Luke – reflections on finishing the row and ‘re-entry’…

It’s now almost three weeks since finishing the row. Sadly my first try at this final blog got deleted from a library computer when it logged me out, so I apologise as it has taken me a couple of weeks to get back round to re-writing this, I was so annoyed I didn’t think I could ever get down to it again! All I can offer are some reflections on my experiences and describe what it was like to finish the row.

In the last week of the row emotions started to heighten, at both ends of the spectrum. Sometimes I would laugh to myself like a young child, full with excitement and disbelief at how far we had come, and how close we were. Yet a week was still a long time, and these thoughts would knock me out of rhythm, making the shifts seem much longer at times. I could also feel angry and frustrated periodically, and then I would feel cross with myself that I couldn’t escape these feelings. Just stop’ I would say to myself. They say its 80 per cent mental and 20 per cent physical, yet I think that for me it was far closer to 95- 5. The whole thing was a battle with and inside the head, a war I couldn’t even contemplate losing because I’m just too damn stubborn; a trait I have realised has benefits, but the potential to create as many problems.

A certain part of me didn’t want the row to be over, and I would be lying if didn’t say that part of me feels empty at the end of the challenge. This may sound strange, but once I had got over the initial discomforts, life became simpler in many ways. The mundane and the trivial that made my life seem cluttered and full but yet not perhaps fulfilled faded into the distance as we left land and I feel like my mind was set free in some ways. No longer was it necessary to worry about when I was going to do my work or laundry, I didn’t have to get anywhere on time, or plan what to eat. I had evaded my bills, and the task of deciding what to save or spend on. The choices that capitalism seems to throw at us were eliminated, leaving me with time to think in more depth and at more length about the nature of things, humanity, life and existence, pain and happiness, death and love. I’m no philosopher and this may sound like I am trying to sound cleverer and a deeper thinker than the Luke some of you may know, but I’m not saying anything conclusive. I didn’t have any major revelation and find it hard to convey how things have changed, nor would I try and impart lessons or knowledge, as I believe it one’s own personal experiences that will prescribe the lens they view the world through. I just had a little bit of time to reflect on mine.

I felt comfortably insignificant at times, Gazing on the cosmos for 6 hours a night would sometimes elicit this feeling. We lived in an environment that was free from traces of humanity, except for the odd boat, the odd nasty floating plastic bottle, and of course our cutting edge carbon boat with all its fancy instruments. 54 days was a long time, but not in the grand scheme of things. We seemed insignificant in a huge ocean under a huge sky, and on our planet in the vast universe. I listened to Stephen Hawking’s brief history of time and Bill Bryson’s short history of nearly everything, which I would recommend! Learning or trying to understand the history of life whilst floating on the place it came from was special for me. Sometimes in the city where it is harder to find evidence of natural rather than man made phenomenon and structures, I find it hard to think of existence beyond humanity. The improbable and mystical beauty of the dawns, sunsets and stars, made me feel part of something greater that had no beginning and no end. In this solitude I felt comfortable; this may have been why I didn’t at any point feel scared of dying, even though I had personally acknowledged that I would definitely fear for my life before we started the journey. I didn’t try and think about any of this specifically while I was on the ocean, I just found it to be a product of spending some time alone in ‘peace’. All I can say is that I would highly recommend getting out into the wild where there is a bit less noise and computers, on any sort of scale. We probably went slightly over the top! I can already feel myself slipping back into the state where I get worked up about things that I would not have two weeks ago, although as each week continues I’m finding life easier as well. I have definitely found the transition back to university ‘havingtoworkandbeorganised’ life much harder than I anticipated. But I realise that this is largely because I only envisioned the easy and fun bits of life when we were getting to the end of the row, as they were far more appetising to imagine and gave me that drive that was needed.

