Our first storm! Episode 3 – Rowing from Home to Home video diary..

Hi folks!

Check out what happens when we encountered our first storm in our recent training row to Indonesia… Enjoy!



Episode 2 – Rowing from Home to home video diary

Enjoy Eposide 2 of the Rowing from Home to Home video diaries. In this episode we get to know expedition team mate Charlie Smith better, and take a look at the detail of the preparations we are going through.

Thanks to Keppel Bay Sailing Academy and Marina at Keppel Bay, Raffles Marina and Daniel Lundbery and the team at UFIT Singapore for assistance with filming this episode.

We will be producing video diaries like this throughout the expedition, you can catch them here on this blog – or you can watch them on the expedition facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GrantAxeRawlinson

Six day rowing expedition to Indonesia – training trip report

I have missed the process of writing during these past few busy months so it is nice to sit down and type our this trip report.  This is an overview of our recent 6 day training expedition to Indonesia.

I had three goals for this training expedition:

  1. Get away from Singapore, and as far out to sea as possible – hopefully losing sight of land.
  2. Test as many of our systems as possible in real-life environment –  more specifically:
    1. Water making
    2. Ground anchoring system
    3. Parachute anchoring system
    4. Sleeping system
    5. Food and nutrition
    6. Manual Foot Steering
    7. Physical conditioning
    8. Personal hygiene
    9. Team dynamics on a multi-day trip
    10. Mental conditioning as to how we would handle sustained days and nights of rowing
    11. Immigration procedures between Singapore and Indonesia
    12. Tide and current streams in the Singapore Straits and Batam and Bintan Islands
    13. Communication systems and schedules with project manager and shore based expedition coordinator Dave Field
    14. The ability to pre-arrange and rendezvous with film producer Alistair Harding in remote areas with no phone coverage
  3. To not lose or destroy the boat in the process of the expedition – in other words return safely to Singapore – Simpson’s Donkey and the crew intact!

As you will read from the report below we were generally very successful!

To see an interactive GPS tracking map which you can zoom in and out of please click here.


Click here to see our route in an interactive map

Monday 17 October

Charlie slept overnight on-board Simpson’s Donkey at Raffles marina, in anticipation of an early start.  I arrived at 6:45AM, and Charlie reported “it took longer than normal to fall asleep!”.  We readied the boat with the last few bits and pieces we required for the next six days and set-off just after 7AM, bound for One 15 marina on Sentosa Island, some 42km away.  Immediately we noticed a stiff westerly breeze which kept us working hard to stop being blown towards the Singapore shoreline.  It was also low tide, which I knew beforehand meant as it started to rise we would be fighting currents all morning to make it the 8nm to the end of the Tuas hockey stick (Singapore Island most south-westerly point which we would need to round).  We battled away for five hours to get here, rowing one-up and two-up, before gratefully turning east to enjoy a tidal stream in our favor.  We had an uneventful crossing of the busy shipping channel at this point which normally is interesting due to the high number of vessels coming from all directions.  But today we whizzed across without even a course change.  How that would change on our return journey!

It was great to be back out in the boat,  back to rowing one-hour shift patterns, we made excellent time to reach Pulau Hantu at 2pm (the scene of our grounding and broken rudder in a previous expedition). This time we did not call in but continued on for Sentosa Island.

I had arranged with good mate and Captain Peter ‘Stitch’ Hutton, to bring his beautiful motor launch ‘Witch fish’ out for a rendezvous at Pulau Hantu, where we intended to practise towing Simpson’s Donkey as part of our emergency response training.  We were ahead of schedule however, so we kept rowing, and were well past the next busy shipping channel when Captain Stitch and First Mate Brett from NZ pulled alongside in Witch Fish. We soon had their water ski towline attached to Simpson’s Donkey with a sturdy bow line and we began towing.

Having never towed before, we had no idea of what speed would be comfortable or how the little Donkey would handle being towed.  It soon became apparent  she loved it!  Seven to eight knots was a comfortable speed with no need to steer her as she followed obediently behind Witch fish.  Charlie and I sat back and enjoyed the scenery as ‘Rowing from Home to Home’ was renamed ‘Towing from Home to Home’ for the last 3km into One 15 marina.  We berthed at One 15 for the evening, both returning to our respective homes onshore for a lovely shower, sleep and especially for me a catch up with my girls.

Tuesday 18 October

I had a keynote presentation to the sales and marketing team from Air New Zealand at 9AM on Tuesday morning, conveniently located at a hotel right beside the One 15 marina. Straight after the presentation, with some bemused smiles from the Air NZ team, I trotted off in my number ones, carrying my laptop in the already roasting mid-morning sun and made my way with sweat trickling down my back to Simpson’s Donkey, where I met up with Charlie.  We quickly had the boat ready to go and rowed her a short distance to the mouth of marina where we met with Captain Stitch and his merry crew on board Witch Fish.

My initial plan for the training row had not been to head to Indonesia at all, but head up the east cost of Malaysia to Tioman Island.  However upon researching the route I saw that the logistics of this exercise (mainly to do with immigration clearance) were going to cause my already thinning hairline to recede even further. Charlie had earlier in the year suggested a trial run to Batam which I had not been in favor of due to risks involved however after much deliberation I finally decided Batam may actually be a logistically more easy option. One thing in Batam’s favor was that it would allow us a test run in the actual conditions we would see on the initial stage of the journey.

So the plan today was to get safely across to Batam Island, a distance of around 37km. But distance was not our main concern with this crossing.  The two bigger issues we faced were that we had to cross an international border, i.e exit Singapore as individuals and clear Simpson’s Donkey out of Singapore waters (in nautical terms a vessel requires ‘port clearance’ to leave a countries waters – this port clearance certificate is also crucial to get into the next country you will enter).  Also we had to cross the Singapore Straits, a very busy international commercial shipping channel which separates Indonesia and Singapore.  At its narrowest point this is only 2nm in width, however crossing this in a slow vessel is akin to a turtle standing at the edge of a motorway and waiting for a gap in the traffic to sneak across to the other side.  I decided to err on the side of the caution for this very first crossing and get towed across using the services of Captain Stitch and his merry crew in Witch Fish. (I did ask how the name ‘Witch Fish’ came about but, and he muttered something about someone’s daughter coming up with it – that’s all the story that came through).

I had spent a good deal of time in the previous ten days arranging immigration and port clearances both with the Singapore side and the Indonesian side, so this process went smoothly at least in Singapore. We towed the 3km out to Sisters Island where using channel 74 on the VHF radio, I contacted the Singapore Immigration.  A small gray boat soon appeared and using a fishing net the crew expertly came alongside and collected out passports and paperwork, processed and returned it all in no time flat.  I tried to imagine what it would be like in two months time, rowing Simpson’s Donkey out, laden with 60 days worth of food and having just waved goodbye to Stephanie and the girls.  Part of me look forward to this and the other part dread it.


