Update from Alex: Day 27

Hello everybody,


I plan on writing this over a few shifts off, so apologies in advance if I say currently writing this and contradict something I’ve already said. It goes to show how changeable it is out here. Also I get in the cabin, eat and clean etc and all I then want to do is close my eyes in this furnace of a cabin and move as little as possible.


So here is my first 20 minute stint of my undivided attention to your supportive following


As I have mentioned before, I write these in my head at night and often no doubt sound much better in my bored, sleep deprived and lack of human contact head than when I put ‘pen to paper’.


You have lived the first half of the row with us. You know the general gist and generally speaking all was going well from a mechanical equipment standpoint. So I thought i would fill you in on some of our ‘boat injuries’ and leave Jamie Attenborough to the animal blogs etc!


Centre Board

STORM has a rudder at the stern to steer us, but also has a centre board which drops down through our bow cabin in a casing. Unlike the 4 man boats I have previously rowed, we have the ability to choose the amount of Centre board we want to put down. Unlike before when it was either down or out and sitting on deck in the 4 boats.


Fundamentally the CB aids our rudder when we might be crossing waves at an angle. Helps keep our course and also stability. It can usually be heard bouncing around in the casing when it is down and we are sleeping in the cabin. Annoying yes, but you get used to it.


Shortly after halfway I thought it was odd I couldn’t hear it bouncing around and it was def down. Bit of a result but also something else playing in the back of my mind.


A few days after this realisation I dunk my head under the water to check for barnacle growth and decide to do a quick clean while Jamie gets ready for his shift. Starting at the stern, i work my way to the bow to only realise that, as i thought it might have, snapped off... bugger !


We now have a couple of inches dropping out of the bottom.


On my next call to Angus


‘Mate, the CB has snapped, what the hell, you owe me a CB!’

‘Really? Was it all the way down’

‘Erm yeah, we’ve been crossing waves at 45 degrees’

‘Ah right yeah, sorry about that, that really surprises me. It’s carbon built.’


1. Who the hell builds something you can’t put all the way down?!

2.we def missed that chat prior to leaving about this shoddy bit of equipment

3.in continuation, believe we are the first, if not one of, to have broken broken such a item Rannoch so pride their boat design on compared to their competitors.


And as Jamie puts it, it’s Like buying a Ferrari with a top speed of 200mph but you can’t go 200mph or you blow up!


I am working on your forefit when we arrive in Barbados. If we can make it now...! Otherwise, see you in Trinidad and Tobago! 🙄


Batteries

Now pretty much anyone who has rowed an ocean has or claims to have battery problems. I thought this was not going to be the case this time with the lithium batteries we have wired up to STORM. Batteries that the Talisker race does not allow (because they can catch fire) and as such forces you to take gel batteries.


In brief, my batteries charge much faster and do not trickle charge per my previous batteries.

I can also push them much further without damaging the battery unlike the 12.2 volts are left on the battery us rowers are so used to from gel batteries.


We have 2 batteries and each connected to an individual solar panel. We also have a additional roaming solar panel which we can move around the boat to the sun and an EFOY fuel cell.

EFOY is a fuel cell generator, about the size of a microwave, which turns ethanol / methanol into electricity.


As boats who have crossed before with one of these, they can either work, or just not at all. For the first half ours worked and it allowed me to run a battery most of the night and when switching over to the other full battery at some point, charge the lower battery without any sunlight.


It was a luxury I had gotten used to and so when the EFOY had an error message one morning on an overcast day... I was caught off guard from a battery standpoint.


Call to Angus who is out on the water with clients when I call so had to be brief.

‘Ok, EFOY, error message about possible block etc in hose. Thoughts....?’

‘Yeah so what EFOY have told us to do is take it out of the mount and rotate it 360 degrees horizontally and vertically. Take about 30 seconds to rotate. You’ve probably got a load of air bubbles in the system that need removing’

‘Really? You’re screwing with me right?!’

‘No no, being serious’

‘Ok doke will give it a go’


Out the cabin I pop and explain to Jamie what I’m about to do and is equally WTF. It was quite the theatrical moment firstly getting this thing out of the stern hatch and then the requirement to balance and rotate this thing thing on deck without falling in.


It didn’t work.... and now the message says please connect the correct cables... 🙄. Cleaned with electrical spray and even rubbed connections with my toothbrush. Anyway the EFOY is now dead to me !


Anyway I don’t usually call Angus until after 1200 but at 8am on Tuesday morning, I give him a call.

‘Bud I’m on 11.9 and 12 volts on the batteries. How far can I push these things?’

‘Right you need to turn everything off and re charge’


I knew this was going to be the answer and bearing in mind it was still dark with us, i turned everything off and proceeded out of deck to brief Jamie and set myself to hand steer the boat off our compass until we had daylight. A v overcast morning and plenty of rain showers. I didn’t have any rest in the cabin for 14 hours this day... a bleak day.


The EFOY is still not working but we have adapted to a new battery routine which is working well. I also cleaned our batteries as Salt is a conductor and wasting energy from sitting on them.


It wouldn’t be an ocean row without some sort of battery issue.


Times Article

Same day as the above battery issues the article was published. Åmber kindly sent it over and it was certainly a good read in view of our slightly stressful morning.


Thank you Damian for making the time and being so thorough. I am mostly pleased that my thunder nuts got such good air time and the prestigious Harrow curriculum being so well recognised!


Will be good to meet you Damian over a few beers when we are back on terra firma, UK.


Nether regions

Both j and I have undergone issues with this. Getting wet and salty nuts 24 hours a day does take its toll no matter how disciplined you are with baby wipes after each shift. Nut control is now handled and little discomfort is now experienced.


This has been handled by,

Wearing our MPX musto sallopette trousers at night time to prevent getting wet.

Also fresh water cleans with some shower gel once a day or so. We make an abundance of water each day, 20 litres usually always on deck at time of running our water pump. This is generally the amount we made per day when on previous 4 man crossings.


After a wash, we proceed to stand up holding our guard lines and do various jigs to get the wind to aid in the drying process. Am getting particularly good at the windwill 😎😜


Night shifts

These are sometimes preferred to the beating down day shifts we undergo.

We set a kitchen timer to wake ourselves up. Which can involves some tough sums when working what 5 mins before really is!


The other night I don’t think j or I actually made it out just off our alarm.


I proceeded to wake up, turn it off, convince myself I had another hour, set it and went back to sleep. J wondering what I was doing as he had seen my head torch go on to get ready...


The alarm going off, not being able to find it. When found proceed to press buttons to turn it off with fail. You can probably imagine me fing and blinding at this timer as it beeps at me and I can’t turn it off.


It is a noise we have both leant to dread.


J popping his head out after an hour off saying he is good to go. Thankfully I had the heart to tell him he had another hour and not swap with him and say see you in 3 hours in lieu of the usual 2.


The moon is now getting smaller and rises in the night instead of being up first night shift.


‘Alex Alex - can you see something on the chart plotter coming up behind us’

‘Nope nothing’ as I come out for my first night shift

‘Oh ok. Moon isn’t out either yet’

‘Mate that is the moon coming up and not a ship you muppet’

‘Oh yeah, there’s been a black dog to my right all shift also’.


Please have loony medics on sight for our arrival !


Time of send 2027 with 900nm to go! Past 72 hours have probably been some of LG toughest to date on all crossings. I feel I am pushing my body considerably harder than previously. Not helped with no wind and getting nothing back in return for max effort.


See you all soon. We love getting messages through from you guys so please send the HAC gmail (hyperion.atlantic.challenge@gmail.com) a message.


Alex