FatChanceRow Update July 22

Discount beer and whack-a-mole --- observations from my summer Office

I've been busy at the office, that is, the rowing seat (picture) for the last few days. I'm taking a break and trying to get some serious sleep, but before Zzzzz, a few recent observation from behind the desk.

-- Naked lady in my rear view mirror Before we launched off, many asked about the rear view mirror on top of our wind vane. "What do you need that for? I guess rowers have back towards where you're going". I wasn't sure either. I mean there's ZERO traffic in the middle of the Pacific. Now the mirror has become my secret daily inspiration. Weather has gotten warmer, and warmer, and Meredith has started rowing totally naked (position 2, just behind my seat). Salty water has made the mirror almost useless, but it's enough to get a view of my hot wife rowing naked. Little is needed to cheer me up, although, she is hot. I'm a lucky man.

-- Ocean is boring if you look for the pink unicorn - so is life We start most of our days by asking each other: do you think today we'll see the whale(s) jumping!? It could be today, it's looking a bit (sunny/rainy/windy/clear/gray...). The truth is, 34 days offshore, and we've seen next to nothing special. The same day in, day out, no dolphins, no groups of whales or great whites circling around the boat. Only one flock of cool flying fish speeding by us (and a few on deck each night/morning). I honestly expected more spectacles, big stuff, killer whale eating a great white. I did. Yet....every moment is so special and unique. Ocean changes every second, new waves, new clouds (we've seen most animal figures by now, giraffe included), cooling storms with a rain (this am!), a little ocean turtle, scary mr flusher waves, stunning colors, sunsets, silence, wind and freedom. It's funny how so many of our experiences and observations come back to everyday life at home. It's up to me (and you) to chase the pink unicorn and fly by every day without noticing anything, or find excitement from every moment and experience, all of which are unique and priceless in some way.

-- Discount beer (Finnish: Siwan kassista bissea) I like to think that my home is where my (laptop)bag and Meredith are and that by now (almost 11 years of living in the U.S.) I'm about as American, Finnish or just a person of the world. But as I was fighting fatigue in the oars and listening to my last working iPod (I brought 4 just in case!) and random songs, as well as audio books, I noticed how some of the songs hit so hard and deep. I almost cried. I'm talking about old Finnish rock/pop (for Finns: Popeda, etc) . That's the stuff I was listening when I was 16, 17.... And drinking discount beer from a plastic bag and dreaming about the future with a few friends. The same thing when listening to the audio book "tuntematon sotilas", World war time story abt Finnish soldiers defending the country ... Brought all the memories from my own military service, especially SissiRUK 1995. It surprised me how deep these early formational experiences run in my mind and body. All good ... Yet, I don't miss that beer at all, as golden as those memories are!

-- Nightly game of whack-a-mole I'd say 00am-4am is when we both try to get deep, uninterrupted, solid, deep sleep. I'm a pretty good sleeper (anytime, anywhere, immediately), but Meredith's sleep and sleep routine is more like the story of a princess who could feel a pea through hundred mattresses. She wakes up for any unexpected noise (waves crashing are by now part of the white noise in the background). Last several nights, especially 00am-4am have turned into a game of whack-a-mole. First it was the radar detector beeping, then a random clicking noise that I found to be my fishing kit and a plastic lure clicking against the plastic container. I figured it by 6am. Last night a new one, she first eliminated a dozen sound sources until I found out that it was actually her Suunto Ambit smart watch (btw awesome watch!) at her rowing position, the titanium frame hitting the carbon hull of the boat when a wave hit the side. And as anyone owning a carbon bike frame knows, the sound travels and echos well! That was 2am-5am. I've come to like this game, but can't say that aloud. Meredith's at a breaking point...

Many more observations, but got to rest now. My body is holding well, no more lower back issues either, after I cut my cushions half and came down 2 inches from the double decker sandwich seat.

Lastly, we don't read each other's posts (and can't access internet, as we post via email only), but Meredith told she's embarrassing me by sharing some of my "golden rules of traveling - row boat edition". So here's one, rule #535: always fill your water bottles and gut when you can, not when you have to. (For reference, the non-boat counterpart traveling rule is "always pee when you can, not when you have to")

PS Thx again for all support, letters and comments. They're our every day treat. Many of you we've never met, but feel like we have made distant new friends. I could mention many, but one of my favorites is Fred from Oakland (77yr). Thanks Fred for the thoughtful emails!

