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Debbie’s First Blog

** Please note, this blog was written on board  ’The Guardian’, so it might contain a few errors here and there!**

‘Holy, broken boat!’

It’s day 13 and we have not yet had a day when something has not broken.

On day one, Katie’s foot- plate broke. We all had terrible sea- sickness. Helen was on deck fixing the plate as well as being sick over the side, whilst Debbie was passing parts from inside cabin and also being sick in a bucket, quite an image!

Day Two our auto helm broke, which was very scary as because there were high seas and we had no control. We managed to fix it only to have it break another two times, the last time for good.

Kate says,

‘Me Julia and Debs were on shift late one night when the auto helm stopped working. Me and Debbie jumped to action and actually managed to replace the auto helm, I can’t believe that I managed to do that whilst it was dark and we were getting crashed by waves! The fact that we pulled ourselves together and acted calmly reinforced what an amazing bunch of women I am surrounded by. So many things went wrong in the first few days and I think I was in a state of shock. Nothing can prepare you for an adventure like this, we are not even half way and already we all have clung on to how important the simplest things in our daily lives mean to us. It is bizarre how you can have such highs and lows in one hour. Emotions are ten fold out here.’

Foot steering

We had resigned to idea that we would have no auto helm and we would have too foot steer, but we were not ready for this to break. Things were always happening late at night or in the early hours of the morning.

The carbon fiber which attached the foot steering to the footplate of middle rower, snapped off. Once again Debs and Helen had to get their fixing hats on. We had no spare parts for this so had to envision something out of what we had. Helen and Debs are getting quite creative now with their mending skills.


Water in our hatches has been a nightmare. Much of our food has been ruined and we may have to start to ration our food already at this early stage. Most of our hatches have leaks including the one with the electrical equipment! This means that our boat is a lot heavier as we are carrying a lot of water across with us. This has also meant that the boat leans to the left so we have to row with more weight on our left arm. We will all have one arm bigger than the other when we get to Barbados.


Our batteries are not charging well. It also hasn’t helped that we have not had much sun, we have been running very low so much so that we have had to ration water for two days.

Helen says

‘ I knew that ocean rowing meant that some things break and that it was going to be a challenge, but it seems like everything is breaking and it has just been frustrating, we are going for a record attempt and we have had to stop to fix things so many times. We can’t maximize our rowing because one person has to steer all the time. ‘

Through all the drama!!…There has been quite a few hilarious and touching moments. To make the boat more “our own”, we have given certain objects names.

For instance, our beloved Windex has been given the name ‘Peter’ (randomly) and we now talk about him like a person – one of us.

The auto helm was called old Bertie…he did not last very long…R.I.P Bertie.

At times we find ourselves laughing hysterically at the situation we have got ourselves into. ‘GIRLS WHAT ARE WE DOING !!??’ is repeated quite a lot.

Emotions are ten-fold. Someone jumps for joy the whole day when they have a mars bar in their snack pack…. Someone cries with the taste of a hot brew on a night shift at 5:00am, cold wet and tired.

Katie – “I have just been riding 30ft waves with Helen and its most amazing adrenaline rush…this is what its all about”. Through all the hard times then to be able to ride those amazing waves makes it all worth it. Hitting speeds of 12 knots is our new target to beat! It is like being on a White -Knuckle ride that you cant get off.  Doing life on a constant roller coaster! I am going to start surfing when I get back. (Helen says she wants a husband and kids!! any takers?!)

All the girls agree that when the sun does show itself and the waves are big and bold – we are all happy!! All the stresses of the day are put to one side. It is when we surf these waves at high speeds that we understand the envy of a previous ocean rower – a secret ocean rowing club who all share an excitement and love for the roaring seas that are out there and how beautiful they can be.

As I type  – Deb’s is standing at the top of the bow, looking out the sea – airing her bare bum, screaming out ‘WEEE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!’ She has had quite a tough time with her derriere – going through a lot of discomfort very early on….

Julia says:

‘This adventure is one of incredible highs and lows, there is no greater feeling like being on top of a massive wave feeling you are on top of the world, however I find the long cold, wet nights really hard, sleeping in full on wet weather gear is quite the experience.’ every time I think it is bad, I know that it is nothing compared to what those suffering in slavery endure and that is what keeps us going.


