Our 2022-23 Roxy crew set off from the Canaries on 5th December 2022 on their 3,000 mile expedition across the Atlantic Ocean, and arrived 43 days later in Antigua. Meet the team:
Skipper & co skipper: Dawn Wood and Honorine van den Broek d'Obrenan
Crew: Mark Brownjohn, Euan Fraser, Trine Hansen, Ted Jackson, Heike Loewenstein, Neil Lomas, Tonya Mueller, Robert Owens, Paul and Carla.
Please note this blog has the most recent updates at the top. Please scroll to the bottom to start reading the full story from the beginning.
All videos and photographs contained within this blog are protected by copyright as artistic works. If you wish to copy or share them for any purpose, you will need the permission of the copyright owner, via Rannoch Adventure.
After 43 days, 12 hours and 6 minutes, the Roxy Atlantic 2022-23 crew arrived in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua.
They left from the Canaries at 1608 UTC on 5 December 2022 and successfully rowed the 2600 nautical miles across the Atlantic Ocean, arriving in Antigua Yacht Club Marina at 0414 UTC on 18 January 2023.
Congratulations to the whole crew on a fantastic achievement!
On Wednesday 18th January 2023 in the very early hours, we pass the buoy signalling the end of the Atlantic Ocean (Bishop Reef) and start the row into Falmouth Harbour - about 45 minutes of joyous and emotional rowing. We had done it!
We safely arrive at the Antigua Yacht Club Marina, expertly steered by our skipper, Dawn Wood, who deserves much praise for keeping us safe and sane on our crossing!
The cheers and applause by family and friends can be heard through the darkness - what smiles of jubilation and joy as they come into view.
On board, there are cheers, hugs, kisses, smiles and laughter. With a helping hand up onto the quayside, there’s a sudden realisation of not being able to stand upright or stand still. Walking is a strange phenomenon!
Beers and soft drinks are on hand to help celebrate what we have achieved. Within our new found friendship, our fellow rowers have represented family, friends, doctors, vicars and everything in between whilst we were at sea.
We take away so many feelings, stories, memories as the realisation of the achievement sinks in.
Whoever said that rowing an ocean was easy clearly hasn’t done it.
Whoever said expedition food was wholesome and tasty hasn’t lived on it for 6 weeks.
Whoever said rowing for 3 hours then resting for 3 hours was a stroll in the park hasn’t experienced it.
The same people haven’t embraced the emotional and physical high of completing such a challenge.
The same people haven’t asked a stranger to look at their sore back side.
The same people haven’t seen pure and undeniably beautiful starlit skies or appreciated the moonlight or become excited by seeing a sailing ship mid ocean.
Mid ocean, you are closer to someone in space than on land. But being on Roxy and having a blast beats both of them!
Thursday 12th January - The sea remains calm until night time. The wind drops throughout the day too, meaning boat speed is low and heavy going. It's an opportunity to empty the row deck lockers of main meals to boost the reserves in both front and aft cabins. A quick look shows a whole new array of flavoursome meals.
During the night the ocean turns choppy as wind speed increases - it's back to wearing waterproofs. Early morning brings a chorus of ‘I shall row 300 miles!’
The boat is covering good mileage on each shift as the wind and waves force us along in the right direction. The occasional breaking wave on port side is akin to a middle aged man just cruising along, port side however is like a juvenile teenager throwing tantrums every 5 minutes. Fun times!
Saturday and what a difference a day makes. The ocean feels like treacle making the rowing really slow going - we’re all hoping for a sudden change in sea conditions. On the plus side, we pass the 200 miles to go mark this afternoon with another rendition of our now customary song.
Sunday morning brings brilliant rowing conditions. We’ve got the boat running really smoothly with some silent rowing - it’s a real joy. Later on and the ocean is becoming a real slog again, making it very difficult to get the desired mileage. But we dig deep and grind it out. The sun is beating down with little cloud cover and barely a breeze.
With 145 miles to go, we can almost smell Antigua.
It's Tuesday 10th January and there's a relaxed feeling on board with music playing and Liquorice Allsorts being shared. There are some squally waves hitting the deck but the ocean is now significantly warmer. We moan about the wave and then carry on as if nothing had happened.