FatChanceRow Update July 19

This morning (July 18) we witnessed the most amazing sunrise, with red and gold light creeping up over the horizon to reflect on meandering clouds which had broken off from the total cloud cover we've been experiencing for the last month. We gazed and commented to each other how unbelievable it is that this is only the second visible sunrise for us in the last 30 days. It was worth the wait. The break in the cloud cover also means that we can see the stars at night, but saying 'see the stars' doesn't quite do the experience justice. Both Sami and I come from extremely rural areas, in my case, my childhood home was close to a mile from the next house and the entire area was covered in thick, dense forest- not exactly the type of place that has light pollution. I saw amazing night skies as a kid, but this sky is more expansive, more expressive. Standing on the boat at night can be extremely disorienting, without light you can't tell where the sea ends and the sky begins. Standing on the same boat, in the same seas, under a perfectly black sky lit with millions of bright stars is completely different. The sea shimmers grey and reflects some brighter stars and the half moon, every detail clearly visible, utterly magical. It's truly amazing to be out here experiencing that sky all alone, completely surrounded by it. I'll try to get a shot, but we just have the iPad, so we might not be able to capture it for you to see. As I made my way to the deck to do some 'business', I saw clearly that there was a small sailboat in the horizon, off not to far from us. 'Babe! There is a boat out here!' I shout, but as Sami opens the door (which we have now smartly covered with reflective, and privacy providing fabric) I had to shoo him back in. I had to go! Sami then ushered me off deck so he could take care of 'business' himself, and rushed inside as the boat was quite close, and getting closer! Since sailboats, like this one, don't always have radar, we had no idea it was there, though they clearly saw us. We turned on the radio to hear 'Roosevelt, Roosevelt' ....they were addressing us! I grabbed the VHF and answered, to which they responded 'happy birthday!'. No, I am not making this up. We then had some company for an hour or two as we rowed, then they were on their way. As strange as this sounds, it felt almost like an intrusion to us both. We were happy for the company, but we've gotten into our routines and solitude out here, and we know the experience is almost over, and we are totally immersed in it. On another note, we have had a bit of a relationship epiphany that those of you smarter than us will already know. Caffeine is the devil, and we hypothesize, the biggest risk to our marriage in the future. Both of us love coffee, I'm more habitual with it and relish a morning cup so much that I often travel with my own supplies tucked into my carry-on (so that there is less risk of being separated for them) so that I can have the perfect cup, no matter where I bunk. I've also forced Sami into late night quests to find supplies when we've been traveling in more rural areas that wouldn't have coffee available by our 5am wake up. I have started my day for the last 10+ years with one, if not two! delicious! steamy cups. Sami and I have had several arguments while under the influence over the years, mostly during early morning conversations and during runs, but still, we didn't recognize just how bad it is for our relationship. I gave up caffeine for the Everest marathon this year, just a couple weeks before the start of the row. I went through withdrawals while acclimatizing and thankfully, alone.We both have been getting along better on the boat than we have during our entire relationship, though one morning, after eating cacao nibs which contain caffeine, we fell into familiar territory of tense conversation, anxiety and sharpness. It was then we realized that it was the caffeine! I'm committed to not having it when we return, except on long run days :). Last, I thought I would start closing with one of Sami's soon be famous Rules For Travel (ocean rowboat edition), some of which are practical, others are laugh out loud funny, since the divorcometer is stuck and is offering no entertainment value any more. Sami's Golden Rule of Travel #537: always have three points of contact with the boat. Another fun fact: we had so little boat experience when we started rowing, that we had to label Port and Starboard so that we could communicate, here's the now faded label. Thanks for the bday wishes and the support!

FatChanceRow Update July 18

One picture, thousand words. That was yesterday, our Thursday July 17 and 30th day offshore. Winds miraculously died to zero, then blasted a bit from south back to San Francisco(??!) and almost all waves were gone while the gray, cloudy sky finally turned into blue with skin burning sunshine. The nasty, ruthless North Pacific turned into our own kiddy pool. We took several hours to clean our dirty boat and SWIM! I had to convince Meredith there are no sharks this far offshore before I was able to get her into the water. Needless to say, we didn't make stellar rowing progress forward by swimming and cleaning the house for so long today, but this change in weather and mental break got us smiling and rejuvenated.

