Advice wanted on a rowing tripgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Open-water rowing : One Thread
Dear Mr. Stookey :
My name is Andy Sears and I contacted your office about a year ago and ordered several back issues of OWR. They have been extremely helpful to me, since I am planning a rowing trip in April down the west coast of Florida. I have no previous experience at anything like this, and after a year of planning, I still feel extremely ignorant on the whole adventure. While I like stepping into the unknown, there is a point that adventure becomes stupidity. I am not sure on which side of that spectrum I am standing.
I am writing to you because, based on your biography on the OWR web page, you are the ultimate source of information on trips such as the one I hope to make. I would greatly appreciate any advice you could provide. If I can bore you with a few of the facts of my trip:
I have purchased and am fitting out a Skua for this trip. Time is my major problem, since I will be making this trip on vacation time from work,. I am giving myself two weeks to go from Cedar Key to Key West (approx. 400 mi. depending on how straight you draw the lines). I will need to sleep on the boat at least two nights and plan on more for convenience. The longest stretch without civilization will be approx. 90 miles (Everglades City to Marathon Key) which will include approx. 25 miles of open water crossing of Florida Bay. Prevailing winds for April are 12 MPH from the ENE, but May is the month the prevailing wind changes to SE, so I expect both.
I need any advice you would be willing to send my way. I am most worried about communications since cell phone coverage will be spotty. If I don't communicate effectively with my wife throughout this, then no other safety precautions really matter because she is going to kill me when I get home.
I also am curious about the number of miles I can count on in a day, blisters, chaffing, sunburn, insects, spare oars and leathers, how much food and water to carry and finally how to maintain my sanity (rowing is not common in Florida so many are already questioning my sanity). This is what I am sure I dont know. I hope you will include anything else that may be relevant.
Also, I was in touch with Nat Stone for a while. I understand he may be on the next leg of his row, and rowing around Florida now. Andre (at Middle Path Boats) thought he may have a web site. If this is true, I'd be interested and since he is going around Florida, I'd like to help or at least take him out to dinner as he passes through my area.
Thanks for all your help.
-- Andy Sears (FSEARS@MINDSPRING.COM), February 20, 2000
Sounds like a great trip. Here are some of my thoughts.
MILES PER DAY For two- and three-day passages, the kinds I usually make, you can work hard enough - rowing 12 hours, say 40 miles, per day or more - and it's OK to be be pretty tired at the end. But for a long passage, I'd want to make sure I always had some reserves of energy. You know best your own stamina, but I'd plan on rowing less than 12 hours a day. On the west coast of Florida, I believe the prevailing southeasterlies are usually offset by the sea breeze effect, so you shouldn't have to worry about heavy seas most days. On flat water, I'd think a moderately heavily-laden Skua would average 3-3.5 knots without a lot of effort. So what's that? About 30 miles a day. You'd just do your 400 miles in two weeks.
BLISTERS I just wrote a review of blister preventions and cures in OWR Issue 20. There are a lot of them out there. For me I just use the thinner moleskin, cut into strips and wrapped around my fingers between the joints as they begin to redden. I cut them off at night and put on some hand lotion. I say "at night" but I mean during the spells when I'm not rowing. In fact, if it's fairly calm, I prefer to row at night and sleep in the day. I rowed across the Bay of Fundy at night, and I think the sounds and smell of the whales nearby were more interesting than seeing them would have been. But I digress. Make sure you take plenty of moleskin or other blister preventer AND some antiseptic ointment and bandages in case you do open a blister.
One other thing I do that seems to prevent blisters, and more importantly prevents deeper pains in my hands, is to slip a bicycle handle grip over the handle of each oar. The grip is black foam rubber, usually a quarter inch or so thick, and it molds to my hands so that there is less pressure at any one point of the fingers and lower palm. I can row with blisters, but I can't row with a bone bruise.
CHAFING The other blister candidate, of course, is your bottom. Make sure you get off your butt every hour or so. If you can't stand up, then lie on your stomach for a few minutes. If you are rowing sliding seat, I'd invest in a Barretta seat (contact Frank Barretta at MBarretta@aol.com). Tori Murden used one for her 150+ days on the Atlantic, and somehow they seem to work. There are two versions; get the wider one. If you are rowing fixed seat, I'd recommend a gel cushion. The one I use is about 20" by 20" and is made for a wheelchair. I havent tried the much smaller ones made for kayaks and sliding seats.
