Maiden Voyage

The learning curve is steep

By Caroline Wilson on July 11, 2018

Back in May, everything changed. It had been a long day of driving from Hertfordshire to Devon and what felt like a lifetime of decision making before we made our move. We’d gone down to Axminster to meet Di of the Atlantic Ladies (TWAC 2017) and Justin Adkin, the talented man from SeaSabre who had built the ladies boat. Our goal was simple - to leave as the new owners of the ladies boat, Poppy.

We made an offer and left in a bit of a haze, not knowing if we would see Poppy again. A couple of hours later, while we were driving back to London, we received the news that we were about to welcome a new member to our team. A rather large, red, ocean rowing boat.

Di showing Jess and Caroline around Poppy
Caroline and Jess getting comfortable
The team making a life changing decision

Fast forward to a few weeks later and the maiden voyage is upon us. As we head out to Burnham-on-Crouch for 3 days of rowing bliss, in true Status Row style, the adventure started early! Angus from Rannoch Adventure was planning to meet us at the other end bright and early to maximise our time on the water. Jess and I however managed to get ourselves locked INSIDE a train when the tannoy system wasn’t working and we failed to realise we needed to transfer to a different train to continue our journey. Fearing Susan would be angry that we now had to wait another 40 mins for the next connecting train, we were relieved to discover that Susan too had been having train issues of her own, and had got on the wrong train, missing her connection too. face palm Sorry Angus.

After all the excitement of getting there, it was time to get serious and get our baby in the water. Thankfully, Angus was at hand to launch her and tell us which way around the oar gates go (of course we forgot this 10 minutes later and proceeded to row for the next 3 hours with the gates the wrong way around…. It’s a learning experience, right?!)

So, how did it go..? Well, the learning curve is steep I tell you!

The unexpected meeting at the train station
Launching Poppy
Susan on the oars

As Poppy was gently launched into the water with me on the oars, my heart rate shot through the roof as I tried to move her gracefully in the water, and more importantly, tried to avoid the giant concrete pillar I was unintentionally heading towards. Collision avoided, we managed to manoeuvre her over to the pontoon, where we loaded her up and had a mini photoshoot (#priorities). Then it was just the 3 of us, and time to head out into the River Crouch.

Out for 7 hours, we quickly learnt that rowing Poppy was nothing like rowing on an indoor rowing machine. ‘Left’ and ‘right’ means nothing on a boat but was a hard habit to break out of. Remembering which side is ‘port’ or ‘starboard’ when you’re alternating between navigating facing forwards, rowing facing backwards and figuring out which way to turn your foot to make the foot steering work was certainly an experience! We did however get to practice some key skills, namely throwing out and retrieving the anchor and more importantly, using the bucket (aka, the toilet).

Our first night in the cabin
Tent Meals for breakfast on the oars
Waking up in Burnham Yacht Marina

We rowed back into the marina for the evening and learnt another valuable lesson - check where the berth your aiming for is, and that’s it’s empty before you leave! Thankfully Jess was a picture of calm as she performed a 180 turn to bring us back down the correct row of berths, and after a bit of jiggery pokery with the boat we were surprised to be sharing our berth with for the night, we were in.

Waking up on Poppy in the marina for the first time was something special. Susan and I had top and tailed in the large cabin and am happy to report that we survived the night without a single foot in the face! We stuffed our faces with a delicious tent meals breakfast which, at 800 calories, set us up for the long day ahead. We also remembered to apply sunscreen before setting off this time, having not done this the day before and very much feeling the burn on our legs and arms.

The aches and pains of the day before quickly disappeared once our bodies resigned themselves to what was about to happen and it was time to face a new set of challenges. We decided to practice shift patterns, opting for 1 hour on, 30 mins off, to make sure there were 2 people on the oars at all times. By the end of the day we were getting pretty good at changeovers (and using the bucket!).

Caroline on the oars
Firepot for dinner
Raising a toast to the Atlantic Ladies

Back into the marina again after a hard day of rowing wind against tide, it was time to figure out how to cook on board. Enter our trusty JetBoil and dehydrated Firepot food pouch for dinner, and a celebratory G&T to toast the Atlantic Ladies.

For our final day on the river we decided to increase our shift time to 1.5 hours on, 45 mins off, slowing building up to 2 hours. The extra 15 mins off the oars meant we could start getting more acquainted with life on board off the oars, and more importantly, working out the best selfie angles in the cabin. We also used the opportunity to answer some questions friends had sent us, doing short videos.

Apparently the World Cup is going on, and Susan tells me it’s a big deal. So much so, that we came into the marina early to catch the second half of the England game. As you can see, I think one of us enjoyed it a bit more than the other….

Row time
Jess, living her best life
Caroline loves football

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