And stars? Many have mentioned or asked about the night sky. I took a moment the night before during my night shift to just stare at the sky. I thought I've seen it all during my backcountry adventures, but with zero light pollution around the pacific 1000 miles offshore, I have to admit that until you see the clear sky and stars like that, you've never experienced stars before. Just amazing.

FatChanceRow Update July 18

One picture, thousand words. That was yesterday, our Thursday July 17 and 30th day offshore. Winds miraculously died to zero, then blasted a bit from south back to San Francisco(??!) and almost all waves were gone while the gray, cloudy sky finally turned into blue with skin burning sunshine. The nasty, ruthless North Pacific turned into our own kiddy pool. We took several hours to clean our dirty boat and SWIM! I had to convince Meredith there are no sharks this far offshore before I was able to kick her into the water. Needless to say, we didn't make stellar rowing progress forward by swimming and cleaning the house for so long today, but this change in weather and mental break got us smiling and rejuvenated.

And stars? Many have mentioned or asked about the night sky. I took a moment the night before during my night shift to just stare at the sky. I thought I've seen it all during my backcountry adventures, but with zero light pollution around the pacific 1000 miles offshore, I have to admit that until you see the clear sky and stars like that, you've never experienced stars before. Just amazing.

FatChanceRow Update July 16

Well, today I got the best birthday presents ever! Not only did we just cross the 1000 mile (to go) mark, but we also crossed 140 degrees west, so we only have 17 left. We are celebrating between rowing blocks, every few hours Sami treats me to another surprise, songs sung by friends and birthday wishes he collected prior to our departure, raw treats and pictures of Teddy. It feels like we are beginning the (long) home stretch, a truly exciting feeling! More exciting than that is our upcoming cleaning day (tomorrow) in which I'm going to air out our mattress and sleepingbags, disinfect the cabin and wash my hair! I can't wait! The mattress is beginning to look like a monkey, as so much of my hair has whittled into the fabric. Not appealing at all. The weather continues to play against us, with zero wind, and any wind that does come, coming from the side, we are making a lot less progress than we'd like, but you can't control these things, so we continue to focus on what we are putting in, not what we are getting out (I guess that applies to everything but the bathroom, we are very focused on outcomes on that front). The skies and sea are beautiful in this weather, one light and the other dark sapphire blue that glitters under the oars and in a trail where the boat has traveled. Occasionally a stormy cloud will pass overhead and the winds will suddenly pick up while we are beneath it, these moments are bliss as the days are increasingly hot and sweaty. Several birds show up each day and we search for them if we haven't seen them by the afternoon. One, a giant brown bird with racing stripes on the wings, has a wing span we think might be 5-6ft. He moves like a fighter pilot and we don't invite him to the boat. We also saw what we thought were hummingbirds...turns out that they were flying fish! Every day now I'm on the defense for the little ones, who like to fly straight at me! I scream and duck if they make it over the deck, which always makes Sami panic. Much time is spent hypothesizing about what a certain friend or relative is doing at the moment, and with each day more detail is added to the description. We are dedicated to our new plan, which includes more time on the oars for the remainder of days, even still, I think we might make markedly less progress for the foreseeable future. We don't fantasize about the finish, but celebrate each days completion, and they pass so fast now. It feels as though (I at least) am walking a fine line between up and down now that we are in our 5th week out here. I've had more moments of missing friends, especially after reading notes or hearing their voices than during the first few weeks. More often than not, for both of us, reading the daily mail ends with tears and silent introspection. We chat about more personal and serious issues and these discussions are punctuated by periods of silence or with us listening to our own music or books. We are not annoyed with each other, but are giving each other the space to overcome the little mental battles- fatigue, loneliness, pain. Health wise, I'm feeling like a stronger rower, with much less pain in my joints and hands, but I'm certainly getting warn down and have had more days that im sick. Sami's back is definitely a concern now and he's stretching it a lot more. I'm hoping he's not in too much pain, I don't think he tells me how bad it is. Hope you all are enjoying the summer and the nice weather! Here's a pic of me as I listen to the birthday messages and eat a raw almond treat.

