19/07/10 20:00

•July 20, 2010 • 2 Comments

20:00 19/07/10 Its been 48 hours since the RNLI towed us into Grimsby for the last time. Some of us have been to work and some have had a day with their families…but I am sure we have all reflected upon the last 3 weeks of adventure. We’ve had so many highs and so few lows. I am overwhelmed by the calls of support and congratulations that I have had over the last 24 hours…maybe it has put into perspective that the challenge has ended as a huge achievement – not in disappointment as we have all felt. Of course, we would have loved to do the final leg….but you can not fight adverse weather conditions in the North Sea with a mere row boat….even if that row boat is Oyster Shack! The weather would still be against us today with the northerly winds blowing us south making passage out and away from the Humber impossible. The Coastguard warned us that this weather front has now settled in for the foreseeable future….so we realise we had no alternative but to finish.

 I have posted some more photos onto the website of our record breaking row and hope these can illustrate the fun and success we have had during the 3 weeks. Always after an adventure like this there are the highs and lows, the euphoria and the disappointments. From my point of view these are some of my highlights:

Highs: The dolphins joining us off the Cornwall coast….just a privilege to have seen that at a time (4am!!) that I needed a lift! Simon Chaulk meeting us at Ilfracombe…absolutely amazed at the speed at which we had rowed from Lands End breaking the existing record in recording 120 miles in just 31 hours!! The Minehead pub; talking and understanding the sacrifices that the volunteers of the RNLI make. Strange one…as I’m not a townie!!…but the protection of parents in nature…the timeless occasions that we saw ducks protect their ducklings or swans defend their signets as our oars came close to their families. Ben Kay cracking open the locks at Foxton…and the one that I am sure that I pushed open before the British Lion and England 2nd row forward!! The Foxton record tumbling. The cheer that we heard whilst rowing up the Soar to Colourworks with the horns blowing and family and friends running alongside the boat. The sight of the Humber Bridge…at that time believing we could make it to Hull before tide turned. Getting out the Humber estuary….before being sucked back in!!

Lows. Getting stuck in the tide after Ilfracombe and rowing for 6 hours covering less than 6 miles!! The pains and aches all over the body after 2 days….although these subsided the longer the rowing continued. Technology…..my iPhone will be claimed by the kids tomorrow as its signal failed time after time when other phones seemed to work well!! The tracker failing from Leicester to Hull was such bad timing for family and friends following us. Calling out the RNLI after we’d been sucked back into the Humber estaury with the realisation that our adventure was coming to a premature end and then mooring up Oyster Shack for the last occasion.

So the adventure has ended and my thanks go to a fantastic crew that I really enjoyed rowing with and have built up lifetime friendships with… Paul Williams – never stopped rowing – just rowed and rowed and rowed! Ian – for all the treats he continually managed to hide in the boats and come out with when we were low. Kiwi – for his power in the stroke and literally being a one man rowing engine! Andy – for all the last minute organisation as the Lumbers panic management was in danger of collapse!! Paul – just to watch the experinced gig rower in action and trying to keep us in check on the river sections (sometimes!!) Simon Cooper – for his rowing contribution and all the organisation of hotels and so much more.

Also our thanks to everyone who has contributed….our land team of Alan and my brother J…….Mark and Annette who delivered and collected the gig…….Chloe at PWC for getting so many freebies……Sarah, Sara, Anna and David who coxed……..accomodation with Liz at Staverton and Steve & Alison at Hoverington……celebs Ben Kay for his 2 days rowing and his blogs!!!……Willie Thorne, Andy Abrahams, Steve Hodge, Andrew Castle……..the Bishop of Leicester for blessing Tiger!

Importantly, thanks to our sponsors: Mattioli Woods, Price Waterhouse Coopers and Lumbers. Chris Sturgess at Sturgess Land Rover for the hugely generous loan of the 2 cars…I want a Discovery – it is an absolutely fantastic car! Breilting for making the limited edition Emergency watches (still 1 available at Lumbers!!). To Stewart, Dave, Mark and all at Virtual Viewing for their patience in creating a fantastic website, which got changed more than once!!!

