The Dangers

Dangers lurk

The row will be completely unsupported so upon leaving the Canary Islands their 250Kg ocean rowing boat will have roughly a further tonne of weight onboard including spare parts, electronic equipment, food (they will need to consume 5-6000 calories a day), emergency water supplies, desalintor, and safety equipment. In the event of an emergency in the middle of the ocean, they will have to rely on the good will of the nearest vessel for assistance which could be many days away.

The reason to set off in December is partly to avoid the infamous American hurricane season and also to take advantage of the powerful trade winds and currents that will be circulating predominantly east to west at that time. Whilst it is hoped that the winds will be light and blowing in the right direction, tropical storms are common in the mid atlantic and bring torrential rain, gale force winds and very high seas. There will be times when the weather is too rough for rowing and they will need to shelter in the cramped uncomfortable cabin. Large and sometimes freak waves mean that the risk of capsize is very real. In the event the boat does turn over it is designed to re-right itself but only if the hatches are closed and the emergency ballast water remains in tact. In any event, in bad weather the risk of damage being done to the boat and equipment is much greater, as is the risk of being thrown overboard.

Notwithstanding the limitations bought about by bad weather, for the most part the boys plan to row alternately, 2 hours on, 2 hours off, for 24 hours a day throughout the crossing whilst sleeping, eating and maintaining the boat when not at the oars. Boat maintenance will be very important, particularly in the case of power management and ensuring that the boat’s desalinator continues to be operational. They will each need to drink up to 5 litres of fresh water a day in order to maintain their gruelling regime. Should the main water maker fail, they will have a much less efficient hand operated desalinator to use as back up in addition to 5 days worth of emergency supplies. The latter will only be used as a last resort while awaiting rescue.

Another routine task will be to maintain a constant look out for international shipping. Ocean going cargo vessels and cruise ships pose one of the greatest threats to ocean rowers, most obviously because of their size but also because of their lack of visibility and their considerable speed. Even with the help of radar and modern electrical equipment a small rowing boat can easily go unnoticed on a vast ocean and a collision would inevitably end in disaster.

A final danger to consider is that posed by wildlife. Naturally inquisitive ocean going White Tip sharks have been known to pursue and in some cases seriously damage ocean rowing boats. Attacks on humans are rare but when cleaning barnacles off the bottom of the boat as will be necessary from time to time, the boys will need to be weary of what lies beneath. Less of a deliberate threat are whales. They too can be inquisitive creatures and their attention under normal circumstances would be welcome if it weren’t for the fact that one accidental swipe of a tail could leave the boat in pieces.