Sunday, June 27, 2010

Near Point of Stoer Blog from Laura June 27

Blog from Laura near Point of Stoer

June 27 0725

Wow! Our Saturday night was brilliant! Angela and I initially took on the 2300-0200 shift with little enthusiasm but we were soon to be kept awake by a huge pod of dolphins, both in number and size.

Up to 20 dolphins gradually surrounded our boat, with the biggest looking to be around 10 foot in length, if not longer. The amazing pod performed synchronised jumps out of the water and swirled around our boat, with their sonar clicks and noises clearly audible.

We were amazed by their closeness, which could have been quite intimidating but it was clear that they were harmlessly curious of our strange yellow boat.

After several minutes they gradually dissipated and we were left in awe- stricken silence. It was then that the beauty of our surroundings began to sink in, we had been able to see the dolphins so clearly due to the dusky light that continues through the night here in the highlands, coupled with a moon that glowed orange and pink and framed with clouds.

The stretch of coast between the headlands of Rubha Coigeach and the Point of Stoer was spectacular in itself, having several jagged headlands within that provided a dramatic backdrop for our eventful night.

Now the sun has risen we can see our next headland across the calm waters as we progress to the ominously named Cape Wrath.

If we continue at this rate we should be there by tonight.

Come on SeaGals!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The SeaGals are Bunless by Angela 6 26

SeaGals are Bunless

Mini Blog via text by Angela 06/26/10

A sailboat, Sirocco Star, came up and spoke with us. They were super nice. They tried to give us some food, a black bun for energy, his wife’s special recipe. We felt bad about having to turn down the buns, as he was so excited about the possibility of sharing them with us. We explained it would be against the rules.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Isle of Mull by Bev 6 24

BLOG from Bev on Go Commando near the Isle of Mull, reflecting on the land of her fathers...

June 24 17.25

Although I was brought up in Gateshead, my father’s family are from John o’Groats and I have lots of relatives in the north of Scotland but I don’t know a great deal about Scotland.

So it’s been especially nice for me to see this wonderful country from the sea. In the mornings the islands and the peak of the mountains are shrouded in mist and the countryside looks magical.

I really must come back and visit the west coast of Scotland when I have more time to explore – especially the whisky islands.

We’d rowed constantly for 80 hours before we had to anchor today to wait until the tide turned to our advantage.

If we can make this sort of progress up the rest of the west coast we might be in time to take advantage of the spring tides in the Pentland Firth between the top of the mainland, near John O’Groats and the island of Orkney, and get a flying start to the last leg of our journey, down the east coast.

We have sent in a couple of new videos from Jura and the Sound of Luing in Argyll and Bute, taken on our Samsung Wave phone.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Off Stranraer by Bev 6 22

BLOG from Bev on Go Commando off Stranraer

June 22 13.27

Sunday night we headed north from Wales and toward the Isle of Man. Like the Bristol Channel, the currents here are perpendicular to our direction so cause us to zig -zag across but we arrived at roughly the coordinates we intended.

We've now rowed around the island and are heading on to Scotland. Overnight we we're able to continue to row, even against the tide, and make progress. We're now on our way toward Jura and Islay.

The Southerly winds are just starting so we're hoping for good progress in the next few days.

Approaching Isle of Man by Laura June 22

BLOG from Laura on Go Commando approaching the Isle of Man

June 22 07.15

There have been some tough times during the past 3 weeks at sea. Spending 24 hours a day in cramped confines has made things tense between the crew. We continually rally together and have a laugh to raise our spirits but at times when huge waves have pummelled our boat during the night, the last ounce of humour is drained from us. However, the darkness of night only lasts a few hours and out of the gloom rises some magnificent sunrises that seem to wash away anxieties and bring a fresh outlook to the day.

