Author Archives: Colin Parker

Pacific row quartet launches #PlasticFree campaign

Team Pacific Rowers, an entrant in 2014’s Great Pacific Race from California to Hawaii, has officially launched its #PlasticFree Campaign.

The four Brits – Fraser, Sam, and James, who live in the UK, and Colin, who lives in New Zealand – want to complete the row to raise awareness of plastic and rubbish in the world’s seas and oceans, in particular the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The route between Monterey and Honolulu will take them to the fringes of the patch, where trash from land and sea gets caught up in the huge rotating ocean current, or gyre.

Four more ocean gyres across the globe act as circling conveyor belts for our rubbish, which is eaten by wildlife, deposited indiscriminately on coastlines, or simply bobs for thousands of miles, continually being broken down by sunlight and seawater but without fully degrading for hundreds of years.

Rower Colin Parker said: “Taking on such an epic challenge as the Great Pacific Race affords us the opportunity to do some good, and highlighting a huge problem facing our oceans seems a perfect tie up. I am ashamed to admit that this time last year I had never heard of the plastic gyres, but the more you learn, the more you understand the tragic consequences.

“But the silver lining is there are some amazing people out there who are dedicating their time, money and careers to getting our seas cleaner and raising awareness of the harmful effects of our dependence on plastic. Other groups carry out in-depth, long-term scientific research into plastic in our seas. We want to help publicise all of this.

“I have been out with clean up crews in Auckland and they do an amazing job against a continuing torrent of trash. The amount of rubbish that makes it into the waterways is astounding, and Auckland is a fairly small city compared to some.”

The campaign will mostly be about publicising the amazing work of people across the globe who are fighting the plastic menace in our seas, including beach cleaners and plastic abstainers.

And Team Pacific Rowers will put its time where our mouth is. Colin will be dedicating two days a week to sea clean ups in and around Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour, in New Zealand.

Each week two new blogs will appear on with interviews, information and beach clean up reports, and there’ll be plenty of and news-spreading on our social media pages @pacificrowers and

In the first week we will publish the first half of an interview with Danny Kirschner (@anosinplastico), a man from Athens, Georgia, who is attempting to go a year without plastic. We will also have a blog from Colin about a plastic pick-up on Auckland’s beautiful Rangitoto Island.

Rower Fraser Hart said: “Each of us in Team Pacific Rowers loves the ocean: we swim in it; surf in it; dive in it; eat from it; kayak on it; gaze at it; SUP on it; travel on it; party next to it; get seasick on it; and in our attempt to row halfway across the biggest ocean on the planet, will live on it. We don’t want it full of trash.”

Team Pacific Rowers is a UK/NZ quartet hoping to become the first crew of four to row 3000 miles (2100nm/4500km) from Monterey, California to Honolulu, Hawaii. The crossing, which is scheduled to start on June 8, 2014, is expected to take the foursome five weeks to complete, during which they will row in pairs, two hours on two hours off, 24 hours a day.

They are an entrant in the Great Pacific Race, organised by New Ocean Wave, and will battle against about 19 other teams, including solos and pairs, to become the first to Hawaii.

The team is now looking for corporate partners to help fund the expedition in return for some exciting benefits, including naming rights, brand awareness, photography and video and more, further information on which can be found on our website

Any groups that would like to feature in Team Pacific Rowers’ campaign, or companies wishing to sponsor Colin’s volunteering, please email us at


For further details contact us at or visit Our Twitter handle is @pacificrowers.



Team Pacific Rowers in Auckland beach clean-up on Rangitoto Island

That's Rangitoto Island in the background.

That’s Rangitoto Island in the background.

Rangitoto – at 600 years old the youngest island in the Hauraki Gulf – sits as a natural guardian to Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour.

All vessels that sail towards and away from the downtown skyscrapers towards the Pacific do so under the shadows of the 260-metre high volcano.

The jagged black rocks reaching out to the gulf at the island’s edges – which moat the world’s largest pohutukawa forest – bear testament to the island’s violently fiery birth.

Its location and makeup combine to turn Rangitoto into a bit of a trash net for Auckland. Rubbish is blown/dropped/flushed out by storm drains from the city and suburbs into Waitemata, from where currents take swathes of it towards Rangitoto, which means Bloody Sky in Maori.

