Transatlantic Solo

Home at last 

22 March 2013


It has been 10 days since I crossed the line and my steering arm seized, I had my first double burger with french fries, was re-united with my family and had many good cool Banks beers. It has been 8 days since we moved into an amazing west shore beach side villa and was able to totally relax. It has been 6 days since I had my first full 7 hours of sleep in one hit. It has been 4 days since my boat was washed and loaded into a container with all the help from Alan at Port St Charles Marina and it has been less than 2 days since I was swimming with turtles, touching them and visiting all the great places Barbados has to offer. Today I am sitting at home in Essex and am able to sit comfortably on my bottom for the first time having had a straight forward hassle free flight and all my family are here with me. Today is also the day Soma leaves Barbados in her container, due to arrive in Southampton in 15 days time. All of this in under two weeks! A special thanks again to Alan, a nice guy called Dennis Sober in Barbados for arranging the container and to Rupert Brown at Greenwich Meridian Lines for taking charge of all the shipping logistics. These guys have made my post row period a real rest period and I've been able to completely "chill" and not worry about a thing.

It is great to be back home and I'm very relaxed about the weather! I am physically very tired and I don't have much energy to do anything too active, infact I can't remember the last time I did absolutely no exercise for nearly 2 weeks! However, the gym looks inviting and I'll have a gentle session on Saturday and finish with a short jog. This will physically help me as my muscles are shrinking and pulling at my bones! A bit of exercise will ease everything up again. taste real decent bread again! Something I forgot about and to have a pair of jeans and a jumper on....not so exciting!

There has been a huge amount of change in my life over the last year, but the row was the perfect transition to launch myself full time back into the world of adventure. Something I used to do for many years in my younger days. With this latest challenge successfully behind me, I am extremely excited about focusing all my time in Rannoch Adventures Limited, the company responsible for building ocean going solo, pairs and multi crew rowing boats. Although the company is less than a year old, the depth of knowledge and experience within it for building high specification boats is substantial and our attention to detail is just the same as that put into both my previous rowing boats.

After weekend, it's back to a busy schedule and I can't wait to get stuck in and get my hands dirty again. As for the next adventure... already laid out on the dining room table, but not a solo one this time!

Finished! A new World Record and a big surprise...

14 March 2013

I last wrote two days ago some 87 miles from Port St Charles and a lot has happened since then. I'll go back to my final approach as the wind built on the penultimate day and my last night at sea was in fact one of the most worrying as the waves got bigger and the wind got stronger, coming from just off my starboard side. I was incredibly tired which probably made it worse, but as dawn broke on 13th March, I had covered good miles during the night and knew I would get in that day. The wind was now a steady 16 knots, but the waves were even bigger, so surfing was again the main course for the coming hours. The sky was mixed with dark squall clouds and light puffy ones mixed with the sun which was more comfortable and I wasn't worried about re-charging the battery as I wouldn't need power for any more nights. My main concern was holding a steady course with the wind behind as I approached the final 15 miles to the North Point. No room for error here, so fairly nail biting stuff. But then the wind dropped which slowed the boat and rowing became so hard as the waves were mixing the sea all up without enough pressure to keep promoting surfing for me. The last hours were so difficult in that I was exhausted, but now had to put in every ounce of energy to keep the boat on a steady course, to run over the breakers in a shallow patch north of the reef and to then alter course to run more south down towards the Arawak Jetty with an offshore wind blowing across my quarter. Brian Wells, with Billy and some fellow crew members on board met me at North Point in a Sports Fisherman to guide me to Port St Charles and thank the Lord they were there and that it was daylight. I am so glad I approached this last leg in daylight as the wind increased again later in the evening and perish the thought of coming in or trying to come in just 12 hours later! I really don't think I would have made it into PSC without a tow as the offshore wind would have then been too strong to fight. The most amazing thing happened just one minute after I finished at 1738....Eddie WO burnt out and seized up, sending me into a 360 degree turn and setting all the alarms off. Alarming! How lucky was I to have this happen then and not just hours beforehand! So in the end, Majestic with Devonish at the Helm threw me a line and towed me the last few hundred metres (after the finish!) into the Port St Charles Yacht Club where there was a fantastic reception party ready to greet me.........


...and there was my wife Emma looking to me from 100 meters away! She kept that a secret, but as I was brought alongside, out of the swimming pool on the waterfront, popped my two little boys, James and Freddie. I couldn't hold my tears back and the flood gates erupted as I was re-united with my them. Then I realised there were so many other people I knew from Burnham there, Tony Allen, John Barker to name a few. I stepped ashore and all behind me was forgotten, my exhaustion, my journey and my thoughts as for the next few hours we all had a jolly good time, beer flowing, fantastic cooking from the kitchens and many kind words and laughs. Billy then announced that The Sun had pulled out all stops and extended their support by flying my family out and covering our accommodation for 10 days. I just have to say this was the icing on the cake to what has been a massive campaign for me which ended in success.

That evening, Billy, Rosie and the four of us walked to our Villa and I had the biggest, longest shower one could imagine, a quick shave and off we went to a lovely beach side restaurant where I has a shrimp cocktail and a Medium rare steak and a few Mountgay and tonics! I ended up in bed about midnight and for the first time in 35 days, as I lay down to close my eyes, I heard nothing. No autopilot motor going to and fro like a the sound of cows moo-ing. No crashing waves smashing the side. No bubbly noises running down the side of the hull and no wind whistling about the hatch or the cabin area....and no movement. Although I nodded off within minutes, I was up again five hours later and quietly went downstairs, turned on the computer, turned on my mobile phone, drank lots of tea and started catching up on all my unanswered emails, texts and missed calls etc. Life was back to normal as I started to become in touch with all I left behind and I must say one of the wonderful things about being at is just you, the boat and the wilderness and basic communications! Now I'm back in the 24/7 rush hour of life and it seems to have speeded up even more.

