Better days.13/09/2011 23:22 GMT
I have just been reading through the last couple of paragraphs from my previous diary entry and I'm happy, and relieved, that these next few sentences should have a more "upbeat" feel to them...though NY2SY is far from being fully funded and ready to go.
What I wrote clearly stuck a chord with some who read it as I was contacted by several people with ideas and suggestions for raising funds for NY2SY....and this gave me a wee kick up the "stern" to stop feeling hard done by about the way things were going at that time and to try find a solution. I am very grateful to all who have helped with contacts, ideas and support over the past week and it's as a result of this that I feel much better about the project. I have been doing quite a bit of thinking about how I am approaching NY2SY in my mind and I realised that I often find myself wondering what it must be like to arrive back after such a challenge....but I have never wondered what it must be like to begin the adventure? The project obviously began last year when I first started to organise and train for NY2SY, but what I mean is, what it must feel like to finally row away from New York, to finally set off after many months of hard work and preparation? This is the moment that I now try to imagine and it's that thought that now drives me forward.
Last week I spent a few days on the mainland and it was a worthwhile trip in so many different ways. Myself and Suzanne from LUCID PR travelled to Glasgow where we met up with Jo and Julie from the fundraising team at SAMH and we discussed how NY2SY was progressing and what we could do in the coming months to raise the profile and also *raise money too. It's great to have an experienced and dedicated fundraising team behind me as it's not going to be easy to raise my target of £100.000...but it can be done...it will be done! We have no shortage of ideas and I am looking forward to revealing the various things that will be happening over the coming weeks. I can't say too much just now but hopefully NY2SY will be taking to the road next month, my boat is very versatile, should have more details very soon!
*I would like to address a query that has been raised by a few people with regard to donations and what they go towards. Any donations made via the NY2SY 'Justgiving' page go directly to my chosen charity, SAMH, and ultimately towards my fundraising target of £100,000. If anyone would like to make a donation towards the funding of the actual NY2SY project (this covers the cost of the boat, equipment, training courses, logistics etc) then they should contact me personally, either via e-mail: email@example.com or phone: 07900 442 512. I must apologise for any confusion there has been with regard to this and I am very grateful to everyone who has been so generous with their donations so far.
After leaving the meeting at SAMH we sped across the city for another meeting, this time with a national daily newspaper who are interested in following NY2SY in a few different ways. This is a fantastic opportunity to really spread the word about the project on a national level and I really hope that we manage to find a way of working together. I did a couple of interviews, had some pictures were taken and we spoke about how we could work together on a longer-term basis. All going well, you should be reading about the challenge at the beginning of next month and I'll be sure to let you know which paper you need to buy and when!
The plan then had been to stay the night in Glasgow with friends but I was tipped off about an offshore exhibition that was being held in Aberdeen and was encouraged to find a way of getting there as it would be a great opportunity to speak to potential sponsors face-to-face. So, I headed north on the last train, burdened myself on my cousins for the night and then headed to the AECC the next day armed with NY2SY business cards, a firm handshake and a charming smile :)
Offshore Europe 2011 is a huge event so I had to pick and choose who I approached as I didn't want to waste any time with companies who I didn't think were suitable for NY2SY. I had a really good day taking to representatives from a wide range of companies and exchanged a lot of business cards, contacts that I plan to follow up eagerly. The people I spoke to seemed genuinely interested in what I was doing and I am particularly excited about a couple of conversations that I had and I look forward to hearing back from these companies, fingers crossed! I'd like to thank Murdo MacRitchie for telling me about this exhibition and urging me to make the effort to attend...a stroke of genius a charaid ;)
The summer seems to have passed so quickly this year (did anyone actually see it?!) and now I am preparing to take the boat out of the water, though I am hoping to squeeze in at least one more training row with her before I need to revert back to using the rowing machine in the local gym. I have done 3 serious training rows this year and now know what changes I need to make to the boat to have her ready to face the North Atlantic Ocean next year. But I also need to look at myself and I am booking some training courses that will give me the confidence to deal with various different situations that could possibly arise during the crossing.
This weekend I will be taking the boat across to Ullapool where she will be on display at the Loopallu Festival ! If you are about, please do come and say 'hello' and have a look at the boat. You will also have the chance to sign up for FACEBOAT, an opportunity to come across the North Atlantic with me.....but without the rowing ;) The boat will be at the festival site on Friday and Saturday and am I really looking forward to the weekend, thanks to Rob Hicks and his team for all their help.
Remember, NY2SY needs lovely sponsors......keep telling everyone about it!
I'd like to dedicate this diary entry to someone with very hairy forearms and a good heart ;)
Back and forth....up and down.02/09/2011 00:49 GMT
I was told at the very start of all this that there are 3 elements to an ocean rowing project....and few people are good at all of them. They are fundraising, training and the actual row itself. The latter is an unknown to me for the time being but I am beginning to realise which one of the other 2 that I am better at (or not worse at?!).