It’s good news for the sea, not so good for the beauty of the island.

It’s one of the last points plastics will pass before leaving Auckland and venturing out into the Pacific. According to, after 10 years most rubbish leaving New Zealand ends up off the coast of Chile, in South America, while some accumulates off the coast of Queensland, Australia.

On Tuesday December 3, at 7.30am, I joined Sea Cleaner, who are contracted by the Watercare Harbour Clean-Up Trust to keep the city’s waterways rubbish free, from berth U2 at Westhaven Marina in downtown Auckland. The original plan had been to go up Henderson Creek in the west of the city, but due to falling tides this was changed. We – four volunteers including regular David and a Danish and a German tourist, and the boat’s captain Ben Harris – were going to Rangitoto.

Because it acted as a trash net for the harbour, the island is a regular destination for the clean-up crew and today is my third time there. The sea is proper choppy, so Ben guides the flat bowed Phil Warren II slowly over the retreating tide, past Brown’s Island to our right until we find a landing point. Against the black rocks in the distance it is possible to see quite clearly white plastic trash. Especially the garden furniture.

The ocean collates the rubbish, which tees it up nicely to collect.

The ocean collates the rubbish, which tees it up nicely to collect.

Debris of all shapes and sizes ends up on Rangitoto, from the small clear nurdles that are the raw material for bags and other products, to tyres, to garden furniture, to kids’ toys. But from my first time on the island what really struck me was the amount of small debris there is: bottle caps; lighters; straws; cellophane wrapping from cigarette packets; tennis balls; clothes pegs; along with plenty of fragments of larger items smashed and broken down by the sharp rocks and shifting tides. To me this is evidence of items washed down storm drains from Auckland’s often brutal rain, which deposit the debris out into the harbour and then onto Rangitoto or beyond.

Head out into the harbour one morning after a storm and you can see all this debris; the cellophane from cigarette packets, along with cigarette butts, are the most prevalent.

Back to the clean up and like other areas we clear, the rubbish accumulates in specific spots, like the sea collates it for us and leaves it in easy to find batches. It’s its last-ditch attempt to get the trash out. We each take a blue sack and forage about and it’s never too long before you come across a large deposit of crap. A good way to spot it is to look for the easier to spot timber. Usually where this is found, there’s plastic. Finding plenty of rubbish feels good and bad: good because you can rid the island of a lot of plastic; bad because it is there in the first place.

After about an hour and a half scouring just a small section of the 5.5km diameter island we are back on the boat, about a dozen large sacks filled with rubbish, along with a plastic garden chair and a plastic garden table.

Rangitoto's sharp volcanic rocks that splay into the ocean help trap rubbish.

Rangitoto’s sharp volcanic rocks that splay into the ocean help trap rubbish.

I found dozens of plastic bags, close to a hundred or so bottle tops of well-known soft drinks brands and dairy brands, a LEGO man, a decent looking rugby ball (that’s filled with water), lots of straws and stirrers, and heaps of polystyrene blocks.

On the way back we stop off at Rangitoto’s wharf, which is pretty clean, before heading to the viaduct for a sweep through.

Here it tends to be small debris too: fag butts; straws; stirrers, none of which will degrade completely for years and may too, at some point, make its way to Rangitoto Island, one of Auckland’s most valuable seacleaners.

In Falmouth and our first ocean training: seven months before start of Great Pacific Race

My Facebook messenger bleeped on my phone. I had received a message. It was from Sam: “Guys next week let’s get out on the water, I can fly in for the weekend.” Just two-hours later we’d confirmed the trip and logistics. Thankfully, Fraser once again volunteered to drive the 500-mile round trip from the south east to Cornwall (this time with no trailer and boat, piece of cake). I really am warming to the team, top lads!

But I hasten to add not only lads. Claire Shouksmith, seasoned ocean rower, very kindly came along for the whirlwind trip and we’ll be forever grateful. Just 10 minutes with her in the boat and we realised how lucky and amateurish we are. But after a few hours we learnt some invaluable tricks about ocean rowing that made our 30-hour sojourn to Falmouth and back more than worthwhile. Thank you Claire.