We pass the 400 miles to go mark on Wednesday; the miles are tumbling just like our weight - everyone is being told they look thinner, leaner or just gaunt! We're conversing about hair length and beard structure- not the kind of chat we had 6 weeks ago - a sign of the common bond we now have.
This morning demonstrates how we react to tiredness and don’t leave a rower feeling alone. The incoming stroke rower is extremely tired and it soon becomes clear from their body language that they are suffering both mentally and physically. A quick change of rowing positions and that rower soon has a buddy watching over them, a warm coffee and a more relaxing position on the row deck. Quick and positive thinking eases one person's hardship.
A recalculation based on today’s mileage has us arriving in Falmouth Harbour on Tuesday - can't wait for a mug of tea!
Monday 9th January - Since the swamping on Friday morning, one shift lost all of their shoes, water bottles and food bowls. This has meant a great deal of sharing and logistics at shift changeover time are more complex than before. But we are making it work so morale is not affected. A friend in need is a friend indeed!
Yesterday the sea was calm and we enjoyed a few refreshing showers from the skies. Suddenly, the six rowers on the oars break out into ‘I will row 600 miles’. Everyone senses the mileage coming down.
The novelty of living in such close proximity with others is wearing thin in places, but generally, everyone is helping one another through their periods of total tiredness, sleep deprivation and this repetitive lifestyle. At times it can be hard, challenging, whilst other moments represent an opportunity never to be forgotten.
We empty some of the on-deck lockers of dehydrated food and replenish the cabin stocks, in the hope of finding new and un-tried flavours, or just more of our favourite meals.
Today it's Monday and we're nearing the end of week 6. We have calm seas and a light breeze and so take the opportunity for a final hull scrub before reaching our destination. We are talking about our first meal or drink on reaching Falmouth Harbour. Only 560 miles to go (equivalent of Lands End to John O’Groats).
Skipper’s quote of the week: 'Take a minute to reflect on all that you have achieved and dream of what is yet to come.'
Monday 2nd January - We have another opportunity to clean Roxy's hull - a good job as it is becoming a mobile aquarium with so much sea life attached.
That night we see a ship on the horizon but it's not showing on the AIS. We radio them to advise of our location and receive a curt response ‘We are a large ship’. They eventually advise it is a US Navy ship. Ironically, just before the sighting, our depth gauge warning sensor is tripped. Could there be a submarine in the vicinity too?
Tuesday morning calls for skipper Dawn to become Doctor Dawn too. A solid lump, the size of an egg yolk, on a rower’s back side makes sitting down highly uncomfortable. After consultation, it was decided that as there was no whisky on board, antibiotics would suffice.
Wednesday morning calls for a chorus of ‘I shall row 900 miles’ - our own version of that Proclaimer's classic. The wind speed increases throughout the day, as do the size of waves. By evening, we are achieving 7.3 knots and surfing down the faces of waves with great frequency.
Wednesday evening and the wind is intense; it’s not a case of getting wet, it’s how wet shall I get? Throughout the night, the bearing we’re on is reduced in an attempt to ease the rough ride. It worked!
Thursday calls for essential maintenance as skipper Dawn smells burning. It transpires the seals in the auto helm are worn out. Replacing these on a flat surface in daylight is relatively straightforward - not so on a boat lurching from side to side, front to back and in the dark. But the work is completed safely.
Later that morning and it's a chorus of ‘I shall row 800 miles’. We can really sense the mileage coming down. The waves keep hitting us, full on, in the face. Who said ocean rowing was easy?
That night one huge wave crashes on the aft cabin. Bang! We look up to see this absolutely massive wave rearing up. It fills our vision and there’s a collective shout of ‘ohhhhhhh!’. As it breaks and runs aside of us, we are swamped. 'Keep rowing’ is the skipper’s call, but none of us sees what is about to happen. A second big wave is building and before we can deal with the first swamping, the second wave breaks with a serious amount of water filling the deck. We are sitting, thigh deep in water with a major list of possibly 70 degrees. ‘Everyone on starboard’ is the call. Eventually we regain control and composure, but some loose equipment is washed away. A quick check, and everyone on the row deck is fine, everyone in the fore cabin is fine and everyone in the aft cabin is fine.
