When are you off? How long is it going to take? What will you do when you want to go to sleep? These are just some of the questions I was asked over and over again last Saturday week on the prom in Salthill.
I set up my rowing machine on the prom and began rowing for around 5 hours while 101 swimmers made there way across Galway bay as part of the Frances Thornton memorial swim. Doireann was on show again and more people came by to marvel at her, It was a great day, I managed about 50km in the end but more importantly I raised a few hundred euros for Cancer Care West. The bucket was just an after thought, as the swimmers themselves have to raise €500 just to do the swim. So i was pleasantly surprised as many people stuffed notes and coins in there all day.
The last couple of weeks have been up and down. Some days feeling nowhere nearer being ready to row the Atlantic and other days I'm so excited I can barely contain myself. In fairness I'm starting to sound like broken record with the same answers from mostly the same questions. To so many people especially the older generation, this whole idea seems like utter madness. But to me It really makes perfect sense! I'm also beginning to sound like a real expert in ocean rowing despite not having rowed anything near an ocean. But thats my life, part ignorance and part confidence the perfect recipe for success.
I feel very fortunate in having the right people come into my life and give me the help I need to row the Atlantic. I met a chatty bloke by the name of Henry at the slip in Renville a few weeks back. As a boat owner himself and having sailed the Atlantic, his knowledge has proved invaluable. He has sent me long emails with the different ideas and tips as well as helping me figure out all the tech in my boat. From programming the AIS (Automatic Identification System) to calibrating the autopilots. Luckily we figured out how to calibrate the autopilot compass very easily on dry land instead of trying to do figure of eights in Galway bay. I have 3 autopilots as they can break easily. They have been a headache so far. But they'll be worth it to have sorted as I can rest easy knowing it will be steering me the right way especially when not on the seat.
Looking at the weather last week, it's been tough to get out on the boat as much as i'd like. I've realised Galway bay isn't the best location for all of my training. Predominant onshore means I can't get far and my Doireann is very much a down wind vessel. So when Henry suggested taking her down to Baltimore where he has his yacht moored I jumped at the chance. Straight off Baltimore in West Cork I have access to the deepwater of the Atlantic and can get a good push along the coast line with the South West and West winds.
I took off for the weekend just gone to a part of the world I've never been to properly and man was I amazed at how long it took to drive from Galway to Schull in West Cork on a bank holiday friday evening with an ocean rowing boat in tow. I stopped off a my good friend Rob's place who I know from years of offshore commercial diving. The next day we headed over to meet Henry and his wife Marina to get Doireann on the water. We were inundated with people on arrival at Baltimore harbour with more questions and queries about the row. We got her safely on the water and Henry towed me out to Fastnet rock. Then I went for a 10nm row back toward Baltimore while they went off and did some sailing in and out of some of the bays along the coast. It was a great day and I slept alongside their yacht on a mooring just off the hustle and bustle of Baltimore on a bank holiday weekend. On Sunday we did more of the same but I got in 18nm of rowing downwind. It was great to spend more time on my own in the boat figuring out little bits like building a route and navigating to waypoints. I've left Doireann in Cork and hopefully I'll be getting in some overnighters and a long row along the south coast in the coming weeks. Watch this space!