We crept slowly out of our sleeping bags at sunrise, necked some water and toast and put on our kit. The months between September and May give Fraser the excuse to wear his infamous ‘Long Johns’. A slightly nervy drive along Cornwall’s narrow roads was soon forgotten when Britannia Four was finally launched into the water at 9.15am, a wonderful moment for all (and Fraser’s camera).

After a bit of wrangling with the seat, we were out of Penryn River and into Falmouth Harbour in no time, thanks to Claire and our first virgin ocean rower: Fraser. ‘1,2, 3’; ‘don’t break the knees until the arms are straight’; ‘lower your arms, too much shoulder’; ‘blades too deep’; ‘your timing is rubbish’, and on it went.

We couldn’t have asked for a better day. It was glassy in the estuary and just light ripples beyond the coastline. Cruising between 2.5 and 4.5 knots it soon became apparent that even light, moderate ocean rowing makes you bloody hungry. Chris Martin, the organiser of the Great Pacific Race, can tell you all about that. We immediately re-calibrated our bearings for a fine pub in Helford River, but on arrival, no pontoon. A quick scout around still no pontoon.

We made a rapid crossing to the other riverbank and found a pontoon but it was too shallow to get anywhere near it. Ocean Tides 1, Britannia Four 0.  Bananas and Jaffa Cakes would have to do for now. After a great session from Sam and Claire – hugging the coastline closer on the return leg – brought us quickly back into the bay at Falmouth. So quick, in fact, we had to wait around for the tide to fully rise to get the boat out of the water. Ocean Tide 2, Britannia Four 0.

Calories were all we could think about, and after a quick dash to the local Wetherspoons we refueled with burgers and beer and cheers’d our day away.

They say every journey starts with a small step. We’re delighted to say our first few steps have now been made.

by James Wight

Adventures in nutrition blog 1: The Barack Frittata

The Barack Frittata

The Barack Frittata.

by Millie Roberts

Unbelievable as it may seem, it was not until about 18 months ago that I first tried frittata at a Halloween party at Halloween in north London.

The hosts were a Spanish couple who insisted I taste their recipe. Of course, it was delicious and once I popped, I struggled to stop. Only out of politeness toward the other guests did I finally step away from the frittata.

I found this particular recipe on after I Googled something along the lines of ‘nutrition for athletes’.

It’s sold as a recovery meal following a hard training session as it is an excellent source of protein, balanced with some carbohydrate and other vegetables.

Some adjustments were needed to suit Parker’s palette (the fussy little blighter):

1. White onion was substituted for red onion or spring onions or scallions as I recently found out they are also called. Parker dislikes both the texture and flavour of white onion. He’s ok with it grated or very, very finely chopped, but ultimately prefers red or spring.

2. Cheddar cheese replaced with a mix of ‘Tasty cheese’ and parmesan– cheese in NZ tends to not to be named specifically. The cheese of choice in our household is quite simply called ‘Tasty’. Well, if the cap fits.

3. Sweet potato replaced with half kumara (NZ’s version of sweet potato) and half white potato. Parker is not hugely enamoured with kumara (I got eggy at the cost of it, jumped up potato: ed) but we had two that needed to be used up in the pantry (sorry Parker). It also added a nice splash of colour to the dish.

The humorous shape doesn't justify the price of a kumara. The world's most expensive spud?

The humorous shape doesn’t justify the price of a kumara. The world’s most expensive spud?

The basic premise of the recipe is really good. Below are some suggestions for alternative ingredient/ cooking methods and having now cooked this twice, I can vouch that it is a quick and easy way to use up stray quantities of vegetables left over from a cook.

For example, spinach works well and again, adds a delightful burst of colour as well as a little extra nutrition. Also, anything between four and six eggs is fine, so don’t panic if don’t have half a dozen to hand.