FatChanceRow Update July 13

Good day friends and followers! Today, just 2.1 days before my birthday, we are full of good spirits and good news. You may have noticed that our speed has picked up nicely in the last 24 hours and be thinking we finally made it to the trade winds. If you thought that, you would be wrong. While it's true that we are in position to take advantage of the trades, a weather systems has dropped the winds to low single digits. It's nice to row in, but it's not helping us any. What has changed is this: as promised, mr fixit went to work on our broken electronics yesterday. It seems that it wasn't faulty wiring causing the problems as we expected, but the GPS. We came close to never knowing this, as Sami nearly gave up after spending two hours in the cabin. After thinking we had tried every possible combination, he went back to try removing the GPS and switching sockets, and by god, it worked! Now we don't have GPS (not that we have for the last two weeks) but more importantly, Arnold, the auto-pilot, is back in action! Now, This May seem like a small luxury to you, but let me tell you, trying to get this boat steadily in the right direction without an auto helm or foot steering is nearly impossible, and we have spent a lot of time rowing in the wrong direction (or not exactly the right one) because of it. Our manual system is comprised of strings tied to the rudder arm which we pull one way or another to turn the boat. To make an adjustment you need to secure your oars and several adjustment are necessary every hour. Needless to say, it gets annoying and occupies a lot of your thoughts. I was so happy when Sami yelled for me to try it, and he started steering us right away, that I literally cried. I'm not kidding, I have never before been that happy. So, Arnold is part of the team again and doing a fine job. The other thing that happened is that Sami and I came up with our finishing goal. We always planned on making our final goal a month or so into the trip, once our bodies had adjusted and we had a good idea of what might be possible. Our bodies are seemingly getting used to the punishment, I am on my second day without pain killers and Sami hasn't yet started on them. It a little early to share the details with you, but let's just say we are putting the hammer down now :). Fun! Last but not least, Sami managed to get me to put a shirt on and take off my Michael Jackson sun-protection costume for long enough to snap this shot. As you can see, I'm basking in the knowledge that Arnold is back on the job and that we can rely on him to take us to the promised land, that is, Hawaii.

FatChanceRow Update July 11

Happy rowing day 24 and birthday countdown day 5! I'll try to answer some of your questions today as I sit in a cabin that is barely moving! That's right- the wind and waves have virtually disappeared and we have just been able to row (and row, and row). Now that we feel like we are In a groove and (hopefully) near the tradewinds, I am starting to feel like I need to really be present and absorb every moment, whether it's good, painful or boring because it will be over before we know it. Sounds strange to most of you, I'm sure, but one of the reasons I was excited about this challenge is that I'm forced to just be cool with where I'm at, and the fact that I'm going to be here for a while. I figure that if I can master this environment, sf should be a piece of cake. I am at peace with life here but it's easy to think about home or the finish when you aren't focused on each wave. That said, we have been planning our reunion with Teddy and with our good friends, who we miss dearly, with play-by-play detail. I also get particularly excited about chatting with people and take every opportunity to engage with other boats on the radio, they, however, seem not to be as lonely as me. Today was hot and we dangled our legs over the edge of the deck during each break. We poured water on our heads and shirts every so often in order to keep cool on the oars. Evening offered respite from the heat, as we hit our milage minimum, the clouds grew dark and it began to rain. Soon we were complaining how cold we were! Though we don't seem to be dropping tons of weight, our bodies are definitely feeling the wear and tear. I'm having issues with my shoulder now, but I can still pull. Sami has felt a few twinges in his back but is monitoring it closely. Overall though, we both feel pretty great- certainly better than we have after some stage races! We really don't fantasize about food, which we usually do on longer workouts. We have been on a four hour ride and already would be talking about what we will eat at home by the second hour. Out here, neither of us is too hungry, and rather than trading and negotiating for each others food, like we're were in the beginning, we are trying to get the other person to eat our treats. I uncovered a valuable stash of pecan butter packets in my food locker last week and rather than using it as currency, I try to get Sami to take them here and there. He has also given me some of the most precious items on board, a block of cheese, extra apple chips, and other items :). One of the images below is the electric panel which is virtually useless at this point. Mr fix-it is going to try to get our auto pilot working in a couple of days. Pray for his safety ;). The battery monitors are showing info, but it's incorrect. Our small battery monitor shows 87 amp hrs even though it's max charge is only 20. The other picture is Sami giving his wooly a pep talk...or was that a pet talk? Ok, something to make you laugh: I happened to look outside when Sami was doing clean-up (it's nearly impossible not to) just in time to see him standing with one arm on the rail and the other swinging shorts overhead like a lasso (sp?) and a look of glee. This, it seems, is his clean pants victory dance. It happens every day :), thank god. Divorcemeter zero.