The breath-taking sunset pictured here was taken on our way to the Isle of White, the morning that the wind direction changed in our favour and we began to finally pick up pace again. With the weather on our side we are more determined than ever to make some good progress in the second half of our journey and make a speedy route home to our loved ones.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mystical,Magic Unicorns and Dreams of 80-mile Days by Angela June 21

BLOG from Angela Madsen on Go Commando

June 21 14.25

Mystical, magic unicorns and dreams of 80-mile days.
Blog Called into Race Media Person, Mike Ridley, by Angela

Life on Go Commando is good at the moment.  We’re getting on well and I’m really getting to know Laura and Bev, who have the front cabin. They both have a great sense of humour.

After days of frustration sat at anchor in northerly headwinds, the wind has dropped and we can start to row for long periods.  If you look at our track on the interactive map on the website, you might wonder why we appear to be zig-zagging across the Irish Sea. The answer is that the tides here run from east to west and we’re taking advantage of them, rather than spend any more time at anchor.  And we’re just where we want to be on the western side of the Isle of Man, the perfect position to head for Scotland.

The wind has dropped and it’s so hot in the sun. We normally row two hours on-two hours off during the day and in three-hour shifts at night.  But without the wind to cool us down, we’re thinking about switching to one-hour shifts during the heat of the day so we get a chance of shade in the cabin.  We’re all waiting for the wind to flip direction to a southerly, which will be behind us as we go north to Scotland.  Then it will be back to following winds and seas, mystical, magic unicorns… and dreams of 80-mile days, when we can start to make up for all the time we’ve spent at anchor.

I’m also thinking of my dear Dad, who hasn’t been too well lately, who’s following our every move on the websites…

Watermaker On Board By Angela via Deb June 21

“They must have to carry a lot of water”…….
Watermaker On Board.

By Angela via Deb June 21, 2010

Ocean Rowing boats are very small, especially when you have 4 people and their gear on a boat that is the size of a pair’s boat (24 feet long, 6 feet wide—nearly a ton loaded). There is no way that they could carry enough water to sustain 4 people for 45 days. There is a watermaker on board the boat. Solar charged batteries run the watermaker. It is an essential piece of equipment, but often one that is a struggle to keep working. Sometimes there is not enough power to run the watermaker and sometimes there are mechanical problems. They carry a back up hand pump watermaker as well. If they are not getting enough exercise rowing, they can always hand pump water.

The Haigh Lyon SeaGals had watermaker problems early on in the Virgin GB Row 2010. Angela worked to fix the clogged intake valve. She details the fix in this text message to me:

Spare hose inboard, lol, no way. I took a piece off a manual pump. They are two different size hoses so I used a reducer. Now there is plenty of hose to go into the water and we can now make water and row at the same time. Malcome suggested I put a weight on it and I had remembered that Belinda had purchased a plumb? A weight with a string on it. I cut off the lenght of string I needed and attached it to the end of the new intake for the watermaker. The watermaker hatch has to be open enough to run the hose out so best not to make water on super splashy days.

They pump water into containers to use for the day. They use the water to drink, rehydrate food, and wash. We talked about buckets in the last blog. There are actually 3 buckets on an ocean rowing boat-1 for clothes washing, 1 for dishwashing and 1 for the potty palace. On anchor due to tides, Angela filled the water containers and a bucket for her to wash her clothes in. I bet Belinda (she shares the back cabin with Angela) is happy it is washday for Angela!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ocean Rowing Potty Palace by Angela via Deb June 20

Ocean Rowing Potty Palace

By Deb for Angela June 20, 2010

I have received many inquiries about the rowers go to the bathroom whilst they are on the ocean rowing boat. There is no toilet on the boat. This is the number one question we get when we are doing presentations at schools. The answer is “bucket and chuck it”. There is a bucket that is on the deck and is tethered (or at least it should be) to the boat. When the bucket is your toilet and you lose it, that is not good.

The boys on Ocean Rowing boats often use a pee bottle, for that part of it, but it is more difficult for women. Angela has tried a variety of things that would equal the pee bottle, but has not been very successful. The closest thing she found was plastic pitcher. Lesson number one, if you see what appears to be a water bottle, don’t assume it is.