Departing One 15 Marina on Sentosa Island

We were soon bobbing happily along behind Witch Fish at 7 knots as she made her way out of Singapore waters and approached the shipping channel.  One thing we got used to in Singapore is constantly being surrounded by ships, but as we entered the channel I was still surprised at just how busy this part of the world is.  The one good thing is that it is very well-ordered, with 4 separate lanes which limit travel to four opposing directions.  In essence, you cross a small two lane road, then a major two lane highway of shipping traffic. We only had to make one evasive maneuver and were soon over the 2nm of traffic lanes and heading down much calmer waters towards Nongsa point marina on Batam Island.


Simpson’s Donkey enjoying a tow across the shipping channel, Singapore CBD skyline in the distance


Charlie sat dozing on the back deck in the sleeping position and I lay in the cabin, thinking through the next few days and what it would bring. We arrived in Batam around 2.5 hours after we left One 15 marina, and gently pulled into the picturesque Nonga Point marina. Here we hit a small hurdle with the support boat as their paperwork to clear customs was not in ‘order’.  Things in Indonesia have a way of working out with time, and after two hours of waiting – well, things were all in order again!  Unfortunately this delay in paperwork meant that the support boat had run out of time and had to return immediately to Singapore.  We had originally intended for Witch Fish to follow us for an hour and film us using a drone, but this was not to be.


Arriving at Nongsa Point Marina in Batam

So Charlie and I rowed out of Nonga Point Marina all by ourselves into a beautiful sunset. After the noise of being towed over at very high speed (7 knots is very high speed for an ocean rowing boat!), and the opulence of Nongsa Point Marina – it was refreshingly tranquil to head out by ourselves, with the only sounds being our voices and the splash of our oars as they hit the water.


Charlie and I depart Nonga Point under human power

Our plan now was to work our way south through the channel between Batam and Bintan Islands, where we had pre-arranged to rendezvous with expedition film producer Alistair Harding on a small jetty identified off google earth, around 47km distant.  I had tentatively told Alistair we would be there around 9 – 10AM on the Wednesday morning, however with a proviso that I knew nothing of the tidal streams in this part of the world. (I had inquired and was told that no information existed!).

It soon become apparent as we left the marina that we were battling against strong currents.  With Charlie rowing we were making 1.2 knots only.  Our approach when working against currents is to get in as close as safely possible to shore – in shallow water the current is generally less.  Unfortunately around this section of coastline, fish farms and nets (basically long rows of wooden poles) dominated the first few hundred metres of shallow areas, and limited our ability to get to  close to shore.  We resorted to rowing two-up, and managed to make some progress, however the closer we got to the eastern point of Bintan the current continued to increase until we were not making any forward speed at all.

I changed course and  we attempted to head out into the channel and cross over to Bintan Island .  We resorted back to one-up rowing, but with myself in the engine room rowing as hard I could in  a southerly direction, we were being blown directly backwards!  We were actually heading north towards Singapore at 1.3 knots!  This was not a nice situation and I prayed this current would change with the tide.  We once again made a course change and headed back to the shore we had just left on the coastline of Batam, having eventually made a large circle you can see on the route map, taking around 2 – 3 hours of great effort to end up back at the same spot!  I got a little angry now, I like to use anger positively in my life to motivate me to get things done and have used this ever since I played rugby.  So we both jumped in the rowing seat and together managed to get Simpson’s Donkey bow pointing south and make slow but steady progress.  After 45 minutes of hard rowing we were around the troublesome south-easterly point and set a bearing for 180 degrees.

The tide now started to turn in our favor, so we started to get current assistance however unfortunately at this time southerly breeze also blew up which meant a headwind. We still managed to make decent progress for the next 6 hours apart from a number of very troublesome encounters with fish farms.  These have no lights at all and extend sometimes over a kilometre into the sea. We inevitably ended up running into a couple of these and had an interesting time untangling ourselves.  They really were annoying and also scared the jolly roger out of us when we hit them in the pitch black.

Wednesday 19 October

Around 4AM, even rowing two-up we were struggling to make headway against the increasing strength of the this southerly headwind. I made a call to tuck in behind a small island and drop the anchor, and hopefully wait for the winds to die down.  We had practised anchoring in Singapore so had no trouble setting the system up.  As the island we were sheltering behind was small, we had to get close in, around 5m water depth only to get out of the wind.  We let out just over 15 m of anchor line.  In the lee of the island, it was calm and peaceful and I set my alarm watch for 5:15AM, 75 minutes of rest.

No sooner had I shut my eyes than the alarm was beeping, shaking me from my slumber. Charlie was lying on the deck in our sleeping position while I was lying in the cabin.  I poked my head out to see the sun starting to appear and a very still morning.  Over the space of the next ten or so minutes however I noticed the skyline to the west start to change and massive black ominous clouds started to build. “Something ugly is coming in mate – let’s get everything lashed down or stowed” I said to Charlie.  In what seemed like an instant, the storm was on us, and the overnight southerly changed to  westerly winds which had the little donkey bucking and twisting on her anchor.  The storm bought torrential rain which stung our bare skin and faces so we both retreated to the cabin and watched the wind speed as the gusts came in, registering 25 knots and more.  (I have a feeling our wind meter reads slightly less than the real wind conditions due to its mounting location, layer we heard wind speeds of 50 knots reported from the same storm from yachts moored a few miles north).

Needless to say, we both felt safe in the cabin, just as long as the anchor held.  Then in one combined moment, the anchor line snapped and the wind swung around to the north.  We jumped from the cabin to find ourselves being pushed very fast towards a long line of cruel looking rocks poking their ugly heads from the shallows.  With no chance to take any evasive action we braced ourselves as we ran aground and heard the awful grinding and scraping noises that no captain ever wants to hear as his beautiful boat hits rock.

For a few seconds I stood and assessed the situation, the rocks did not seem to have holed the tough material of our hull, and they looked like they would be safe enough to stand on if we could jump in to push her off.  We were both completely naked after taking our wet clothes off to get in the cabin, so firstly we had a mad scramble to put back on our soaking wet pants and top as the rain and wind continued to pelt out bare skins.  With our sandals on our feet we then both jumped into the water and tried to push the donkey off the rocks. The rudder has the deepest draft on the boat and this was unfortunately stuck holding her fast but we managed to rock and roll and push her until she was free.  Then very slowly we pushed her metre by metre away from the shore until we were in water up to our necks.   The seafloor was sandy with massive amounts of seaweed which was better than being horrible mangrove mud which would have been impossible to walk in.  However the seaweed tangled and scratched our legs so it was with relief when we finally managed to both dive into the boat and let the wind push us out into deeper water.  Just before I jumped in I ran my hand over the rudder to feel for any damage, and whilst I could feel a couple of small chunks missing she generally seemed in good condition.  For the next hour we took turns rowing, as the rain and wind smashed us. At least we were safe riding the storm out in deeper water, however we became seriously uncomfortably cold and it was good lesson that even here in the tropics we need good wet weather gear.


