Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Flare Guns do Kick by Angela, July 13

Flare Guns do Kick by Angela

July 13, 2010

In the middle of the night on July 13, 2010, Angela and Laura took to the oars. They requested Bel give them the VHF Radio and turn on the SeaMe. Just after the start of their shift, they called the Coast Guard to advise that there was a big ship headed toward them. They were able to get the ship to change course. Shortly after that, there was another big ship headed toward them. They again called the Coast Guard who contacted the ship. That ship’s captain had some difficulty understanding what the Coast Guard was saying. They said they could not see Go Commando and they kept on their collision course. Angela reached for the flare gun and shot up a white, anti-collision, flare. She heard the ship’s captain tell the coast guard they had seen the flare and were changing course. Angela said it was the closest call with a big ship in all of her 166 days at sea in 3 ocean crossings.

There was a casualty of the encounter. When Angela shot the flare gun, it had a big kick. She has a large cut on her hand, broke her left index finger, and other bones in her hand. Apparently, her homecoming on Tuesday will include a visit to her favorite doctor, Dr. G, at the Long Beach Veteran’s Hospital. So if you see Angela trying to make her way around London pushing her chair with one hand, give her some kindness.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Poetic blog from Bev near Middlesbrough July 12

Poetic blog from Bev near Middlesbrough

July 12 19.15

Racing to win the Virgin GB row,

a crew of girls aboard Go Commando.

Rowing around Britain, this intrepid four

have been out at sea for a month and more

through high winds, storm, rain and shine

the girls are striving to make good time.

With messages of goodwill they know

friends and family shout, ‘go Seagals, go!’

Now almost there and on the home straight

the aim of all is to try not to be late

for engagements and dates previously known.

The Seagals are ready to finally go home…

Blog By Laura July 12

Blog from Laura Thomasson on Go Commando near Sunderland

July 12 12.01

The crew of Go Commando are a happy lot today, after covering 30miles overnight and arriving in Newcastle 6-12hours ahead of schedule.

We have had wildly variable weather over the past few days, a theme that has followed us through our entire journey in fact.

The wind doesn't seem to want to make its mind up and has continually flipped direction, building to blasting speeds (never in our favour) and then dropping to a complete lull, during which time we row our socks off trying to make the most of light/non-existent winds.

For the past week we have had the tempting forecast of northerly winds lingering around us but so far they are yet to arrive.

If we were to get strong northerly winds we could really make up for some lost ground and speed on down the remaining east coast. If, if, if.....

One thing for sure is that we are nearing the finish line, slowly but surely.

Our thoughts and conversations seem to revolve around what we are looking forward to when we get home.

I can spend a whole two-hour rowing shift dreaming of a long hot shower, crispy clean cotton sheets on a soft bed and a feast of fresh food.

In the meantime we are being kept occupied by the ever-increasing signs of civilisation, brightly lit towns and cities have replaced the natural light nights that we had got used to further north and we can see the stars for the first time in weeks due to the dark skies at night.

The RNLI lifeboats have been out to see us twice over the last few days and they always leave us with the kind reassurance that they are never far away, I would love to look into volunteering to work for the RNLI when I get home.

Our PR friend Katie Scoggins is hoping to see us in Scarborough tonight/tomorrow, I hope that we are there during daytime to see her but if not we'll be celebrating together very soon!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Watch Out for That Tanker! by Bev July 10

Blog from Beverley Ashton

July 10, south of Dunbar

We set off on Thursday evening hoping to get across the Tay and Firth of Forth in one go, we believed we had a 24hr weather window. 12 hrs in the winds began to build again and boat control began to diminish.

Soon all we were doing was being turned by wind and waves as we tried to find our course, it was time to drop the hook again.

We've all been frustrated with how much time we've spent on anchor, but this time spirits were higher as we knew that more good weather was forecast for later in the day.

We were anchored about 5 miles off St Andrews Bay and just about clear of the Tay, it was time to return to our anchor routine.

As the wind built so too did the waves, Belinda and I sat on deck passing the time by discussing what we wanted to eat when we returned home while getting soaked by the occasional big wave crashing over the side.

At one point as I glanced up I saw a ship maybe 3 miles away. It was heading directly for us and moving quickly, you could see the large breaking waves on its hull.

'Um' I said to Belinda, 'I've just spotted a ship and it seems to be heading this way.'