The most important thanks though is to Simon Chaulk at Woodvale Challenge who lent us both boats and coordinated the trip. Along with Ian Couch and Lee Fudge the route was fantastic and the planning perfect. Good luck for the Round Britain Race….maybe Lumbers should sponsor??!!! And of course my gratitude goes to all of you who have read my blogs, followed our adventure and donated generously to our charities.

All the best Dom


18/07/10 08:00

•July 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

It seems our exciting adventure is over with another call to the Humber emergency services! This time we come under the auspice of the RNLI as we are officially in the North Sea rather than our earlier rescue by the Humber Rescue!

We were going so well….the estuary was behind us and, although sea conditions were choppy, we were back into the cycle of shifts!We’d been having problems steering Oyster Shack as the tide was too strong for rhe foot pedal steering! The front cabin crew had to take it in turns to hang out the front hatch and manually direct the rudder. As we began to contemplate the long night shifts we could easily feel the swirling, changing wind direction and the impact this, along with the changing tide, was having on our progress. Speed had dropped from 6 knots to under 1 knot when we changed shifts at 6pm.

The ‘A’ team were back in rowing positions, as they had been for the 1st rescue! Forward progress was now impossible – speed had increased but we were now in 2nd reverse gear and the speed was backwards!! The Humber was sucking us back into it’s hazardous waters and the wind was now helping it by blowing us in that direction too! On this occasion there was no rescue services CCTV monitoring our position and it became apparent to us that we were soon to be ferry fodder as we drifted into the busy shipping lanes servicing the many ports.

The Humber RNLI based at Spurn Head is the only full time crew in the UK – indicating the severity of the sea in this area. The advice was simple – although we were keen to continue they needed to tow us before we disappeared under the hull of a tanker or ferry! ‘The Pride of the Humber’ manned by it’s 6 crew took us alongside and we clambered aboard to safetly from the swirling seas. Again many thanks to the boys of the emergency services!

The wind is now against us making the final leg impossible. Our epic journey draws to a close with some miraculous achievements.

We are the first to row from coast to coast, Bristol to Grimsby.

We set a rowing record for the 120 miles from Lands End to Ilfracombe in under 31 hours.

Foxton Locks, the largest staircase of locks in the country, saw us with Ben Kay smash it’s record from 29 minutes to only 20 minutes and 40 seconds.

We have rowed close to 600 miles over 3 weeks enjoying experiences with so many people.

We have so many thanks to make that we shall come to those later….but in summary by Kiwi. ‘it’s not the destination that matters but the journey that you make to get there!’

17/07/10 21:30

•July 17, 2010 • 1 Comment

17/07/10 21:30 Alas, had to be rescued again… In the shipping lanes and going nowhere fast, in fact we were going backwards. A call to the good men of the RNLI, and our adventure is now on hold while we regroup. Will know more in the morning, after a crew conflab. Now off to buy the next round of drinks for our rescuers. Three cheers for the RNLI!! and a huge Thank You once again.

17/07/10 15:00

•July 17, 2010 • 1 Comment

15:00 17/07/10 We’re in the North Sea!! No comments or jokes please to our families about ‘The Deadly North Sea’ till we’re back on dry ground! The marina control tower suddenly released us between 2 Clippers coming in and allowed us to take advantage of high tide. We had left port by 11:30 and been averaging speeds of 6 knots. It’s allowed us to row past Grimsby and out of the estuary! The last leg really feels started as driving winds have blown waves over the boat giving a wet start to the shift. The plan is to row to Bridlington….some 60 miles or, if we’ve really got a steam on, we’ll pass Bridlington and continue to the next stop of Scarborough. Either way we’ll not be stopping till tomorrow afternoon. I doubt I’ll get signal for another blog till then….but hopefully the new GPS tracker is working and you can monitor our position!

