The horizon will have to wait.24/04/2013 11:50 GMT
As I write this diary entry, I can see a chart for the North Atlantic Ocean lying in the corner of the room, with my intended route across it marked with a red line. Unfortunately, that is all that NY2SY will be for another year, a line on a chart.
I am very sorry to announce that I am postponing my NY2SY Solo North Atlantic Row for this year. It's been a couple of days since I took the decision but I have not made any official statement until now as I wanted to contact all my sponsors and supporters, so that they heard the news from me first. I am gutted that I can't undertake the challenge this year but I have quite simply run out of time and there is no sponsor in the world that can help me with that.
Although, I have made great progress with the project since the turn of the year, I have also had a lot of problems getting equipment to the island and these delays, combined with some other issues, have finally caught up with me. The discovery just recently that my watermaker had a crack in it was also a setback. There is still a couple of weeks' work to be done on the boat and she wouldn't be quite ready for the proposed shipping date to New York next week. It's a tough one to take and I was so close, but that is not good enough given the challenge that lies ahead. Once the boat has been completed I then need to conduct sea trials with her as she has undergone some fairly extensive alterations and I need to see how these affect her on the water. There are also some skills that I still need to master, like deploying and recovering the sea anchor correctly and also emergency procedures to practise, and I wouldn't have time to do these before the boat was shipped. Had I gone ahead with the plans and shipped the boat across to the States, it would have meant that we would have been still trying to complete the outstanding work on the boat in New York. This could have been done, but it's not an ideal scenario just before such a huge challenge, and we would never have been able to conduct sea trials, or practise the skills I mentioned, in New York harbour as it is so busy with marine traffic. I had already delayed the shipping date by a week and as a result the weather window for leaving had already narrowed.
One of the other factors in my decision to postpone is harder to admit. The truth is that I am just not ready to do the row. I have put myself under intense pressure over the past 2 months to get NY2SY to the start and it has taken it's toll on me and some of my old demons have returned. If I am going to bang on about mental health issues and try to raise awareness for SAMH then I need to be honest about my own situation. There have been many testing times over the past couple of years but I found these few weeks leading up to the proposed launch particularly hard. There have been days when I have just shut down, been unable to function, and this needs to be addressed. I was always going to be the weak link in all this, but I'll get myself sorted and I am already looking towards 2014.
I'd like to thank Gordon Maclennan, Tony Morrison and Angus Smith for all their help with getting the boat ready, had it not been for their hard work then I wouldn't even have got this close. Thanks also to Woody's Express Parcels for helping get equipment over to Stornoway, the delays would have been much longer without their generous assistance.
I am very lucky to have such understanding and supportive sponsors and I would like to thank them all for sticking with me yet again, and also to my supporters too. They all have their own reasons for wanting to be involved in NY2SY and I really do appreciate their investment and faith in me.
My plans now are to carry on and get the boat finished as soon as possible and then spend the summer training and attending events with her to get exposure for NY2SY and my sponsors. Unfortunately, this postponement has affected some arrangements that I had in place, so I will need to do some more fundraising over the coming months. There will be many more setbacks before all this is over but I have always said that you just have to try and link them up with successes.
A few years ago I gave up on everything, walked away, and I refuse to go back to that.
NY2SY can be done and I want to do it....and I will.
I'd like to dedicate this diary entry to every ocean rower who manages to get to the start....I understand just what an achievement that is.
Time and tide.13/03/2013 05:10 GMT
I have been very fortunate to have secured some very supportive and generous sponsors for NY2SY, both companies and individuals, but even they cannot give me what I need most now.....time.
It's now potentially just 2 months before I set off off on my row across the North Atlantic Ocean and I need to make the most of every day, and night, that I have left before then to organise and prepare the seemingly endless list of things that still need to be done for NY2SY. The search for the sponsorship that I still need continues but now time is also becoming a critical factor. The boat and myself must be totally prepared for this challenge or less it will not happen. I have always said that if there is anything "brave", a word that is overused far too often in the wrong context, then it is not actually undertaking a challenge like this but knowing when not to go ahead with it. Although I do feel a duty to my fantastic sponsors and everyone who has given me such wonderful support over the past 2 1/2 years, I am under no pressure from anyone to go ahead with it, that final decision is mine. Please do not try and read between the lines of that last statement and think that I am pessimistic about NY2SY happening this year, or question my own commitment to it, I'm still very positive about it all. I just feel it's important to make the situation clear. I am very much of the mindset that NY2SY will go ahead this year and I have begun preparing myself mentally, and that I will be rowing out of New York harbour in a couple of months, but my confidence must be tempered with realism.
