The Boat

Shipping Doris!

Thursday was a big day for the Coxless Crew. I went down to Southampton docks to oversee putting Doris into a container to be shipped to San Francisco. She will travel across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal and up the West Coast of America before we see her again!

The drive down from London was under blue skies and it looked like it would be a beautiful day to see Doris off on her journey. Sadly, by the time we arrived at Rossiters boat yard in Christchurch some good old English rain had set in and was to last for the rest of the day. I met with the Cris and the team at Rossiters to make a few last minute adjustments to Doris. Our final Solbian solar panel was installed and some adjustments made to our Lewmar hatches and to the area on deck where we will be stowing our Crewsaver life raft.

Tony Humphreys, who will be our on-shore support during our row, was on hand to oversea the final packing of the hatches and cabins and to tow Doris on the trailer through the New Forest across to Southampton docks.

 

On arrival in a very very wet Southampton we had a warm welcome from the team at J&A Marshall Ltd and from Brian from PSP Logistics. Then the real fun started. I must admit, I had no idea how to go about getting a 29ft ocean rowing boat weighing nearly a tonne off a trailer and into a 40ft container! But, as ever, Tony had all the answers.

 

Step no.1: lift Doris off trailer using huge yellow container handler and long slings

 

 

Step no.2: lower Doris down until she is resting at one end on a small set of wheels (a dolly trolly)

 

 

Step no.3: with the stern end supported on the dolly, support the bow end by suspending it from a forklift truck and then remove the support of the slings

 

 

Step no.4: keeping Doris level, drive the forklift forward to slide her on the dolly into the container

 

 

Step no. 4: lower Doris using the forklift until she is resting on a row of tyres along the bottom of the container and then and strap her in

 

And it was easy as that! Thank you to everyone who helped out yesterday and along the way to get Doris ready for her journey.

 

Saying goodbye to Doris has made our departure suddenly feel just around the corner. It is exciting, but also a reminder of how much there is still to do before we head off to San Francisco ourselves. The next few weeks will be filled with training, press events, sponsorship meetings, fundraising and much much more, so watch this space!

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Capsize drills, team psych session and deploying the para anchor

This weekend was a busy one for the team.  It really all started on Friday when we had a super exciting meeting with a super exciting new supporter of the Coxless Crew.  Stay posted to find out what that was all about!

Early doors on Saturday morning we arrived at Rossiters in Christchurch to face one of our fears for the row – the capsize!  We got into the cabins, Nats and myself in the stern cabin and Laura in the bow cabin and strapped ourselves in.  The Rossiters team used the crane to tip us over manually.  Inside the cabin it felt like a slow tipping sideways and she sat for quite a while at 90 degrees before needing an extra tip to get her to go over.  This was actually quite comforting as we now know that she can be thrown around in the waves a lot before capsizing.  The roll from 90 degrees back up to upright was surprisingly quick and smooth and before we even had time to think about it we were back the right way up.  The exercise was really useful as we can now have total faith that Doris definitely does self-right and we can also reflect on the experience to help us imagine how it will feel when it happens for real in the middle of the Pacific.

Aft Cabin Capsize

Fore Cabin Capsize

The rest of Saturday was spent in a team session with our performance psychologist Keith.  We thought about how to recognise our warning signs that stress is getting to us before, during and after an event and shared this around the table to help us to recognise the signs in others in order to be able to support the other members of the team as much as possible.  We also completed a separate questionnaire which highlighted to us the importance of keeping social and task related activities separate when we are on the boat as well as making sure that we make time to socialise with each other in a non-row related way before we leave (easier said than done).

Our day ended in what is now becoming a bit of a habit – food and wine in front of The Voice which has replaced the X Factor as the Coxless Crew Saturday night entertainment of choice.

Sunday started windy and cold and after a good breakfast we headed off to visit Doris again.  Top of the list for the day was practising deployment of the para anchor.  After carefully reviewing the instructions (men take note this actually works) and our notes and photos from a previous session with Tony we had a go ourselves.  As it was so windy we just deployed it where we were moored up.  Seemed easy enough but our opinions might change in 40ft waves and high winds!