SUNBURN Obviously you will need a lot of SPF 30 cream, but you might also want to wear something that blocks UV. AS you may know, a normal cotton T-shirt is about SPF 6, less when damp. Sun Precautions makes clothing from fabric they claim is SPF 60. Get their cataloge at (800) 882-7860. There are other vendors with similar products as well. If you plan to sleep during the day, you might try rigging one of those emergency space blankets over you, the ones that are silvered on one side and dark on the other. They were designed to keep the heat in an injured person by wrapping him with the reflective side inward. You would do the opposite in the sun.
INSECTS I don't know much about the insects of southwest Florda, but I remember rowing from Newport, RI to Plymouth, MA a few years back when I had planned to stop and camp on a sandspit near the Cape Cod Canal. When I got there the sand flies quickly drove me back into the boat. There seemed no place else to camp, so I just kept on rowing - 33 hours total, 87 miles. Neither a fun nor a safe move. I'd make sure that you have the clothing or other protection so you aren't forced into making bad decisions by creatures that are one billionth your size.
SPARES If you are always close to land, and usually close to civilization, I wouldn't go overboard with spares. The most likely thing to break on your rig is the oarlock, usually from hitting something, so you might want to rig an extra set ahead of time. I used to have a boat with two oarlocks next to each other on each side. They gave me a margin of safety, and also a different rowing position when the normal one got boring. I'd take a second set of oars, partly as spares but also for different conditions. You will be much more comfortable rowing with longer oars downwind and shorter oars upwind (see OWR Issues 4 and 5 on choosing oar lengths); a small difference in length can make a big difference in comfort. Also for a trip the length of yours it really pays to balance your oars, both pairs (see OWR Issue 19).
I usually put lashings or lanyards on everything, including the oars I'm using. I've never capsized while row cruising, but I can remember many times splashing around for gear after capsizing a sailboat, and losing some of it.
For safety, you might consider getting some canoe flotation bags and lashing them into the Skua to make her self-rescuable. It's all very well if she has enough flotation that she won't sink, but that doesn't help much if you capsize a mile or two from land and there's no way to get the water out of her. I used to have a Sockeye, another of the Middle Path boats, very like Skua, and when rowing in the winter or offshore I'd lash in a bow, a stern, and a midships bag to give her hundreds of pounds of buoyancy. The Skua is a great boat, but with her deep fine forefoot, she can have a tendency to broach riding down steep following seas. If you do get a strong NE'er, load the boat down in the stern a bit to help prevent this.
FOOD AND WATER Everyone has his or her own preferences here. All I can say is that I find a stove on board a real menace and inconvenience and try not to take any food I can't eat cold. Also, make sure you carry enough water for sponge bathing as well as drinking. You can wash your hands, face, the rest of your body in salt water if you use dishwashing liquid for soap, but it sure is good to sponge the salt off with fresh water afterwards.
SANITY The horse is probably out on the barn on that one. Who in his right mind would row 400 miles at 3 miles per hour when God has given us the automobile? As for entertainment, I find that there is a lot of wool out there. The longer I'm rowing, the more I gather. Keep a notebook and pen handy, and you'll find that your collected thoughts have redesigned your life after two weeks of rowing. If you need third-party entertainment, you might take some books on tape. Just don't take anything like Moby Dick that is going to produce marine anxiety.
NAT STONE You can reach Nat at email@example.com from time to time. His web site is www.hometown.aol.com/rowingthecircle.
Enough for now. If I can help with other specific questions, by all means.
-- David Stookey (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 20, 2000.
Andy: If you're absolutely committed to rowing 400 miles in two weeks, I salute you. But I have to wonder if you would not actually have a more rewarding experience if you pleanned a less demanding schedule/route and allowed yourself more time to explore and absorb the surroundings. The section from Marco Island to Everglades City alone, including the Ten Thousand Islands and "Wilderness Waterway" offers years of exploration potential. (I have the charts and have wanted to cruise there in a small boat for years, but I live on the west coast, so ...) I'm going to the Sea of Cortez off Baja California, Mexico for a 1-week beach-cruising trip also this spring, but I'll probably only do as many miles all week as you plan for a single day. I plan to swim and fish, prepare some good meals, look for whales, and avoid the mid-day sun
-- kim apel (email@example.com), March 06, 2000.