Friday evening sees a chorus of ‘I will row 700 miles!’ followed by 3 cheers. The simple things are so satisfying. By Saturday, we're counting down the days to go.
Thursday 29th December - We see a sailing yacht on the horizon - a bright orange main sail, unmissable! We watch its course with eager interest until speaking with them on the radio. They can’t see our small rowing boat, but after tacking and jibbing, they’re able to come within speaking distance and take photos of us. It may seem trivial, but after having no contact with any other ship for 24 days, this sent everyone’s spirits sky high.
That night the moon filled the sky with light which makes for easier shift changes and generally means rowers chat through the ‘graveyard shifts’ rather than being introspective.
The next day sees relatively flat water and a music quiz to help pass the time. What a life!
Saturday and its New Year’s Eve. We row in lumpy conditions with the understanding that sunny weather and flat sea conditions are heading our way. We pass the 1111 miles to go mark and everyone is feeling the routine! There’s a small celebration at midnight by the on-watch rowers to mark the start of 2023.
Sunday, New Year’s Day, and the talk is about ‘how many days till we reach Antigua?’ Everyone has their favourite dehydrated food sachet and trading between the fore and aft cabins commences!
As week 4 came to an end, we nearly had a catastrophe on board as it was thought the ‘blue toilet bucket’ had been lost overboard. Fortunately it was captured and all breathed a sigh of relief.
As we row on, there is a cheer from the row deck. Less than 1000 miles to go! A major milestone for this feat of endurance and perseverance. The whole crew are knocking it out of the park!
Skipper’s quote of the week: “Consider the distance you’ve covered and not simply the distance to go.”
Thursday 22nd December - It takes until lunchtime for conditions to be deemed ‘calm’. Flying fish show us how to be propelled above the waves. Unfortunately, humans can’t levitate!
Our thoughts move towards Christmas and the big question - can Santa find us mid-ocean? The treadmill of row, rest, repeat continues.
During Thursday night the conditions rapidly deteriorate into high winds and big swell. Our skipper advises us of the rough weather protocol concerning crew movements around the boat. This is not a night for the faint hearted! The crew's bodies work in a gyroscopic manner as the boat leans and lurches with every incoming wave. Our core muscles work overtime.
By Friday morning, tired rowers are willing their shifts to come to an end so they can get some respite. The conditions ease by lunchtime and we deploy safety ropes, spotters and scrubbers for another successful mid-ocean clean of Roxy's hull.
The following day the waves are back with a vengeance. The afternoon and nighttime shifts turn into a bucking bronco whilst we try to celebrate Christmas Eve. At 4pm, we put the oars down for a few minutes and have a moment to reflect on Christmas away from family and friends. Delicious cakes are even produced by Carla during a resting shift. Who needs modern technology?
Christmas Day - the waves are bigger now. At midnight a wave hits, displacing two rowers off their seats. At one point, the whole crew lean to one side to prevent the boat from rolling. These conditions are more akin to white water rafting than rowing! In the face of one 18 feet wave, our speed peaks at 8.3 knots.
By Monday morning, the Christmas cheer has disappeared. The wind blows at 25/30 knots and the waves bear down on us. Rowers are taking a serious dousing, but good progress is being made, especially when we surf down the face of one particular wave and hit 9.1 knots. What proves difficult is getting the boat back on track when the power of the ocean becomes so great that it overrides the auto helm. It's then all hands on deck to get us back on track - tough work against the overwhelming power of Mother Nature.
Skipper’s quote for the week: "You need to experience the rough times to appreciate the good times!"
Looking back on this Christmas, we are thankful for life’s basics - health, happiness, family and friends. Even though Santa brought gifts of Coca Cola and Christmas cake, we shall be eternally grateful to our skipper for ensuring our safety in some quite nasty conditions.
Tuesday brings lighter winds but still big seas and the occasional big breaker on board. Every now and then we shout ‘everyone lean starboard’ which means squashed bodies in the cabins! We are all looking forward to lighter and flatter conditions and an opportunity to dry out.