We've encountered the path of other ships but this time was different; this time we were anchored due to our lack of manoeuvrability and so were dependant on the ship changing course.

We both sat still and watched the ship for about 20seconds hoping for a sign that the course wasn't direct at all. However, as we watched it just became more evident that we were in their path.

Realising something needed to change, Belinda grabbed the hand-held VHF radio and I grabbed the flares box.

It's hard to radio a ship when you don't know who they are so Belinda hailed them by location.

Almost immediately, the coastguard responded, 'Hello Go Commando, this is Forth Coastguard the ship you are trying to contact is Whitstar'

Belinda was now able to hail the ship by name. 'Whitstar…Whitstar…Whistar… this is ocean rowing boat Go Commando, Go Commando, Go Commando.'

Thankfully they responded quickly and Belinda explained our predicament and the collision course but all he time they were moving closer.

They confirmed that they couldn't see us but were prepared to change course to avoid a hit.

As Belinda informed them they were a little over half a mile away, I opened the flare box and took out a white hand-held flare. Ready to light the flare, finally we saw Whitstar begin to turn and knew that we'd managed to avoid a hit.

We thanked the coastguard for the quick interception and took a few moments to collect our thoughts. Relief, that in the face of a possible disaster we had stayed calm, taken the best action and everyone was safe.

This reminded us why we sit out in the cold, the wind, the waves, the rain and the swell - the weather is not the only risk to us when we are anchored.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Social Experiment--Blog by Laura July 7

Blog from Laura Thomasson on Go Commando near Montrose

July 7 07.25

It was interesting to read my team mates’ version of accounts from the Force 10 storm, we endured last Sunday.

We all share such a small space and see the same sights, yet the way in which we see them seems to differ depending on personal feelings and individual interpretation.

As a nurse I find people very intriguing; their personalities, mannerisms and overall behaviour.

Being on board Go Commando for over a month with three other women has been like a social experiment!

We are all such different people, from different walks of life and we have had to try and be understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

The act of being empathetic is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and try to see things from their perspective, this is something that I always try to do, yet as people we are instinctively selfish especially when we are in extreme situations.

I found it hard to read Belinda's account that I "shrieked" as we neared the rocks, especially as my recollection was that I had calmly responded to the situation by swiftly lifting the anchor and rowing to safety with Angela on the oars, Beverley guiding and Belinda off-shift.

But, as I say, this is only my interpretation of events.

On the other hand, it is funny to think that such small discrepancies in stories manages to frustrate me and I feel that this demonstrates the intensity of our situation, whereby the smallest disagreement can seem like the end of the world!

One very important bit of advice given to me by my dad and instilled in me by the military is to 'take it on the chin and move on.' Never hold a grudge, especially on a 24ft rowing boat!

The life lessons I have learnt upon this boat over the last month will undoubtedly go on to shape the person I am becoming and I will take with me the wealth of experiences that our adventure has provided us with.

I Don't Like Open Water by Beverley Ashton July 6

Blog from Beverley Ashton on Go Commando
off the coast of Angus.

July 6

It may sound a little odd, but I've never been that taken with the sea; in fact I don't like the open water at all. So what am I doing rowing around Britain?

It's partly due to the above that I've taken on the challenge, to confront one of my personal insecurities.

This race is a huge test of physical and mental endurance and I want to see if I'm strong enough to see it through. So far it's going well, it's been very tough at times but not once have I felt I couldn't do this.

Without doubt the hardest aspect is the mental challenge, sure 12hrs of rowing a day is a physical test but it becomes a manageable, known quantity.

Mentally there is a lot more to take on, the uncertainty of how long you'll be out here for, being confined to such minimal space, no personal space, constantly on top of others and little contact with the outside world; in addition to these, for me, the fact I find the open water an uncomfortable place to be. With the recent high winds and bad sea conditions I've really tested myself.

I'm proud of myself and the crew for how well we've coped.

The challenge has been even greater than any of us expected and we still have a fair stretch to go.

Rumour has it that weather will be more favourable by the end of the week so hopefully we'll be home soon.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bel's Perspective Part 2

4th July (Part 2)

1600hrs: Rogue wave in Bullers of Buchan

Time for me and Bev to swap. I'm already on deck looking at the bird nurseries and the crowds of baby birds taking refuge in our little bay.

