The Shoreseeker Challenge: Rowing Across the Mediterranean

the shoreseeker challenge barcelona sardinia mediterranean

The first time our rowboat capsizes, I am completely unprepared for such a violent experience.

Though, it’s true, I imagined this moment many times in flutters of pre-race panics, I also convinced myself that my fears were irrational, that the images in my head of being trapped underwater, held down by the weight of a rolled-over boat, were exaggerations; byproducts of my anxiety about the latest adventure I’d signed up for: to row 300 miles across the Mediterranean Sea.

The Shoreseeker Challenge is an inaugural race – the first of its kind — from Barcelona, Spain to Bosa, Sardinia, and the challenge I’ve accepted is to get from one side to the other with the sheer strength and determination of myself and four other rowers — three women and two men — racing three other boats to become the first rowboat to ever cross the Mediterranean unassisted.

The wave that rolls us upside down hits like a clap of thunder on the port side of the boat and before I can get my hands up to my face, my forehead smashes against the VHF radio unit, cracking open a reservoir of cold panic that dumps a stream of dark thoughts from my brain before my mouth has a chance to react.

My teammate Claire and I are coiled in a tangled, defensive ball as we smash into each other and slam into every wall of our rowboat cabin in breathless silence, my mind spinning like a cog trying desperately to dig its broken teeth into some shred of what’s happening. As I land on top of Claire, who is jammed against the ceiling, it starts to sink in that we are upside down. And the spinning reel of my mind rests on one thought. “Fuck. This is happening.”

Then, with a shuddering exhale, I think, “But we’re okay. We’re alive.”

As the boat rights itself, throwing me and Claire across the cabin before jerking us back into our starting position, I grab the left side of my head, the spot that’s now searing with pain. I pull my hand away to see if there’s blood, and there’s none. I look to Claire to see if she’s hurt. She is covered in the soggy, strewn contents of the cabin, and she looks scared, but unharmed.

My mind continues to spin. “If that was my worst nightmare, then what is the next worst thing that can happen?”

We’ve been watching the waves and the wind build for 24 hours since we put out our sea anchor, but we felt confident the storm would eventually pass. From the moment our parachute anchor was set, biting into the waves to keep our bow pointed into them, we were slammed with torrential rain, thunder, lightning and frightening winds which spiraled up to speeds of 50-60 mph. But, through it all, we believed our boat was secure, that our anchor would keep us safe.

Now, my mind is stretching beyond the capsize, wondering how the events of the next 24 hours will play out.

*********************

tom salt mike burton talisker whisky challengeMike Burton & Tom Salt, winners of the 2014 Talisker Whisky Challenge

When I first got in touch with Tom Salt, the co-founder and inspiring force behind Locura Adventures, I knew nothing about the plans he’d cooked up to launch the Shoreseeker Challenge in the Mediterranean in September 2015. I’d merely called him to talk about his experience winning the 2014 Talisker Whiskey Challenge, the 3,000-mile rowing race across the Atlantic, which he won with a former Clipper Race teammate, Mike Burton, in a two-man rowboat, beating their nearest competitor to the Caribbean by nearly a week.

And the reason I called Tom for a chat was because the Atlantic row was something I was considering doing myself.

At the time, I was in the UK taking part in a much tamer challenge to row 50 miles around the Isle of Wight with a team of 8 women, most of whom I knew through my participation in the 2013-14 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. And since Tom also did the Clipper Race, we share some common friends and, as it turns out, a common love for seeking endurance challenges that test the human spirit.

About a month after that phone call, Tom sent me an email saying he had co-founded an adventure company and was in the process of building four ocean-going rowboats for the purpose of launching an inaugural race across the Mediterranean, and he needed willing participants.

I thought about it for a few seconds before shooting back my reply: “I’m in.”

If crossing the Atlantic was the ultra-marathon of rowing races, then rowing across the Mediterranean was a mere 10k uphill run, in my mind. It requires a certain level of fitness, but not the kind of training that could take over your entire life.

And as far as risk was concerned, it wasn’t the kind of adventure that was likely to end in a helicopter rescue. Or so I thought.