Helen, Kate and Debs are sharing a cabin. Two are in there at a time. It is the worst for poor Kate who has slight OCD and gets crazy when Debs and Helen, are not the tidiest people, leaving their stuff everywhere!

We are surrounded by kit and it is quite a squeeze. Due to the fact that everything is constantly damp, the smell is something I think we will never forget.

In another cabin there is Julia and Katie. They can’t even sit up and it is very dark at night. Julia says: ‘ I can’t believe how quickly I have adapted to my new home, which I can’t even sit up in. I must say that I am glad that I am sharing with the second tidiest ha! ha!

Debs says:

What a journey it has been for me. When I found out Andrea was leaving, I instantly felt pressure on me. I knew I was going to have to step up as skipper. We had one day till we had to leave, so we thought that it was best that we wait and let things settle down. Especially for me to learn to skipper in two days. I spent two days with the boat learning everything about her and all the equipment.  I wanted to make sure that I could lead the team the best I could. We were challenged from the outset with things going wrong and breaking, but have really pulled together. We try and laugh through everything, I am so proud of this team.

We have had set backs but still have our eye set on getting the record. We are staying positive that these set backs won’t affect our goal.

I am always trying to make sure that the team are happy and looking after themselves, I know that as long as we stay positive and happy, we can get through everything. In a way, leading the team has been good for me because I have to stay strong for them.  Julia asked me why I was never scared and the truth is, I concentrate so much on making sure everyone is happy and fine, that I don’t even have time to think about being scared. I am really enjoying my role and I love this team. I cannot wait for us to pull into Barbados, triumphantly!


10 Response to “Debbie’s First Blog ”
December 21, 2011
8:21 pm

Comment :

Great stories girls, love this blog! Hadn’t realised the Guardian is giving you so many issues. It’s awesome to hear that there is so much love in the boat and that you’re dealing with the difficulties in such a positive way, laughing your way across the ocean! (Surfing the 30ft waves sounds like awesome craic)
Helen & Debs…you really don’t want to mess with Kate and her OCD for untidiness Lol. Kate I have empathy for you :) Keep doing what you’re doing ladies because it’s working very well! xoxo

Joanne Tilley
December 21, 2011
11:18 pm

Comment :

You ladies are awe inspiring. Hang in there. you are doing well in the face of after day. What a team!

Tony Beadle
December 22, 2011
8:04 am

Comment :

I am Debbie’s Dad. I am so proud of her along with the rest of the team. This adventure and it’s purpose will stay with you and your families for the rest of your lives.We are all humbled by the determination and resoucefulness of the team.

December 22, 2011
9:39 am

Comment :

Girls – you are overcomers! I laughed, cried, am totally humbled. On my knees praying for you. Godspeed x

December 22, 2011
10:52 pm

Comment :

You are very brave girls. Keep going. Love to hear your stories.

December 23, 2011
6:10 am

Comment :

You ladies are incredible! Praying for you all!!!

Marina Richardson
December 23, 2011
7:33 am

Comment :

You are an inspiration to listen to and follow. Despite all your difficulties and suffering which we can only try to imagine, you rise up and push on. We feel your highs and lows and are willing you on. Nearly half way!
Try wrapping fuse in a bit of tin foil or a wee scrap of wire. Maybe taken from an existing lead that could spare loosing an inch. Thinking of you all constantly!

Eddie Connell
December 24, 2011
9:27 am

Comment :

Truly amazing ladies!! Keeping track of your daily progress and tell Helen that after her interview on BBC Radio Lancashire she may well have a presenting job on her return!

Take care all of you and good luck with the record.

December 25, 2011
7:01 pm

Comment :

I’m very impressed!
You’re having a tough time but coping with it calmly and competently and a decent sense of humour. A perfect combination!
Happy Christmas – and keep going!

Jim Innes
December 26, 2011
9:01 pm

Comment :

Wow! Well done! What an amazing bunch of women. Just found out about what you are doing Katie and will be donating. Keep it up!

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