In Pictures: A Voyage Across the Atlantic For Urology

08 March 2019, Tim Burton with Bez Berry - 

On 12 December 2018, four men from Cornwall set off on a row from the Canary Islands to Antigua. In a challenge that took more than 43 days, Bez, Jon, Alex, and Andy endured apocalyptic rainstorms, experienced electricity failure, rowed alongside dolphins, and swam with whales.

They took on this epic challenge to raise money for and awareness of The Urology Foundation and urology patients across the country. If you would like to donate to them as a thank you, you can do that here.

Below is the story of their row in pictures with comments from one of the star rowers, Bez.

before setting off Atlantic Seamen supplies

The food was awful

“Strangely, I think one of the worst parts of the challenge was the food! First of all, it tasted terrible as it was all dried food and because our days were so taxing, we had to eat around 5,400 calories a day. It was hard to squeeze in the time to eat alongside trying to row and sleep and so a lot of it was eaten cold.

“Above you can see all of the food laid out before we set off. There was loads of it and it went in our sleeping quarters, which meant there was only just enough room to lie down. Boy, we were so sick of chicken tikka masala. This wasn’t helped by our friends, who’d sent what turned out to be sarcastic presents for us to have, which included out of date apple pies and a food magazine.”

Christmas Day with the Atlantic Seamen 3

But Christmas Day was a welcome break

“That being said, it did all get a bit better on Christmas Day. We took an hour off and we each had a shoebox of presents and messages from family that we could open. We also had some reindeer stew to enjoy, which was a bit better than the usual fare!”

Salt sores Atlantic Seamen

The challenges were often dramatic ones

“We did face some pretty horrendous challenges along the way. The picture above is of the sores that I developed on my hands. These were caused by the salt from the sea and the endless rowing that my hands were doing. It wasn’t fun! It got very unpleasant to be putting on cold and wet trainers and clothes.

“We had intermittent electricity on the boat for 5 days. The electricity comes from solar panels and was used for, among other things, the auto-helm. We had patchy electricity for 5 days and that meant there always had to be someone steering. So we went from shifts of two rowing and two resting to shifts of two resting, one rowing, one steering. That really slowed us down!

“We also faced some unbelievable ocean storms! There was one storm that was so catastrophic that we had to row with our heads between our knees because the rain was hurting our faces so much. The boat just had to go wherever the storm took it and we couldn’t switch the rowers round because it was too dangerous, so Jon and I had a shift that went from two hours to four hours of non-stop rowing. That storm was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.”

resize Swimming with a whale Atlantic Seamen

Marine life

“The most incredible part of the experience was all of the unbelievable marine life we saw. The picture above is a 360 degree photo. You can see the photographer on the left, the boat on the right and, just away in the distance, in the middle of the shot, you can make out the whale that we were swimming with. That whale followed us for about two and a half hours, constantly swimming around us and under the boat.

“We also had a pod of dolphins that swam alongside us for a while as we were listening to Graceland by Paul Simon. We were constantly coming across flying fish, who were able to jump out of the water and fly alongside us. They were very good at jumping into the boat and one of them succeeded in hitting me in the back of the head.”

night sky

Life in the middle of nowhere, and how to keep entertained

“The picture to the left gives you a little taste of how incredible the night’s sky looks when you’re in the middle of the ocean. It was an unbelievable sight. But on the darkest nights it was pretty scary. You really couldn’t see a thing and you’d have no idea when a wave was about to hit the boat, which is a problem because the waves can come from any direction.

“But when we weren’t being smashed by waves, we still wanted to keep ourselves entertained. We’d spend some time chatting; Andy and Alex often talked about politics and Brexit, whilst Jon and I had a tendency to talk about how we like our Sunday Roasts and generally fantasised about all the foods we were missing.

“We also brought some (semi) waterproof speakers with us. They allowed us to pump out some audiobooks to keep us entertained. We listened to a bit of Romesh Ranganathan and Alan Partridge and their audiobooks, so that was pretty good at keeping us going, as well.”




Atlantic Seamen greeted by their wives 1

Our families

“Of course, it was very tough to be away from our families for so long. We did have a few nice moments with them along the way, though.

“Jon was doing an interview with BBC Radio Cornwall each Wednesday morning and on the last interview they asked to speak to me so that they could play me a message from my son. That was really nice and also a bit difficult, because then I had to try really hard not to start crying on live radio!    

“We were also fortunate enough to have our wives fly out to see us arrive in Antigua. Somehow, through the marvels of modern technology, we were able to pass a message up to the pilot of the plane they were on. He did an announcement and told them to look down to the ocean, as their husbands were waving up at them.”


An incredible journey

Rowing that ocean was a once in a lifetime experience. I’m never going to forget the experiences we had out there. I’m very grateful for being able to experience it, and for all the people who donated to The Urology Foundation and helped us raise awareness of this great cause.

As for what’s next… we’re thinking maybe an Arctic trek? Stay tuned for more!

In the time that it took for the Atlantic Seamen to row the Atlantic, over 8,500 Britons were diagnosed with a urological cancer. If you’d like to donate to the Atlantic Seamen and support those 8,500 people and many more like them, you can sponsor the Seamen here.


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