On Angela’s Indian Ocean crossing, Pirate Row, she started a little game with the bucket. They tried to see who could stay on the bucket longest, in the roughest conditions. She had a formula based on the speed of the boat, and height of the wave. The winner was Helen Taylor. Some cried foul as Helen had more practice than others did, but she had the best score.

The bucket is not always glamour…..Here is a mishap from the May 17, 2009 blog on Pirate Row. Angela “told me that she fell into the potty bucket and got stuck. She described herself as looking like a scoop of ice cream in a bucket cone. That brings to mind an image that I could probably create in Photoshop, but won't. So the state of the potty bucket on Audeamus is not great at the moment; even after they were able to pull her to safety from her bucket cone.”

Angela’s favorite bucket move is tossing its contents at a shark and saying, “Eat S*** and Die!” Now you know just how boring being on an ocean rowing boat can be.

Blog By Bev June 20

"BLOG from Bev on board Go Commando
Sunday June 20
The Anchor

We're spending a lot more time on anchor than we'd like, partly due to the weather and partly due to being in an area of strong currents

We're developing a love-hate relationship with our anchor, it’s a 15lb plough anchor with 10metres of chain and 150m of rope.

LOVE - our anchor holds and does so well, it’s easy to deploy and stops us losing valuable ground.

HATE - it has to be pulled back in manually, it holds so well that this is exhausting when anchored at greater depths, which recently we often are.

And, of course, after pulling in the anchor we then have to row!"

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wind! Always Rowing Against the Wind! By Angela via Deb June 19, 2010

Angela and her parents, Ron and Betty Madsen in Hawaii
Wind! Always Rowing Against the Wind!

By Deb for Angela June 19, 2010

Angela called me from the All Roads Communications Satellite phone this morning to report that they were sitting on anchor in 20-25 knot winds. They could not make any progress when they tried to row, so they anchored. They are also without cell phone service where they are on anchor. They have not seen much in the way of sea life today. She did see a seal. He seemed to look at them as if they were crazy for being out in the wind.

The Haigh Lyon SeaGals change watches whilst they are on anchor. There is not enough room in the cabin for two people to sleep at a time; two are on deck and one in each of the respective cabins. On RowofLife, there is enough room for people to sleep on the deck, but on Go Commando, there is no deck space big enough to sleep in.

They also do chores whilst they are on anchor. They make water, wash clothes, and fix things they have broken. When they were on anchor and had cell phone service, Angela actually checked all her email, called people and checked her facebook.

Angela would like to wish her father, Ron Madsen a Happy Father’s Day.

Ronald Madsen Hanging Loose in Hawaii

Blog from Belinda June 19th

Blog from Belinda

12.30 Saturday June 19

On Sat phone as no mobile coverage - fighting against 20knot gusting winds as we force our way round Holy Island (Holyhead peninsula, NW Wales). We are desperate to move on and get to Isle of Man, knowing that the Western Isles and Inner Hebrides will be beautiful scenery before the squalls expected around Cape Wrath! Spirits high, determined as ever, just frustrated at being pushed back by wind all the time!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Dear Mr. Weatherman By Laura

"BLOG from Laura on board Go Commando in the Irish Sea
13.00 Friday 18th June

Dear Mr Weatherman

I remember when I was around seven years old I wrote a letter to the weather-man asking for snow that winter, he very kindly granted my wish and we were blessed with a winter wonderland covering of thick snow. Now, seventeen years later I ask for another weather miracle. After days and days of northerly head winds I beg of you mr weather-man, please can we have some south tail winds? We've had our fair share of north winds and we are clinging on to the hope that our luck has to change soon!

Kind regards from the windswept SeaGals. X X X X"

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Life on the Boat in Bad Weather June 16

Life on the Boat in Bad Weather
By Deb for Angela June 16, 2010

This is information that I have received over several days. If it seems a little disjointed that is why.