The past few weeks have been the usual mix of many hours spent in front the of the computer organising NY2SY and many hours spent at sea training for it. If all I had to do between now and the end of May next year was go rowing around the Minch endlessly then I would be more than happy and the only blisters on my hands would be from the oars and not the continuous e-mailing and research online! But it was never going to be like that and these past few weeks have been a contrast of highs and lows......something I should get used to, no doubt.
Since I last wrote, I have managed a couple of training rows across the Minch, between Stornoway and Ullapool, and this is a route I know all too well as it was back in 2008 that I first rowed across to raise money for a couple of local charities. That was when I caught "the bug" for ocean rowing and realised that I wanted to do something bigger and more challenging.....but back then the 46 miles between the 2 ports was quite an achievement for me and it was strange to think that this was now a training row!
The first trip, a couple of weeks ago, was from my home here in Stornoway to Ullapool. I had been keeping a close eye on the weather and when I saw that the wind was going to be from the WSW I quickly got myself organised and made ready to head out into the Minch. Ocean rowing boats are built for open oceans, they are built to go with the waves and the wind, they are not big fans off a headwind (who is!). They are also quite cumbersome in coastal waters and you have to be very mindful of the tides and currents so that you don't end up in a lot of trouble close to the shore. This prolonged forecast of a westerly wind was perfect and it certainly helped me on my way during the first few hours. I was making good progress as the sun began to set over Lewis while the odd shower swept through, causing that dramatic evening light that seems to be unique to the Western Isles.
Every 2 hours I would stop rowing and check-in with the Stornoway Coastguard, maybe have something to eat and then it was back on the oars. I had some unexpected entertainment via the VHF radio as I listened in on the conversation between a research vessel called "Song of the Whale" and a tanker that was making it's way north through the Minch. The "Song of the Whale" must have been carrying out hyrdophonic tests in the area and had asked the tanker to pass them within 200 metres. The usual protocol at sea is to give other ships a wide berth so it was quite comical to listen as the foreign captain of the tanker struggled with the idea of such a manouvre!! I am now wondering if the music I was blaring out of my iPod system might have been picked up by the hyrdrophones.....let's hope that I wasn't singing along to a "guilty pleasure" at that point ;) As the night wore on, the wind dropped away completely and I found myself rowing on a glassy, black sea which was quite surreal. I only ever take short naps on these Minch rows, and it was during one of these 15min breaks that I heard a voice shouting from outside the cabin. It took me a few moments to get my head together and when I poked my head out off the door I was confronted by a large fishing boat, all lit up, and an inquisitive skipper hanging over the rails. The fishing boat was called "Ocean Way" and the skipper was wondering what I was and what I was doing?! Although I am using the call sign "The Fox", my boat still appears on the AIS system under her original name "Nyamezela" and is registered as a cargo vessel! This caused some confusion but we had a good chat, mostly in Doric (no, I can't speak it!) and then he wished me all the best and headed north to lift his nets.
By now it was the early hours and I had reached the mouth of Lochbroom, still having to row hard on the calm sea. Lochbroom was a welcome sight but it is still another 12 miles to Ullapool so, although you feel elated to have reached land, there is still a 1/3 of the row still to do! But what a morning it was.....flat calm, clouds hanging on the surrounding mountains, complete silence apart from the occasional bird call and the sound of some porpoises blowing off the stern.
It was an fairly uneventful row into Ullapool itself and a bit strange to arrive, after 24 hrs 30 mins of rowing, to no fanfare or welcome...very different to 2008 ;) But I did receive a warm welcome from my old school friend Tracy, so good to see her! I popped in to the see the Harbourmaster and find out what the forecast was looking like for a return row to Stornoway...but that was not going to be possible. The wind was still coming from the West for the next few days and I wouldn't have got far, for the reasons outlined earlier. So, after putting the boat on a mooring in the bay (thanks to Kevin Peach, Ullapool Harbourmaster, and also Iain for all their help) I enjoyed a quick pint in the pub that had been bought for me by Willie Campbell, cheers cove!
I didn't have to wait too long to make the return row from Ullapool to Stornoway as, just a few days later, the forecast had the wind shifting round to the ESE, just what I needed. As I made ready to leave Ullapool I met a few people down on the pontoon who were interested in NY2SY. It's always nice to make these connections and thanks to Brian and also Charlotte for taking the time to chat. I also, had a brief conversation with a Dutch tourist who said that he had readr about NY2SY in a newspaper back home in Holland! I have no idea how that might have come about, I certainly didn't speak to any Dutch journalists, but I am not complaining as it's another step on the way to global domination!
