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