The situation was worse than I thought. The retrieval line for the sea anchor must have got trapped under the parachute of the sea anchor.
Hand over hand, I began to haul in the deployment line. The line must have dragged along the sea bed as long centipede creatures (sea lice?) fell off the line and dropped into the boat.
It was still dark. I hooked the line around a cleat to ensure I didn’t get yanked overboard or lose line I had already retrieved. At times, the anchor would refill like an upside down umbrella some 100ft underwater. The boat would lurch sideways, knocking me off balance and the force of the lurch scared me – something I had not felt on this boat before.
Aware that the record clock was ticking, I gave the retrieval line a tug and with great relief the line was now free. I imagined the parachute collapsing like a cocktail umbrella, rising to the surface like a jellyfish.
We were off again!
The morning was tough going, upwind. Tide and current wanted to take me back to San Francisco. It was a force of will that got me to the position of Noonday Rock Light, by 09:19, only to find that the red buoy wasn’t there! Visibility was good. I was less than 100 ft from where the buoy was supposed to be, but the buoy was nowhere to be seen.
I laughed. I had to.
For the best part of a year the Farallons have been this siren song, a self-imposed assault course of failure, humiliation, physical and mental challenge. My effort to reach and round them has led to humility and learning across the board on every aspect from technical and nutrition to mindset. On the actual day, I rounded the islands in the fog and the final turning mark? Wasn’t even there.
I enjoyed the beautiful irony – a stark reminder that it’s not about the view from the summit, but the struggle of the climb. We are all climbing. We all strive to reach goals, self-imposed or set. And when we reach them? Does it really matter? Sometimes, but usually no.
I reset my focus: Home James and don’t spare the horses!
The flies I had picked up rowing close to SE Farallon were still onboard. In fact, two of them were getting along rather well – one kept mounting the other. Two copulating flies as shipmates. Just what every boat needs!
The wind was forecast to fill in from the NW and my concern was getting swept south of the gate. I considered spending the night outside the VTS (Vessel Traffic Separation zone), but there was daylight and conditions were favourable. I reached the edge of the zone and decided to commit.
For 8 hours on top of the 6 hours I had already rowed that morning, I ploughed my way across the VTS, past the San Francisco sea buoy. ‘Just one more hour Lia,’ the self persuasion began after sunset. ‘You can’t stop here. Another hour.’ My plan was to drop the sea anchor just north of the Potato Patch /Four-Fathom shoal. But by 11PM, I simply couldn’t row anymore. I negotiated with myself – once the Duxbury Reef green buoy was midships to starboard and the main ship channel entrance marker midships to port, I could throw out the sea anchor and sleep. Glorious sleep.
Four hours later I was off again to catch the inbound tide, huge container ships gliding by me in the dark.
Dawn broke as I neared the Golden Gate. I had every intention of shouting with jubilation as I rowed under the bridge, but as I threw open my arms and looked up, I spotted people who beat me to it! The workers on the scaffolding above, were cheering.
So all I could do was laugh.
The Guinness World Record Association rejected my application to classify the the F-Record as a new World Record. Statement:
We have looked at your proposal in detail but as you yourself mention it would be a first. A ‘first’ is not necessarily, in itself, a record — records have to be breakable, measurable and comparable, e.g. tallest, fastest, heaviest, etc., and tend to have arisen as a result of a great deal of interest and competition.
The F-Record has been elusive in every way. So it shall remain.