Bev's awake and she and Laura chat at the entrance to their cabin as she climbs out.......and then from nowhere we are hit by a wall of water. The deck is awash with water up to our knees.

I hear the girls calling.....The bow cabin is swamped... I start passing jugs and sponges forward.

Bev and Laura bail jugs of water out of the cabin. All their stuff is wet but more dangerous is that the cabin and deck are flooded. I get the bilge pump on to drain the deck. Laura and Bev keep on at their cabin.

A rogue wave must have hit us. As well as flooding us it felt like the boat was pushed over almost on its side, thankfully all three of us held on and Angela is safely inside.

Poor Laura gets seasick again though. We hang sleeping bag and kit out to dry on deck once the majority of the water is bailed out then Laura shrieks.

The wave must have dislodged our anchor and we have drifted towards some rocks. We are almost on top of them.

Laura and Angela row like crazy away from them, Bev lifts the rest of the anchor. I come out of the cabin to find frenetic activity and shouts of 'Belinda'.

We drop the anchor again at a safe distance. That was a bit too close for any of us.

The cold and the swell finally takes its toll on poor Laura- her seasickness comes on again finally the storm dies down and water settles.

We all try to get some rest. I give Laura and Bev my sleeping bag which I feel a little self conscious, might smell, no one has washed properly for over a month and my sleeping bag has gotten damp from wet weather gear and condensation - everything smells a bit of mildew - and probably everyone does.

Thankfully though we are all safe and can have a dry sleep. Now the wind is dropping we can go as soon as the tide comes about....I think we’ll all enjoy getting out of here.

Blog from Bel's perspective July 4

 3rd July 2200hrs Bullers of Buchan.

The storm warnings of gale force winds means we have had to take shelter in a rocky bay.

Shockingly 35-knot winds are predicted over the next 24 hrs. Winds worse than anything we have seen so far and frankly winds that no one wants to try to handle out at sea.

We have five more hours before the storm is predicted to hit and I was hoping to get Go Commando to the River Ythan but I can't take the risk that we won't reach it.

We cannot be in open water when this hits. We've just had a crew meeting and agree that we won't make it in time because the winds have built early and our progress has slowed significantly so we've anchored up In a bay Bev and Laura spotted.

It’s so small it doesn't even appear on our scale maps. It’s also beautiful and ominous, surrounded by huge cliffs. But its shelter and were glad to have found it.

Once I'd checked with the compass that there's definitely southerly protection, we put the anchor down.

Phew, just getting round behind the cliffs in the building winds was a relief. Much calmer waters we've hunkered down now waiting for the storm.

Laura and Angela come off the blades and myself and Bev go on watch 00.00hrs Bev and I reset the anchor. Too close to rocks so moved over a bit.

This bay is incredibly dramatic with steep cliffs to the west and south. The noise of the waves and wind is drowned out by the zillions of nesting gulls, shags and guillemots

0700hrs July 4

Back on deck at 0400hrs to relieve Angela and Laura. Conditions worse by the end of our shift but not too bad.

1000hrs back on deck. Really wet and windy now. Pretty miserable weather to have to sit on deck in. Our trusty plough anchor is holding.

The weather worsens during our shift. Thank goodness we're not out at sea in this!!!!

By midday it’s awful, 35-knot winds on the other side of the cliffs, sea state even inside the bay is bumpy - see video.

Huge waves crash on rocks in middle of bay, sending spray 12ft in the air and scattering the gulls

1500hrs I'm woken up by the boat being battered by waves. It feels like the boat is being picked up by a big hand and shaken. Everyone on deck ok.

The waves and wind must be bending around the cliffs and into the bay.

Second part of blog coming after my next shift

Anchored Blog by Laura Thomasson July 5

Blog from Laura Thomasson on Go Commando

July 5, 15.30

I'm sure that you will get a few separate accounts of our experience yesterday with 35-knot winds, as it was probably one of our closest calls to getting into a dangerous situation.

We had good prior warning that force 10 gales were forecast along the NE coast so despite our longing to continue along the coast to Aberdeen, we played it safe and found a protective cove not far from Peterhead.

The cove was a spectacular sight with jagged rocks, steep cliffs and a menagerie of gulls covering the cliff face.

We carefully edged our way into the rocky cove and anchored in a central position; unfortunately we were unable to get nicely tucked under the protection of the cliff due to a rocky ledge that protruded under the water.