It's been a busy few weeks, hectic but enjoyable. The boat has undergone a fairly dramatic transformation as the refit continues and she is prepared for the North Atlantic. She has been completely repainted and the work was expertly carried out by Robert Hughson and his team at Hughson's Vehicle Services http://www.hughsonsvehicleservices.co.uk . I hope to add a design to the bow at some point over the coming weeks and also place all the sponsors' logos on her too. The other major work that has been completed is the installation of the oar stanchions on the port and starboard gunwales of the boat. These stanchions will carry my spare oars, I'll have 2 sets, and there is also room for my 3rd set of oars for when I am not rowing. These oar stanchions will also act as rails which will help keep me in the boat and give me something to grab onto. The oar stanchions were designed, machined and installed by Stornoway Plastics http://www.stornowayplastics.com and Gordon Maclennan and his team did a very professional job. It was a big decision to carry out the refit of the boat on the Isle of Lewis as I knew that it would present challenges logistically but I felt that it was important to keep her on the island and I have been very fortunate that people like Gordon Maclennan, Angus Smith and Tony Morrison have donated their expertise and time to help get NY2SY to this stage. I must also thanks Woody's Express Parcels http://www.woodys-express.com for their help in getting equipment for the refit over to Stornoway.....we can put a rover on Mars but try getting a parcel to the Western Isles!!
The next big jobs to be done on the boat will be the installation of the new rudder and also the mounting of the new wind generator. Once all the main work has been done on the boat I will conduct an inversion test, a controlled capsize of the boat, to make sure that all the alterations and additions have not affected the self-righting capability of the boat.
This video shows a typical inversion test for an ocean rowing boat:
I am very much looking forward to welcoming Leven Brown from Ocean Row Events http://www.oceanrowevents.com back to Stornoway at the beginning of next month to inspect the boat and answer the many questions that I still have! Leven is not long back from his fourth ocean row, where he skippered a crew of 8 in the boat 'Avalon' as they attempted to break the record for rowing from the Canary Islands to Barbados. They completed the crossing in 35 days 12 hrs and 41 mins, an impressive effort, but not enough to break the record which stands at 32 days and is still held by Matt Craughwell and his crew in 'Sara G'. Another rower who has played a big part in my introduction to ocean rowing is Simon Chalk from Oceanus Rowing http://www.oceanusrowing.co.uk and he and his crew on 'Titan' also had a crack at the same record, arriving in Barbados a couple of days ahead of 'Avalon' (they had departed Gran Canaria before them) in a total time of 35 days 13 hrs 15 mins, a other fantastic effort. I have no doubt that Leven and Simon will be back out on the ocean again to have another attempt at this prestigious, but elusive, record and I wouldn't be surprised if one of them breaks the 30 day barrier for the route...just don't ask me to choose which one!
There are a few people with their oars in the ocean just now and it will not be long before Charlie Pitcher arrives in Barbados in his boat 'Soma' and it looks more than likely that he will be celebrating a world record for the crossing! He set off from La Gomera on 6th February and he should make landfall later tonight (13th March) which would mean that he would have completed the row in a quite amazing 35 days!! You can find out more about Charlie and his row, and read about what affect such a huge effort can have on a person, on his website http://www.transatlanticsolo.com/home/
Also making their way across the ocean, but this time rowing from Dakar, Senegal to Florida, Miami, are the OAR Northwest crew in their boat 'James Robert Hanssen. This 4 man crew and over a month into their crossing and their website is another well worth having a look at: http://www.oarnorthwest.com/
Turning back to my own efforts to get my own oars wet in the ocean, I was delighted to welcome NESSGLAZE http://www.nessglaze.co.uk/ ,a local glazing company, as the sponsor of my Yellowbrick Tracking System. This device will allow everyone to follow my progress across the North Atlantic via a map on the website (click on the 'Track My Progress' link at the bottom of this page to see it) and I'll also be able to send short updates to the NY2SY Solo North Atlantic Row Facebook page and Twitter account (@NY2SYSolo). It's great to have another local company involved in the challenge and I'm very grateful to Willie MacRitchie, one of the company's Directors, for his persistence in getting me to e-mail him...it's usually the other way around when it comes to sponsorship!
I must also give a big thank you to Charlie Martell who has very kindly loaned me several pieces of equipment to use on my row. Charlie himself was due to undertake a solo row across the Pacific Ocean this year but had to postpone due to a lack of sponsorship (it's not just me!) and it says a lot about the guy that he immediately thought about how he might be able to help another ocean rower benefit from his own setback. He got in touch with me out of the blue and his kindness has saved me a lot of money and time. Thanks Charlie and all the best with your next adventure, to fly a microlight to the South Pole...as you do! It's for a great cause and you can find out more, and perhaps make a wee donation, here: http://www.flyingforfreedom.org/
This week I had some visitors at the workshop where the boat is being kept and it was a pleasure to show Josh (10) and Aaron (6), and their dad Gordon (?), around the boat and answer their questions about NY2SY. They have been following my progress for a while and I was really touched when Josh and Aaron presented me with the contents of their Piggy Banks to help my fundraising efforts for NY2SY! Thanks so much and I hope you'll come back to see the boat when she is finished....and that your dad will top up your Piggy Banks!