Wednesday brings calmer seas and a chance to start to row 'normally' again, as opposed to the war of attrition we have been waging against the sea. Tonight our old friend, the moon, reappears. At times the ocean is eerily calm and quiet, and then, without warning, a wave appears and hits someone full on in the face.
Thursday and we’re all getting used to the ‘5 minute rule’ - within 5 minutes of a shift changeover, it either starts raining or a wave douses the rowers about to complete their shift. Either way, the outgoing rowers are sure to be returning to the cabin wet.
By Friday, the sun comes out, spirits are lifted and once again, the boat is full of washing drying in the breeze. Eat, sleep, row, repeat!
Friday 16th December - The wind picks up and the waves start to build again. Some of the crew are hit square in the face by waves and expletives can be heard. By the evening, the conditions could be regarded as gnarly and the breaking waves keep coming. By night time, the wind is blowing a hooley but we row on. We persevere with grit and determination and by the morning, we're tired and struggle to stay awake. But, as a team, we grind it out.
The remainder of Saturday is a period of lower intensity rowing as our bodies recover. This is helped with music, banter and good humour.
Sunday morning and the ocean is calm again. We take this opportunity to do some boat admin - replenishing food stocks in the cabins and stowing away bags of rubbish. An organised boat is a happy and safe boat. That evening we have a small celebration as Dawn tells us we have 2000 miles to go. We are as good as there!
Monday offers us a chance to have a minute's silence, a rare opportunity for self reflection, to listen to the rolling waves before a round of applause by the crew for the crew. Conversations have moved towards ‘have you any sores?’ and ‘how can we get more energy from dehydrated food’.
Our Skipper’s quote of the week: ‘Better to wear away than rust away’. We are living the dream!
By Monday night conditions deteriorate once again. We're back in our foul weather gear and waves are breaking on deck. Not much cheer to be heard, but rather a lot of groans each time a wave breaks on board. No one avoided a good dousing.
Tuesday is much of the same. Tired bodies, both on the oars and in the cabins. That evening it feels like the weather has worsened. Higher wind speed, bigger incoming waves crashing on deck and more frequent soakings. The rowing at times is not pretty. No smiling or conversing, just grimacing - it's a case of ‘heads down and grind it out’.
We signed up for everything we are experiencing but no one is fully prepared for this mental, psychological and physical strain. The crew are demonstrating that they are tougher than the sum of the individuals. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
By Wednesday, the sun is high in the sky but don’t be fooled. The sea is still arduous - a cross between a rodeo and a roller coaster. Big waves create big boat speed - a new record of 7.2 knots is recorded but with it comes more dousing. Sometimes the oar is buried in sound water, other times you take an air shot or just manage to get the oar to kiss the water’s surface. Never think you can fine row across an ocean.
On the plus side, we pass the 1000 nautical mile mark this afternoon. Those on the oars let out a small cheer - but there’s still some way to go.
Friday 9th December - The wind speed drops but is still against us which means sea conditions are still a bit choppy. We push on but a few of the crew are still feeling a little seasick.
Saturday - what a change! The ocean is like a mill pond, a sea of shimmering glass. The boat speed is 3.6 knots and the afternoon shift fancy a challenge - how fast can we go? Game on! They get to 6.2 knots and cheer! Next challenge - how fast in 10 strokes? 5.7 knots.
Later that night a whale passes by making us feel so small and vulnerable within this vast ocean. What a sight.
The night just keeps giving - with every oar stroke, the phosphorescence algae glows, almost like fire flies. Each and every stroke was ‘oar inspiring'.
On Sunday we are visited by a pod of dolphins - so uplifting to watch. The ocean is starting to ‘roll’ as the wind is now in our favour. One moment you see where the sky and ocean meet at the horizon and then there’s a sense of being at the bottom of a wave cycle and all you can see is blue ocean.
The Monday morning stunning sunrise buoyed our enthusiasm and energy after a challenging night shift. The wind is in the right direction and there are all the trappings of a great day ahead. Watch patterns are working smoothly, shift changes are becoming slicker and conversation is becoming more in-depth. As the first week draws to an end, we've completed 349 nautical miles. Not a bad effort given the squally conditions in the first few days.
Tuesday evening's activity is hull scrubbing for the first time. Four people get into the ocean, connected to spotters on board via a safety rope and rid the boat of sea life build up. Roxy definitely feels lighter.