Ingredients (advice: serves 4 small appetites or 2 hungry athletes; reality: Lasted about two portions)
· 1/2 white onion, diced
· 1 tsp crushed garlic
· 1 tsp dried, or 4 sprigs of fresh parsley
· a dash of chilli if desired (dried)
· 1 small sweet potato, cubed
· 1/2 knob of broccoli, cut into florets
· 6 eggs
· 1/3 cup light milk
· 1/2 cup light cheddar cheese

1. Par boil the potato so it is cooked and soft
2. Whisk the eggs and milk, add pepper and a little salt to taste
3. Fry the onions and garlic in a dash of olive oil, till soft
4. Add the parsley and chili, cook for a further 2  minutes
5. Add the broccoli and cook covered for 2-3 minutes
6. Mix in the potato
7. Transfer to an oven-proof dish (doesn’t have to be very deep)
8. Pour over the egg mixture, sprinkle with cheese
9. Bake in a moderate oven (about 180/ 210) for 30-40 minutes until browned on top

· This dish was baked in the oven, however it can be cooked up in a frying pan with a metal handle, skip step 7 and add the eggs to the mixture in the frying pan. Cook till almost firm, then place under the grill to brown the top.

· You can replace the sweet potato with regular white potato, and the broccoli with any other green vegetable you prefer. It also works well with potato, mushroom and tomato as the vegetable combination.

· Pre-cook a puff pastry base to turn this into a quiche. Traditionally quiche doesn’t normally have potato, however this is an essential to include for the athlete to add carbohydrate and ensure it is a great recovery meal.

Parker’s verdict:
What’s that? Sports nutrition with cheese? Oh go on then. For it’s simplicity, this dish is a cracker, and it keeps getting better, especially with the added greens inside. It’s almost like you are not eating them. I cannot imagine growing tired of this quickly, which is handy as another benefit is it is easy to move about: there’s no risk of it leaking out of Tupperware, and it can be eaten hot and cold. A regular for work.

Follow Millie on Twitter: @melanienadine

Adventures in nutrition for a Pacific rower: Intro

To help Team Pacific Rower crewmate Colin Parker prepare for the Great Pacific Race taking place in June 2014, I have offered to cook for him a diet that complements his training. This will be as much a journey of discovery for me as it is for him; I know as much about nutritional cooking as he does about rowing: naff all.

It’s been a while since I’ve set foot in a kitchen, partly because Parker and I recently relocated from Brixton to New Zealand and it’s taken me some time to adjust to a new kitchen; building up the pantry, figuring out the equipment etc.

The other part is the fact that we share our kitchen with a family of foodies, which comprises two ravenous boys, one of which (12-year-old Cameron) is quite the budding chef. Like turning up to the Harrods sale on the final day, providing an obstacle in the path of two very hungry boys by cooking at peak times is just plain stupid.

For a while, I sort of lost my nerve in the kitchen. But I think I’m now on track to getting it back. Cooking after the family has eaten appears to be the way forward.

The kitchen is then clear for a late-night run that coincides quite neatly with Parker’s return from work (about 10.40pm; he is a sub editor for an Australian national newspaper). Whatever is on the hob is then normally about 15 minutes away from being ready and ripe for sampling.

So this will be a fairly regular blog to tie in with what the guys are writing about that will offer ideas and recipes for those who only eat one meal a day, which starts at 7am and ends at 11pm.

Millie Roberts

Name our Pacific-crossing boat and become an ocean rower

So who fancies taking part in an ocean rowing crew for the day? Playing cards in the cabin before taking your turn to perch on the rollerseat and experience the wonder of paddling at sea?

Well you can by winning our #namethatboat competition. You can join Team Pacific Rowers for a day’s training on the Channel or North Sea and find out what it would be like to row an open ocean for five weeks.

We bought our boat last week, and she is a real cracker. Gorgeous in fact. She will be our everything for five weeks next year – literally, what keeps us alive.

We are looking for a name that totally sums up our quest next year, to row from California to Hawaii with about 12 months combined rowing experience between us.

We have already had some cracking entries, such as my personal favourite, Rowing Atkinson. But aside from the puns and the smut, which are all valid and potentially winning entries, we would like to hear of names that are particularly meaningful, or tie in with our row’s ambition, to raise awareness of plastic rubbish in the Pacific.

You have until November 1, which is when we intend to re-register our boat. So don those thinking caps and wrote your suggestions below; or tweet us at @pacificrowers or visit our Facebook page at

Fraser, Sam, James and Colin.



