3 weeks at sea
At this point in time we had hoped to be about halfway through our circumnavigation however the weather has put a stop to our progress and continues to be a challenge with storm Alex riling it’s windy head forcing us to take shelter in Dale before getting ready to sprint the 60Nm across to Ireland.
So far we have spent 11 days on anchor! It really is a true test of patience. It has allowed us to reflect on the journey we have had so far and be truly grateful for the incredible support in getting to this stage.
We prepared Percy with all kit and she was craned into the water at South Dock Marina. The staff here were so supportive and kind so a big shout out to them. A last minute panic when we found the seat wheels were not gliding with elegance as they once had and were seized up. Thankfully a good soak in fresh water sorted them out and we were on our way up the Thames to St Katharine’s Marina.
St Kats were amazing and put Percy up for the night so we were ready to leave first thing in the morning. The behind scenes Emergensea Duo team helped prep the boat, get last minute supplies and run through some route planning- could not have been so prepared and calm without them.
Then after a unsettled nights sleep, a breakfast we couldn’t really stomach and a final nervous toilet stop we were ready. We were so touched to see family, friends, work colleagues and many rowers from TWAC 2021 appear to wish us luck and wave us off. Such an incredible moment rowing under Tower Bridge thinking that the next time we are there we shall be weathered, wiser and ready to celebrate!
Cruising down the Thames on a sunny Sunday was delightful! The scenes from the water were unlike anything we had towed in before, with massive skyscrapers, the O2 and fast ferries hurtling past us. A quick pit stop at Gravesend for food and drink whilst waiting for the tide to change and then pushing on with seals accompanying us.
The night drew in and the water lit up an avatar blue with bioluminescence as our oars passed quietly through the water. Depth perception altered and many red lights we thought were close by never seemed to get nearer… that’s when we realised it was a wind farm in the distance and night nav really was a challenge!
We made it to Margate, hopped round to Ramsgate and tucked in to the harbour before the opposing wind picked up. A weather window appeared and the next day we rowed our socks off round to Dover, glimpsing the white cliffs through the drizzle. Waiting just outside the harbour entrance for a pilot vessel we grew nervous with the wind picking up and tide turning. They arrived and said we needed to sprint to get in within 10 minutes.
Soggy, sweaty and exhausted we were very relieved to chuck the anchor down and get some food on,safely hidden from the 33knot gusts at sea; and now the waiting game began!
We were trapped awaiting better conditions but moral was kept high by the local rowers training around us and people sending us pictures of Percy on the water.
Now for a big push, we left Dover in the dark which was a little nerve wrecking and rowed to Selsey Bill. Thankful to drop anchor again we could grab some sleep for a few hours whilst waiting for the foul tide to change. This nap was cut short with a local fisherman concerned Percy was drifting and not realising we were on board… we managed to hear the shouting just before he called the RNLI and assured him we were on anchor and all was well!
From Selsey Bill we made way to the Isle of Wight. A little daunted by the shipping channels we stayed alert and rowed 2 up the whole way.
We wizzed with the tide down the west side and across to Swanage. Setting off we stayed close to the cliffs to catch the eddy allowing us to wave to people on the beautiful cliffs above and those enjoying some climbing. Rounding St Albans head we held on tight to the oars for the incredibly bumpy overfalls and Percy thankfully remained upright!
Rounding the corner we checked the firing range wasn’t in use and then headed to Portland. This was one of the toughest legs so far- we rowed 2 up constantly and at some stages were reaching a ripe old speed of 1kt. It was painstaking and we were shattered when we arrived. With sore sorry arses, bone pain in the hands and fatigued muscles we popped some food on and tucked in in silence!
The harbour master popped out to check on us and we watched the military train whilst having a cheeky sundowner - we felt we had earned it!
Timing had to be spot on to get round Portland bill and once again the weather was not in our favour. We spent another day on anchor and then left for Lyme Bay, our stretch of home. We were blessed with calm waters, dolphins and the most incredible sunsets making our way across the bay. this boosted our spirits and we just kept rowing all the way to Lizard point.
Just round the corner from Lizard we saw the RNLI shoot off and heard on channel 16 that a casualty had been evacuated from a yacht which had caught fire. The location of the incident was too far from us at the speed we were managing to head back up to Falmouth. We listened in to the progress and were happy to hear that the RNLI arrived and the yacht was secured.
This reminded us why we picked this incredible charity to support. They are guardian angles of the coast and such incredible and experienced people. You are safe to put your life in their hands.
By some miracle we arrived at Lizard point just at the right time for the tides and headed round in the glorious sun knowing that we had now passed the most southern mainland point in the UK.
The sun beat down on us and the tide slowly turned making the water seem like treacle and the next waypoint just tauntingly out of reach
Finally we made it to Mullion a beautiful secluded bay and tucked into a very well deserved cold Fanta. Our tendons on fire and clothes dripping with sweat, we rehydrated and freshened up.
The next morning we left in the mist heading to Mousehole. This was sooo much fun- with the wind and tide behind us Percy flew, surfing the waves and reaching a record speed down one of 6.3kts! Soaked through with drizzle but smiles permanently on our faces we tucked in behind St Clement’s Isle… that’s when we noticed we were being watched. Seals turned our way and the lovely locals started messaging us with pictures and videos of us bouncing around in the water.
After a few hours kip it was time to set off at 0200. The waters were calm and we were making good ground. We then noticed a fishing vessel change course and head straight for us. Blinding lights approached and Charlie reached for the radio ready to ask for more room when he swerved off flashing his lights in apology.
Heading round Lands end we admired the incredible landscape; jagged rocks and untouched beaches lighting up in the sunrise. This was one of our favourite legs.
The next 48 hours brought us blistering sunshine, glass like seas that we had experienced in the Atlantic and a sense a calm. The entire day we watched pods of dolphin approach Percy and play with the bow wave. The wildlife was one aspect of the row we were both so looking forward to and this really didn’t disappoint.
Growing closer to Wales the accent changed on the VHF and just outside Milford Haven we watched many a puffin bobbing up and down and sticking their heads under the water for breakfast. We quickly raced into our anchorage area to avoid a monstrous vessel with an 11 metre draft!
And here in Dale is where you will find us still patiently waiting. It’s looking like we will be able to leave tomorrow- just shy of a week on anchor thanks to storm Alex. We are both itching to go and make our way across to Ireland in time for Ad’s birthday.