting role. Thanks, Paul and Joy, for inviting us to help!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Holy Hell, we're in Gomera!

Hi all! It's Joy this time -- I've been nominated to write the next blog post as Paul is busily learning how to operate (or spell?) his AIS transponder. It sounds a lot like a flux capacitor to me, but I'm told it will tell him when another ship is nearby so that he can either get out of the way or politely ask for beer.

We arrived in the town of San Sebastian on the island of La Gomera late yesterday afternoon. The ferry ride was mainly spent trying to estimate the height of the waves and trying not to appear seasick. I'll let you guess which of us did what...

We found Liv safe and sound, and it didn't take us long to establish that she's the very smallest of any boat in the harbor. But she's still pretty impressive and is attracting the attention of a number of passersby, none of whom we can communicate with. Does anyone know how to say "Yes, the WHOLE Atlantic" or "bucket and chuck it" in Spanish??

Today we actually got a fair amount done, including making an extensive to-do list, which we promptly left at the hotel. We also managed to install a wire on the deck for Paul to be clipped into, and we drilled holes in the boat and the rudder (scary!) for the tracking system, the backup steering system, etc. I'm sure we did some other things too, but the main thing I can recall is that I correctly identified a vice grip. I'm quite handy.

We've got much more on the list for tomorrow, but first we need to find the list...

Friday, December 12, 2008


Ok, just quick note for now. I made it to safely to the Canary Islands and got my first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean that I´ll be living on for the next three months. My first reaction -- let me at it!

I´m taking a ferry over to La Gomera in a hour to meet up with my boat, and I hear that it made it there safe and sound and is in the marina where it should be. I´ll post some pictures, soon as I can. My sister Joy is here also, and the rest of the team will be getting in over the weekend.

Thanks to everyone for the notes of encouragement on the blog, facebook, and e-mail!

More soon,


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The easy way to cross the Atlantic

Right now I'm sitting in the airport about to cross the Atlantic the
boring (but easier) way. I have a feeling the next time will be a
little more exciting...

Looking back, the last five days have been overwhelming, with emails,
text messages, and calls from friends, family, coworkers, press, and
complete strangers wishing me well. All of it has been a fantasic
reminder of how I've made it so close to the starting line for what is
sure to be an incredible adventure -- I've been lucky to have constant
encouragement and support, without which Row for Hope would have never
gotten off the ground.

Now enough of the sentimental stuff - I've haven't done anything yet,
and now it's time to earn it. Looking forward to a December 20th
departure !

Next time from the Canaries,


Lots more goodbyes...

Wow, so its been another busy day today getting ready to leave. My phone's been ringing off the hook with people wishing me good luck, which has been great. Based on everyone's goodbye's it seems like they're expecting me to disappear for years, rather than just a few months while I go splash around on my little rowing trip. Either way, its good to hear that so many people are following this!

One question I've gotten a lot is about how people can keep in touch with me while I'm out there. There are a few ways:
1) all of the comments on this blog will be consolidated and e-mailed to me in the boat
2) you can track my progress on to see how fast I'm rowing
3) you can e-mail me at and my land-based team will forward these e-mails to me in the boat

Words of encouragement will be much appreciated while I'm at sea!


Monday, December 8, 2008

The Countdown Is On - 12 Days

Ok, we're in the home stretch here leading up to departure on December 20th. I've been incredibly busy winding down my work responsibilities at Greenwich Associates and gearing up for the expedition over the past few weeks, but I promise that I'll be writing more for the next three or four months!

Friday was my last day in the office, and I think my goodbyes made a lot of people realize that despite the fact that my 9AM-5PM life has stayed pretty normal over the last few months the wheels have been very much in motion elsewhere and that this expedition is for real. I love the metaphor of the duck that moves effortlessly around the pond, until you look under water and its feet are paddling like hell. That might have been me recently.

I (finally) finished my RYA Yachtmaster Ocean Theory course, which is one of the many requirements that the Spanish government requires rowers to complete before being cleared to depart from the Canary Islands. This course covers everything from world meteorology, passage planning, and boat equipment to celestial navigation, and is offered online by the Tiller School of Navigation and Seamanship

I'll be spending the next two and a half days packing and pulling together all of the little pieces of equipment that I didn't send over with the boat. While none of them are critically important, right now for example I'm sitting in the Greenwich Library downloading audio books to listen to on my iPod while I'm out there. Not the end of the world if I dont have them, but they might make three months of rowing at least a little more interesting. 

Thanks to:
- Peter Dawson at the Tiller School who worked the weekend (both days) grading my Yachtmaster exercises! Much appreciated. 
- Marcus Werner, for donating a three month supply of USANA vitamin supplements for my trip. More information here: 


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Cleared Customs!

Great news from Andrew Morris at PA Freight. Liv has cleared customs twice now, both in Liverpool after the first leg of the trip (from New York), and again in Tenerife, Canary Islands. She'll take one more ferry from Tenerife to La Gomera, where she'll be delivered to the marina in San Sebastian on Wednesday or Thursday.