What a week…

The adventure began by towing the boat down to Palma in Mallorca by Land Rover and in convoy with Angus Collins at Rannoch Adventure, who was towing his R45 for training another four man team. 36 hours later we pulled into Barcelona and managed to join some friends for a well deserved lunch and a bit of RandR. I was just pleased to get out of the Defender!

We took the overnight ferry into Palma and arrived for breakfast on Charlie’s yacht, Narla. We sorted out berthing for the boats, loaded the equipment needed and after a quick coffee, the training began…

Day 1. I carefully manoeuvered WhiteRows around the huge super yachts in the harbour before getting onto the oars and taking her out into the Bay of Palma. Charlie jumped on the boat (he was on the support tender) and after watching me row for a bit jumped onto the oars to show me how it is done properly. What I picked up in the next few hours was invaluable, and I am sure will stand me in huge stead during my row. Charlie showed me some great techniques; things like how to keep the boat constantly moving when drinking or steering. It sounds obvious, but as you take both hands off the oars you lose a lot on inertia which takes a lot of energy to recover. I also learned how to use the rudder and auto-helm correctly. It’s very difficult to do this as a solo, and Charlie showed me a few tricks to make my rowing more effective. Turns out my earlier post about the auto-helm failure, was actually human error, not the auto-helm. Oops…

Day 2. Rowing was getting a lot more effective and slicker on day 2 and I rowed further offshore and practiced some of the techniques I had been shown the day before. As the wind built up we decided to do some para-anchor training. The delivery of my para-anchor had been delayed by the distributor, but I was able to use Rannoch’s. Angus jumped onto the boat and showed me how it was done and I then followed suit. Pretty straight forward, just need to remember to keep ropes neat and tidy and keep everything stowed and out of the way. I was amazed at how effective the para anchor was in action. Turning a 11 knot headwind into a 0.4 knot backward drift. Para Anchor Drill. Tick.

Days 3-6. So the night before, and after two solid days training we got out the charts and looked at the wind predicted and we decided that I should row to Barcelona from Palma, roughly 135 nautical miles. There was a Mistral (strong headwinds and rough weather) due in later that week, but if I rowed hard, I should miss the worst of it. The first two days were incredible. The weather was great and I loved every minute of it. In the first two days I covered 110 miles. Charlie had lent me his Garmin Inreach so that we could stay in touch and I was lucky enough to get some weather update texts from Angus and confirmation that I had picked the right bearing. Unfortunately the other unit in Palma was dropped overboard and I then lost touch with Rannoch. Then the Mistral came in…

I had been asleep in the cabin grabbing a couple of hours rest when I was woken up by the boat lurching and generally being thrown about. She had gone beam-on to the waves. It was pitch black and there was no light from the stars. I took the boat off auto-helm. A rogue wave hit the boat and I was thrown out of the boat into the water as the boat pitched over, but didn’t capsize.  I managed to climb back into the boat and went straight back on the oars. I checked the plotter and I had lost A few miles drifting back to Palma in the winds. For the next 48 hours I didn’t leave the oars. The drogue and para-anchor had been taken off my boat for the next training group so I had no way of slowing down my drift other than rowing. I crawled along at about 1.2 knots in the headwinds and two days later had finished the remaining 25 miles to Barcelona. I was exhausted due to lack of sleep and the inability to eat anything but energy bars.

What an experience. I received a call after I landed in Barcelona from Angus, he sounded pretty impressed. I had learned more about myself and the boat in those two days than in all the time since picking her up last November. My plans made in a nice cozy living room in Leeds were not going to work and I have rethought everything about my row, from strategy, to nutrition to getting some changes and refinements made to the boat. Pretty much everything.

Onto the next stage of my training, refining and tweaking.