Blog #3 - November 22, 2022
It’s been a little while since we did a blog update and it’s already Thanksgiving week; so seemed an appropriate time to share an update. We’re now down to less than 7 months until to race start and less than 3.5 months until we need to have all of our mandatory training completed!
To that regard, in the past month Jayme and I have completed the Ocean Rowing Course hosted by Atlantic Campaigns (the race organizer). Ian Couch, head safety officer, conducted the all-day course; going over all aspects of the Mid-Pacific crossing including safety considerations and route planning. One more box checked.
Jayme and I have now completed three team training rows. Our first row was 15 hrs. on SF Bay. This row was largely a “get to know each other” row – we rowed from our host marina, Safe Harbor Loch Lomond, down to Angel Island. We spent the night on a mooring buoy and then rowed back to Loch Lomond at 2 a.m. For an initial row we accomplished a lot including rowing two up; sleeping and eating on the boat; and rowing at night.
Our second row was a 33 hrs. row on SF Bay. We first rowed from Loch Lomond down to Angel Island. Spent the night on a mooring buoy. Next morning, we rowed down and around Alcatraz Island. Then headed out toward the Golden Gate Bridge before rowing up to China Camp state park in San Rafael. We spent the night on anchor before rowing back to Loch Lomond at 1 a.m.
Our most recent row was a 49.75 hr. row from Redondo Beach to Oceanside. This row was epic even before it got started. Marianne and I drove down to SoCal from Reno. We had had snow earlier in the week, but the forecast was clear and we didn’t think we’d encounter any issues. But as we approached Bridgeport, we encountered chain control. And it continued all the way down to Mammoth Lakes. We talked to California Highway Patrol in Bridgeport who advised that chains were not required on a single axle non-braked trailer, so we proceeded with caution. It was a nerve-wracking drive towing the boat over snow covered roads.
But we made it to SoCal safely and launched out of Redondo Beach. Conditions were pretty fast at the start of the row and we were optimistic about reaching San Diego - maybe even earlier than predicted. We had to cross the Los Angeles/Long Beach shipping channel at sunset. We didn’t appreciate all the cruise ships leave at this time on their voyages to Mexico. Made for interesting conversations with Vessel Traffic Control and one of the ship captain’s on the VHF radio. VTC to other vessels – “they say they are an ocean rowboat”. Ship Captain to us – “Are you under oar power or motor power?”. After we crossed the shipping channel conditions started working against us. We had wind on the bow and a current working against us. Early on second day, we knew we were behind schedule and had to consider alternative exit points if the conditions didn’t improve.
The conditions did not improve. So we knew we were unlikely to make it to San Diego due to our limited training window; and instead started heading towards one of our backup exit points – Oceanside. The following evening, we had to deploy our para-anchor as we could no longer make forward progress. We were pushed backwards ¼ mile in the 10-15 minutes it took us to deploy the para-anchor. Over the next 5 hours we lost an additional ½ mile while on para-anchor. Sunday morning we got up and worked our way into Oceanside. To do so, we rowed 1 hour on; 1 hour off. The person who was not rowing hand steered as the conditions overpowered our autohelm.
While the row didn’t go quite as planned, it is hard to have gotten more out of a training row. It is actually beneficial when things don’t go right on training rows. It helps you see how you as a team handle adversity; how do you problem solve; how do you pivot; and what lessons learned do you come away with. Things you won’t learn if everything goes smoothly.