*********************

DCIM100GOPROGOPR5808.Nick, looking out at Aggie, sitting on deck for anchor watch.

“Holy shit, Aggie!” I scream, as Claire and I scramble to right ourselves and get our bearings. I’m reaching for the hatch when there’s a deafening crack as another wave smashes over the port side.

I quickly wipe away the condensation on the hatch with the back of my hand and press my face against the glass to see if I can spot Aggie outside in the pitch black of night.

I can see a body folded in half over the starboard lifeline and I’m wondering how many surfaces Aggie might have hit on her way around, how long she had to hold her breath underwater or if she’d broken any bones.

Just a few hours earlier, as lightning streaked the sky, I wondered as I sat on deck whether rotating crew outside for anchor watch was like playing Russian Roulette. And now it seems Aggie was the one to get the unlucky bullet.

I want to open the hatch and talk to Aggie, but I realize if a wave rolls us while the hatch is open, the boat will most definitely sink.

As I squint in the dark, I see Aggie move and climb onto deck from her folded position over the lifeline. But instead of heading towards the bow hatch, I see Aggie is now crawling on all fours towards the center of the boat.

“Is she coming this way?” I say to Claire.

I watch and anticipate Aggie’s arrival to the stern hatch, but she suddenly stops mid-deck and starts pushing the strewn oars to the side of the boat and placing the rowing seats back in their tracks.

“What is she doing?!” I shout.

“She looks like she’s…tidying up?” says Claire. “Maybe she’s in shock?”

My brain is exploding with terror, realizing we might roll again with Aggie hanging out mid-deck, doing the housekeeping. So I grab hold of the hatch and throw it open.

“Aggie, get inside the fucking cabin! NOW!” I scream. She looks up at me, startled, and mumbles something into the rain as I pull the hatch closed again. To my relief, she crawls back towards the bow cabin and, when the hatch opens, she is swallowed up and away from the angry sea.

*********************

ss2 shoreseeker challenge pizzaThe team of SS2 ate their body weight in pizza in the days before the race.

The night before the start of the Shoreseeker Challenge in Barcelona, I can barely sleep. My mind is racing back and forth between a catalog of items I’ve probably forgotten to pack and all the ways I could possibly get injured on this 300-mile row. If anyone is going to have a medical emergency in the middle of the sea, it’s going to be me, I think.

Ryan has seen me in a pre-race frenzy enough times now to know there isn’t much he can do to calm me down; this is just something I go through before any big challenge.

He calmly assures me, “It’s going to be okay. I’ll be out there and I’ll be sending you weather forecasts so you know what to expect.”

And though it doesn’t quell my usual pre-race jitters, it does comfort me to know he will be physically out there on the water, following my boat across the Mediterranean on our catamaran, Cheeky Monkey.

This was never the original plan, but like all our craziest ideas, the plan for Cheeky Monkey to volunteer at the last minute as the Shoreseeker Challenge’s second support boat was formed on a night out in Barcelona over several pints of beer and a few shots of tequila. I wasn’t there for the drunken conversation between Ryan, Tom Salt and his crew, but before I could tell Ryan I was fading and it was time to go home, the guys proudly announced, “Cheeky Monkey is sailing to Sardinia! Woo hoo!”

Most people wouldn’t bank on plans made over shots of tequila. But I know Ryan well enough to know he’s probably already assigned jobs to Tom’s crew and, by morning, the guys will be hungover, but they’ll be in full swing, prepping Cheeky Monkey for a last-minute Mediterranean crossing.

And this was a welcome reassurance because it meant, (1) I no longer had to book a hotel in Sardinia (something I’d forgotten to do in my pre-race frenzy), and (2) there would be one more boat on the water looking out for us in case things went wrong.

But what could possibly go wrong?

*********************

The morning of the race start, I am due to be at my boat at 8 am sharp, but I’m running ten minutes late, as usual.

I am an emotional wreck as I make my way through the marina, but I also know the sooner I start rowing, the sooner I can put all my nervous energy into pulling on the oars.