My final news is that I have managed to find a home for my boat for my time in New York prior to beginning my NY2SY row. I have very kindly been offered a berth at Liberty Landing Marina http://www.libertylandingmarina.com/ which is situated on the Hudson River, just across from Manhattan. This will be a great place to carry out the final preparations before setting off and I am looking forward to meeting Ron, Michelle and the rest of the team at the Marina.... thanks for finding a space for my boat. I am still looking for accommodation for myself, the support team and the documentary crew (5 people) but I hope that something turns up soon...if you have any contacts in New York that you think might be able to help then please do get in touch!!
A lot of people have been asking if I have a date yet for beginning the row and I'm afraid that I don't, and probably wont until just a few days before I set off. I am still waiting for confirmation of the shipping date for the boat to go over to New York (she'll be taken across on a container ship) and once I know this then I'll have a better idea of when I will be heading over myself. Once the boat arrives I'll have about a week in New York to make sure the boat is ready and hopefully do some press and media in the city too. When I am happy that everything is sorted and organised then I'll be on "standby", ready to leave at short notice once a favourable weather window opens up. I'll need about 5/6 days of decent weather to get away from New York and to make good progress out into the open ocean.....and as I said at the very beginning of this diary entry, that could just be 2 months away!
I'd like to dedicate this diary entry to Angus McLeod from Edinburgh, a good guy who has made a big difference :)
News, news and more news...and it's all good news!19/02/2013 18:52 GMT
The past couple of months seem to have been as productive as the past couple of years in terms of making progress with fundraising for NY2SY! I was genuinely worried about the situation I found myself in towards the end of November 2102 as nothing seemed to be happening, the whole project appeared to have stalled. Then things started to change.
It could be argued that the catalyst for this run of good fortune was the Kukri Events Adventure Scholarship, which I first heard about at the end of November, when I really was feeling quite despondent. The Scholarship was worth up to £20,000, as well as kit, expert advice and support, and it attracted a wide variety of entries. The first part of the competition involved producing a short video explaining what your adventure was and why you were undertaking it. I was fortunate that there was already an NY2SY video available, kindly produced by Ged Yeates, and all it needed was a little editing to shorten it to the required 2 minutes. All the videos were then posted on the Kukri Events Facebook page and people were then able to vote for them. What followed were a few weeks of relentless canvassing for votes and I was very fortunate that so many people were willing to take the time to vote for the video, sometimes on a daily basis, and were willing to spread the word and persuade others to vote too. The voting closed at midnight on 31st December and by then the NY2SY video had finished in a very strong second place, about 1000 votes behind the winning vote but well ahead of the 3rd placed video. These placings however did not guarantee anyone a place on the shortlist for the Scholarship and we all had to endure a 2 week wait until we heard which adventures the Kukri Events judges had chosen to put throught to the final.
I was caught slightly unawares by the e-mail when it arrived in my Inbox but felt so happy when I read the heading "Congratulatons You Have Made The Kukri Events Adventure Scholarship Shortlist!". All 7 of the shortlisted adventures were invited to give a short presentation to the Kukri Events judges at the Royal Geographical Society in London at the beginning of February. I began to prepare my presentation just after hearing that I had been shortlisted, and had already spent a few days sorting out images and information, when I took the decision to keep my talk simple. It was a risky thing to do as all the final 7 adventures were worthy of support from Kukri Events, and we were all effectively pitching against each other for the funding, but I decided that I would ditch all the audio/visual extravaganza that I inititially intended to unleash upon the judges and just tell them my story, very simply, in my own words. I can't remember feeling so nervous as I paced the floor of the Royal Geographical Society waiting for my turn to tell the judges about NY2SY. I knew that it was a very important event and that whatever happened would have a significant bearing on whether NY2SY happened this year or not. I was also not sure if I was ready for another setback, another blow to my confidence and actually wondered if it was a good thing or not to have made it this far in the competition if I wasn't actually going to be successful at the end of it all?