I don’t feel that much of this will sink in for a while, but the memory of the last day of the row is already in my mental greatest hits album, and although most of the time I’m not thinking about the row, and most of the time I have forgotten I have done it, I always get a smile when I can re live the experience in my mind.
Land snuck out of the clouds when we were about 15 miles away. As it got closer I gawped and smiled; the beauty and richness of the greens of vegetation and the texture in the brown and cream rock was awesome having seen nothing but blue for so long, apart from the odd coloured pixel on a laptop screen, but still, it hardly compared. As we crossed the finish line which was sort of round the corner from the harbour where we actually got off the boat, Carsten, the race organiser said ‘Guinness have confirmed you are the new world record holders for the youngest pair to row the Atlantic’. At this point I hardly cared about the record. It’s nice to have but I don’t think age is a category that can say much about a person’s ability to achieve the things they want to. It’s just a case of finding the right thing for the individual. I couldn’t run a marathon because I don’t want to, I would find a way to stop and sit down or walk if I tried training for it!
We rowed into this beautiful bay, with people on boats and uphill shouting and waving. I was wondering who they were all there for, how could it be for us? I let off one flare in each hand, almost burning them off in the process and stood up on the boat with Jamie. We had been saying to each other for 24 hours who we simply couldn’t believe we were actually finished. We were both delirious, having hardly slept and rowed as much as we could in the last day to try and ensure we landed in the afternoon rather than at night, and it felt like we had been rewarded for our endeavours. We had such good weather for the last stretch that it was a joy to be on the boat. I was dosed up on pain killers and drunk a miniature of rum for the occasion.
To actually finally have my arms around my family was wonderful. I’m sure they were more worried about me, but I had points when I would fear for something happening to any of them while I was away. I found it almost impossible to stand in one position, feeling physically drunk and swaying around whilst trying to splutter out words.
Now I’m sitting at a computer in the library at university, and it feels like this trip could all be just in my imagination. I know it’s the most monumental thing I have ever done, and in theory I would definitely do it again, however for all the time it took and all the stress it put other people under, and due to the difficulty I have had adjusting back to the everyday life of working, I don’t think I’d want to go again for a while!
What made it so much easier for us to get through was the phenomenal support we got but didn’t expect. I would always imagine all my friends sitting in the clouds shouting support down to me when I was finding it hard, but having witnessed the amount of money we have raised, and the fact that people I don’t know have given to the cause is something I am so grateful for that I can’t put it into words. Our battle is over, and we have won, but I know there are so many who are just at the start or middle of theirs, where the outcome may not be certain, but the money you have given is going to make it easier for them. So thank you so much for wishing us on so we could get there and raise such a colossal amount.

Full moon and whales

I remember the previous full moon very clearly. we had been at sea for just under two weeks and were in the thick of it with howling winds and enormous waves there was the constant risk of capsizing, as Jamie and I battled to keep the boat riding straight down the waves rather than rowing really. The moon actually was a saving grace as it gave us some time to see the direction these brutes were attacking from.

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‘If you can meet with triumph and disaster…’

My father enclosed Rudyard Kipling’s ‘if’ with a letter to me, and there are two lines i really like among the many –
‘if you can meet with triumph and disaster,
and treat those two imposters just the same.

Every day there are relative triumphs and disasters out here, and its all to easy to get caught in a moment and forget the bigger picture.
it all started two evenings ago. I was on the oars on my sunset shift and the skies were heavy and thick with grey on all sides. the water looked spectacular in different strips of colours as partial sunlight changed its tones around the boat. I was looking south where the clouds were the most dense and ominous and giggling as I imagined the other boats, and in particular will and dan, getting wet and soggy. All of a sudden I looked forward, the air temperature dropped as fast as you could imagine and a fatoff cumulonimbus cloud like a black anvil had appeared from nowhere. s*** i say. Normally rain is a huge pain. it ensures a wet bottom, and therefore no purchase on the seat, Hands get soggy and skin peels, undoing days of work toughening them up. I might add that we both have to use gloves no more, our hands are tough as elephant skin, well maybe not quite but i like to think almost. Continue Reading

Day 33 – from Jamie – a new low!

33 days at sea and the relentless strain on our minds and bodies is now very obvious to the eye. the pain from the sores on our bums has reached new levels. I’ve just had to sit on an infected sore for 2 hours whilst the waves sway me from side to side spreading and stretching the skin again and again and again. it is incredibly unnatural putting yourself through the agony we are when relief could come in the form of lying on our fronts. however, this is not an option for us as it would lead to a slacking in discipline which is unacceptable given the circumstances. worse though than the sores are our testicles. a rash has completely covered mine and when they come into contact with anything other than air, they give off a burning sensation that spreads. other than my new invention – the Cocksock, I’m utterly helpless. the cure from this pain is simple, but it is the one thing we do not have the luxury of. I’m talking about rest. Continue Reading

New Year’s Eve – from Luke

morale has been high since the boat was scrubbed properly and we near the halfway point in terms of distance. Hopefully the second half will be slightly shorter in terms of days due to the slow start,

Now ill just ramble for a bit.
Talking to myself has reached a new peak. I really enjoying getting to know myself better! and for the past few nights I have been convinced that i am somehow rowing the boat through evergreen trees on either side going down hills in a sort of alpine snowy setting. What is that about?! it has been so dark and overcast at points in the nights that i think the mind starts making stuff up on its own accord.