The Great Pacific Race: A girlfriend’s perspective

When an adventurer sets off on a five-week mission to row half-way across the world’s largest ocean, it is not just they who are affected. Families, friends and partners have to provide support where necessary. Guest blogger Melanie Roberts, girlfriend of crew member Colin Parker, offers her first thoughts on the Great Pacific Race.

fadsAmong the many character aspects I routinely mock Parker about; his penchant for taking up and dropping new hobbies at exceptionally high speed and at great financial cost is up there with the best of them.

His former flatmate, Vicki will pay testament to this. During their time sharing an abode, she dubbed a particularly unsustainable phase of his, ‘Crazy Sports Monday’; a day that would see him partake in football, kickboxing and platform-diving back to back from 6pm to 10pm, all in separate towns. By Tuesday, he was broken. It was therefore somewhat unsurprising that he only managed the complete programme of activity a grand total of four times, despite paying in advance for several weeks of platform-diving and kickboxing complete with all the associated kit, which was eventually sold at a car boot sale when he and Vicki both moved on to pastures new.

In our final weeks in England, Parker and I held another car boot sale together in Hampshire. You could almost hear Parker’s parents’ pasting table gallop toward the garage door the morning of the sale. Finally, it was being enlisted to do the job it was always meant to do; to bow beneath the collective weight of its owner’s fad paraphernalia and snag with its corners at the cheap outerwear of punters who jostle and strain to catch a glimpse of gold in a yet to be unpacked box.

As we set out our stall, Parker realised he’d unwittingly marked out a corner of the table that could visibly be identified as a graveyard for his fads. A shin pad here, a kick boxing belt there. Just this week he told me his podcast history quite accurately tracked the story of his fads.

Eggy bread with blood

But there are exceptions. Journalism is one. These past few weeks have seen Parker navigate his way through a decent stack of reads and multiple rounds of eggy Burgen bread – with blood, not mud – as he continued on his quest for gainful employment (now found with the Australian Financial Review) in our new home town of Auckland.

Throughout this process, we’ve discussed almost every aspect of any role he’s considered. We’ve talked about duties, teams, challenges, locations, hours, bosses, possible lunch dates, how to travel to and from work; it goes on. The one aspect that had not once come up is pay. In answer to one person’s question to him about the salary of one particular role, Parker replied: “I don’t know, I didn’t ask”.

Spoken like a true journalist. There are few professions where such an attitude is typical, but in the newsroom, it is commonplace. It’s only when the transition into PR comes into play that money begins to feature. After so long spent in a world where the letter ‘C’ is seen flirting with your bank balance for only the briefest of moments before ‘O’ trundles in to take its place, it’s quite a shock to surface above a level of pay that qualifies you for student loan repayments. O, with its depressing, empty centre resembling the hollow abyss that has been your finances since university.


A gratituous picture of the north Californian coastline. Beautiful.

There are certain markers that both Parker and I, were we to be concerned with aligning ourselves with societal norms and expectations, should have hit. Being 35, he should probably be married and own a house by now. Being 31, my ovaries should be in such a state of hysteria that I’m sent positively demonic if a child under five-years-old wanders within a suburb of me. Only none of those things are true, or have happened. We’re travelling, renting and between us, partially unemployed. New Zealand feels like the right place to be doing those things. The attitude here is easier, people’s minds are more open and best of all of those things, the inane and quite frankly numbing levels of judgement and cynicism that accompanies almost every aspect of everyday life in the UK is absent. It’s one of many liberating aspects of life in this country and one of the things I believe will help Parker train for one of the biggest challenges of his life, rowing with three others from California to Hawai’i as part of the first Great Pacific Race being held this time next year.

For all his fads, Parker has a proven ability to engage an exceptionally wilful mind. Sure, hundreds of thousands of people have completed the London Marathon just as he did the year before last, but far fewer will have the guts to put themselves forward for anything more challenging. The race will take training and dedication and sacrifice, all of which he is capable of in spades. If you’ve been keeping up with his blog, you’ll know he plans to row the same distance of the race on a rowing machine. Somewhere, in a gym in central Auckland, he’ll be tracking his progress in kms on the tiny eye level screen before him while in his mind he’ll be nudging away sea birds from his boat as the Hawai’i shore grows closer and closer.