17/07/10 10:50

•July 17, 2010 • Leave a Comment

10:50 17/07/10 It’s a fun but frustrating start to the day. The weather is perfect – blustery winds from the South that will assist our north progress. We were told that we would be able to leave Hull before 11, we were ready by 9:30 but the Clipper race organisers have imposed a no go area right outside the marina until the last boat arrives!! So we are stuck at the harbour entrance! But it’s a great event to watch…these guys and gals have travelled 35,000 miles over 10 months…makes our 3 weeks seem feeble! We’ve had the paras exhibition sky diving team and we’re about to enjoy the saxophonist from Britain’s got Talent, Jules! He’s actually performed twice in Lumbers…so we may get a mention!! Gary and I have been up on the big stage interviewed by the BBC about our exploits – all publicity helps! Which brings us to the headline article in the Leicester Mercury about our rescue on the Humber…great article….fab..although I think some of the team don’t want to advertise our failings!

 Today’s plan is now having to be recalculated! Fortunately, we all listen to Paul Williams and won’t make the same mistake twice. We probably won’t be able to leave until 1pm…so will have missed 2 hours of tide. This will probably prevent us getting out the estuary today…so it may be fish and chips in Grimsby tonight! Technology is back working! Hopefully the GPS tracker will now follow us to the end. This iPhone is getting signal today…let’s not look too far ahead for when that fails though!!

16/07/10 13:00

•July 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

13:00 16/07/10 It seems strange to be back in the office, albeit for a short stint!! Seeing the Leicester Mercury billboards exclaiming our rescue has caused quite a sense of humour in the shop…..but does make you realise how dangerous the next leg will be! We left Paul Williams in Hull monitoring the weather and watching the Clipper boats come into a festival at Hull. The wind is really gusting today and we were right in making the decision to be grounded for 48 hours. Currently off shore and in the North Sea 40 mph winds are blowing Northbound…..of course these would speed up the boat and make a fast trip to John O’Groats but safety is of paramount importance. We are hoping that winds will be below 20 mph tomorrow for when we set off with high tide at 11am.

 On reflection we are indebted to the Humber Rescue and must reinforce our gratitude. They are volunteers and seem to spend a lot of their time searching for bodies as 2 people jump from the Humber Bridge per week. Reading their website http://www.humber-rescue.org.uk certainly explains the treacherous nature of the Humber and the inadequacy of our back up plans on Wednesday. At least they were impressed by our Breitling Emergency watches….these are perfect for the next phase! Breitling very kindly agreed to make a limited edition run of their world famous SOS signalling watch which can pin point us to within 1 metre in an emergency! Making a numbered run of only 10 is a world first…..its the smallest production run ever by Breitling and the first time they have allowed this watch to endorse anything other than for aviation purposes. Lumbers in Leicester have only a couple left for retail sale – and a percentage of the funds are going direct to the charities. Lets hope we don’t need to rely on them – but at least we feel safer with them on our wrists!!

My brother J is very kindly giving us his time again tomorrow to drive the crew back upto Hull. The new GPS has arrived and we’ll reset it in the morning – so hopefully you’ll be able to follow us live over the next few days. The 48 hour break may have done us good and got us ready for the final endurance session. It is still possible to get up to John O’Groats within our time window…..but we’ll need some good fortune and some good wind heading in our direction!!

More pictures from the last few days

•July 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

While we brace ourselves for our second assault on the final leg of the adventure, we thought we’d take a moment to share a few more our of photos from the journey so far.

Ben Kay

Ben Kay enjoying a moment in the sunshine with his children
while we negotiate a lock

Here come the girls ...

Ian Mattoli coxing with Paul Bassett looking backwards and
Sarah Wilkins, Lumbers Valuer, and (if only for short while)
the only woman to row

Here come the girls (again)
And here’s Sarah in action with the oars, with
(from front to back) Paul , Simon, Andy and Kiwi

The whole crew
And a shot of the Lumbers crew, taken at Colourworks
in Leicester at the half-way party.
From left to right: Raj, Dominic, Kim and Freddie, Del, Michelle, Jenni,
Kiwi (Gary), Lyn, Simon, Maddie, Sarah, Susan and Paul