Pushing the boat out during the storm, note the line of rocks we ran into in the background.

Eventually the storm blew through, and the sun came out.  We tidied the boat, re-gathered ourselves and continued to head south determined to make the rendezvous point with Alistair.  Around 10AM we noticed a motor yacht heading directly towards us.  As there are not many boats in this part of the world, and piracy is not unknown, we were a little nervous until a friendly Australian female voice shouted out – “I have just been looking at ya website – you guys are crazy! Your AIS is working well though. But you are in the shipping lane here, we are staying close to the coast to avoid the shipping lane”.  I stood up and did a 360 degree panorama.  If I strained my eyes I could just see one vessel very far away on the horizon.  Compared to the volume of traffic we row in Singapore this place felt practically deserted.  Like a ghost town and even though we were technically in a shipping lane – the risk was about zero of being hit by something because literally,  nothing was around!  I have noticed in the boating world that people with boats with large engines tend to be more nervous than us in our human powered craft about some of the places we are going through.  We had a quick chat and soon waved our goodbyes.

Around 12:00pm we made radio contact with Alistair on the VHF radio. “Alistair Harding, this is Simpson’s Donkey, come in”. “Simpson’s Donkey this is Alistair Harding, what took you so long?”.  It was great to hear his voice after only just after 14 hours of being apart, but after an eventful night the positive power of communication with people was clearly evident.

At 1300hrs we pulled into a rustic fishing jetty made with bamboo and other timber and tied up. Alistair had enjoyed his own adventure getting to this spot by taxi, being caught by the same storm that caught us as he was out photographing in the morning. We did some interviews and downloaded our video footage to him.  After a boil up of our jet boil stove on the jetty, we refilled our thermos flasks, had a freeze-dried meal for lunch then said goodbye to Alistair.



Arriving at the fishing jetty with Simpson’s Donkey tethered ‘safely’ to a bamboo pole (Photos: Alistair Harding)

As we rowed off, heading further south, my motivation to keep moving further away from Singapore seemed to evaporate.  We had worked hard to make the last 47km, and I was now getting used to the tides.  I had come to the realisation that this close to land we could not row against them so would need to time our passages north or south with them.  The previous  15 hours had taught me that on ebbing tides (falling or outgoing tides) the current pushes south and vice verca when then tide rises.  This was invaluable information for when we would set-off in January at least for the first few days being close to land. Once we get away from the land the influence of tide and tidal currents become much less of a factor to worry about.

So on the  return journey I knew we  would be constrained to passages of a few hours when we could make progress north and then would need to stop and wait for the currents to turn again on the next tidal cycle.  After some discussion with Charlie, we decided to stop further southerly progress and alter course and head directly east over to the west coast of Bintan then follow this back up in a northerly direction to Batam.  For the rest of the afternoon I felt a wave of depression fall over me as tiredness crept in.  I missed Stephanie and the girls massively and had no decent phone coverage so far to speak to them properly.  I could not help but think what leaving in January for weeks at a time would be like, having to say goodbye to them. Mainly the depression was bought on through being tired.  We rowed one hour on, one hour off as the night descended. Around midnight we were heading north and starting to near the point where the channel between Batam and Bintan narrows and current speed picks up.  As we got closer to this point we noticed we were fighting the current. On the way south we had been making 4 knots with the current, with only one person rowing, which indicates very strong currents, so I knew there would be no way we could row against this current for 6 hours.  We did not have an anchor after losing it during the storm, so stopping safely for any length of time was not an easy option. I spotted a large navigation beacon on the chart and decided to head for this.  We soon noticed its light blinking in the darkness and as we got closer decided to see if we could tie up to this for a few hours to wait out the tides.  We managed to throw a line around its structure, and waited, one of us taking the opportunity to sleep and one of us on watch.

Thursday 20 October

At 3:45AM we untied and rowed a few hundred metres out into the strait to test the current direction.  It was still pushing south,  so we returned to the beacon and tied off again and waited another two hours.  At 5:45AM we untied and as soon as we hit the strait felt ourselves being pushed north.  So off we rowed into a glorious sunrise.  The morning was beautiful, the seas were calm, the wind was negligible and it was really a pleasure to be out there.  The ability to have a few hours decent sleep also contributed to the positive spirit.  Apart from a couple of high-speed ferries, we only had to dodge two ships at anchor all morning as we made our way the 30km back up to Nongsa point marina.  When conditions are favorable, an ocean rowing boat is a very effective mode of human-powered travel.  You carry everything you need on-board to live on, and have no reason to come into land at all as kayaker’s do.  This means you can keep the boat moving all through the day and all through the night, as long as you rotate your shifts in a way that allows the resting partner enough time to recover and continue.  Sleep is the real secret we found to sustained rowing for days on end.  Without sleep, things begin to unravel very quickly and the body and minds ability to endure and perform is rapidly diminished.


Charlie asleep on the back deck – quite comfortable to sleep.

Good nutrition is another area we are taking very seriously.  Our bodies are the machines on this boat, and they need the right fuel.  Our nutritional plan has had a great deal of thought and development put into it and I will write a separate blog on this in the future as the subject demands it!  Compared to our earlier attempts on earlier training trips our food on this trip was much improved.  I very much enjoyed chewing on  snack packs such as home-made dehydrated fruit (beautiful mango, apple, banana,  pear, kiwi fruit and apple), beef jerky which we had dehydrated ourselves at home so it contained none of the poisonous preservatives and MSG that the store bought stuff contains, raw nuts, cheese and main meals of healthy New Zealand Back Country cuisine freeze-dried, smoked fish pie (beautiful), cottage pie and roast chicken dinners.  Another popular snack of ours is noodles with a tin of tuna added.


The world is round!

Back at Nongsa point marina, we berthed the little donkey beside super-yachts and massive catamarans.  We then cleared immigration that evening, ready for an early start the next morning.  I spent a good deal of time planning the tides and currents for our return journey the next day back to Singapore.  I knew we needed to get all the way back to the Sisters Island immigration point in one tide cycle of six hours, this is when the currents were favorable for our direction and with a distance of around 34km this was very doable.  The most difficult part of this journey of course was recrossing the busy shipping lanes back into Singapore waters.  Unlike the way over where he had the luxury of a 250HP engine towing us, this time we would be by ourselves under human power.  I was confident we could do it after I ran through the calculations, but it also hinged on the wind, if there was a northerly headwind, it would make crossing the lanes very tough work.