By the time I arrive, the rowboat dock in OneOcean Port Vell is buzzing with fifteen rowers rushing around, stowing away the last of their 200 liters of water and dehydrated food packets. Our skipper, Rob, is in the stern cabin of SS2, plotting our course to Sardinia and making sure the autopilot is working.

Claire, Nick, Aggie and I, the crew of SS2, are pacing up and down the docks nervously, sizing up our competition and waiting for our final race briefing. Though we seem to be one of the more organized boats on the dock, I can’t help but wonder if my team is at a disadvantage when it comes to size and brawn. After all, we are the only mixed-gender crew in the race and the women on board, including myself, look small and slight next to the men.

The only other five-man rowboat, SS1, is full of hardy-looking endurance athletes who have talked openly about their rock-climbing, marathon and Ironman experiences, and though there is very little boating experience amongst them, they seem like the type who can muscle their way through any challenge.

The other two boats in the race are three-man rowboats, one of which only has two rowers, which sounds like a severe disadvantage until I learn that the two guys, Nick and Ed, competed against Tom Salt in the Talisker Whisky Challenge across the Atlantic. Their Atlantic crossing was derailed 10 days in when they pitch-poled, surfing down a mammoth wave, and they had to be rescued by an oil tanker. But I figure these two guys have a leg up on the rest of us since they’re the only rowers in this race who actually know what this experience is going to be like.

The last three-man rowboat has three muscly endurance athletes on board and they are dressed neck-to-ankle in Lycra, which tells me they are possibly taking this challenge more seriously than my team is, if you go by appearances. Nick and I are sporting matching $5 golf visors we bought yesterday in a Decathlon sports shop and Aggie is sporting a floppy, brown sun hat, like the kind you’d wear gardening.

But I should know better than to think appearances mean anything when it comes to uncharted endurance tests of this kind. What the mind is capable of pushing the body through is not something that can be judged by a person’s clothing or physique.

When the gun fires at the start line, SS1, the five-man boat I am convinced are our toughest competition, struggle so badly to steer their boat in a straight line that they nearly run into us. We are able to pull away from them at the last minute and avoid a collision, but shortly after, we watch in confusion as SS1 veers off in the opposite direction, rowing back towards the start line they just crossed.

Our next competitor, the brawny boat of Spandex-clad endurance athletes, stays up alongside us for the first ten miles, pushing us to maintain a mean pace of 4.5 knots in smooth seas. We are working hard to keep our lead, fully aware that this is a marathon and not a sprint, but we are anxious to get moving, so it doesn’t feel foolish to set a tough pace from the beginning.

The seas are calm and the sun is beating down on our necks as we slowly pull away from Barcelona. And it occurs to me that I’ve never done a landfall in anything smaller than a sea-worthy sailboat; I have no idea what it is like to be in a tiny rowboat and not see land for six days.

As I start to row, I feel a calm start to wash over me. I’m glad to put my body to work and give my mind a rest after three days of carb-loading (i.e. stuffing my face with pizza) and incessant worrying. With nothing else to look at but the horizon, I glance over at the three-man boat keeping pace with us to see which one of us is gaining.

And as I watch the guys pulling their oars in sync alongside us, a dark gray fin pops up in the narrow gulf of water between the two boats.

“Dolphins!” I scream. I want to wave at the guys on the other boat to tell them to look, but I can’t take my hands off the oars without falling out of sync. So, instead, I just watch the dolphins swim alongside us, cutting through the smooth, glittery surface of the sea, and smile.

Already this is shaping up to be an adventure like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

*********************

DCIM100GOPROG0015243.

Twenty-four hours into the race, we have covered seventy miles and we are so far ahead that we’ve lost all the other rowboats on AIS. We have no idea what their positions are, but we keep rowing hard while the seas are relatively flat to make sure no one catches up. We can see from the weather forecast that the winds are going to kick up 15-20 knots on the nose, so within a few hours, rowing will get considerably tougher.

Our team policy is to put out the sea anchor only if we can’t maintain at least 1.0 knot of speed. So when the seas are calm and the rowing is easy, we pull hard on the oars to gain distance. When the seas are rough and choppy, we pull hard on the oars to keep from having to put out our sea anchor. It quickly becomes clear that there is no rest for the weary when the only way to move the boat is to row.

