How safe is ocean rowing?

Taking part in an ocean rowing challenge and spending a long period of time at sea with limited contact to land is not without risk. However, the risks can be mitigated with a quality, well maintained boat, attention to detail with your food and clothing preparation, a comprehensive training programme, ensuring your onboard equipment is in good working condition and having qualified, experienced skippers on board.

Do I need to be fit to row an ocean?

Physical and mental strength are both important when it comes to ocean rowing.

The mental strength to undertake repetitive exercise in an extremely remote environment  for prolonged periods of time must not be underestimated. The strongest performers are not always the strongest physically but they do tend to have a very positive and determined mindset.

Each ocean expedition requires a commitment to a training programme. This will comprise 5 days on water training a few months prior to your row as well as a week prior to your departure which will include all necessary on shore, classroom courses.

If you are able to train on the water in the months leading up to your row, this will hugely benefit you once you are on Roxy. This could entail joining your local rowing club or signing up to rowing lessons with a coastal rowing school.

In addition, you should undertake a general fitness programme for the 6-12 months lead up to your expedition. We’d suggest this incorporates some erg work and some dynamic exercise, ideally cycling but swimming, aerobics, yoga are all good too.  We suggest rowers build their own programme bearing the above in mind and subject to their current level of fitness. We always strongly advise rowers to use a qualified personal trainer for any more specific advice.

What food do I need for an ocean crossing?

Ocean rowers eat freeze dried expedition food together with a variety of high calorie snacks. Breakfasts, main meals and desserts are all supplied on Roxy, as well as snacks, tea and coffee. There is the opportunity to try out the freeze dried meals during the training week. Dietary requirements are catered for although the choice of meals may be fewer for those with specific requirements.

It is totally normal for ocean rowers to lose weight during their expedition.

How does the crew get fresh water on board?

It is impossible to carry enough fresh water on your boat for the duration of your row so ocean rowing boats, including Roxy, are fitted with a water maker which converts salt water into drinking water automatically during your row. A handheld water maker is also carried on Roxy in case of emergency.

Is there a toilet on board?

A bucket is the toilet. It’s basic but effective.

How do you wash?

It is vital to ensure that you maintain good personal hygiene for the duration of your crossing to prevent chafing, sores and infections. As a general rule, environmentally friendly wet wipes are predominantly used to clean salt off your body after each rowing shift.

How do the rowing shifts work?

On Roxy, we tend to use a shift pattern of 3 hours on, 3 hours off 24/7 which gives rowers a chance to get a good rest in between shifts.

What safety equipment is on board?

Roxy carries two life rafts big enough to fit the entire crew into, and sufficient life jackets for each crew member (although rowers tend not to wear life jackets for rowing due to comfort unless told to by the skipper and when the conditions warrant them).

Crew members are attached to the boat at all times via a waist harness clipped to the boat line. That way they can never be separated from the boat, even if it rolls in heavy seas.

Emergency communications equipment is also carried on board - an EPIRB ((Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) is a safety device carried by a vessel to alert search and rescue services, allowing them to quickly locate you in the event of an emergency. A PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) is carried by each rower at all times. In case of emergency, it transmits a distress alert directly to the Coastguard via satellites. The Coastguard then uses this to call out the relevant Search and Rescue Service or contact vessels nearby.

Satellite phones and tracking devices are also carried on Roxy.

What clothes do I need?

Essential kit for open water rowing comprises a full set of marine foul weather clothing, sports shorts, leggings, base layers, sports t-shirts, fleece, white soled training shoes, flip flops, swim suit/trunks, hat, neck buff, underwear, socks. There are a number of other items that need to be taken such as a compact sleeping bag, essential toiletries etc.

Each crew member is allowed to bring three dry bags on board Roxy which should be 3, 10 and 20 litres in capacity, no more.

Due to very limited space on the boat, we ask everyone to restrict your packing to the essentials only. “We are going on an expedition not a holiday and there is no room for luxuries. The luxury is the friendships you are going to make on board the boat.” Charlie Pitcher

A detailed kit list is available by emailing nicola@rannochadventure.com

How can my family follow the row during my absence?

There are several ways to follow a Roxy ocean crossing:

TRACKER – When an expedition is underway, there will be a big red button on the Home page of our website called “TRACK ROXY” and this will link to the tracker.

Updates are posted on social media:

FACEBOOK - rannochadventure and roxyrowingexpeditions

INSTAGRAM - rannochadventure and roxyrowingexpeditions

WEBSITE BLOG - each ocean crossing has its own blog and this is updated regularly throughout the row.

WHATSAPP – a WhatsApp group is set up for crew families just before Roxy departs with two contacts for each crew member. Nicola will share information and photos on this group chat whenever it is received from the boat. Any photos and text sent via the WhatsApp chat may be used on crew social media channels.

Can I contact my family whilst we’re out at sea?

Yes, there is a satellite phone on Roxy. Calls home will be carefully managed by the skipper - everyone is encouraged to detach themselves from home life while they are rowing.

If a crew member needs to contact their families in an emergency, they can either call their families or ask the skipper to contact Nicola. Nicola will then contact the 1st emergency contact listed for that crew member.

If families need to contact a crew member in an emergency, they should contact Nicola in the first instance. She will then make contact with the skipper of the boat and arrange for the crew member to call home as soon as they can.

Who is responsible for First Aid?

Your skipper or co skipper will hold suitable First Aid qualifications. A full medical kit is on board which covers all minor ailments. Crew are asked to bring their own painkillers and any prescription medicine they take.

What happens if I become seriously unwell while out at sea?

In the case of a life threatening injury or illness while out at sea that requires the casualty to be evacuated from the boat, the Skipper on board will send out a Mayday distress signal by activating the EPIRB. This alerts Falmouth Coastguard (who subsequently also alert Rannoch Adventure) of an incident at sea. Falmouth Coastguard will then coordinate a rescue mission, regardless of how far from land the boat is.

If the boat is within about 250 miles of land, the nearest SAR (Search and Rescue) would be dispatched - either helicopter or lifeboat depending on the distance. There is usually no charge for this service.

Once the boat is further out at sea, a rescue would be made by vessels who happen to be in the area, whether they are commercial or leisure craft. That vessel does not have to divert course but is obliged to take the casualty to the nearest port or to the port where the ship is bound for. There is usually no charge for this unless there is an element of neglect.

Any costs incurred for medical treatment or travel from where the casualty was taken must be covered by the casualty.

What happens if I die while out at sea?

Due to the exceptional checks and safety measures in place for this expedition, a death at sea is highly unlikely. However, it is important to be aware of the procedures to ensure a traumatic event such as this is dealt with in the correct way.

A copy of the Rannoch Adventure Death at Sea Procedure document can be requested by emailing nicola@rannochadventure.com

Do I need insurance for a row of this nature?

In the same way you might buy travel insurance for a holiday, obtaining insurance for an ocean row is your responsibility, as the rower.

As far as we are aware, there are not many companies that provide personal insurance for extreme adventure sports. In 2021 we heard of one company, PJ Heyman, who did offer a policy to cover organised ocean rowing events although we would urge anyone considering taking out this insurance to fully understand what cover they provide before purchasing it. Rannoch Adventure takes no responsibility for this recommendation / policy.

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