FatChanceRow Update July 9

Today marks the start of our fourth week! Wow, neither of us feel like we've been doing battle out here for that long- at most it feels like a week or so. I guess Sami told you about our special day yesterday, with sun, little pleasures, and finally some sea life! We have seen things out here daily, but only once per week we will see something alive in the ocean. We see birds regularly and try to bribe them into landing on the boat, yesterday we got the closest to that happening, with a strange looking white bird with a black and yellow beak coming round repeatedly to stare at us. He left eventually even though we threw salmon and macadamia nuts off the boat close to him. We have seen automobile tires, normal on the top and Medusa like with growing sea life on the bottom, bottles, cigarette butts and other pieces of trash. A few days ago we saw what was either part of an airplane or a small boat floating by in the distance. I got extremely excited about this and jumped from my seat to track it. It was about as big as our boat and I really wanted to chase it down to see if there were dead bodies and treasure inside, Sami wouldn't have it though. In the last few days we have seen what appeared to be a banana and an orange peel, as well as a banana with some skin missing and a coffee cup. We're hypothesizing that there's a Mexican pleasure craft ahead of us, headed to Hawaii, with men in wife beaters and surfing shorts littering and drinking beer from a cooler on deck. There may be some ladies on board with big boobs wearing bikinis too. Blog posts have been sporadic because our wifi charger kicked the dust. Or rather, was smothered by the condensation that gathers in the cabin from our exhausted breath. You'd think this would depress Sami, but he became rather excited that he would finally have a chance to use the multimeter. He eagerly shared his fix plan with me over the morning hours, which I really did not want to hear. This is, after all, the same guy who 'fixed' our clothes dryer with a hanger a duct tape and then had a part left over. The end result of the dryer episode was that a professional had to be called in- I was expecting a similar outcome this time. By lunch Sami could no longer contain his excitement and excused himself off the oars to go fix the equipment. He emerged two hours later, gleeful with one finger wrapped tightly in electrical tape. "Oh no", I thought, as I has heard many beeps and noises from the cabin earlier, not to mention that two hours had passed. "I fixed it!", he exclaimed, "I think."He proceeded to tell me that when he took the charger apart, he found that the internal fuse was blown. He decided to bypass it with a safety pin (yep, really) and then had blown the fuse on the larger switchboard once he plugged that in...not to mention permanently destroying the charger. He did redeem himself though with a solution that worked, and we now have a fully charged wifi. This story is meant to warn that we may suddenly stop posting, but as long as the tracker is moving, don't worry! We are currently in what looks to be a four day pull to get to the beginning of the trade winds (at 25n and 135w). We have extremely light winds and waves and are going as long and hard as we can. I had been dreaming up a big challenge for my birthday, since a 35 mile run is out of the question, but I'm starting to realize that we just aren't capable of pulling longer and harder than we already are. We are absolutely beaten by the end of the day. Happy, but beaten :). As always, thanks for the emails and support. I read them out loud as we eat our lunch every day, then we discuss which ones had the most impact on us, and why. Divorcemeter, zero.

FatChanceRow Update July 08

Today we had our 21st day and third full week offshore. We haven't had any helicopter drops of soda, energy bars, sports drinks, gels or added sugar and still feeling good and rowing strong. For the much advertised electrolytes? I drink pure water and eat salty, real food. Meredith continues to impress me with her crazy strong work aka rowing ethic. We focus on being kind to each other and not set pressure for rowing hours or effort, but of course I'm trying to match hers to keep up!

My preparation for the morning shift was under an amazing sunrise (pic attached). We saw clear blue sky the first time for week(s) and knew we should make most out of it. It looked amazing and lifted up our spirits early on.

