Posted by: Helena Smalman-Smith | February 15, 2012

Day 73: Don’t count your mother carey’s chickens…

NB Mother Carey’s Chickens is another name for Storm Petrels).

You’d all got used to the idea that we could do 45 or so nm a day and had been calculating our arrival based on that, and congratulating us on our super effort. Actually, as we’ve said on numerous occasions, we do much the same each day, and it’s the conditions that predict whether we do 0, 20, 30 or 50nm in a day.

The great ocean rower Gerard d’Aboville who rowed the North Atlantic and Pacific solo once said “I did not conquer the ocean, It just let me pass”, and without a doubt on this voyage, almost every time we have felt that we’re on a roll, the ocean reminds us that it’s in charge – the wind swings in the wrong direction, our rudder breaks, one of us gets injured, or as today, the wind ramps right up, the waves go crazy accordingly, and quite possibly we lose some beneficial current.

Some of you have rightly observed from the Talisker site that we are now moving into shallower water – this was bound to spell trouble as it makes waves shorter and spikier, and combined with strong winds (16-22kts) happening today just when we got here, we had waves in 3 major directions, and had to put out the bight to have any chance of continuing to point west, but you still spend most of your session steering rather than powering ahead, and the bight is a brake anyway. For most of this morning, the texture of the water’s surface was like one of those Christmas cakes that has the spikey white icing – but spread over a pile of profiteroles not a flat cake!

Tomorrow, the wind is forecast to be right back down again, but it usually takes an extra day for the sea to calm down after a blow like this, so we may be even slower tomorrow as we continue to struggle with messy seas, but have less helpful wind.

Lydia – no, there is no fixed distance from Barbados when we will start rowing through the night – it depends on conditions, time of day, whether there is cloud over the moon (and it’s only a crescent moon) which would lead to this being done within the context of “stay safe”.

Many thanks to all today for messages and donations (Graham, Chris A and Flash Bristow).

Charleses – Jackie from Thames Valley Skiff Club wisely suggests that the tube station for the clue “Beehive” must be “High Barnet”! No idea about the E. India one – we’re not good on all of those Jubilee line extension etc stations – can you put us out of our misery?

Geraint – there is no way that beard is even coming back to the UK never mind lasting to the dinner on 3 March!

Roge – yup, beer, food, shower, bed – you got it and all in the right order.

Saw 4 shearwaters today fishing for flying fish and squawking excitedly – they’ve all been silent up to now. Also saw the vapour trail of a plane for the first time, which was significant.

Fingers crossed we get a better run tonight – 7nm last night was just the start of today’s disappointments!

Chris – thanks for your routing reassurance – very useful!



  1. Keep going guy’s, soon your be missing your little Orange Tiger and eating all those profiteroles!
    Good luck.

  2. So thinking ahead – what will you do during the cold winter months next winter? Might I suggest that you just get a nice coal fire and many good books? I am sure everyone following you would be up for suggesting some suitable titles? (And giving their reasons for the suggestions ….)

    Just an idea that might amuse you as you hunt down the finish line!

    Mine is a book a friend over in Aus has just lent to me: A dogs Life by Peter Mayle … some of the style and stories remind me a lot of your blogs and I think you will be amused by it.

    So I guess my suggestion is perhaps a bit serious … thinking of you guys – all the best!

  3. So close, and very exciting to watch from here. Hope you see increasing amounts of wildlife to reassure that there’s land just over the horizon. Research shows Shearwaters foraging up to 215nm offshore tho about 90 is more normal. Good luck!

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