Click here for part 1

Spag Bog at 4AM anyone?

Ever since the labels floated off the tinned food on the family boat one holiday, spaghetti bolognese has been known in my family, as spag bog. That’s what dad wrote (with a grin) on the tin before the next batch went into the bilge and we avoided another summer holiday of mystery meals.

I demolished the 1,000 calorie bag of spag bog before sunrise, like it was perfectly normal to eat:

  1. 1,000 calories in one go and add 200 more calories in olive oil
  2. spaghetti bolognese at 4AM.

The nausea was gone and Thursday was a new day. I was off to the islands!

I rowed steadily for a couple of hours listening to the audio book ‘What Happened?’ written and read by Hilary Clinton, which I renamed ‘What the F*** Happened?’

After 3 hours I took a nap, knowing that in doing so I was pushing myself up against the 3PM deadline when the wind was forecast to pick up. In all probability, the wind would arrive early and if I didn’t get a move on, it would arrive before I reached SE Farallon.

The breeze arrived at 1PM. I dug in. 4.99, 3.98, 3.5 miles I watched the GPS as I rowed. I was determined to reach the mooring ball and wave to the 5 scientists living on the island.

Off in the distance I noticed a sailboat making a beeline for me. ‘I should probably change my top.’ I said to myself as the yacht grew closer. The crew were bound to take photographs.

It’s a challenge eating spag bog out of a bag, in the dark, on a boppy vessel and I noticed mid-morning that I hadn’t been entirely successful in my hand-to-mouth coordination. There was a red streak of bog down my new and much-loved UnderArmour sun shirt. Red on white. Joy.

The spag bog that ruined my shirt!

The sailboat turned out to be the Jeanneau 49 Galen Diana, which was sailing along under the single-handed helm of Captain Rod. We exchanged waves and then words over the radio. ‘I aim to push on to the islands,’ I explained. ‘No rush,’ Rod said. So the Galen Diana cruised away towards North Farallon and I wrestled on.

It occurred to me somewhere along the line that if the Galen Diana was sailing merrily, I might be wrestling into more wind than I realised. I had skipped my 9am break and was starting to feel fatigued.

You could get a tow back! The idea was tempting, tantalising even. We had made no arrangement to meet offshore.

When the Galen Diana flew by me once again, I was 3.02 miles from SE Farallon. My adductor muscles on the inside of both thighs were now in full blown what-have-you-done-to-us, we-hate-you mode and hurting a lot.

“How much wind do you have?” I asked Rod over the radio. Progress was meagre, effort maximum.

“18-20 knots.”

And with that information my resolve was gone. Lunch!

Chilli con carne was on the menu du jour, again laced with olive oil. Alas, the chilli contained so many red beans that later I renamed it Chilli con diablo (chilli with the devil) and declared it EVIL.

Rowing on a sliding seat, with abs engaged, there really is no escape for trapped gas. You have to lean to one side to release the pressure cooker. I was quite relieved when all beans had made their southbound transit and that’s all I am going to say about that!

I needed to nap, badly.

Rod seemed content sailing the Galen Diana around and didn’t say when he planned to head back in.

I tried to nap. On an ocean rowboat you can’t lie like a plank on your front or back, because your hips jostle from side to side so much it’s impossible to sleep. When I rowed the Atlantic I called it “triangulating.” In order to sleep, you need to triangulate – new verb. This involves (if lying face down), one knee out to one side and the opposite elbow triangulated around the head. But on this occasion, my adductor muscles were having none of this. Inside my cabin, I yelped and moaned until finally my adductors calmed down and sleep was imminent.

“Is there anyone onboard?”

“There doesn’t seem to be anyone onboard.”

I crawled to the hatch edge and saw a fishing boat less than 50 feet away. One guy was on deck, his eyes wide with excitement – probably at the idea of salvaging my boat.

“All good!” I shouted waving them away, wary of showing my face for too long – a woman, alone. Thankfully it was daylight and close to shore.

Back on the oars, Hillary and I got settled in for the late afternoon shift. The Galen Diana hung out and was, unexpectedly, good company. Rod sailed his boat, I rowed mine, we were doing our own thing enjoying the ocean.


“At the moment you’re heading towards Pacifica,” Rod radioed

I think my original thought was to doze /rest during the afternoon and into the early part of the night – in the shipping lanes admittedly – but during daylight, then make a move as soon as the wind switched off after sunset and head in on the first favourable tide.

But with the Galen Diana around, I was now rowing hard towards Bolinas. Maybe I thought it would be rude to sleep when Rod had been so kind to come out. After a couple of hours rowing with a strong cross wind, I could see that it was going to take hours to cross the traffic separation circle. 10 to be precise.

“I don’t have it in me to row non-stop for the next 10 hours,” I told Rod. The idea of a tow was again, tantalising.

“What’s your plan? Do you want a tow?”

I thought about it. It would have been so easy… but unsatisfying.

“I want to spend the night out here.”

“I think you should,” Rod said.

“You’re welcome to head in?” I offered.

“I am actually just making a meal.” Dinner! A meal seemed like a fine idea.

I set to work boiling water to liquify my 1,000 calorie bag of Porridge with sultanas. As I waited for the slop to cool down, I saw the pilot boat go out. Uh-oh I thought. I had drifted out of the central reservation and into the inbound traffic lane. It was time to row.

I wanted to clear the invisible demarkation of the lane before the inbound vessel, Pilot vessel and the lady on Traffic Channel VHF 14 started freaking out.

Too late!

Galen Diana, Galen, Diana, this is Traffic.”

“This is the Galen Diana, go ahead.”

“Are you with Rowboat?”

When it came to programming my AIS transmitter, I did something very clever. Since the sole purpose of AIS is to communicate to ships, you boat’s direction, speed etc and since as a slow-moving human-powered craft, I am very real and very potential roadkill, broadcasting loud and clear that I am a ROWBOAT seemed like a fine idea. Rowboat is not my boat’s name, but it is on AIS!

While Rod kindly communicated with Traffic lady, the captain of the vessel Diego whatsisname and kept everyone happy, I got some speed up and high-tailed like a hedgehog on the freeway.

Once outside the shipping lane, I crawled back inside my wearable hug – my nickname for my Ocean Sleepwear GoreTex waterproof wonder bag, the sleeping bag of sleeping bags for boats.

The Galen Diana is near, you can rest, I said to myself. But when my alarm went off and I popped my head out for a horizon check, the Galen Diana was nowhere to be seen! Perhaps she had gone back to SF.

At the next alarm, I saw the GD close by. And so we danced through the night. The sailboat and the rowboat, drifting, sleeping, rolling with the sleepy swell. I just hoped we didn’t hit each other.

Click here for Part 3.

Be a Believer.