As for the World record attempt? It was successful. I dreamed of being the first person to break 40 days to cross the Atlantic solo rowing, but with a perfect timing to my start date and excellent weather for most of my journey, with the best equipment I could possibly have and the backing and support from my sponsors, an excellent training programme and the re-fuelling of energy from receiving all the goodwill messages from all my supporters, the team behind me.............WE SMASHED IT! 35 DAYS AND 33 MINUTES. As I wrote in the last blog of my last rowing campaign....JOB DONE!

There is much to tell about some of the things that will change in my life as a result of this particular journey.

Charlie set to arrive at 4pm UK time!

13 March 2013

If there is anyone in Burnham this afternoon, please join us at the RBYC where I will be playing a live commentary on speaker phone of Charlie Pitchers arrival into Barbados after 35 days of rowing across the Atlantic!!!! Latest guess is that he will arrive at around 4pm UK time! Come and join me hear him smash the world record to pieces!

Team CP

PS. Brace yourselves for a secret to be revealed shortly!

Day 32 – fighting to the end thanks to Deep Purple, Led Zep and ELP (and my daughter, Lottie)

12 March 2013

I was in a desperate state yesterday and so frustrated with the weather. Late in the evening, when it was almost dark, a bright bright white long tailed frigate bird passed by me so slowly and I could see it looking at me with wonder before accidentally being lifted sky high by a headwind. At this moment I could see the shape of a person with it's wings wide and the tails like legs! I never saw it again, but then the wind changed. Was this beautiful bird a messenger come to tell me the test was over?

Through the night, the wind built and is stable and strong, due to build more. It's like the first days of my journey. Hairy, hold on stuff and check the lifeline is secure! Soma has gone crazy and is bouncing and rocking all over the place, but generally in the right direction. She is like this now, as together, we are so much lighter than when we started. Hard work on the core and in co-ordinating the oars again. I'm smashed in the shins again, but now it doesn't hurt anymore, all I can think of is the last furlong. I've jumped the last fence and now can really imagine finishing late tomorrow sometime. My emotions are running all over the place, but I'm still watching the fluid, food and injury prevention. So with a little more energy and careful navigating around the top of Barbados, this incredible journey will be over and I feel lucky to have been able to do this and come out of it in one piece!

Norrie would say take the fight to the end, and that is what I've done. I never gave up and hope that he is watching over me, as he did last time round. I have to thank my daughter Lottie for telling me to put on Rock n roll music to get me going and for the last 15 hours that is what I've done and it works!! I'll carry on singing to Deep Purple, Led Zep, the end.

So far, I have used the allen key and a spanner to change the bearings on my seat wheels. I have not had to touch any other tool or make a repair! My nails grow extra fast out here...why is that! I've eaten two thirds of the food I was meant to finish by the end and have eaten three bars of chocolate. I still have two tea bags left and have only had one coffee. I have never felt in danger of my life, but have felt that things could go very wrong on a few occasions early on in the rough weather and the dreaded day 18 when I have never been so sick in my life.

Ships log – Creaming along at lightning speed bouncing on top of the waves, all the pogle waves are out again and the punk waves have rocked up, but we are all going the same way this time. My course is 244*T to the top of Barbados which is 87 miles away. I have a further 6 miles around the other side to my finishing point at Arawak Key just above Port St Charles and should get there very late tomorrow night.

I will continue rowing now to the end, have my snack bags and loads of water stashed around my rowing position and music in my ears, so all there is left to do is row this little boat until we reach the fial waypoint! I hope to do a quick blog tomorrow, but it depends how it's all going here. However, I will continue to blog after I reach the shore as I will reflect on many things about this extreme challenge and how this time, it has changed things for me.

Thank you every on of you for following and being part of this.........which is not over just yet! ( as I have just got smashed in the side by a huge wave!!!)

Day 31 – Almost home but my bottom is suffering!

11 March 2013

Well I just don't know what to expect next. Again, the weather is not helping me at all and I've managed very little mileage as a result of resting when I should have been rowing with some favourable wind. After a rest, the wind went to the South and I had to row against the wind. I'm getting used to this now. I get down when I remember the days I was clocking big miles, but that was a long time ago. As with my first Atlantic row, I find myself knocking on the door but just not getting one single break to give me one more last shove to the post. Today, I have rowed with no wind at all, but in the last few minutes, a new breeze has set in. WILL THIS BE THE NEW WIND we have been waiting for? Lets see.....

The good news is I am almost home with 158 miles to go and I know I can prepare for one last long haul, but not just yet as my body is suffering, especially my poor bottom!

I saw two big Yellow fin Tuna by the boat and got a photo. They were stunningly beautiful. Oh, and I've just managed that fresh water body wash. Next one under a shower!

Apart from my tantrums, I am still in good mind and being careful. I cannot imagine ever doing anything harder than this and just can't wait to see land soon. I am very lucky to be out here whilst others are watching me, but the mental and physical fight I've been through is not something I would recommend to others.