Para Anchor

The afternoon we spent running through our ‘what if’ scenarios.  This is a really important part of preparation ensuring that we have thought through all the possible problems and situations and know what to do.  As well as the obvious safety requirements of knowing what to do if one of us falls overboard or our water maker stops working it also brought home to us all how real this all is and got us thinking about what life will be like for us aboard the boat.  A useful exercise and the start of some interesting psych homework!

Next weekend we start packing Doris ready for shipping!  So exciting!  Stay posted to see how you fit 6 months of kit into a 29ft boat!

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Doris visits Marlow

On Saturday we brought Doris on a little road trip to Marlow to go for a row on the Thames and introduce her to the town.  She arrived on Friday evening and with a little help from Ella and the Knill family we got her on the water and over the river to the Compleat Angler hotel who had kindly offered her a safe home for the night.

Doris at the Compleat Angler

Sunday morning arrived with sunshine and blue skies.  Our beautiful pink Breast Cancer Care gazebo and the rowing machine were installed in Higginson Park and Doris was rowed over to join in the fun.  With the strong stream and Doris being so much heavier than my usual rowing boats it was the slowest I’ve ever rowed up this stretch of river but pretty special to be showing off Doris where I learnt to row.

Local star Ems

First up was the chance to take some prize winners out for a paddle and the chance to experience life in the aft cabin.  Martin was up first followed by Katie and Ewan and all three had a go at rowing the boat.  It was great to be able to show some of our supporters what life will be like for us when we are out on the ocean.

The Crew, the Mayor and Naomi

For the rest of the day we were inundated with visitors including Suzanne Brown, Mayor of Marlow, the local press and lots of friends, family and supporters.  We were also treated to a visit from Olympic and paralympic rowing stars Naomi Riches, Heather Stanning, Katherine Grainger, Beth Rodford and Sarah Winckless.  Heather kindly christened Doris with some champagne in an official naming ceremony and then came for a row with us.  It was so great to have so much support behind us and we had a really fantastic day talking to so many interested people.

Naming ceremony for Doris

The weekend finished off with a training session at Marlow Rowing Club on Sunday morning followed by the usual logistical fun involved in getting Doris back on the trailer and safely home to Christchurch.  The next few weekends will be spent in final preparations and packing before we put her into a shipping container ready to start the journey to San Francisco.  Stay posted for updates on next weekend’s capsize drills.

The next Coxless Crew event in Marlow will be a talk kindly sponsored by Court Gardens on Wednesday 11th February.  Tickets are £12 and include a buffet provided by Court Gardens and a presentation about the row, the training and preparation so far and the reasons why we are doing it.  To book a place contact Rotarian Sara Bowater on 07850 036236 or Sara@sbowater.co.uk.

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Doris does London

There’s never a dull moment for us in the Coxless Crew and eventful weekends have become worryingly normal.  Doris’ visit to London was no different…

It all started on Friday when we headed to Poplar to launch Doris from the public slipway next to Poplar Blackwall and District Rowing Club.  This was challenge number one.  The ups and downs of the slipway meant that no matter what we tried (and we tried everything from setting up pulleys to chocking up the wheels to taking a diagonal route down the slip) we couldn’t get Doris down to the water without grounding her on the concrete.  We spent about an hour and a half trying this while Alan, the legend from Globe Rowing Club who had come out in his boat to be our support crew, bobbed around on the water waiting for us.  Finally we had to hitch the trailer back up and head to a new slipway just down the road.  Here we managed with a bit of manoeuvring and another pulley to get Doris down to the water and with a big shove from Laura we were out on the water.  By this time it was pretty dark and we were running a little short on time to make it to St Katherine’s Docks so the pressure was on.  Luckily we had Jacob on board.  Jacob had never met us before but had kindly come along to take some photos of us rowing Doris through London from the support boat.  He got a bit more than he bargained for, having to act as an extra pair of hands with the trailer and then having to travel with us on Doris since he couldn’t get to the support boat.  He’s now a pro at using the VHF radio, AIS and chartplotter and is definitely a new member of the team.  Plus his photos are beautiful so we hope we haven’t scared him off!  After a truly beautiful row through a lit up London we arrived at St Katherine’s Docks, our home for the weekend.  We settled Doris in, had a well-deserved dinner and headed home.

