What I learned from three months rowing the Atlantic
Last week Andrew told us about the difficulty of the first part of his trip.
But once he cleared the rough waters around the Canary Islands – including an episode with brutal currents that he dubbed ‘The Battle of Lazarote’ – things went more smoothly on the high seas.
He said: “ After I erased the [island of] Fuerteventura, it was almost like the ocean saying: “Ok, now you can cross the Atlantic now if you want!”
“And rowing was pretty straightforward from that point on.”
Andrew began to enjoy the trip more and to take every problem as it arose.
âEvery challenge that the ocean put in front of me, I did.
âBut sometimes I was confused, I didn’t know what to do, I was tired.
âSometimes I would scratch my head and go back to the cabin and sit there and think ‘what am I going to do now?’
âBut you will find out, because you have to.
Despite the daily challenges he faced, Andrew said he was less irritated by things like getting drenched in rogue waves and more curious about nature.
âEven the clouds, I was like ‘why didn’t I pay attention in geography class?’ He said.
“ I could have understood what all these different types of clouds meant – I became very interested and determined to find out more when I returned.
“ For Google things about clouds and waves and stars – and not to spend time looking at Amazon for something to buy. ‘
He also found himself in the midst of a sudden abundance of marine life in the ocean section between Gran Canaria and Cape Verde – including Wales, sharks and dolphins.
Reflecting on the key lessons he brought back from the trip, Andrew said: “ The first is to live in the present.
âForgive your past and understand that your future is determined by everything you do today.
âThere’s no point in dreaming all day about tomorrow, because what you do today will determine the quality of your future.
âAnd be aware of the impermanence of things.
We asked Andrew what comfort he most expected once he got home, and if there was anything he now had a new appreciation for.
He said: ‘[I learned] the appreciation of the simplest things.
âThe first thing I did when I landed was take a shower.
“Do you realize how amazing a shower is?”
âIt was just absolutely wonderful.
âThe other thing was to have cold and chilled fruit.
âI had melon and pineapple and I have never had anything so good in my life.
And for a cold drink too, it was only Mountain Dew or something, but it was cold, and it was just phenomenal.
âHaving a fridge and a shower, having a faucet and a toilet, having a kettle – these are things we take for granted every day.
âAs we’re all looking to get the latest iPhone, it’s worth appreciating some of the other things we have that we take for granted.
He added that every movement made difficult on the little rocking boat – getting up to get a phone signal, going to the bathroom – gave new gratitude for being fit and healthy.
It was two days outside of Barbados that he saw his first human being since leaving Portugal 96 days ago.
It was a fisherman named Richard aboard a pleasure craft named by chance: “Wine Down”.
Andrew updated his blog from his boat: ‘It was lovely to see a smiley face.
âI can’t wait to visit our own Wine Down in Douglas as soon as possible.
âI especially love their triple chocolate dessert.
We wanted to know how odd it was to acclimate ashore once he reached the Barbados Wharf, where he was greeted by his girlfriend Lucy, and quickly given a chair to sit on as a precaution against “ earth sickness ”.
This is a condition where, after a long trip on a moving craft, people still experience disorientation and sensations of movement even after returning to land.
âPhysically, I had never experienced anything like this, the legs were just gone,â said Andrew.
“ And they were really weak for a few weeks, I struggled to climb the stairs.
âMy head was everywhere.
‘As soon as I got off the boat there was a reporter there, and she was asking me questions – to be honest I couldn’t remember my full name.
âAnd then there were the customs officers, they asked me questions and I had no idea. But everyone laughed at it. I was dizzy, thought I was going to pass out, it was the strangest border crossing I have ever had.
“If I hadn’t sat down I would have fallen, I was just holding it together for the camera.”
As for mental rehabilitation to the fast-paced society, he said: âBarbados is a very calm and calmer place in Covid because there are no tourists there.
“ However, we then had to travel a lot to get back to the island. And there was a lot of commotion, a lot of airports and ferries.
âAnd it was quite disturbing. In the supermarkets in Barbados I even freaked out a little, there was so much stimulus and so much stuff you could get.
âI’m going to have to deal with this a bit, how I buy in the future.
âBecause you don’t need a lot, you get used to not having a lot.
And it’s not difficult, when you don’t have the option [as with the rations on the boat] and your brain adapts to it.
However, since returning to the island, he said: ‘All I have done is eat. You see it, and I eat it, what do they call it, the “See-food” diet?
He said the next big mental shift would be going back to work, and at that point it could almost seem like the trip never happened, because it’s such a surreal experience to look back on.
Andrew said he would be interested in giving lectures at schools or other manx organizations, and as for his boat Aurelia, she is now being shipped home.
He also looks forward to seeing how the donations will be put to good use by the two mental health charities, Reach IoM and Whilstleblowers IoM, and Manx Wildlife Trust – which he chose because of nature’s positive effects on welfare – be mental.
l People can still donate at: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/reachintotheblue
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