As I pulled away from Ullapool and headed up Lochbroom I was passed by the Norwegian barque "Statsraad Lehmkuhl" which I had previously visited a few days before in Stornoway. She was an impressive sight as she cruised up the loch and we exchanged the usual blast of horns (mine is still as pathetic as ever!). Then it was just a case of head down and row...and row...and row. There was a strong easterly helping me along and I was quite surprised just how quickly I reached Priest Isand and the open sea of the Minch.
This same wind meant that I had to pick my way through the islands carfefully and then it was a case of pointing the bow west and following in the wake of the MV isle of Lewis. The wind picked up a lot from the east, a good thing, but the waves were less predictable and it was hard sometimes to keep the boat trim and pointing in the right direction. I did exepriment with the auto-helm but abandoned that after a very short period of time.....it wanted to go somewhere didn't!!
Another stunning sunrise gave me a renewed energy and I could see Lewis getting closer and closer...marked by the lights of Stornoway and the reassuring presence of the lighthouse at Tiumpan Head. As I made my way closer I could see several fishing boats heading out into the Minch and I was glad that I would soon be ashore and out of this messy sea. It was shortly after 11am that I arrived in Stornoway, 23 hrs since I had left Ullapool...my best time yet, not that this was a race or speed attempt. I seem to go unnoticed as I tied up alongside and made my way home to a well needed shower and a snooze and I was more than happy with the way the row had gone and how I had performed.
The boat is beginning to show signs of wear and tear from her previous Atlantic crossing and so I am not sure how many more long journeys I can do with her before the refit. The seat is the main cause for concern and will need to be completely replaced. There are also other things that done so I have a feeling that it will be back to the gym and the rowing machine in the meantime, but even these short trips In have done have been very worthwhile.....and a small taste of what is to come?
But if the training is going well, well, that means that is the fundraising that I am not very good at :(
When talk about fundraising, I mean for the actual NY2SY project..paying for the boat, equipment, specialist training etc. I have had many donations for my chosen charity SAMH and I am so grateful to everyone who has shown such amazing generosity. I'd like to give a special mention to all involved with the GANNET'A' PLATFORM CHARITY for their recent donation.....thanks so much!
But without the funding for NY2SY itself, then there is no row.
I have always believed in NY2SY and feel passionate about it ,and the reasons for it.....and it's hard not to be able to sell the message effectively to potential sponsors. As much as I want to write about all the good things that are going on with the project, I need to be honest and admit that unless things change with regard to the funding situation for NY2SY...well, I don't want to have to write that diary entry.
Please don't think that I am giving up, far from it, but I have to be realistic about the situation. I have financial obligations with regard to the boat and I have already asked many people to become involved in various ways and there has to be a point when you have to stop....just as there may be during the actual row. But it would be easy to just say that I had given it my best shot and walk away. Sorry, I will not do that......my "stop" time hasn't come yet. I probably shouldn't be so open with regard to this, it might not be good PR, but if I am willing to write about all the highs then I need to be prepared to share and be honest about the lows. And I do feel low just now. It's a frustrating time but I will carry on.
If you do know anyone or of any company who might be interested in getting involved with NY2SY, then please direct them to the CONTACT ME page on this website where there is a PDF available which details all the various sponsorship opportunities or get them to contact me directly.
Tomorrow is another day.
I'd like to dedicate this diary entry to my sister who has already helped keep me afloat :)
A.W.O.L.17/08/2011 04:14 GMT
It's been a few weeks since I last wrote anything on this page but please don't think that things have gone quiet with NY2SY...quite the opposite! There is lots to tell and I apologise for not sticking to my original promise of keeping you updated regularly....I hope that the next few paragraphs will explain my absence!
It's always been tough to get the balance right between working at the "day job" and finding the time to devote to the various different aspects that make up the entire NY2SY project. I have to consider myself fortunate that I work freelance so I can pick and choose my jobs as the come along, though I never enjoy saying "no" to offers of work as you never know when the next one will appear. But such is the nature of my life at the moment, and for the forseeable future, and the past month has flown buy in mad mix of work, NY2SY and a bit of play (we all need to let off steam!).
As I try and spread the word about NY2SY, and get as much exposure as possible, I find the boat spends as much time out of the water as she does in it! I have been a regular visitor to the slipway at Cuddy Point, here in Stornoway as the boat get taken out and put back into the water....accompanied by various people that I have managed to press-gang into helping me (thanks to you all and your tow bars!). It was great then, to finally get the chance to take the boat out into the Minch for my first serious training row. My intention was to row to Ullapool and get myself noticed by the many tourists who visit that great, wee village. The day I left was the usual flurry of last-minute (I do last-minute very well!) preparations and it was a relief to finally start pulling on the oars at just after 3pm, making the most of the ebb tide to help me on my way out of Stornoway harbour. I had a few visitors to the boat just before I left and I was very grateful for their best wishes and a couple of gifts too.....some Kendal Mint Cake from the local hack and some amazing chocolate from a couple I had met the previous evening and who were part of the crew of a Norwegian sailing boat that was berthed in the harbour.
