Day 29 – the Stupidest Thing I Have Ever Done – Roz Savage

If you’re a regular here you’ll know that I have been following Roz’s exploits for some while now. At present she’s a month or more into the third leg of her row across the Pacific. This blog post made me stop and think, particularly the paragraph …it made me ponder that in the context of expeditions nature rarely kills, it is much more likely to be human error…

Here’s the link

and here’s the full post,

Day 29 – the Stupidest Thing I Have Ever Done
Published: May 17, 2010
Posted in: Pacific Row, Stage 3
Dictated by Roz at 19.48 local time on May 17th and transcribed by her mother Rita Savage.

Position: -06.57845  154 30750

I don’t suppose I can put it off any longer. It is confession time, and please before you are tempted to wag your finger at me, bear in mind that I didn’t have to tell you this. I could have kept it quiet, and you would have been none the wiser. So please resist the urge to tell me what I already know, that I shouldn’t have done it.

Some of you have already guessed it, more or less. It made me laugh out loud that someone wondered if I had accidentally stepped on Alf. That would have been very funny, but not to Alf.

No, it was the other thing. I nearly got separated from my boat.

It was a couple of days ago and I had improvised a sun awning involving a boat hook as a prop. Normally everything on deck is attached with lanyards but not on this occasion. Suddenly the boathook slipped from its mounting and dropped overboard. My first instinct was to go after it, just as I had gone after the electric kettle.

By the time I had removed sunhat, rowing gloves, ipod earplugs and sunglasses, the boathook was starting to look a bit distant but I couldn’t bear to leave it littering the ocean so in I went. Even as I was swimming towards the boathook I remember looking back at the boat and feeling uncomfortable about the distance growing between me and it.

I got to the boathook and started making my way back towards the boat, but swimming with a boathook in hand is not appreciably easier than swimming with the kettle. I didn’t seem to be making any headway at all. After a few minutes I realised I couldn’t possibly make it if I held onto the boat hook. It made me think of the monkey trap were the monkey puts his hand inside the jar to grab the food, his fist then too big to pull it back out of the jar. While he refuses to let go of the food, he is trapped. If I refused to let go of the boathook, I was doomed.

So, reluctantly I abandoned it. But even without it I struggled to narrow the distance between me and my fast-drifting boat. I am not a speedy swimmer, I can stay afloat for ages but sprinting is not my style. But now I needed to sprint. My life depended on it.

I could feel myself starting to tire. My fingers already tired from rowing weren’t strong enough to pull through the water effectively. I felt like I was going nowhere. The boat didn’t seem to be getting any closer.

But what choice did I have? I struggled onwards feeling my heart pounding though from exertion or panic, I couldn’t tell. At last the boat began to get perceptively closer and it was with a huge sense of relief that my outstretched fingers finally grasped the black rope of the grabline. I had probably been in the water no more than fifteen minutes but it had been the longest fifteen minutes of my life, and almost the last fifteen minutes of it.

As I collapsed onto the deck I felt really stupid. Of all the things I said I would never do, this was the most obvious. DON’T LEAVE THE BOAT! And to be sure, I never will again. If I have been in danger of being complacent or blasé, this was the wake-up call that I needed.

It made me ponder that in the context of expeditions nature rarely kills, it is much more likely to be human error, a poor choice of equipment, underestimating the conditions, or an error of judgment. Gott, Franklin, Mallory were all in very hostile environments but environments in which others have survived. It only takes one pivotal mistake to make the difference between life and death.

There is a quote: “A good scare is worth more to a man than good advice.“ And I have to agree. I scared myself silly but the lesson has been well learned. From now on, no matter what goes overboard, I don’t.

Other Stuff: Rowing? I don’t want to talk about it. Today the wind rose from the south west to the extent that I have had to put out the sea anchor. I wouldn’t say that it is helping much, but there was no better alternative. For the last few hours a persistent thunder storm has been rolling around the skies and I have long since ceased to be impressed by the pyrotechnics and tonight finds me confined to the cabin, damp, bored and distinctly grumpy.

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