As the sun drops lower in the sky on the second day, the winds increase and the waves become harder to penetrate. But with three rowers on, we’re maintaining at least 2.5 knots, so we stick to the mantra of “Slow and steady wins the race.”

It’s not until the end of the day, when a VHF radio call comes through telling us that all the other boats have dropped out of the race and are now being towed either by Sottlo, the 41-foot Beneteau support boat, or Cheeky Monkey, that we start to analyze the conditions we’re rowing in.

It is hard work to keep moving and stay in sync when short, choppy waves are knocking us in the side. But giving up is simply not an option. We came here to row across the Mediterranean and unless our rudder falls off or the boat starts sinking, there is no reason to stop trying. So we digest the news that we are the only boat left in the race, and we keep pulling on the oars, rotating two hours on the rowing seat and two hours down below sleeping.

By the end of each two-hour rowing shift, my shoulders are on fire and I’m glistening with sweat. But I get through it by mentally breaking my watch up into sections.

The first ten minutes are the warm-up. My sore hands, back and shoulders are like rusty machine parts in need of lubrication. I get my body moving as quickly as possible to shake off the cobwebs and work out the kinks in my muscles. After ten minutes of rowing in time to the beat of Rihanna and Taylor Swift, the soreness in my hands starts to fade and my knees stop creaking like rusted hinges.

Thirty minutes into the row, I put my oars down to drink some water and spoon a few bites of rehydrated chili con carne or chicken tikka masala into my mouth. The taste of the food doesn’t matter as much as the fuel it provides to my tired muscles. I stick to the rule of eating little and often to keep my energy up without making myself sick on the dense, spicy high-calorie sludge I’m spooning into my guts.

The paramount rule the team abides by is to always keep the boat moving. This applies to bathroom breaks, watch change-overs, repairs, eating, drinking, bandaging up blisters and applying sunscreen. There is at least one person rowing at all times.

An hour into the watch, I start to feel the strain on my shoulders and back, so I shift my butt on the rowing seat and consciously arch my back to move the pressure down from my upper back to my lower back. I become more conscious about pushing off with my legs and keeping my arms straight to lessen the strain on my upper body. With just an hour left to go, I glance at my watch every five minutes, counting down the minutes until I can lay my head down, fall asleep and recover for another two hours.

The last half hour of my watch, I pick up the pace and start pulling harder since I only have a short time left to make a difference. If I’m rowing with Nick or Aggie, I can count on them to belt out Taylor Swift with me at the top of their lungs, which entertains and distracts me from the soreness in my shoulders as we start to pick up the pace.

The last ten minutes is when I pull on the oars with everything I have. My shoulders are full of pins and needles and my hamstrings feel like rubber bands stretched to the point of snapping, but I have two whole hours ahead to recover from the work I put in. The harder we work now, the faster we go, and the better I will sleep on the hot, sticky mattress that’s festering inside our steamy, airless cabin.

Morale on the boat is high because the pressure to win has been relieved: all we need to do now is simply make it to Sardinia and we win.

How hard can that be?

When the waves start hitting us in the side, we dig deeper and adjust our rowing technique to drive one oar in first, then the other. We pull the oars in short, sharp strokes to keep the boat moving at a steady pace.

This routine continues for 150 miles and five days, as the wind continues to hit us on the nose. But every day, we grow stronger and more capable, and every day we laugh, sing, complain and share stories to get each other through the long minutes of our endless two-hour watches.

We are like human pistons in a well-oiled engine. Each of us is learning what it is like to treat our bodies like a machine with one purpose: to row.

In my real life, I never have the luxury of focusing on just one job. My life consists of a million distractions from the many important jobs I’m always trying to complete. There’s emails to answer, bills to pay, social media to update, news to read, calls to answer and people to check up on; and all of this and more persists and vies for my attention while I try to focus on the actual work I have to do.

Here, on the rowboat, I have just one job, and everything I do applies to that job. If I go to the bathroom and my piss is orange, I need to drink more water. If I’m sluggish on the oars, I need to consume more food, more sugar. If I don’t sleep in my two hours off, my body hurts when I row. If I sleep a full hour and a half, I can row hard for another two hours. My body is a sensitive gauge of everything that is going right or wrong with my performance on the oars.