I checked in with Stornoway Coastguard, who have been a great source of information and advice, and slowly edged out past the lighthouse and into the Minch. I made good progress initially, mainly due to my bad habit of rowing like a mad man at the start due to the adrenaline and excitement.....but eventually I settled down into a more sustainable rhythm and enjoyed the stunning sunset that was lighting up my wake.
The CalMac ferry MV Isle of Lewis sailed past, with a few curious passengers lined up by the lounge windows and along the railings, and I gave them a wave and a 'toot' on my wonderfully unreliable airhorn......it's a bit like Gonzo's trumpet in The Muppet Show! It was shortly after this that I became aware of my slow pace and that the wind from the NE was a bit stronger than I expected. Ocean rowing boats are not big fans of any sort of headwind, due to the large bulkhead at the aft of the boat, and it was quite frustrating to be putting in so much effort for so little return, sometimes barely 1 knot. When faced with a strong headwind in the North Atlantic, I would have the option of deploying a sea anchor (this is like a small parachute that you stream out in the sea from the bow of the boat and it helps stop you drifting back) but I have yet to master the finer points of this equipment, and also needed to arrive in Ullapool by a certain time due to work committments back in Stornoway. I perservered and struggled against the wind, mutttering a few words of jealousy as the ferry passed by again on it's return journey and then the freight ferry Muirneag also overtook me. In the middle of all this frustration there was the most beautiful distraction as the moon rose to the north, a stunning sight to see and it took my mind off my situation for a few moments.
I had made 12 nm in 12 hours and was going nowhere, and not very fast, so I made the decision at around 4am to call up the Coastguard and tell them that I was now going to divert my course and head south, going with the wind and the waves, and head for Tarbert, Harris. It was a bit of a disappoinment at first but then it didn't matter where I was going as long as I was getting time in the boat and getting used to her. I made good progress through the early hours and slowly the Shiant Islands came closer and closer and I could see across to the Torridon hills, over to the Trotternish ridge on Skye and right down to what I think must have been Canna? It was quite hard work keeping the boat trim in the channel between the Shiants and Harris but it was a great when I caught a wave and the boat surfed along. It was late in the evening by the time I finally passed under the Scalpay Bridge and finally saw Tarbert come into view, a great sight. Although had been rowing on and off for 30 hrs, I still had some energy left to try and race the CalMac ferry MV Hebrides as she sailed towards the pier......but not quite enough energy to beat her! All in all, great training excercise and I learnt a lot about the boat and made some notes of a couple of things In would like to change when it comes to refitting her.
I have used every available opportunity to tell people about NY2SY and so when I heard that I would be co-presenting BBC Alba's live coverage of this year's Belladrum Festival, I made sure that I had plenty of NY2SY business cards in my bag! It was good to get away from the project for a few days and enjoy the great music at one of my favourite festivals, though there was the stress of doing live TV for the first time. I prowled the backstage area looking for people to present with an NY2SY business card and amongst my top hits were Roddy Woomble, Rachel Sermanni and Sharleen Spiteri! A few people came and spoke to me about the challenge as well and it's amazing to know that there are so many of you out there supporting NY2SY and also trying to think of ways to raise funds. THANK YOU!
I also got the chance to give away more business cards at the recent Western Isles Transport Preservation Group Motor Show on Lewis. It's an annual exhibition of various classic cars, lorries and other vehicles. My boat did look slightly out of place, but that only encouraged people to come over and have a look and ask about NY2SY in general. As well as making some very interesting contacts and getting some more pennies in my bucket towards the fundraising, I also came away with the prize for "Most Unusual Item on Display" ...and I am assuming it was the boat they were referring too?! A nice wee bonus to a very enjoyable day and I wish the WITPG all the best for their future plans.
Now it's back to training and in a few hours I will once again be setting off in my boat and heading for Ullapool on a training row. I'll be leaving Stornoway today (Wed 17th) at 10am and hope to arrive in Ullapool around 12 noon tomorrow (Thurs 18th). The forecast is good for the crossing with winds from the WSW and so I should end up where I intended this time!! I'll be trying to keep updates via my Facebook and Twitter accounts (you can link to them through this website) and it will also be possible to follow my progress via AIS. I will be displaying the boat's original name, NYAMEZELA.
OK, time to get a bit of sleep as I still have some things to sort before I leave. Thanks, as ever, for all your messages of support and keep up your good work in spreading the word about NY2SY.
I'd like to dedicate this diary entry to a someone in a far away place.