Friday 21 October

That night I slept under the stars on the jetty beside Simpson’s Donkey, while Charlie slept on the back deck.  We rose at 5AM, cooked breakfast of noodles, tuna and coffee then set off rowing at 6AM.  Condition’s were ideal and my tidal predictions worked out perfectly all day. We made excellent progress for six hours, rowing one hour shifts all the way up to the crossing point.  Here we had around 3km to cross over the four shipping lanes and things became interesting. I turned on our electronics radar reflector, VHF radio, and began carefully monitoring our GPS Chart plotter which shows other vessels speed and position and I set it up to show their predicted position vector ten minutes in advance.  From this I saw a steady stream of large ships coming through the western lane.  The eastern lane was much quieter.  We waited on the side of the channel for at least 5 vessels to pass, and after around twenty minutes of ‘pacing the sidelines’ I spotted a gap.


Enjoying beautiful rowing conditions on the way home

“OK Charlie – let’s go!” I muttered between my legs as I engaged the autopilot onto the rudder through the back hatch.  I then took my place in the aft rowing position and together we rowed two-up, pushing the boat along at 3.5 knots as we glided silently through the shipping lane with the autopilot guiding us.  Our timing turned out to be perfect, we had no issues at all with crossing the first two major lanes and it was almost anti climactic.  We now only had the two smaller lanes to cross and these were slightly busier, but the vessels were smaller and going at a slower pace.  As we were partway across these our friends from the Singapore coastguard intercepted us and stopped us. The Singapore coastguard in my experience is a professional bunch and very friendly and helpful to deal with.  They definitely do a great job of monitoring the waters around Singapore, and as usual, after a brief explanation of our intentions and documents, they escorted us for a few hundred metres before gunning their engines and heading off.  We kept rowing two-up for the last few kilometres to the immigration point at Sisters island where by this time Charlie had been on the oars for 4 hours.  He had performed magnificently under pressure and was well in need for a break under the hot sun.  I could tell, as he had begun to stop enjoying my jokes! Unfortunately the immigration boat informed us of a large delay and as the currents are fierce around Sisters Island we had to work our way around until we found some form of shelter in the lee of the winds and current and wait.  The gray boat appeared sooner than expected however and thirty minutes later we had cleared into Singapore and headed east across to St Johns Island to wait out the next favorable tide.

I have a very good idea of the currents in Singapore due to the extensive modelling that has been performed on them through the reclamation activities.  I thus knew the next period of favorable currents was not kicking in until around 2AM.  Again we found being short of an anchor was not ideal here, so we tied up to seaweed (yes not a perfect anchor! but it worked for a while!), and then an old stake.   We enjoyed some well-earned R & R here as we relaxed, ate, swam, cleaned the boat and checked our mobile phones.  When darkness fell we took turns sleeping while one person sat on deck on watch.  We slept fitfully in the muggy night.

Saturday 22 October

At 2AM my alarm pinged and we rose and prepared another meal of noodles and tuna with coffee.  I then jumped on the oars and by 3AM we were happily rowing the remaining 42km journey back to Raffles Marina. This section we have rowed now six times, so we are quite familiar with the route.  It can be very busy with two shipping lanes to cross and strong currents to contend with, but we were not expecting any surprises.  With the tide pushing us along nicely it was more of challenge to not row too strongly, rather than to keep the boat moving.  Timing wise, we needed to be rounding the Tuas hockey stick no earlier than 9AM to catch the incoming tide to push us the last eight miles up to Raffles Marina. If we arrived here too early, we would be stuck expending massive amounts of energy battling tidal streams and making very little progress. I have come to learn during the preparation for this expedition that it is better to sit out and wait for the tides rather than battle against them. We expend so much energy when trying to row the boat at speeds below 1 knot, which is a typical speed when fighting tide.  Keeping the boat on course and with forward momentum is a challenge, every time you stop rowing for a drink she immediately does  a 180 degree turn and starts drifting backwards and its a battle to get her pointing forward again.  So we normally resort to rowing two-up at speeds of less than a knot, but this is not sustainable for more than few hours as neither of us gets a break to rest.  So even though it can be frustrating to sit and wait for a few hours for the tide to turn, in the long run its the most efficient solution of making ground with the least effort.

Around 7AM as we were less than 2nm from the end of the Tuas  hockey stick, smack in the middle of the last very busy shipping channel we needed to cross, when those same ominous black storm clouds we had seen four days earlier appeared on the horizon.  We quickly stowed and lashed everything down and in less than 5 minutes all hell had broken loose. The storm hit us from the north and  the winds were too strong to continue our row west.  Our only option seemed to be to turn south and run with the wind.  We soon saw we were being blown at an alarming rate back towards Indonesia so we left the boat to her own devices, and she naturally turned broadside or beam on into the wind.  This made for more rolling motion but the speed slowed down slightly.  It would have been an ideal position to put out our sea anchor, however due to be smack in the middle of a busy shipping channel this was not the place to increase our footprint from 6.8m to 60m, with a long line and submerged parachute off our bow.  We rode the storm out for the better part of an hour until it blew through, then set about regaining the lost ground to the Tuas hockey stick.  For one and a half hours Charlie battled on the oars as I manually steered, the wind was still blowing strongly from the west but with a strong opposing current pushing us west meant Simpson’s Donkey was difficult to steer.  We finally rounded the hockey stick into much calmer waters at 10:15AM, and Charlie had a well deserved rest and I sat down in the engine room to take my turn on the oars.


The next hour and a half was brutal as even though the tide had changed and was coming in, the currents had not yet changed and I fought the current doing a pitiful 0.7 knot speed.  But gradually the currents reversed and with home in sight, Charlie jumped back in the rowing seat with me, and we had the little Donkey at speeds of up to 5 knots as we smashed our way the remaining 8nm up to Raffles Marina arriving at 1400hrs to a rapturous welcome with live music, models (real, human female ones), beer tents and extravagant cars and yachts awaiting. Actually as it turned out this was the Raffles Marina Rendezvous event and nothing to do with us but it was nice to imagine!

It was great to see Alistair at Raffles Marina with his trusty camera in hand, capturing us as we came in.  I actually found the sudden transition from being on the boat to lots of people, music and unlimited luxury to be a little over whelming and I had to take a few moments to go and sit in the stables with the little donkey quietly to regather my thoughts.  We quickly tidied the Donkey and in less than 45 minutes from her arrival had her back safely in her cradle sitting in the security of her stables.


Six days, a few blisters, scratches and sun burn later we arrive at Raffles Marina.