They have had lots of bad weather for about the last week. They have spent more time on anchor than they would have liked. The boat is a 24-foot long, 6 foot wide. It is the same size as RowofLife, which is a pair’s boat. Go Commando was actually made with slightly bigger cabins to accommodate 4 rowers. The row around Great Britain is about half as long as each of the rows across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. It would be difficult to put enough food and supplies on the boat for a longer row. There is not enough room in the cabins for both rowers to be inside at the same time. When the SeaGals are on anchor, the still change watches every 2 hours (3 hours at night) and the people that would be rowing are out on the deck in the weather. Angela says in a text message, “On deck on anchor in piss down rain cold is just try and stay warm and during day is do chores fix things clean things tidy up the boat and ourselves.” A couple of nights ago she said in a text, “Storm last night big waves crashing over the deck. Nearly rolled over. Still on anchor waiting for change in weather. It is miserable here.” The weather sometimes makes it difficult to sleep. Angela texts, with the “turbulent waters” it is “like trying to sleep on a bucking horse”

I asked if they used the jet boil for a bon fire on the deck and started singing camp songs. Angela texted, “We do jetboil hot beverages at night but no songs. Not really a singing bunch.”

When they started their trip, almost everything was “fend for yourself”. They were not much of a team and definitely not as organized as they could have been. They did not have prior experience ocean rowing; they did not seem to understand the importance of having chores of cooking etc. assigned to a team members. With the time on anchor, they have done better with the food. There is some shared cooking instead of everyone fending for themselves. The clothes washing, however is still fend for yourself. If there is no hanging room left, you have to wait for another day to wash. There is 3 to 4 weeks of tough rowing left. As there are more challenges, we hope that there will be more team and less of an individual focus.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Chicken on the Sea by Deb for Angela June 14, 2010

Chicken on the Sea

Deb blogging for Angela June 14, 2010

Apparently, waves and winds are not enough excitement for Angela and Beverley. They were rowing against the wind today when they came upon a shipping lane. They looked Right for the UK fans and then Left for the US fans, seeing no big ships started across the lane. Rowing, Rowing, Rowing….Holy crap! There is a giant ferryboat “with 500 cars on it” coming at them very fast. Row, Row, Row, Row…..yell at the cabin asking them to come out and take pictures. (I am proud they did not stop rowing to get the shot). They were unable to wake anyone so we will all just have to picture in our minds- a big ship full of cars, moving 30 knots toward our SeaGals tiny little rowing boat. Well they made (I am sure you figured that out, since she was able to call and tell me). However, my new rule….No more playing chicken with other boats on the sea.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Belinda Blog June 13 16:35

BLOG from Belinda Kirk, Seagals skipper on Go Commando

16.35 hrs Sunday 13 June

In a phone conversation with Virgin GB Row’s race director, Chris Usborne, Belinda revealed that the Seagals were involved in a second race…against time.

Rowing at an incredible speed of almost five miles an hour, the Seagals, are off the spectacular Hartland Peninsula in north Devon but they have no time to appreciate the view.

They are racing ahead of an incoming storm and hoping to reach the River Torridge near Bideford, where they can anchor and shelter from the strong northerly winds that are forecast for tonight and tomorrow.

Belinda told Chris: “If we don’t make it, we’ll anchor out at sea to avoid any danger of being washed ashore but we expect it will be a bumpy night!”

The Seagals also won't be able to watch their appearance on BBC 1 tonight on Countryfile 7.30pm.

Belinda also sent this photo, especially for her mum.

As skipper and camera expert,

Belinda takes many of the on-board photos from the all-girl crew, so her mum has very few shots of Bel rowing…so we’re happy to oblige!

Blog by Bev June 13 03:50 hours

BLOG from Bev of the Seagals on Go Commando

03.50hrs Sunday 13 June

The calm before the storm. I've just finished my 3hr night time shift and it was a good row. The first time in quite a while that we didn't have to fight the waves, the sea is relatively still and the breeze is light. Its just the pick me up we all need after a very tough week, a reminder of how the rows can be, and a chance to make some headway.