On our second night at sea, I am staring up at the night sky, wondering why it’s suddenly gone dark as I come up on deck. A shadow creeps slowly over the moon until it goes completely black, leaving a perfect circle of light burned into the black night.

All five crew are on deck for watch changeover, which takes longer than usual because we are all gazing up at the sky with our mouths open. It takes a few minutes to register, but before long we realize we are getting a breath-taking view of a lunar eclipse over the Mediterranean Sea.

As the on-watch crew gingerly stand up from their rowing seats, I can see they are exhausted and dripping with sweat. They look as if they couldn’t do another five minutes on the oars and yet there is a blanket of contentment draped over the entire team.

I am massaging the stinging blisters on the palms of my hands, anticipating the pain of the next two hours on the oars. And yet it occurs to me that there is no other place in the world I’d rather be in this very moment.

ss2 shoreseeker challenge mediterraneanSottlo checking up on us, towing a rowboat behind it.

*********************

Once Claire and I recover from our tumble inside the boat, we wedge our bodies as far down as possible into the shallow space that runs under the rowing deck, as it’s the narrowest space on the boat, whereas the rest of the cabin is a wide open cavern of danger just waiting for us to fly across it when it rolls over.
I keep staring at my watch because the last message I received from Sottlo, our support boat, said they would reach us by dawn. The sky is still dark, but if I remember correctly, the sun comes up around 7:30. It’s now 5:30.

When our boat got turned upside down, I was in the middle of writing an email to Ryan on my Iridium Mail & Web app, saying I was a little scared but we were looking forward to the storm passing so we could start rowing again. But that email never got sent because I, along with my phone, went flying through the air.

And now my hands are too cold and wet to work my iPhone. I try wiping my hands on my sports bra inside my shirt, as it’s the only thing in the cabin that’s remotely dry, but my fingers are like sponges, retaining water and interfering with my touch screen.

“Shit! We need to get in touch with Tom,” I say to Claire.

I desperately click on my Iridium Go! app to make a call, but the call fails. I can hear Tom but Tom can’t hear me. My only hope to communicate is to send a text message, but I have to pound my fingers on the screen ten times just to get the app to open.

“Should we hit the SOS on the Iridium?” Claire asks, holding up our skipper’s phone, which shows the battery is down to 20%.

I glance at the boat battery levels. One battery is down to 7 volts, and the other is at 11.86 volts, which means we have nothing to spare to charge the phones or the Iridium. We haven’t had any sun to power our batteries in over 24 hours and I don’t know how much longer they will hold out, or how much charge the Iridium battery has left. I nod to Claire to hit the SOS on her Iridium app and I open up the app on my dying phone, trying as fast as I can to send a text before all our batteries die.

“My hands are too wet!” I say, tapping furiously on my iPhone.

I keep wiping my hands inside my shirt and tapping one letter at a time, then wiping my hands again. It takes me over a minute just to type two words and hit send. I’m worried if I try to type a long message before hitting send and the Iridium dies, then we’re screwed. At least if I get a short message to Tom one at a time before the Iridium dies, then he’ll at least have part of the story of what’s happening to us.

The 3 messages I send are:

“Just capsized.”
“Very scared.”
“Please advise.”

As soon as the third message is sent, the battery dies on the Iridium and the device goes black.

“At least they know,” I say to Claire. “All we can do now is wait.”

Claire and I huddle together, bracing ourselves for the next wave and trying to protect our heads from the sharp corners inside the cabin. I am terrified that the worst is yet to come, but instead I tell Claire, “The first thing they teach you in sea survival is to stay with the boat. As long as we are on this boat, inside the cabin, we will be okay.”

I’m telling myself this as much as I’m trying to reassure Claire.

“Tell me how you met Tim,” I say to Claire in an effort to distract our worried minds by focusing on happier things than our current situation. Talking helped us pass the time when we were rowing. And now, more than ever, we need time to pass quickly so the sun will come up and we can formulate a plan in the light of day.