So we did it.  280km (albeit around 40km of it was towed) but we made it over and back safely to Indonesia, with a few scratches and a great deal of hard-won and positive experience.  As all previous expeditions we made a long list of changes and enhancements we need to make, thankfully these details are getting more and more minor all the time.  I came away from the expedition with the following takeaways:

  • I gained a great deal of confidence that our preparation is right on track and  we are very nearly ready to depart
  • Physical conditioning – I had one day of rest on Sunday and was back in the gym on the Monday.  Physically I felt very good, with no problems at all with my lower back and legs which were extremely sore on earlier rows.  Charlie also seemed to handle it well – so our combined conditioning program which has focused on strength rather than long endurance sessions seems to be effective.
  • Personal Hygiene – we both experienced the start of ‘pizza bum’ – where sores start to develop on our backsides from the salt water and pressure.  We do need to clean more regularly and also apply nappy rash cream for the first time in a few years.
  • Food and nutrition – we are in a process of continual refinement on our nutritional plan and recently welcomed the addition of Gary Moller – sports nutritionist from New Zealand, to our team. Our food is very tasty and generally of really high quality with little preservatives or poison added.  We still have a few refinements to make, especially with adding supplements and super foods to our daily intake, but I am confident it will be a delicious menu we can look forward on our voyage.
  • Tidal streams in the Batam/Bintan area.  I now have a much better idea of what the currents do with the tides in the first part of our journey which will put us in a good position to get through the first three days and hopefully get away from shore and the effect of tidal streams.
  • Team dynamics – Charlie and I both got stretched enough on the voyage to see each other getting tired and under pressure at certain periods. When things needed to be done, we both continued to communicate, (although my ear does need to be trained to understand a deep ‘Essex’ian’ accent and some of Charlie’s adjectives!) and work together as a team.
  • Daily check-in with project manager Dave Field in New Zealand.  We set-up a plan for two check-ins per day 2AM and 2PM Indonesian time, which was 7AM and 7PM in NZ.  This did not work that well as I did not manage to stick to two check-ins per day.  I feel one check-in would be more realistic.

A massive thank you to all those who supported this effort including:

Raffles Marina for hosting Simpson’s Donkey

Nonga Point Marina for assiting with our entry and exit from Indonesia and very friendly service of Mr Prakash and team.

Captain Peter ‘Stitch’ Hutton and crew – for towing us over in Witch Fish

Dave Field – project manager in New Zealand

Alistair Harding – Filming and rendezvous

TC – drone pilot

Stephanie – my wife for managing the home front while I was away

Tailwind Nutrition Singapore – for supplying delicious electrolyte drinks

And lastly, Charlie Smith – my team mate.  I could not ask for a more committed and hard- working team mate.  Thank you for sharing the experience.









Episode One – Open Day for the expedition

Hello folks!

Yesterday Charlie Smith and I returned safely to Raffles Marina in Simpson’s Donkey after a six day training row to Indonesia.  We tested our systems, got smashed by two storms, ran aground, got very sun burnt, battled headwinds and strong tidal currents, dodged oil tankers and cargo vessels and learnt more in six days than a year of what reading books on the subject would ever teach us.  Oh, we also had a fantastic time!

Thanks to all those who supported our journey, Dave Field our project manager in New Zealand, Muhtar Latif our electronics specialist, Alistair Harding our film producer and of course Stephanie my wife for managing home base so efficiently without my input.  Also a big thanks to  Captain Peter ‘Stitch’ Hutton and his crew for being our support vessel on the way over to Indonesia.  A video episode will be dedicated to the training row and the exciting footage we collected but for now, it is my great pleasure…. to introduce to you episode number 1 of the Rowing from Home to Home series – produced by the unassuming yet amazingly talented Mr Alistair Harding – we hope you enjoy!

PS: We aim to produce episodes EVERY two weeks from this point forward throughout the expedition, but this costs money so we ask for your support. If you enjoy this episode – share it with as many friends as possible, this more views and support we get the easier it is to find the means to keep producing these.  We don’t do this to make money, we do it because we love it, we hope our passion shows through in our work and we hope you love it too!


Grant ‘Axe’ Rawlinson

Interview with team mate Charlie Smith

In this interview we get the privilege to know ‘Rowing from Home to Home’ team mate Charlie ‘Prince Charles’ Smith better.  Charlie will be crew mate on the first leg – the never before attempted, 4500km rowing journey, completely by human power, from Singapore to Darwin.  Charlie discusses all sorts of issues, from his life in Romford, UK, how he plans to handle Axe’s notorious humor, and even his method of dealing with sexual frustration on board the vessel.

Charlie, what’s a boy from Romford doing out here in Singapore?

Well I first moved out here about 2 1/2 years ago when a job opportunity came up with work. At the time I had little knowledge of Singapore apart from what I’d read in some guidebooks, but thought it’ll be a great experience and a chance to travel and see a part of the world that was completely new to me.


Charlie hanging out in the cabin of Simpson’s Donkey (photo: http://www.earthsoulimages)

What’s the major differences, both good and bad, between life in Romford, UK compared to life in Singapore?

Living in Romford was great as a kid, and I made some life long friends through rugby along the way. But it wasn’t until I started discovering climbing and the freedom it gave me that I started really using Romford as a base for training and then going on mini adventures around the country-so long as you don’t mind the weather so much!  Singapore Is a complete contrast, It’s a thriving city, based in the heart of Asia and a melting pot of cultures which makes it a fantastic place to live. However when I first moved here I did find it hard to keep the fire of adventure alive-until I stumbled upon ocean rowing by chance and then eventually the Rowing from Home to Home expedition. The only real downside for a Romford boy is the heat and humidity!


How did you become involved in rowing from home to home?

I’d be lying if I said I grew up dreaming of jumping into an ocean rowing boat and setting off on an expedition like Rowing from Home to Home. I’d never even thought about if before, until I was delayed for 12 hours at Heathrow airport 2 years ago, with only a book to keep me company. That book was Adam Rackley’s Salt, Sweat and Tears, an account of Adam Rackley and James Arnold’s successful voyage across the Atlantic in 2010. The incredible physical and mental strength of Rackley and Arnold – and all those who had attempted to row an ocean before them – sparked something within me. 

It’s by chance really that while I was researching what it would take to launch such a campaign that I was introduced by Rannoch Adventure to you Axe. Since then it’s been an invaluable experience, from starting to train together and eventually becoming the second crew member on such a unique and challenging adventure. It was definitely something that I couldn’t pass up! 

You speak very fondly of your parents – so what do your Mum and Dad think about you being part of Rowing from Home to Home?

Well it was certainly a shock when I first broke the news. I had a difficult time explaining why anyone would want to do this, let alone their little boy. Life is precious and it took a long time for them to come to terms with my choice, by showing them how committed both of us are for making this a success and the precautions we are taking to control the risks involved. 

Despite their reservations they have been so supportive over the months and the years, I couldn’t ask for anything more. Having the support of my family back home is one strongest my sources of strength and none of this would have been possible for me without them. I’m so proud to have them as parents and for believing in me, and supporting my dreams.

In 2018 you have plans for a solo expedition on the Atlantic. Tell us more about this?