The pasting table knows it need not breathe a sigh of relief. Like me, it’s confident there’ll be no need to accommodate an ocean rowing boat anytime soon.

Melanie RobertsFollow Melanie Roberts on Twitter @melanienadine

Stationary row from New Zealand to Hawai’i – update


FINISH: 5KM past the Coromandel Peninsula



I HAVE been ‘out at sea’ for about 10 days and have managed to complete a few dozen kilometres, but a new job and a distant gym have proved to be obstacles.

This will change come Monday. My 14-days-for-one-dollar pass at Les Mills gym in Auckland has run aground, so I plan to set sail at the 24-hour Jetts gym in Grey Lynn, which is perfectly placed between work and home - and within 100 metres of Hell Pizza.

Below I have run through my rowing sessions, including time and distances completed, along with supplementary work. Each session is started with a five-minute march up a 3% incline on the treadmill followed by a 10-minute stretch and thigh massage on the foam roller.

After each row I complete what I call an opposite weights set, where I exercise the muscles opposite to the ones used in rowing: so triceps, chest, hamstrings, and stomach.

I have also discovered an amazing instructional video on YouTube presented by some dude who teaches rowing near the Thames in the UK. It has helped me reduce my strokes per minute considerably, but also increase the distance covered.

In addition I discovered a 12-step ‘weights-for-rowing’ programme, which I have done once but on the four or five subsequent days found walking a right issue. I will blog about the video and weights programme shortly.

So below is the rowing I have completed since arriving on Waiheke Island. The next (imaginary) stop according to my route (devised on google maps and a pencil) would be the tip of New Zealand’s Coromandel peninsula.

So according to my summary, I arrived and departed from the Coromandel and therefore mainland New Zealand, and am now 5km out into yonder.

SUMMARY: Time: 211 minutes; Distance: 45.602km


Date: June 17; Time: 30 minutes; Distance: 6.5km; Supplementary: Opposite weights.


Date: June 18; Time: 60 minutes; Distance: 13.055km; Supplementary: Opposite weights.


Date: June 19; Time: 10 minutes; Distance: 2km; Supplementary: 12 step ‘weights for rowing’.


Date: June 22; Time: 71 minutes; Distance: 15km; Supplementary: Opposite weights


Date: June 27; Time: 40 minutes; Distance: 9.047km; Supplementary: Opposite weights



Team Pacific Rowers is now on Facebook

Picture 1

Click on the picture to go to our Facebook page.

WE are on Facebook, which means we are a 100% bonafide legitimate official team.

Crew member Colin ‘between jobs’ Parker managed to fudge together a page on Monday June 17 while waiting for a phone call from potential employers.

It is very much the ‘f’ in fledgling at the moment with just three likes, which is concerning as there are four of us in this team.

I borrowed a wonderful photograph of a seascape for our header, thinking this will be our horizon for about five weeks so we may as well get used to it, and the first wall post is a funny poster of race organiser Chris Martin.

Our Facebook page will be supplementing this website and our Twitter account (@pacificrowers), so please, click on the like and help us build up a support base.

You can head straight to our page and write something pleasant by clicking here.

Arriving on the north shore of Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island.

Waiheke Island.





THIS will be the last daily blog on my attempt to row the South Pacific on a indoor rowing machine, otherwise these will get tedious.

Today was the longest time I have ever spent on a rowing machine, a whopping 50 minutes, and good God did my arse tell me, almost non stop for the last quarter of an hour.

But like a cyclist and his saddle or human being and a new pair of shoes, a comfortable relationship between rower and seat is one that is forged over time.

So anyway, I have made it onto the north side of Waiheke Island after today completing 10.5km on the Concept2 machine in Les Mills gym, rowing one-minute sprint intervals followed by a standard pace.

I am about one third of the distance to the Coromandel Peninsula, which I hope to have reached and left by the time I upload this blog next Sunday. There’s a long way until I complete the first leg of this trip, Auckland to Tonga.