Ominous looking clouds appear on Wednesday. The wind changes direction and increases in speed which means waves over Roxy’s gunnel and wet rowers. We celebrate 500 nm rowed by playing The Proclaimers 500 Miles.
Thursday brings slightly calmer seas, but it turns out to be a tough day physically and mentally with breaking waves dowsing the starboard rowers. A dark evening with no moonlight until 8.30pm makes for a quiet and concentrated row. This in turn leads to tired bodies, minds and souls. But we hang in there. Life stories of action, resolve and joviality help us throughout our rowing shifts as we bond even closer as a group.
Friday morning and the sun rises at 8.20am. Paul observes that the later sunrise demonstrates that we are making headway westward - we really are travelling back in time!
Monday 5th December - this day shall be written into our history books. At 4 pm, we pushed away from the jetty to a cacophony of horns and applause from the local sailing community who had turned out to wave us a 'bon voyage', fair winds and safe seas... it was an emotional passage of time!
The first two days were challenging - choppy waters and wind from the side brought the breaking waves on board and made for a wet start to our crossing. The wind then turned into a headwind and the speedo dropped to between 0.8 and 0.2 knots... it was a slog.
Not only were the weather gods against us, the choppy conditions lead to several members of the crew suffering and being unable to hold their food down.
Thursday ... hoorah! Flatter water, calmer winds and sunny skies all made for happy smiling faces with the music on.
The warm sunshine has meant some of us have managed to wash clothes and hang them out to dry - to the outsider, Roxy must have looked like a dhobi wallah junk in Hong Kong!
Good job, crew!
After a day of last minute packing, checking all the systems and waiting for the winds to abate, the 2022-23 Roxy Atlantic Ocean crew departed the Canaries at 1608 UTC on 5/12/22. Wishing each and every one of them a safe and happy crossing.
On a sunny, Sunday evening, the crew for Roxy’s 2022-23 Atlantic Ocean Row all meet up, again, with the Rannoch team.
It seems an age since we were rowing in the Outer Hebrides during our training week in July. We share tales of our training, whether good or bad, and listen to Charlie and Dawn's welcomes.
Monday - meet at the boat and be prepared to row... alas, rowing was cancelled due to the high winds so instead we confirm our ‘watch’ crew mates and then set about totally unpacking the boat and re-packing it so we know where everything is stored. Food, safety equipment and living essentials are divided evenly between fore and aft cabins - a labour intensive job but a job well done.
Tuesday - meet at the boat and be equipped to row. Alas, the weather gods are not with us today either, so we practice shift pattern changes and then check out all the first aid kit and pieces of spare equipment together with the toolkit. In the afternoon we do First Aid theory... we now know how to plug up a hole in the chest as well as how to use gaffer tape to hold open wounds together. Good to know!
Wednesday - meet at the boat and be prepared to row... and row we do. Out of the marina for a few hours, practicing shift changes, safely navigating our way around the deck and re-introducing our back-sides to the sliding seat! Wednesday afternoon we are back in the classroom to learn navigation, charts and plotting. What a revelation! An app showing water currents and speeds in real time … a truly inspiring afternoon. We are buzzing!
Thursday - the morning was spent in the classroom being educated in the importance of ocean rescue procedures... informative, even mesmerising at times, but in the event of a catastrophic incident, it shall be life saving! Never underestimate the power of Mother Nature or take her for granted!
Thursday afternoon was then spent putting the morning’s theory into practice. Deploying the life raft, recognising all the safety features on board, inflating life vests and realising they are most definitely not swimming aids, and then practicing entry and exit of the life raft... not as easy as many think! The afternoon session was finished off with a good old team race involving everything we’d learnt throughout the day... a close race, but there can only be one winner...
Friday - the morning gave us a chance to get back on the oars and spend some time rowing. Practicing the all important technique and shift changes... and ironing out the ‘faff’. A great morning, achieving good boat speed and seeing happy smiley faces!
Friday afternoon involved a practical session on deploying the infamous ‘para anchor’ - our prevention to being blown backwards in the event of stormy seas. It’s lots of rope and a huge parachute that gets thrown in the water and holds a mass of water... simple!