But as Claire is telling me the story of how she met her husband at university, my mind is running through a dozen scenarios of what could happen next.

What if Sottlo can’t get to us? What if something’s happened to them? And even if they do get here, what can they do? What if we start taking on water? When do we set off the EPIRB? Why is no one responding on the VHF? Did I break the radio when I hit it with my head? Who else can help us out here? A cargo ship? How would we even get onto a cargo ship?

I am acutely aware of the sound a wave makes when it has the power to knock us over. It starts with a low rumble from a distance and then hits with a sudden and loud explosion above our heads on the port side, lifting the boat in a way that causes me to throw my arms around Claire, half trying to protect her and half as an instinct to grab on to something before we go flying.

The inside of my mouth is covered with a thick, sticky film. I need water, but I’m unwilling to risk going out on deck to get water from the lockers, so all I can do is build up saliva in my mouth and swallow it to keep from feeling thirsty.

As the wave action slows down momentarily, rocking our hot airless cabin back and forth like a cradle, Claire and I are lulled to sleep in our huddled positions on the floor.
I don’t know how long we’ve been asleep for when suddenly I’m jolted awake by a wave smashing into us, throwing me into Claire.

“I was having a horrible dream,” I say, rubbing my eyes. “But then I woke up and I remembered where I was – on this fucking boat!” I start laughing and, soon, Claire is laughing, too, until we’re both wiping tears of hysteria from our eyes.

It seems ridiculous that we can laugh about anything at a time like this, but there is something funny about waking up from a nightmare and realizing that what you’re living is worse than anything that’s trying to kill you in your dreams. This nightmare is real and there is no way to wake up from it.

The next wave that smashes into us, hits with a force that we know is going to roll us. We’ve been huddled up in preparation for it, so we wrap our arms instinctively around our heads as we tumble like two rag dolls being thrown around inside a tumble drier.

It is 6:45 am and the sun is just starting to come up. My entire body is trembling as I fumble with the Iridium, swearing at it for going dead. Claire turns on the chart plotter to see if any boats have turned up on AIS, but when nothing appears, she turns off the instruments to conserve our batteries.

“Sottlo, Sottlo, Sottlo. This is SS2. We just capsized. Do you read me?”

No reply.

I stare at the VHF, willing it to make a sound. After ten minutes of silence, I turn off the chart plotter and the radio.

And, for the first time since we started rowing, I start to cry.

*********************

There is a rumbling sound above our heads, like that of an engine, which sends me and Claire into a frenzy of confused chatter.

“What is that noise? A ship?”

Claire opens up the hatch to get a closer look just as our skipper, Rob, emerges from the bow cabin and starts waving his hands frantically at the sky.

“Holy shit!” I scream. “A helicopter?!”

In all my calculations of what we might have to do next to get ourselves out of this predicament, I never factored in the possibility of a helicopter. And now my mind is racing through the chain of possible reactions that were set off by our VHF distress, the SOS on the Iridium and the text messages I sent to Tom.

Rob makes his way over to the stern cabin and says to us, calmly, “There’s a rescue helicopter here. Leave everything behind but bring your life jacket. I have your passports in the ditch bag.”

Claire and I climb onto deck and sit down next to Rob, Nick and Aggie, mesmerized by the giant white and red chopper hovering over us. This is the first time all five of us have been together for what feels like days and I’m almost giddy with joy that the torture we’ve endured for the last thirty hours is about to end.

I can see Rob’s head is bleeding from a cut on his forehead, but Nick and Aggie look physically unharmed, though their expressions reveal mixed feelings of relief and disappointment. We held on to the hope for so long that we could start rowing again. And this helicopter hovering overhead marks the definitive end of what we have worked so hard for over the last 5-6 days. This helicopter means we failed.

But we are also smiling and squeezing each others’ hands reassuringly because, though we failed in our rowing mission, this helicopter also means the end of our fears that something worse could happen.

*********************

DCIM100GOPROGOPR5826.Me and my teammate Nick, posing in front of our rescue helicopter.