Photos below are by Jacob Perlmutter:

Doris and Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

On Saturday we woke up to a cold but beautiful sunny day which was perfect for a day spent introducing Doris to the public.  It was lovely to see all the interest in our project and to introduce some of our sponsors to the boat.  She was particularly popular with the kids who got to come aboard and see where we would row and get inside our cabin.  Along with our brilliant helpers for the day we spread the word about our row and added lots of names to our inspiration wall.

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Sunday we left St Katherine’s bright and early and had a lovely row down to Greenwich Yacht Club where we planned to get the boat out of the water.  We arrived and were met by the lovely Ian.  We were quite worried by exactly how we were going to get Doris out of the water as the tide was going out quickly and the slipway was also on two levels but were comforted by Ian who assured us that there’s always a way.  It turned out that the way was for him to get the slipmaster out to lift Doris out of the water on slings.  This ended up being a bit of a mad dash in the 5 minutes before the water would have been too low and meant that Laura arrived with the trailer to see Doris hanging in the air on slings.

Another eventful weekend over, which couldn’t have happened without all of the support we had from friends, families and people we had never met.  Recently we spoke at a Hero’s Night organised by Will aka Super Cycling Man.  All of the other speakers had completed their own expeditions and their heroes were the people they met along the way.  We won’t have that on our row as the only people we’ll see are each other on the boat.  However this weekend has highlighted again that our heroes are the people we are meeting along our journey to the start line.  So I wanted to give a special thank you to a few of Coxless Crew’s heroes from this weekend.

  • Jacob Perlmutter – came along to take some photos, ended up helping us get the boat on the water for 2 hours and then coming for an hours row down the river having to use the radio and help us navigate making him 2 hours late for his evening plans.
  • Alan from Globe Rowing Club who was our support boat on the row down to Tower Bridge and became our advisor on the ways of the Thames.
  • St Katherine’s Docks – not only gave Doris a berth for the weekend but also put us up in their beautiful floating marketing suite.
  • Sarah from Breast Cancer Care who spent the whole of Saturday with us helping to tell our story.
  • Claire and Harry from Raymarine who also came along to help us out.
  • Ian the legend from Greenwich Yacht Club who when we arrived to use their slipway on Sunday with not enough water to get Doris on the trailer winched us out using the slip master.
  • Everyone who brought a mile of our journey and who’s names on our inspiration wall will help us across the Pacific.

And last but not least my wonderful teammates who will be my heroes when we are out on the ocean with only each other to rely on.

  • Laura – who can drive a 29ft ocean rowing boat through central London and has got us all hooked on xfactor.
  • Izzy – rustled up a support boat last minute, who had written our weeks to do list before we even got home and is the only one of us who can sing in tune.
  • Nat – the only person I know who can accost a passing tour and get their guide to stop and translate our story into Dutch for his tour group

Doris&Tower

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48 hour row out of Falmouth

Last Thursday we headed off for our first 48 hour stint aboard Doris. The original plan had been to row out across the channel but the weather was against us and with 50mph winds predicted we took the advice of Tony who will be our land support when we are out on the Pacific, and changed the plan to stay in more sheltered waters. Although we will deal with tougher conditions out in the Pacific we wouldn’t be able to get far enough away from the coast to be safe out there this week.

Doris meets the BBC cameras

We were up early and headed down to Falmouth Haven to pack up Doris with our supplies for the two days. After a final interview with BBC Spotlight we rowed away from the marina with the legendary Guy in a RIB acting as our support boat. We had decided to head out to Pendennis Point to get a taste of some rough water and it was my first experience of rowing Doris in some proper waves. It was great fun battling the elements although very tough to keep her facing into the waves. It was slightly less fun once we swapped over on the oars and Izzy and I ended up in the cabin experiencing some seasickness symptoms. Stay posted for the BBC footage of us out on the water. After a few hours we headed back to the shelter of Falmouth and bid goodbye to Guy ready to spend the following 42 hours bouncing up and down (and up and down) the River Fal. We now know every twist, turn, mudbank and boat on that stretch of water!

