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Having been given the good news of a clear run into Barbados, predictably our hopes were raised, and expectations set on a finish date. If we were to carry on at a good pace, we would be sipping on cocktails on the 9th February, reunited with our loved ones, and sleeping in a soft, clean bed. Optimism however, is probably the most dangerous emotion one can possess on the sea. Around 2 weeks out, our weather window was shut firmly in our faces, and we were faced with a heavy-storm coming down from North America, picking up pace and strength, its course it seemed was dialed in on our 7 meter boat, and there was no avoiding it.
By the time it had reached us, this storm had been revealed as Hurricane Alex (the first hurricane to form in the Atlantic for over half-a-century, good timing!). We tied down all our precious items, stored things away, and locked ourselves in the cabin and waited for the brunt of the storm. We spent 72 hours in a cabin the size of a single bed, being hit by 60 knot winds, and 50 foot waves, our modest boat straining and moaning at the force of the elements around it. Those days seemed to drag on for ever, as sleeping was near-enough impossible given the washing machine like conditions. As it passed over us, and the sun reappeared, we dusted ourselves off and carried on as normal, released to be back on the oars, and in one piece.
The frustration of the 3 day delay gave us a huge boost, and our mentality was focused on one thing, pushing ourselves harder and getting to Barbados faster. Over the next 2 weeks, we rowed together more, sometimes for up to 10 hours with no break, and every stroke of the oars had an extra 10%. We averaged well-over 60 nautical miles per day, and ticked off miles, hours and eventually days from our departure ETA. Again, optimism built and the finish line was a mere 500 miles away, and then once more, our hopes were dashed by weather.
Two enormous pressure systems that were not visible on any weather charts loomed over us, huge black clouds bringing with them their own weather patterns stopped us dead in our tracks, and began pushing us South at a rate of knots. These were the hardest 2 days, a sense of total deflation and helplessness. We tried everything we could, rowing together for hours and hours, gaining no ground and being pushed in the opposite direction of our destination. Torrential rain kept us wet and cold, and our morale dropped to an all-time low, as our families had booked their flights and we were looking at a real chance of missing them completely in Barbados.
Once more, we fought through the dark days and came out the other side stronger, pushing ourselves as hard as physically possible. Over the next week, we gained back the 2 days, and after an extremely close call with a cargo ship, that was only 100 meters away from crushing us completely, we were within 20 miles of land, pushing through a night-shift that would be our last if all went well.
The sunrise on the 10th February was like no other, as when the sun illuminated the horizon, a rich green island lay before us, and we set eyes on land for the first time in over 50 days. We rounded the northern tip of the island, and prepared for the notorious entrance into Port St Charles, a 6 hour slog against strong winds, currents and the risk of shallow reefs. The Atlantic wasn’t going to make things easy, and those 6 hours were the hardest rowing of the entire trip. Back-breaking strokes and an average speed of less than 1 knot, with both of us on the oars. But it didn’t matter, we were met a few miles from the port by a boat-full of our nearest and dearest, who’s cheered gave us the energy to finish the mammoth trip, and drive us through the weather.
We pulled into Port St Charles Yacht Club at 3pm on 10th February. We were exhausted, skinny, impossibly tanned, but ecstatic. We had completed what many thought was impossible, we had conquered a challenge widely regarded as the toughest on Earth, with no experience, and stronger friends than when we had left. Our first steps on land were wobbly, but triumphant, and we gingerly stumbled to the bar and sipped on the coldest, most glorious beer of our lives. The days that followed were some of the best, and the feeling of relief and happiness was unparalleled.
Having tasted the different emotions that an adventure of such magnitude delivers, we now crave it, and our appetite is stronger than ever. The TempestTwo will live on, and our next story is already in the planning. Watch this space…