To celebrate our 3rd week and sunshine (plus the solar power we were able to use to produce more fresh water!) Meredith chose to wash her hair mid-day for the first time since our departure. Those of you who know her well, know that's no simple operation. She has enough curly hair for a few people. I don't know a single place at home or in our boat that wouldn't have at least two hairs hiding in there. Including my toothbrush. She was elated and giggly for the rest of the day after cleaning her curls. Now I have another tool in my back pocket when I have to make that woman happy...

My choice was to consider jumping into the Pacific and enjoy the 10,000ft+ deep pool for a brief "swim". Mid-afternoon we spotted 6 about 2m long fish following us just by our stern and maybe 2-8m underwater. Meredith was certain they were "most likely not sharks" and i was convinced they looked and moved like sharks. We couldn't find a consensus but I thought it might b her plan to get rid of the rowing partner for good. I waited until 7pm to build my courage and get rid of the "most likely not sharks" before soaping myself up, buckling into my harness and jumping into the Pacific. It was scary, refreshing and calming all at the same time. Seas are reasonably calm now, but 10knot winds and swells still mean that man-overboard likely means man gone forever so leaving the safety of Roosevelt isn't something we do lightly. My swim lasted about 30seconds but I did it (pic attached) and managed to slip back into our boat, fresh and salty. I also did a quick inspection of the bottom of our boat and luckily there's very little growth which would obviously require scraping it all off to reduce friction.

While we are both feeling strong, admittedly we are also starting to show (off) some wear and tear. I like to think I feel and look like a champion boxer every morning I wake up. Due to sun burns, my lips are swollen and glued together every morning, so that I have to saw them open with my tongue. My right thumb has been sandwiched between my oars and is swollen and when I squeeze it in the morning, dark blood comes out of the back-end of the nail. While my calve muscles have started to disappear, the fronts of my lower legs are growing and aching from the constant banging to my oars when uneven waves suddenly stop the oar stroke recovery. And my fists and fingers look more like German sausages every morning. Some healthy swelling indeed. Yet, I'm still 100% clear of any anti-inflammatories or pain killers.

Divorce-o-meter is still at ground zero. We are both surprised, but delighted!

PS we get all relevant comments and emails via www.fatchancerow.org and facebook as a consolidated text based email thanks to our tireless support crew. All those comments and even longer emails are hugely appreciated! However, PLEASE do not send direct email to our satellite mail systems even if you see the address as our bandwidth is soooo limited and we rely on the little data pipe for some very critical information flows like weather and storm warnings. All comments and feedback via our site etc is still hugely appreciated!

FatChanceRow Update July 05

July 4th went, we didn't blow up any of our flares or BBQ burgers on our gas stove. We did pump fresh water though; here's (the pic) Meredith at work, hand-pumping de-salinated water to have a liter (that's 1/4 of a gallon) for her Beauty shower while trying to preserve electricity by not using Mr Jeeves, the desalinator. She thinks it was a good arm workout, but not much water came out.

Speaking of Meredith, I'm now convinced women have an advanced sense of smell. Or maybe it only happens monthly, but it's one thing to smell I'm not exactly flower fresh (even after our deck "shower"), but she seems to smell my Parmesan cheese and nut butters through vacuum sealed packages too. Smell or magic, I can't explain.

July 4th, as well as several days before it, has been crunch time for us. Rowing, rowing and a bit more rowing. Steady pressure on oars and just hard work. We are working in direct side wind and trying to make maximum westerly progress. Tomorrow Monday we should cross 130 degrees west, which is a huge mental milestone and final goodbye to headwinds. At that point I should be able to make the first prediction about our Hawaii arrival date (in the absence of any major equipment or health failure....)

For those, like me, who have been inspired by Louis Zamperini, July 3rd was a sad day. He died at age 97. Louis' resilience, amazing survival story and athletic accomplishments have touched me deeply ever since I read Laura Hillebrand's book Unbroken. In fact, the entire Fat Chance Row project got its initial inspiration and idea from that very story. I've never met Mr. Zamperini, but I though of him and his life story all day while bouncing on the Pacific after I heard about him passing away. Rest in peace. I'm guessing thousands, if not millions of people have been inspired by that humble man and will carry his spirit on. I'd highly recommend Unbroken for anyone to read. (Don't worry, you will likely not want to row an ocean after the book,)

Back to oars.