Although I was intimidated by the occasion and the event it was a pleasure to be able to talk about my NY2SY challenge to the judges and tell them what had led me to even contemplate rowing across the North Atlantic Ocean. The judges couldn't have been nicer and more supportive. They included Mark Beaumont, Ben Shephard, Sarah Outen and Michelle Lefton and they were all really interested in what I had to say and asked plenty of questions about NY2SY. We were all invited for something to drink and eat at a nearby bar later that evening and it was there that the Kukri Events team told us who was to benefit from the scholarship fund. Instead of awarding the whole £20,000 to one adventure, the judges decided to share it out between 5 adventures...and NY2SY was one of them. I was awarded £5000 which is a huge help to my fundraising efforts and I am so grateful to Kukri Events http://www.kukrievents.com and the judges for showing faith in what I am hoping to do. The other adventures who were successful were:
Rockall Solo http://www.rockallsolo.com
Adventure 2013 http://www.adventure2013.co.uk
Mississippi Challenge 2013 http://www.mississippichallenge2013.weebly.com
Super Cycling Man http://www.supercyclingman.com
It was great to finally meet all those involved in all the other adventures and to share our experiences. I'm looking forward to following everyone and hope that we can all get together again sometime...though I doubt that Kukri Events will be willing to pick up the bar bill again! But although I was delighted to have been given this support by the Adventure Scholarship, and I certainly did celebrate, I also felt for the 2 adventures who weren't awarded anything, The Coxless Rowers http://www.coxlessrowers.com and Worldride 2013 http://www.worldride2013.com, and I hope that they manage to make their adventures become a reality. I had met the ladies from The Coxless Rowers a few weeks previously and we could identify with the challenges we all faced since we were trying to achieve the same thing, to row across an ocean (The Coxless Rowers are going to row across the Pacific Ocean). I am sure that they will eventually get the funding they need and their energy and enthusiasm is a great thing to be around. Good luck ladies :)
I had previously met The Coxless Rowers when I attended the London Boat Show in the middle of January. I decided to visit the show as I hoped that I could maybe talk face-to-face with potential sponsors and also be able to get deals on some pieces of equipment that I still needed. It was nice, and a surprise, that the first person that I bumped into when I arrived at the Boat Show was Danny MacAskill, the street trials pro cyclist from Skye. We had a quick chat before he headed off for his flight home and I got lost in the vastness of the Boat Show. I had set up a couple of meetings but these, disappointingly, didn't come to much. I did however manage to source some equipment and also got some good contacts for other aspects of the row.
Just prior to heading down to London to give my talk at the final of the Kukri Events Adventure Scholarship, a Quiz Night was held at the Caladh Inn in Stornoway to raise funds for NY2SY. It was a great night, with 27 teams taking part, and the final total raised was a fantastic £1400! I must thanks Christina MacIver, and the staff at the Caladh Inn, for looking after us so well and also to all the businesses and individuals who donated so generously to the prize raffle.
QueenB Hairdressing c/o http://www.bodyandsolestornoway.co.uk
The Boy Who Trapped The Sun
Also thanks to Keith Morrison from Wee Studio http://www.facethewest.co.uk/weestudio/ for very kindly supplying the PA and to Innes, Iain, Finlay, Alison, Kirsteen, Joanne and Norrie for all their help :)
I have always been amazed by the support that NY2SY has been shown by everyone and the project has benefited greatly from some amazing generosity. I am very grateful to Kenny Nicolson for auctioning a week's stay at Littleridge Cottage http://www.littleridge.co.uk on the Isle of Skye to raise funds for NY2SY ( and I better thank his sister Mairi for telling him to!). The winning bid was made by Alan Macdonald and I hope he enjoys his stay on Skye this summer and many thanks for his support.
I also need to thank Henrik Thaarup from Denmark who is very kindly sponsoring my rowing seat. This is one of the most important pieces of equipment on any ocean rowing boat and I will be using one of the best seats http://www.iconrowing.com thanks to Henrik's generosity! Henrik is a fellow Runrig fan and first heard about NY2SY when I was invited on stage by Runrig when they played at the Barrowlands in December 2011. I have had great support from many Runrig fans and I am gutted that I will not be able to join in the celebrations this summer when the band celebrate their 40th anniversary.
Finally, I need to say a big thank you to Donnie 'Maroot' Macleod who donated £5000 (!) towards my fundraising efforts for NY2SY, a truly wonderful gesture. Donnie actually made this donation quite a while ago but wasn't interested in getting any recognition for it, but I persuaded him to let me name him. I was completely taken aback when he first approached me and his donation came at a time when the NY2SY finances were in a bad way and it allowed me to pay a few outstanding bills and keep the project alive. I can't even claim to know Donnie particularly well but it's clear from what I have found out about him from others that I am not the only cause he has supported and his kindness and generosity have helped a lot of people. Thanks Donnie, thanks so much. You can help Donnie with his current fundraising for several good causes in the Western Isles by buying a copy of his now world famous 'Awful Joke Book'...and it is really awful! http://www.donniemaroot.co.uk
Thanks for all your messages and kind words of support and remember that you can buy an official NY2SY t-shirt via the NY2SY online shop:
The sales of these t-shirts are a huge help to my fundraising efforts and it's been great to see so many people, from all over the world, placing orders. So...have you got yours yet?!