When I first learned about the Ocean rowing, I came to learn about the Talisker whisky Atlantic challenge. a 3,000 Mile rowing race across the mid-atlantic against teams of fours, pairs and solo rowers every year. My goal is to be the fastest solo rower in the 2018 race, and weather depending complete the crossing in under 60 days. Being a part of the Rowing Home expedition is invaluable with the knowledge and experience I’ll need to not just row, but to compete across the Atlantic.

How are you training for rowing from home to home and how much more training  do you think you will need before you start?



Photo: earthsoulimages.com

Speaking to past ocean rowers has been vital in forming a comprehensive physical training program, as we will be spending months rowing upto 12 hours a day each. Compound lifts such as the Squat, Deadlift, Overhead press and row are staples in my programming, as they develop all of the major muscle groups and develop your ‘core’ strength in the back to sustain us rowing. I train 4 times a week at the gym with additional rowing seasons out on Simpson’s Donkey, or if this isn’t possible in my flat where we have a rowing machine.



Being physically fit is important for an expedition, but training also encompasses learning as much about your boat and seafaring which can make all the difference. We have been spending as much time as possible onboard testing not only ourselves but the equipment, rowing schedules and the changes we can make to improve our life at sea. 


At 26 years of age you are nearing the peak of your sexual drive.  How do you plan to handle sexual frustration whilst on-board the boat?

Well as you know you have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Keeping an element of surprise on-board will break up the monotony and frustration we can sometimes feel on the oars!

What do you think will be the most challenging part of rowing from home to home for you?

This will be the biggest challenge of my life so far, and has been close to 2 years in the making for me before we depart. With any true challenge there will always be that element of self-doubt at some stage, at second guessing the path you have chosen. Preparing yourself for reaching you’re perceived physical and mental barriers and moving past them is hard to practice without pushing yourself, especially when tired, hungry, sleep deprived and feeling the effects of physical exertion. It’s why I think to a certain extent people do go out and have these adventures, to find out who you really are. 

Like with other ultra-endurance events when you find yourself in that situation, when the chips are down that you realise that the biggest challenge of all is your own mind. 

You have been working specifically on the nutrition plan for rowing from home to home, can you describe this to us?

Creating a nutrition plan for ocean rowing is challenging in several ways. We will each need to consume around 6,000 Calories a day to sustain our workload, with a significant amount coming from fats (approx 40% of the total calories) as well as Carbs (20%) and protein to repair our muscles (20%). 

Finding calorie dense foods when compared to their weight is a must, as well will be carrying 80 days worth of rations onboard. At 1.5kg each per day thats 240kg of food which we will need to carry at the start of our journey. Examples of these foods are dehydrated ration packs, dried meats such as Bwa Kwa, Biltong, cheeses, nuts, dried fruits as well as some supermarket staples such as instant noodles and tinned fish.

Another factor is finding and preserving foods when refrigeration is not available. food will need to be stored in vacuum sealed packs to preserve them in tropical temperatures and prevent any foods spoiling in the very warm temperatures. 

Hydration is also a major concern, consuming 12 litres a day alone will not replace the salts and essential minerals lost through sweat on a daily basis. Finding the correct supplements and electrolytes is key in preventing chronic fatigue and muscle cramps, and working closely with nutritionists and dieticians to make sure we cover all of our bases and leave nothing to chance. 

During your training expeditions, what was it like to eat, sleep, row, go the toilet and live on this tiny space?

Coming from a city like Singapore it’s an adjustment to go from a thriving city to such a confined space, but it’s in many respects a liberating feeling focusing on one goal, and throwing everything you have at it. It’s not without its challenges of course, apart from rowing under the blistering sun, sleeping in short, 2 hour intervals, eating dehydrated ration backs you also have to maintain focus around one of the busiest ports and shipping lanes on the planet. Even things we take for granted such as personal hygiene and using the toilet become different beasts entirely. 

But it’s that feeling of self-sufficiency, and working towards a vision of what you can achieve if you apply yourself which makes the whole process worthwhile. It’s funny, as soon as I step off the boat after the rows, It’s not long until I find myself wanted to be out there again living and breathing it.


Charlie preparing for the biggest challenge in his life. Photo http://www.earthsoulimages.com

What’s the biggest challenges you foresee facing in the row to Darwin?

There are a number of challenges to an expedition such as this, but for me it would be navigating through some of

the most complex waterways in the world due to currents, shipping, weather patterns, which put alot of weight on our seafaring skills. This will be especially important during our final stretch into Darwin via the Timor sea, in which we will have to time our crossing carefully to avoid infamous bad weather at that time of year. 

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions Charlie – how can people follow your future plans after ‘Rowing from Home to Home?’

You can check out my facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/charlierowsatlanticsolo

Or my expedition website: http://www.charlierows.com/



Rowing from Home to Home open day! 8 October 2016

Do come and join us on the 8th October at the beautiful Raffles Marina venue in Singapore for the Rowing from Home to Home open day from 4 – 6PM.

See the boat, meet the team and hear the story about the expedition!  I will be giving a 30 minute presentation on the expedition, followed by a tour of the boat and you are welcome to join us after for drinks and dinner at Raffles Marina – on your own account🙂

All welcome, bring your kids, free parking onsite.  Details in the flyer attached!

This is free to attend and register your interest by dropping me a line at axe@axeoneverest.com or check out the facebook event page here:  https://www.facebook.com/events/672731089565671/



Expedition trailer is out!

Hello there!

Very excited to release to you the official expedition trailer/teaser – a 2.5 minute short film about the Rowing from Home to Home expedition, put together so very professionally by kiwi film producer Mr Alistair Harding.  A big thank you to Mr Jingyi Tan for the drone footage, and to Charlie Smith, Stephanie my wife and our two kids Kate and Rachel for their input!

Parts of this footage were also aired on New Zealand’s Television 3 station this week on the prime time STORY section which you can see here:


Our story also featured in New Zealand’s online news site STUFF – the link here:


We have grand ambitions to produce content similar to this qulaity, throughout the duration of the expediton next year.  But of course this comes at a cost so currently we are working hard to find the means.  If you know any organisations who would like to have access to beautifully produced media content like this, with their company names and logo’s involved then please do get in contact!


Grant ‘Axe’ Rawlinson




105km in 31 hours – Training row #2

We departed this previous Thursday evening at 5:30 PM with a plan to make a complete, self-supported circumnavigation of Singapore by human power (using Simpson’s Donkey rowing boat).  Well, as complete as you can, because you see, in reality it is impossible to row around the Singapore mainland. Why? Because someone built a bloody big causeway which you cannot pass under.

What we can do however, is start on one side of the causeway, and row 80nm (130 km) all the way around to the other side of the causeway.  Not a complete loop then, althouugh some might say this is being pedantic as you are only missing a few metres of the causeway section.  We would actually have to leave out a few hundred meters either side of the causeway itself, as from previous kayaking experience I know that the Singapore authorities get more jittery than a long-tailed dog in a room full of rocking chairs when you get close to their sacred bridge which separates Malaysia and Singapore.