Saturday was a day off, but the crew used this free time to meet and discuss ‘good housekeeping’ and safe storage of kit, food and rubbish... a clean cabin is a happy cabin!
Sunday… an exciting announcement… but before that we had a lesson on how to row across an ocean; the effectiveness of a team phasing through the stroke; timing at the catch; the leg drive and finally the arms. Charlie demonstrated the extra length of stroke simply by reaching at the catch without over reaching; the power we can produce by maintaining a dynamic body shape. All interesting stuff!
After lunch, we got the news… a low pressure over the Azores and anti- clockwise winds… not ideal- but we could wait until Thursday to get the best conditions. By leaving tomorrow, we’d be in for a bit of chop for 24 hours or better sea conditions on Tuesday. By leaving tomorrow it optimises where we may be to get the best weather… game on- we’re departing tomorrow afternoon!
Our Atlantic crew has just completed their training week up in Scotland, in preparation for their Atlantic Ocean crossing at the end of the year. The crew rowed from the Outer Hebrides (Stornoway) to Raasay, Mallaig and Oban, in an intense but hugely positive week.
While the rest of the UK was experiencing a heatwave, our crew enjoyed some chiller but dry weather in the little harbour of Stornoway, where we all gathered for the first time to meet in person. What a joy to meet this international crew coming from New Zealand, USA, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, France, and the UK!
Our first morning was spent familiarising everyone with the boat, systems, gear, and answering some of the most basic questions: how to poop at sea, how to ensure safety for all, and what puddings we can enjoy as freeze-dried food. Our skipper Dawn, ran the team through all elements of the boat (water maker, solar panels, life-lines etc...) with her endless energy and signature smile. The session was interrupted by a seal, joyfully splashing his fisherman friend, and setting the scene for more wildlife sightings through the week.
The crew then set off for their first row AND overnight row, 54 miles to Raasay. First night rows are always challenging, as the body is not accustomed to the rhythm yet, and requires an extra effort to wake up and get ready in the middle of a dream. Our crew, however, managed to get through the night in a positive mood and with a brilliant sense of humour as seals, dolphins and puffins came to visit regularly. The sunset offered stunning light over the Outer Hebrides and we awoke to see the cliffs of the gorgeous Isle of Skye. With a Geologist onboard, we all learnt about rock formations!
The row to Raasay extended to the middle of the afternoon, leaving time for everyone to get to know each other, as we switched shifts and got to sit next to new rowing buddies each time. The national treasure of Scotland - RAIN - appeared just as we were anchoring with a perfectly-timed shower after 24 hours of rowing. We all gathered for a beer and fish and chips and everyone finally understood that physical pain is Mother Nature's way of telling us we need to improve our rowing technique!
We woke up early to meet a star at the Skye Bridge (15 miles away from Raasay). Ross Edgley, ultra-marathon sea swimmer, was here to train by the bridge. He welcomed us with his massive smile and positive outlook, and we enjoyed racing against him, taking photos and videos before continuing our journey to Mallaig.
What was supposed to be an easy row with the tide became a much bigger beast - the tide was not strong but we had a huge headwind! The crew demonstrated real commitment by pushing extra hard along these 22 miles. It was good strength training and gave us the opportunity to practice some of the rowing tips given the day before! Luckily we escaped the pouring rain of Skye and arrived in the dry in Mallaig.
It's amazing what a full night of sleep can do for morale - the positivity of the crew was palpable the next morning! With the Rolling Stones playing full blast and a good pack of Haribos, we were ready to roll for our next 24 hour row! This time we were aiming to get to Oban (51 miles).
This was a long row, and it required good navigation skills between islands and to ensure the tides were with us. The day row went by quickly with plenty of music and a good speed of 3 to 4 knots! So fast in fact that we needed to take a short break on the Isle of Mull to wait for the tide to change, before settling in for the night row. This second night was easier than the first one, as our bodies were more acclimatised and the conditions were smooth! Stars came out then disappeared again behind clouds in the early morning. The final slog was a long one but we enjoyed a final appearance from dolphins and seals before we arrived in Oban.
Looking forward to the next chapter in Tenerife!