Unfortunately we know that we have to find some good shelter soon so that we can sit out the worst of the storm, but hopefully after that we'll get some more good rows.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bel's blog June 12 1800hrs

Capt Kirk's log 12th June: Exhausted in Newquay

1800hrs @ 50*22.504n 005*13.013

Spent last night and this afternoon fighting those darned northerly winds again. We knew it would be hard but its harder - demoralizing and energy sapping. I suppose at least the sun is shining and we've got the gorgeous cornish coast to look at.... Tonight we need to make the decision of whether to head north now away from ornwall and break out to sea and to south Wales or to find refuge and sit out the impending storm due Sunday night. Everyone is tired so waiting it out is an option but there is a calm before the storm - a weather window of 12/14 hrs that could get us to milford haven - missing it will cost us days. Right, back to the oars...

SeaGal Beverley's Blog June 12

BLOG from Bev of the Seagals on Go Commando

14.47hrs Saturday 12 June

The winds have been against us now for a week, though they're dying down today we hear that by Monday they'll be stronger again. Rowing into the wind is exhausting, making every stroke heavier and more difficult to control.

A month ago, when I joined the Seagals, I asked Angela what rowing on the sea was like as I'd never done it before. "Have you ever tried rowing while surfing on a mechanical bull?" she asked. I didn't quite understand but I do now, it's like riding a rickety roller coaster backwards so you don't know what's coming next. Sometimes it's an absolute blast; sometimes you just want it to stop. If someone could replicate this as a ride I think it would sell.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bel Says Something Nice About Angela

BLOG from Belinda Kirk skipper of the Seagals on Go Commando

Captain Kirk's log 11th June 2100hrs

50*14.071n 005*24.605w

Currently sat in beautiful St Ives bay with the sun setting over the sea. So idyllic. This has been one of the best days and we were expecting it to be one of the worst.

It’s amazing how things can change so rapidly. Having thought we were stranded at Land’s End for maybe another two days suddenly a window in the weather opened up this morning and we grabbed it. 36 hrs off the oars meant the crew were rested and were ready to go!

After we negotiated Longships and Brisons rocks at Land’s End we rocketed along the stunning Cornish coastline. The headwind was still making life difficult for us but it was manageable and with the tide we got up to 4 knots!

The sun was shining and the coast so stunning that fighting the 15ft waves rodeo style was a total pleasure. I absolutely love rodeo riding those waves!

St Ives is such a special place. It’s such a perfect chocolate box bay you almost can't believe it’s real. Artists flock here to soak up the views and the special 'St Ives light'. We spotted the St Ives Tate gallery overlooking the bay.

We're now on anchor waiting for the tide to change back in our favour. We'll leave at midnight and row til 6/7am hopefully ending up at Padstow for tea and breakfast and a final look at the weather so we can finalize our route to South Wales...

Nb we are finding our niches on the boat. Everyone is indispensable. I'm absolutely loving navigating and planning the routes using the tides and weather. Bev and Laura take it turn as the 2ic navigator discussing our route and improving on it.

Angela is the powerhouse on the oars and she's Mrs Fix it. She's amazing and can pull apart and put back together everything on the boat. Yesterday she sorted the electrics, today the watermaker.

Laura continues to hope for strange medical ailments she can 'have a go at' and Bev is keeping us all sensible and on the straight and narrow.

Mini Blog by Angela 06/11/10

Virgin Row Around Great Britain

Mini blog from Angela Madsen on Go Commando nr St Ives
June 11 21.10

The watermaker intake valve is broken and will not open. Mounts directly to hull of boat and do not have spare. Will just have to use hose over side. Not convieniant but still makes water. It is tough going out here. Thanks for all your support.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Virgin Great Britain Row Challenge 2010

The race began on June 1st. The race website is doing a fabulous job of putting up news every few hours. My debate is whether or not to repost their blogs or just send everyone there or to For now I am very busy but will try and keep photos up on Facebook and here.

RowofLife Journey-YouTube Video by Sageweb