Building on the ass-bruising, back-breaking, sleep deprived 1st expedition three weeks earlier, we made a number of experiential based changes, possibly the most important being taking a pee bottle (to avoid falling over board or urinating on yourself or your partner whilst trying to finish your business whilst standing on a slippery, rocking deck, holding on to two of your most prized possessions by one hand each – one of those being the boat of course).  Revisions were also made to our radio and camera systems, shift patterns, food, water, rowing techniques, footwear, and more….

Rather than subject you to a blow- by-blow, 31 hour account of the row, I would sum it up saying, we missed the crucial timings in terms of tide by a couple of hours all the way around.  There are some hot spots in terms of currents around Singapore, and if you don’t get past them with the tide at the right times then it gets really tough to drag a half tonne rowing boat around them.  Right from the start, we had a head wind of 8 – 10 knots which slowed us to a speed of less than 2 knots for the first few hours. This affected us all the way around as we were never able to catch up the time and had to battle indeed around points such as Changi finger and the Tuas hockey stick, as we missed the timing of the favorable tidal streams.


So after 31 hours and 108km, we rowed into Raffles Marina at 3am on Saturday morning, cutting the journey short by 22km.  Here the tide was against us and the remaining distance would have taken around 7 hours at the pace we were at to reach the causeway. Upon which point we would have had to turn and row back 23 km all the way to Raffles Marina where the boat is housed.  Making a very long day and effectively spoiling sacred weekend time with my family. You can see a real time interactive map of our route here:   https://axeoneverest.maprogress.com/circumnavigationofsingaporebyhumanpower

Route map

A route map in red showing our journey around Singapore, starting at the centre-top, at the main causeway, and finishing at the red market at Raffles Marina.

So the complete-around-the-island, unsupported loop  challenge remains.  Once again as per the first training row, we learnt an enormous amount and will make changes before preparing once more to do battle with the multitude of challenges that attempting to row a loop of Singapore by human power entails.

Rowing a boat two hours on, two hours off, 24 hours per day, in the tropics is an experience that is difficult to describe in words. Under the intense Singapore sun, it can be nothing short of a brutal,  miserable suffer-fest by day.  There is no escape from the heat and sweat.  Just trying to live on this tiny platform, to keep clean, to eat, to drink, to sleep is a challenge let alone trying to row 12 hours per day each.  The vessel traffic was thick and fast, and the ships were just massive as they glided past us every few minutes, keeping us constantly on lookout and making evasive maneuvers.  However if this game was easy, everyone would be doing it.  I am looking forward to the next outing, Enjoy the photos.

Love Axe

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Rowing the worlds second busiest port – lessons from the first training expedition

Ocean Rowing boats are designed to cross oceans. Massive expanses of endless blue water. Day after day, week after week, month after month without seeing land. Thousands of metres of water below your keel.  If you are lucky, you may on the odd occasion see a vessel, but far away in the distance.  Your food, your water, your toilet, your communications, everything you need to survive for months at a time, is carried on board. This adds up in weight and at 500 – 700kg your boat feels heavy, very heavy.  The oars feel like you are dipping them  in concrete every time you take a stroke. An average speed for a single person rowing is 1.5 – 2 knots – the pace of a slow walk.  You cannot maneuver a boat this size quickly and are very much at the mercy of currents and winds which bully and push you in directions of their choice.

Attempting to row an ocean rowing boat in the worlds second busiest port (Singapore), through these crowded waterways, strong tidal streams, the ever-present risk of reefs, islands and other navigational hazards and the endless human imposed obstacles of red tape  and regulations is by no means a straightforward exercise.  After months of planning and preparation, obtaining necessary paperwork, licenses, registrations and permissions, Charlie Smith and myself set-out at 1AM last Thursday evening from Raffles Marina in a terribly excited and somewhat nervous state to attempt to row around 2/3 of the Island of Singapore.  32 hours, 58nm (107km), 180 minutes of sleep, 5 stoppages and interrogations by the Singapore Police and Coastguard, two very sore backs and backsides later, we rowed the final few strokes into the Sembawang SAF Yacht Club, having successfully undertaken our first non-stop training expedition.


Simpson’s Donkey chomping at the bit to get going at 1AM in the morning at Raffles Marina

The journey started well, and based on our study of the tidal streams around Singapore, we rode the currents for the first 8 hours.  Rowing through the darkness with our navigation lights on and our AIS transponder electronically beaming our position to nearby vessels, we soon rounded the south-western tip of Singapore, averaging speeds of 3.5 knots.  We rowed one person at a time, on 90-minute, alternating shifts.  Rowing at night is beautiful in the tropics, the temperature drops off and the lights of the huge ships made us feel as if we were moving through a magical floating city.


Passing rigs resting at shipyards during the early morning

After 8.5 hours rowing, around 9:30AM we were at the St Johns Island, just off Sentosa Island, having completed 25nm through the busiest section of waterways Singapore has to offer. The constant stream of vessel traffic approaching and crossing from all directions meant we needed both hands on deck, one person rowing and the other steering and on lookout duty.  The downside of this was that we could not rest or sleep on our off-shifts.

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Charlie in the engine room as the sun comes up

After crossing the Tanjong Pagar fairway (container terminal shipping lane), the sun came out to bake and torment us.  The current also turned against us and our speed slowed to a pitiful 1 knot or less as we clawed our way along the east cost of Singapore for the next 6 hours, averaging speeds between 1 – 2 knots.  At the eastern tip of Singapore we stopped for a short break to eat our freeze-dried food, take a quick swim to cool off after 16 hours on the go, and scrape the barnacles off the bottom of the boat. As darkness fell we made our way around the eastern tip of Singapore Island – and the Changi Naval Base.  This Naval base is a heavily restricted and guarded zone so we made sure to stay outside of this area.  However we still aroused suspicions and were stopped again (this for the third time) by the Singapore police who forced us to row for one hour, in a southerly direction, against the wind while they checked our paperwork.  A frustrating exercise especially for Charlie who was on the oars, in the dark and the choppy sea conditions.  After realising our paperwork was complete, the Police became much friendlier, gave us the all clear and even the offer of assistance if we needed it.


Rowing through the midday sun – hot work!

Charlie then took a much deserved rest and it was my turn in the engine room to make the final one mile to round the eastern tip of Singapore. Against the current, with a strong cross wind and with choppy seas making it impossible to get a clean stroke, I clawed our way around at a pathetic 0.8 knots, blinking as the Navy Base shone their powerful search lights in my face every few minutes.

