What it means to row an ocean: hallucinations, reindeer stew, and admin

05 December 2018, Jon Davies
The Atlantic Seamen are four family men from Cornwall who are rowing the Atlantic Ocean, in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, to raise money for and awareness of urology disease across the country. The money they raise will be going to The Urology Foundation (TUF) to finding new treatments and cures for cancers and conditions that affect millions of people every day.

Here, the original Atlantic Seaman, Jon Davies, tells us what it feels like to stare such a huge challenge in the face.

Preparing to row across an ocean

The whole journey started about two years ago. Back then, I’m not sure we could have ever grasped just how much preparation has been required for this. It has been far more than we ever expected.

When you talk to people about this, they expect that you’ve just had to do physical training, and whilst you do have to complete a minimum 100 hours of rowing in preparation, that’s nothing compared to all of the logistics, training and navigation courses you have to arrange. We started preparing two years ago, but only started training a year ago!

It’s been really tough. I think any other crew that’s taking part in this race would tell you the same. For myself, as well, I’m married, I have three kids, and I’m a full time GP. It’s been an immense effort to find time for preparing for the row, as well.

Now we’re getting towards the starting point and it’s very tense! A broken bone, a sick child, or other family emergency could derail everything.

We’re so close to the starting line

It’s really exciting to be within touching distance! The last couple of weeks at work have been tough for all of us. Our minds are starting to drift elsewhere; we’ve got half an eye on that ocean! Then you’ve got family who are starting to make plans for Christmas and you’re going to step away from that and take on something phenomenal and dangerous.

Celebrating Christmas in the middle of the Atlantic

All the food we’re taking with us will be dried food, so there won’t be any roast dinners, but we have got some reindeer stew with us, so we’ll stop rowing for an hour and have some nice food.

We’re also each allowed a shoebox size package of gifts each from friends and family. I’ve dropped a few hints around the wife that I might quite like a bottle of fine Cornish beer!

What will be my highs and lows?

Catching some big fish will be a high! We’re taking a fishing rod with us and we’re hoping to come across some fresh tuna. Andy (one of the rowers) is a very talented French-trained chef, so we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do with some fresh fish!                             

We’re also looking forward to getting stuck in, seeing where we sit in the race, and obviously, the finish line will always be lingering in our minds.

As for lows, the first two weeks are supposed to be horrific whilst you try to adjust to the routine. You go from a normal routine to sleeping for two hours, and then rowing for two hours all day, every day.

I’ve heard that it’s very common to experience sleep deprivation and hallucinations. A lot of teams fall out in those two weeks.

The thought of the finish line will keep us going, though. It’s taken us so long and it’s been so hard to get to this point. No matter what happens, we cannot give up now.

Please support the Atlantic Seamen

What we’re trying to do is enormous. More people have climbed Mount Everest than have attempted to row across the Atlantic Ocean. I hope people will see what we’re doing is a level up and will get behind us helping raise more money for and awareness of urology disease.

Your support really will give us that extra push to get across the ocean. Donate and help power us through.

You can follow the progress of the Atlantic Seamen with the online tracker here. TUF will also be posting updates throughout the experience, so keep an eye out on Facebook and Twitter.


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