When our helicopter touches down in Menorca, I give our rescuer, a jovial Spanish guy named Hugo, a big hug and thank him for his bravery. He asks all of us to smile for a photo and then takes out his iPhone so we can connect on Facebook and tag each other in our rescue selfies.

“Just don’t tag me until I get a chance to call my mom, okay?” I say to Hugo. “I’d hate for her to find out about this on Facebook.”

Now that I am safe with my feet on solid ground, the feeling of disappointment that the race didn’t go differently is overwhelming.

“Do you think we could have continued if we didn’t get rescued?” I say to Rob.

He shakes his head with a look of someone who is disappointed, but has accepted reality. “We were in bad shape,” says Rob. “And it was only going to get worse. There was another big storm on its way when we got pulled out of there.”

I nod my head, trying to picture what it would be like if we were still on that boat as another storm rolled over us; if we ended up having to wait another 24-48 hours in those conditions. Could we really have rowed after that?

Now that I’m dry and warm I feel like we could have done anything. I forget how scared I felt; it seems like a distant memory now, that feeling of fear that bit at my insides and made me regret that I ever stepped onto my boat in the first place. How could I so quickly forget the terror of being upside down in the middle of the sea, 150 miles from land?

As I stand in line at the Ryan Air counter at the airport, trying to book a flight back to Sardinia to meet Ryan and Cheeky Monkey, I connect to WiFi and watch as my phone lights up with one incoming message after another.

There are hundreds of emails and at least 10 Facebook messages to respond to, but one text in particular catches my eye.

It is a vague message fishing for information about my experience on the race from Barcelona to Sardinia; the message asks how I’m feeling about the whole experience. I snort involuntarily and shake my head as I read over the rest of the message.

“You’re never going to believe this,” I say to the guys on my team. “Someone’s just asked if I want to join their boat for the second race from Sardinia to Barcelona.”

“What, this race? The one we just got off?” Aggie says, laughing. “That’s crazy!”

There must have been a mischievous twinkle in my eye as I shook my head, reading over the message again, because Rob says, “You’re thinking about it, aren’t you?”

I’m shaking my head as if to convince myself that I’d never consider getting on another rowboat in the Mediterranean. But even as I’m shaking my head, a knowing smile spreads across my face. Because standing here, safe and secure on dry land, I remember only the adventure that was. I am reliving the experience of rowing under the stars and believing my team would become the first to row across the Mediterranean. I remember the feeling of pushing the boundaries of what I ever thought I was capable of.

It is the adventure I am revisiting, as I stand barefoot in the airport, reeking of body od0r, with torn-up hands, wearing a Salvamento Maritimo rescue T-shirt.

But it is the failure that leaves me wanting more.

And all I can say to Rob is, “Well, I still haven’t done it, have I?”

Shoreseeker 2We made the news in Spain. The day we got rescued, 2 sailboats were also evacuated and abandoned on the Mediterranean. Menorca saw record wind speeds of 75 mph.

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Shoreseeker Challege, Race 2

Probably still high on adrenaline, Tasha did, in fact, respond to that message she received in the airport and went to Sardinia to join the second Shoreseeker Challenge out of Bosa, again with Ryan and Cheeky Monkey following as race support.

Again, the Mediterranean got hit with a storm and, again, Tasha’s boat, SS2, waited out the storm on sea anchor for over 24 hours while Tasha seriously reconsidered her poor life choices.

Because of the pending weather for Race 2 on the Mediterranean, the race was shortened by 100 miles and re-routed to finish in Menorca instead of Barcelona. And because of a great deal of bad luck involving one lost rowboat and a series of unrelated medical injuries the morning of the race start, only two rowboats carrying five rowers each were able to start the race out of Sardinia.

Tasha’s team on Race 2 decided to abandon the race halfway through, after spending 24 hours on sea anchor, despite pleas not to give up. Tasha was out-numbered four to one in the vote to quit, so SS2 took a tow to Sardinia.

SS1, however, carried on and completed the 200-mile challenge, arriving to Mahon, Menorca after roughly six days at sea, proving that completing the challenge was, in fact, possible.

The challenge to row across the entire Mediterranean Sea is still out there for the taking and, as you’ve probably guessed, Tasha is still thinking about it.