At the time of anchoring the water was fairly calm and it was hard to believe that a big storm was on its way but we resisted the urge to continue down the coastline and stayed put in our cove awaiting the building winds.

The hours seemed to tick by slowly and I began to wonder whether we had been lucky enough to miss the strong winds, until at 06.00 swelling waves started to roll into the cove.

From this time onwards the waves steadily built and the wind began to tunnel down from the cliff top, blowing us out at an angle that was broadside to the waves rolling in.

Facing the waves side on we took the impact of 20foot waves that flooded the deck and also flooded Bev and I's cabin during one of our change over of shifts.

We filled a 10-litre bucket of water in an attempt to bail out the cabin, all of our bedding and belongings were soaked just as I was about to snuggle into my sleeping bag and warm up from the wet and cold outside.

As if matters couldn't have got worse, I was rocked around in the cabin so much as I was trying to empty it of water that I began to feel the creeping nausea of sea sickness.

The best place to be when sea sickness hits you is on the deck where you can see the horizon, so I sat out on deck for 9hours in my wet clothes trying to suppress the urge to be sick!

During this time we began to notice that we were slowly being dragged on our anchor line towards the rocks that were coming perilously close to our starboard side. With the waves continuing to rage into the cove we had no option but to sit it out and watch the boat edge slowly nearer to the rocks.

After 12hours of crashing waves and streaming winds the sun gradually began to creep out from behind the clouds and the waves slowly began to subside.

At 2100hrs we were finally safe enough to lift the anchor and row away from the rocks that had gone from being 30feet away to only one foot away.

A lucky escape! With the relief of re-anchoring a safe distance away and looking out upon the calming waters I promptly gave into my sea sickness and threw up over the side of the boat.

What a day! Let's hope the winds that are forecast for Wednesday and Thursday are a little kinder to us.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Frightening Times on Go Commando July 4, 2010

Frightening Times on Go Commando

By Angela via Text to Deb, July 4, 2010

The SeaGals have been dealing with dangerous weather the last couple of days. Angela sent me info about their ordeal via text message a couple of hours ago. She said, “tg (thank God, the) anchor held today otherwise (we) would be coming home in casket (s.) 3-4 meter waves hail (gale) force winds and too close to smashing on rocks for my taste.” She explained on the phone that she had hoped they would anchor in the next “posh” bay over with “no rocks”. When she woke for her shift she found that they were anchored in this bay which is full of rocks. ”Could have died out here today, no surviving in this water just rock cliffs around with 12-20ft waves crashing into them, it would have made toothpicks of our boat and cast us to the sea. Rogue wave flooded bow cabin. It is still windy and choppy but we moved farther away from rocks. We were just at the wave break barely getting over the top of them, maybe. It's my break now and it's been tough day. I am going to sleep.

She also wanted me to let everyone that they are all fine. They gave Laura and Bev a dry sleeping bag from the back cabin, while they dry out their things. During her next shift, she hopes to be allowed to make it to the next bay without the rocks; but we shall see.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Medical bulletin from nurse Laura Thomasson on Go Commando 7 1

Medical bulletin from nurse Laura Thomasson on Go Commando

05.15 July 1

After four weeks at sea you can imagine that the medical issues on the boat have been varied and sometimes a bit of a challenge for me as the medic, but as you know I like a good challenge!

Initial blisters on hands and heels have now hardened up, although the 'claw hand' effect has provided constant pain for the crew, for some more than others.

We use anti-inflammatory tablets and gels to improve the range of movement in our hands and to reduce swelling and pain, but after sleeping we have found that our hands seize up and it can make little tasks like doing up zips and grasping the oars painful until our hands warm up.

I'm not embarrassed to tell you that my bottom has been particularly sore, not helped by my personal padding gradually wasting away!

Luckily, Angela has been able to provide me with some brilliant antibiotic powder that has helped to heal my poor bottom and I feel that it has literally saved my ass!

Some crew members are suffering from bottom problems of another type, while the rest of the crew suffer the after effects of the noxious fumes wafting passed!

Angela affectionately names them 'barking spiders' while I am genuinely worried about their insides.

Now that I have let you all know the secret behind our new record breaking speed I better go, but please be assured that despite general wear and tear we are all holding up well and battling on, determined to come home and get some well-earned rest.

RowofLife Journey-YouTube Video by Sageweb