On my final night shift from 5-7 i have not been able to shut my brain up. its very bizarre, ill narrate nonsense to myself in the same style as the audiobook i have been listening to, for example. ‘marco spiro stiffened his back suddenly from his hunched stupour , as mr luddledoorfs attention also turned to the window. his eyes narrowed and he thrust a crooked finger at the incumbent with a sense of clairvoyance that would only have deceived the…..’
it got so annoying i had to listen to music last night!

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Boxing Day Blog

A very happy Christmas and boxing day to you all! apologies for the tardiness of this message but we have been so busy attending parties and generally socialising. oh no, that’s what i would be doing any other Christmas but certainly not this one. in fact, Luke and i didn’t even take a shift off which i was very happy about as we are once again chasing down the leader having discovered we were carrying an extra 100kg of sea water as our bilge pump was blocked. what a shocker! at least we’ve discovered it now before it’s too late.

I’m currently lying on my front airing my sore sore sore bum looking out over the sea scape, although directly in front of me 6ft ahead are Luke’s testicles. i thought that the nudity aspect would become normal but I’m just as disgusted now as i was on day one by the fact that wherever i look i see bare ass and genitals. i literally can’t wait to cover up when we arrive, which if the conditions remain as they are should be between the 23rd and 27th of Jan! i do these calculations every time i get on shift. The sea has this incredibly monotonous ability to numb any fast thinking at all. so much so that it can take me half an hour now to just estimate simple sums. when doing radio interviews i have to really try and switch myself on in order to speak fluently as my brain is slowly frying. Continue Reading

20/12/13 2 Boys in a Boat : 2 Posts in a Day!

LUKE first (scroll down for Jamie’s) :-

the last few days have been tiring. but then the whole thing has so not much has changed! Today we moved into first place in the pairs, and third overall. This was a great feeling for me and Jamie, as our more northern route choice has paid off. and the fact that we decided not to have a weather navigator like many of our competition makes us feel quite smug about our progress. we have been rowithere have been a few really tough nights; the sea is totally unforgiving. Picture the frustration and obscenities i shouted having got to 1 hour 58 mins without getting hit by a wave, and then a huge one comes over, smashing my ribs into the end of the oar and thoroughly soaking me. its so annoying because then the cabin gets soaking and everything becomes extremely icky. Continue Reading

Blog from Luke, Sunday 15th Dec

Im going to divide this blog into 2 parts- positive first

im really enjoying blasting music all the time and listening to some good audiobooks etc. it really gives you the chance to think about stuff.
my meditation app is going great for me, i feel relaxed more of the time than the other way around,
And I have been thinking about my friends and family, and how special they all are to me and how lucky I am to know such wonderful funny and kind people. Ill be on the oars and scream to myself ‘chuddleyyyy’ or other stupid names I have for people. I often start laughing when im rowing as i recount funny and good times shared with friends. its only when you are truly away from them and facebook that you really appreciate i have found. My family I miss the most, I have spoken to my parents once each and have been thinking a lot about how lucky I am to have their unconditional love and support.
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Blog from Jamie 14/12/13

Ocean rowing is the hardest thing i believe i will ever endure. 11 days in and i simply cannot get my head around the fact that i’ll have to continue getting up every single 2 hours for 2 hours rowing. it’s so bloody tough. what i had paid little thought to was how scary rowing with following waves that are 3 storeys high and moving at 25knt winds. it’s so terrifying that after my 2 hrs i have considered telling luke to continue sleeping because im getting the hang of it and i do actually have far better eye sight. Continue Reading

Nearly a week in – cabin fever!

So we have got into our 7th 24 hr period at sea, and the wind is blowing us back towards La Gomera sadly!

Not to worry though, being stuck in a tiny cabin with sweat and stuff everyday for 3 days seems bad, but there are teams with 4 men and their cabins are only a tiny bit bigger than ours. How they manage I don’t know.

On the plus side, the things you need are never out of arm’s reach, even if it takes 30 mins to find a cable out of the thousands we seem to have. The worst it got for me was last night when my little fan broke. Jamie was laughing as he deals with the heat much better than me, and I was trying to screw this really fiddly thing while falling all over the cabin, I eventually managed it, but then it broke again, and I felt sea sick enough already after one try. Continue Reading