Andy: If you're absolutely committed to rowing 400 miles in two weeks, I salute you. But I have to wonder if you would not actually have a more rewarding experience if you pleanned a less demanding schedule/route and allowed yourself more time to explore and absorb the surroundings. The section from Marco Island to Everglades City alone, including the Ten Thousand Islands and "Wilderness Waterway" offers years of exploration potential. (I have the charts and have wanted to cruise there in a small boat for years, but I live on the west coast, so ...) I'm going to the Sea of Cortez off Baja California, Mexico for a 1-week rowing-cruise trip, also this spring, but I'll probably only do as many miles all week as you plan for a single day. I plan to swim and fish, prepare some good meals, look for whales, and avoid the mid-day sun. This may be too far the other way for your taste, but there's plenty of middle ground. Please let me know how it goes for you, and I'll send you a report from my outing.
-- kim apel (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 06, 2000.
More power to you Andy. David knows a lot about cruising the row boats and I learn something new every time we talk. I too am planning a cruise this summer to Sail 2000 Boston Harbor, wife permiting. In my short rows I remember this. It is easier to be forgiven than it is to get permision. It works on a small scale only. I will leave Brewster and look foward to spend time on the Brewster Islands with the rowing club from Hull. I will sail part way when I can and row when needed. I have plenty of room in the banks dory to sleep. My advise would be the same as Daves but remind you again to keep your butt clean. Chafes on the back of your legs and a "rowers butt" plaged me in the Blackburn in 1997. Build a training program to harden your body then back down a little before you go. Plan your course with alternate plans as needed. Stick to your plans. Be confident. Find time to enjoy the trip and don't make it chore. Accept meals from rich people. Share your experience with others and just have fun.
-- Peter Corbett (email@example.com), March 09, 2000.
I want to thank everybody who responded for taking the time and for giving advice that has so far proved extremely sound. I have made many modifications to my plans and boat based on the advice each of you has given me and the others who have posted questions.
While I won't go into all of the changes you have inspired, I will say that I am now planning to do start with a three day practice row which will hopefully cover the first 90 miles of my trip. After that, I should have a better idea of what I am getting into, as well as have reduced the number of miles on my two-week trip to a more reasonable 20-25 miles per day.
This makes very good sense since April - May in S. Florida has erratic weather. Winds are still changing and can be calm or blow as high as 20 knts across Florida Bay and daytime highs can be comfortable or go into the very humid 90s.
Based on your advice, I have decided it would be a frustrating mistake to count on those miles every day or risk not finishing the trip. If I am able to row more than that, I will slow down and enjoy the towns and beaches ala Nat Stone.
Thanks for all of the help
-- Andy Sears (FSEARS@MINDSPRING.COM), March 12, 2000.
Andy, the last couple of issues of MESSING ABOUT IN BOATS have had a continuing article of a man sailing a small boat on an extended trip down there: might have soem good tips for you. Best of luck, Ed
-- Edward Brown (Edscull@aol.com), March 15, 2000.
Hi Andy I would like to mention something different, be tough! It is more important than any gear, or boat, etc... Man vs. nature often requires this. When the wind is howling and the waves are steep, and you don't think you can make it, you must dig down deep and find courage, and strength. Go for it brother, and make it happen! David Be
-- David Bean (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 19, 2000.
I was anchored in a 30 foot sailboat off Everglades City and when the sun went down it was impossible to stay on deck. Flying critters of every size and shape attacked. I dove into the aft cabin in time. My shipmates in the forward cabin were eaten alive. Their bunks were covered in blood in the morning since the beasties got down the dorade vents. I would bring lots of insect repellant and some mosquitto netting. These guys could ruin your trip. And most important, don't rush and enjoy. You are not trying to set a world record. Have fun. Ed
-- Ed Rogers (email@example.com), December 10, 2000.
Andy, April is also a time of the last cold fronts coming out of the northwest ,sometimes they come in very strong with warming waters mixing with cool air so on your row south be aware of the shoreline and its access. If you make it to Litt;le Torch Key 20 miles from Marathon give us a yell. John D
-- John Duke (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 07, 2001.