June 17, 2011 posted by

Solo Across The Atlantic

Very busy week for me, with Beachbody’s annual Summit happening, but I wanted to get a psyche post up regardless. Seems like a good week for an adventure that’s the antithesis of social festivities here in LA; a solo row boat crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. I happened upon this blog while following my friend Russ, who’s doing the Tour Divide this year. I’ll have more on that “race” later but, today, check out an experience of being alone with a boat, some oars, and whatever marine creatures decide to make friends with you for a few months. Here are a few highlights from Paul Attalla’s “life changing” journey.

December 4 2007
And the race begins. The Spirit of Fernie is complete. Thank you so much to Andy the German boatbuilder and his countless hours completing the finishing touches, Brett, Sean and Mike for all of the final errands and fixing up touches, and to the Richard and Bette for a wonderful post meal ´Pallea¨, champagne, salad and cake and Nic and the girls for decorating my cabin so beautifully with finger paint and glitter glue. Puppy and I will be very cozy. We had a lovely sticker posting party to place all of my guestbook entries onto the boat. The hardest thing I´ve ever done. An extremely emotional morning but thanks to Joy´s fantastic 2 year old inquisitiveness she brought tears of laughter to the morning with her comments. Daddy where you pee pee?

December 8 2007
Paul phoned home on his satellite phone. He has had a tough week at sea. He has been very nauseated but this is improving. The waves and wind have made living difficult. It’s been too rough to light the stove and water making is difficult also. We could hear the waves splashing over the boat. Paul said “this is not about a race this is about survival”but followed this up with “how many are behind me”. Dolphins are following along and a sea turtle has taken a liking to his cleaning brush.

December 13 2007
I can’t explain how hard it is to try and repair the leak. I have to shift my gear constantly to get into tiny compartments. Today I heard what sounded like plastic bags popping while on the phone with Nic. At first I thought it was dolphins but I had to go and check to make sure it wasn’t something on the boat. To my surprise what I found was …

December 14 2007
I look at my “seame” light and it is blinking fast which means something is very near. I turn around and see this ship bearing down on me fast. I freak out and spring into action. The ship is going to hit me 1 – 2 minutes – it is coming directly at me. I leap into my cabin grab the radio and attempt to make contact while getting a flare ready with the other hand. I drop the radio thinking that they would not be able to avoid me even if they tried put my life jacket around my neck , free my life raft and grab bag and shot the flare AT the ship.

December 20 2007
I’ve had a terrible 24 hour period with very rare west west north west winds- watching hard earned miles slip by. The chances of getting wind in that direction at 20-knots for this month of the year is very rare. I had to use my para-anchor which is the equivalent of an underwater parachute 6 feet by 6 feet. It is attached to 50 metres of line with a separate 80 metre floating TRIP LINE. ROPE CITY. If you screw-up the deployment of the para-anchor bad things can happen. It is a scary and very powerful piece of gear. I hope I do not have use too many more times.

I miss my family very much and the bad weather luck for some reason has highlighted loneliness. I gave my self a classic Paul Attalla pep talk this am ” Come on you have this rare opportunity in front of you, it will not always go your way, you have to flow with the circumstances, it is easy to be calm and cool and happy when things are going well but it how we take on the bad times that define our grit and strength, you can not change the weather, worry about things that you can change like your attitude; Missing the family is a fact of the race. It is only threeish months from many years of togetherness”.

December 21 2007
Today I saw my first pod of pilot whales. I had no idea some of them could be so huge, up to 20 ft. Yesterday I was in 6-8 metre swell, talk about adventure. I felt under the weather yesterday after eating some curry chicken but it seems to have passed. I look forward to opening my daily supplies. I get really excited if there are wine gums, sweet and sour chicken and chicken noodle soup. I am rowing as hard as I can. I figure if I keep this pace I will have only 40-50 more days at sea.

December 22 2007
I awoke this morning to the sounds of dolphins playing, squealing and shooting water out of their blowholes. Joy would love it!

January 3 2008
I am making some good distance today, but a storm and I mean a storm has set in. It is so rough I tipped sideways and it took about 5 seconds to self-right. I am happy I have the boat that I do. It is so rough I had to put out my drogue. It was very scary attaching the lines out of my hatch. I had to go over it in my head 5-6 times of how I would so quickly open my hatch, leash up, get on the deck, set it up and then get back inside my cabin again, so not to be bombarded by a wave. It happened anyways, huge soaker but I was alright and made it back in. A stormy night and some seasickness is inevitable. The blood is rushing now and adrenalin firing for sure!

January 5 2008
This will be the second time I was attempting to go underneath and have a look at the growth underneath, and the hole (it’s getting worse again). I am not kidding when I say I had my mask and snorkel on and was nearing the edge to jump in, and suddenly I saw a flock of seagulls. So, I stopped to admire them ( don’t see them often all the way out here) and they flew right down to the water just above a sharks dorsal fin. The shark then swam up to the boat and under my paddle then disappeared. I am not sure how big it was as it all happened fast. I was taken back at how big the tail was and by the girth.

January 21 2008
A rough day today as I woke up and cut my heel on a hose clamp (bad spot to have it) and was bitten by a school of fish under my boat. I guess it serves me right for throwing my leftover meal overboard, but it hurt and I have two puncture marks to show. I paddled hard sideways all day and was soaked by big waves as I struggled NOT to go to Brazil (no offense Thays – Terry my locum’s wife), I’m sure it is beautiful. As a result my bottom is extremely sore from the gritty salt chafing.

January 28, 2008
Complete magic today as a pod of 50+ dolphins splashed and played all around me. They would jump 3-4 at a time in unison. Some had black spots on them. It was so beautiful. I have not seen them for over a month and this many at once was awesome!

February 7 2008
The last two days have been the most memorable of the journey so far.
Yesterday it was a whale, and today it was large swell in the morning. As
the sun was rising so was the wind and the swell with both moving West. The Spirit of Fernie was moving the fastest she has been. The swell was breaking but in such a way that the waves more or less crumbled from the top and flattened the sea…

February 9 2008
Today was a jackpot day! I owe it to BP (Brett Price) . After surviving 71 days without coffee, I found the only small packet on the boat of – liquid gold – COFFEE! I will treat myself tommorrow morning. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to sleep tonight I am so excited.

February 11 2008

Another night full of excitement as I was almost hit straight on by a Russian freighter. Once again I let the ship know that I was a VERY SMALL OCEAN ROW BOAT: only to hear their groggy replies ” clear the way”. Eventually they sensed my panic and WOKE UP!

The whale is still with me. It is quite shy but meanders back and forth between half a kilometre and 200 metres bobbing up and down behind the boat. Coincidentally or not, I have sad news that I have not seen Moby in about four days. My little buddy Chirp still visits 4-5 times a day and he/she always puts a smile on my face.

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