Laura and Nat happy on the oars

Laura and Nat happy on the oars

We rowed 2 hours on, 2 hours off for the full 48 hours meaning that each of us was on the oars for 24 hours, never getting more than about an hour’s sleep at a time. However, we all seemed to manage it pretty well and in the most part it was really enjoyable. A noticeable exception to this was the 3.30am to 5.30am shift which was definitely the toughest. Especially on the first night where Izzy and I ended up battling against the tide for 2 hours, managing to move nowhere and sitting next to a green buoy for the entire shift. Being the intelligent individuals that we are we decided to keep ourselves awake by playing ‘I spy’. In the dark. Whilst not moving!

Izzy enjoying some sunshine

During the 48 hours we experienced, rain, wind, sunshine, lightning and fog, all of which we dealt with in good spirits, staying dry and warm in our Crewsaver outerwear. We also experienced the challenges of changing in and out of many layers of clothes in a very small cabin, cooking in the footwell, sleep deprivation and use of the bucket! Insight was gained into how careful we are going to have to be when trying to fit all of our kit onto our small boat and how important it is for everything to have a place. However the most important thing that we learnt was how well we have bonded as a team. We looked after each other, entertained each other, sang to each other and laughed a lot. So excited for our next adventure!

Nats getting a bit wet on the oars

Huge thanks need to go to Shaun Pascoe, Falmouth Haven, Guy and all of the other supporters who joined us in Falmouth or came over to say hello on the water.  The Cornish welcome was a huge morale booster and I’m sure we’ll be back!

Some well earned pasties from Laura's Aunt Marie to celebrate a successful 48hrs training

Some well earned pasties from Laura’s Aunt Marie to celebrate a successful 48hrs training

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The team reunites

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Rowing the solent, photo shoots, The Bornmourth Air Show, and the team reunites. We’ve just had a wonderfully productive weekend down in Christchurch.

After our night on Doris (slept like a baby) and expedition food breakfast, Saturday saw Laura, Izzy and I rowing in the most challenging conditions so far. During the 6 hours we were out, we got our first real feeling for how the boat handles, dealing with seasickness, blisters and using the bucket!

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On Sunday morning, Emma returned from her expedition trip in Brazil and it was very exciting to have the team together. We took the opportunity to take some group shots and then had a team debrief and outlined further training weekends and plan of action for the next month.

Keep following…

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A weekend on Doris

This weekend saw us road tripping down to Christchurch to spend a little time on Doris. After a quick stopover in Bath to meet up with Keith (our sports psychologist), we went through some results from a recent psychometric test and grabbed dinner at a great local pub.

A fundamental part of the row is obviously the mental preparation that the team will have to undergo. A portion of this will involve an in-depth analysis of personality traits and how each individual’s character and behavioural patterns will affect not only their reactions to certain situations, but also team dynamics. This is going to be a fascinating process that will affect the row itself as well as getting the boat to the start line. We will cover this in more depth in a later post.

We arrived into Christchurch late and decided to head straight to bed in preparation for the day of rowing ahead. Izzy and Natalia slept head to toe in close quarters in Doris’ aft cabin, and Laura in the fore-cabin.

In the Aft cabin

In the Aft cabin

To simulate a night on the ocean in a storm scenario (minus the movement), we decided to keep all hatches closed and see how much condensation build up there was and humidity and temperature increase.

We were up bright and early, eating our expedition food (freeze dried) and preparing for our row around Christchurch Bay. It was great to get out for a few hours in the windy conditions with the tail end of hurricane Bertha about to blow through, and giving us the chance to work on some of our boat manoeuvres.

Izzy and Natalia on the oars

Izzy and Natalia on the oars

We would have loved to have gotten further out to sea and played around more in rougher conditions but to do that safely on our next outing, we require a support boat to get us well away from the shoreline.

Even though we were back in port earlier than expected, we made use of the remaining time productively by familiarising ourselves more with Doris, sharpening our rope skills and sampling more expedition food. We’re beginning to rate the meals so we can decide which we want to take with us!

We spent another night all cosy inside Doris while the wind howled and rain lashed the outside. Sunday morning saw another sampling of expedition food breakfast before we said farewell to Doris and headed back to London.
A great weekend had by all!

A blustery morning on Doris

A blustery morning on Doris

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