• Heather Taylor

Where to from here

It’s been a week since I’ve been back on land now. In some ways it feels like ages but I’m sure it will feel like a blink in time looking back.

The news first, it’s a no-go for another try this year. I’ve had a good chat with my weather router and while possible, it’s not very wise given the later start will put me further into the hurricane season. Moving at 0.6 kt on average, I wouldn’t be able to get out of the way one even if I had a 10-14 day head start.

Pacific Hurricane Tracks 1980 to 2005. Red line would be my path

Weather windows are also becoming further apart and shorter which would mean getting off the coast again would be harder. So that’s one decision made which has taken the pressure off doing a quick turn around with power repairs and psyching myself up for another run out on the ocean.

It’s a funny thing to be in the same position I would have been if the boat had never been able to be launched a few weeks ago. I’m left with most of the same decisions I would have had then, but not the same sense of unfinished work nor the almost definitive knowledge that I’d be back in 2021 to do what I never got to.

On the whole, I’m doing well. I’m not devastated to have had to stop and haven’t even been that sad. I knew it was a solid possibility. There’s a reason only 5 of 17+ soloist have succeeded on the route, and it’s not because they stopped trying out there. You can check everything, have contingencies, be in the best shape you can possibly be and it still might not work out.

I had a good experience, nothing bad or traumatic. I don’t feel a sense of failure or ache to finish it in order to move on. I remember speaking to another rower last year who made it five days into the Atlantic race when her and her teammate pulled out with a technical failure. I asked her if she was going to try again and she said no. She’d had the boat for three years doing prep and while only 5 days, it was a fantastic experience being out on the ocean. She was getting married in a couple months and wanted to do other things. At the time I didn’t understand as I thought surely you’d want to finish what you started and worked so hard for.

But I get it now. I was actually thinking about this the day I turned back as I was rowing in the late afternoon with the sun on an angle and the colours beginning to pick up. If this was all I got, I’m ok with that. Yes I could do it for another 50 days, but apart from rowing into Hawaii and having that moment of finishing, I didn’t feel I had missed out on much of the experience.

And I’ll admit part of me wasn’t super excited about that part either, arriving in Hawaii. It was looking like no one I knew was going to be able to come with all the travel bans, quarantines and flight cancellations. There would have been a bit of a thrill with those there cheering - I now know Angela and Debra would’ve come out to see me in - but it would have been a bit bittersweet recuperating and packing up the boat by myself.

So while I don’t need to try again next year for a sense of accomplishment or to not regret things in years to come, I am left with the fall out of having not done it this year. I’m currently looking at a mini mountain of food in my living room; there’s a boat in the driveway that I need to figure out what to do with; and at some point, I need to answer the question of whether to try again next year.

This is what I was dreading most as I was rowing east. Not the lack of achievement based on the work I’d put in, but the decisions and the work could that lie ahead. I know what it’s cost to get this far. I wilted inside at thought of investing another year of my life. I am in a much better position than I was a year ago. I’ve got all the equipment and non-perishable supplies sorted, but the time and energy to train and keep everything ticking along for another year can’t be avoided.

This feeling has probably lessened a little bit over the last few days as I haven’t ruled out another try which makes some decisions straight forward. The boat stays here but I now need to find a place to keep it and any supplies. If anyone knows of an 8 x 2.5 meter indoor space somewhere in California or Oregon that I could keep a boat for 10 months, let me know!

I need to sort the power system repairs regardless and have been chipped away at this over the last week. I haven’t much luck with a marine electrician, but a very kind home solar man stopped by on his way home from work and had a look over things. The problem is thankfully quite isolated to the wire where the water ran down and solar charge controller. There is a solar cell protector that sits along on the wire. This is what it looks like now.

I cracked open the one sitting right next to it and it is in pristine condition. Given I was still able to get a charge reading with the multi-meter when I was investigating, the corrosion had to have happened in the last 10 days as I’m not sure how this could have been working otherwise. It is comforting to know the electrical issues most likely didn't exist before I started, and that I couldn’t have caught the sealant issue without using a pressure hose (which I didn’t have access to).

So what happens now. The short-term plan is to learn a new trade and fix up the electrical issues myself. Seems to be fairly straight forward and I know what I need to get now. Sort through the food to separate the things that will last a year. Find a storage spot for the boat and supplies. Then slowly eat all the food that won’t last. I’ve got two and half months until I start my uni studies, which are looking quite likely to be remote. So I’m planning to do a little road trip in the US to enjoy summer - and then decide where to be (and where I can get to) after that.

The long-term plan isn’t as decided yet. I can row next year, but I haven’t committed to doing it yet. If I do go again, it would be some time in May next year most likely from Monterey. Not sure when I’ll decide as I’ve got some time and no one knows what a year can bring!

As always, stay tuned cause I too have no idea what will happen next!

Little bit of Long Beach ;)