For the next 11 hours we slowly worked our way up the east coast of Singapore, in calmer and much less busy water.  We crossed to Pulau Ubin, an Island off the north coast of Singapore and it was serene and peaceful as we rowed just metres away from the dense mangroves in the dead of the night. By this stage our backsides and our lower backs were very uncomfortable.  But the main issue was our lack of sleep over the last 24 hours.  This coupled with the huge amount of exertion and need to be constantly vigilant meant we were both very tired and it was a slow journey until we finally pulled into Sembawang SAFYC at 8:35AM Saturday morning. Tired yes, but also jubilant to have pulled off our first training expedition in challenging circumstances.


Big ship – little ship. Photo credit: JY Photographs

32 hours of rowing

32 hours later and happy to be pulling into SAFYC.  Photo credit: JY Photographs


So what did we achieve?

Albert Einstein said “The only source of knowledge is experience”.  We learnt more from this 32 hour row, than we could learn in one year of reading books or articles on the subject.  The top 10 learning experiences we will take away and work on for the next expedition are:

  1. Bums get sore when you sit on them for long periods – we need softer seat options. I wore cycling shorts which I found to be very uncomfortable, cramping my style somewhat and eventually I took John Thomas, Barry and William out of the cycling shorts and allowed them to hang free which was much more pleasant.
  2. Lower backs get very sore from rowing long periods – we need to work on good technique engaging our lower abs when we row to lessen the pressure on our lower backs, and also look into using lower back braces to help support our backs.
  3. Hands can get very sore as well from gripping the oar handles. We are fortunate to have fantastic soft Oarsome Oar Grips – these meant we did not get one blister, but we do need to fix them correctly to the handles as they kept rotating.
  4. Food is a major moral boost and very important to keep us going.  Our first attempt at food needs revision.  The dehydrated meals were nice, the two-minutes noodles we cooked were excellent, but the many bags of nuts were not good, we had too many nuts! We need more variety of snacks.
  5. Sleep – to be able to continue rowing in shifts for long periods it is crucial to be able to rest.  We badly needed to sleep, but due to the busy nature of the waterways it was difficult to have this luxury.  It is also very hot in the cabin to sleep during the day so we need to make an area on deck which one person can lie and sleep more comfortably.
  6. Boat maintenance – we need to have a roster and a system for maintaining the boat. ‘Look after the boat and the boat will look after you’.  After we came off our shifts, between eating and drinking, keeping lookout, navigating, entering waypoints into the GPS – our time to maintain the boat was very limited and hence we did not really do it.
  7. Body maintenance – similar to looking after the boat, looking after our bodies is critical.  We need to develop solid routines when we come off shift, to clean ourselves, change clothes, eat, drink and rest correctly.
  8. Ships Log – we were so busy with everything else we ignored the log, we need to start diligently filling out the log every few hours, with the most important details such as battery power, vessel position and speed, current weather conditions.
  9. The little things – there were many small details which need improving and tweaking, things you never think about until you get yourself into the situation – clothes pegs to dry your shirt without it blowing away, spare lighters, where to store the toilet paper, configuring the GPS units so they both display with the same settings etc etc etc.
  10. Team dynamics – the only way to test how you will get along with your partner in extreme situations is to put yourself into these challenging situations and see how you both react.  As Charlie and myself are a new combination, I was very interested to see how our dynamic would work.  It turned out to be a very positive experience which I will share more on in future posts.

We are now gearing up for our next training expedition which will be an attempt to row the entire way around Singapore.  We will put the changes into place which we have learnt and identified above,  and slowly but surely we will become a smoother and more well oiled machine!

Simpson’s Donkey… out…

Route for row to SAFYC

Our route around Singapore in red from our SPOT tracker and MAPPROGRESS tracking website.










Why do we have Monsoons in Asia?

For the first 21 years of my life I lived in New Zealand, where the most common question to ask someone up on meeting is “what do you think of the weather?”.  In New Zealand the weather seems to dictate our daily lives, our actions, our moods and our conversations. Maybe one of the reasons for weather being such a ‘hot’ topic in New Zealand is the fact it is extreme, it changes fast and can be very difficult to predict.

When I moved to Singapore at the age of 22, I found it strange that people thought I was strange when I asked them about the weather!  Here the topic of conversation on everyone’s lips revolves around food – “Have you taken your breakfast yet?”.  I soon realised that the weather in Singapore is generally very predictable, and can be described in two ways:

  • hot and muggy


  • VERY hot and muggy

After living here for 19 years I also learned there were two main wind patterns that affected Singapore and the south-east-asian region.

  • The north east monsoon: December through to March
  • The south west monsoon: June through to September.

As the names suggest for each monsoon seasons the winds blow predictably in these directions during these periods.

The times in between these monsoons are typically called ‘inter-monsoon periods’.  These are characterized by light and variable winds and are often the times of the most intense thunder and electrical storms.  Singapore has over 180 ‘lightning days’ per year (days when lightning is recorded somewhere in the country).  Every year a handful of people die from lightning strikes in Singapore such as this poor chap here, making it one of the lightning capitals of the world. Indeed being caught out, especially in a small boat in a major electrical storm (as I have on occasions) is an unnerving experience.


About to be overtaken by an angry sky – paddling with my wife Stephanie in the Divorce Machine through our first tropical storm off Sentosa Island, Singapore.

After 19 years of living in Singapore and whilst researching the Rowing from Home to Home expedition – I finally learnt the reason why we have monsoon winds in Singapore.  The answer is very straightforward and can be explained in three steps:

Step One – pressure differences

All of the weather on the earth is fundamentally caused – believe it or not, by the sun.  The sun warms certain part of the earth, while other parts in the shadow or further from the sun are cooled.  When the earth is heated, warmer air rises causing lower air pressure close to the earths surface.

Consequently where land or sea is cooler – the air sinks and stays lower.  This means more air, more dense and more pressure, making high pressure areas close to the earths surface.  Air always tries to travel from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure.  It tries to even out the air pressure all over the world.  This movement causes winds.


Step Two – The asian continent cools

During winter in the northern hemisphere, the enormous land mass of Asia cools. This is from November  through to March.  As it cools, (as described above) the air is heavier and more dense close to the surface making area of HIGH pressure.  Over the equator where Singapore is located – it is hot and there is LOW pressure.  Hence the air travels from the HIGH pressure to the LOW pressure – down from the Asian continent towards and over the equator.  Initially it travels as a north-easterly wind (remember when describing winds the direction is where the wind comes from NOT where the wind is going – so a north-easterly wind is in fact heading in the opposite direction i.e. south-west) direction until it hits the equator, then it turns to a north-westerly wind down towards Australia.

Click this LINK to see an animation of north-east monsoon winds on the 19 January 2015.

I was often confused when people talked about the monsoons as they used the terms ‘north-east’ or ‘north-west’ monsoon and I wondered which is which? Until I finally understood that they are the same phenomenon, it just depends whether you stand north of the equator where you would call it the north-east monsoon, or south of the equator where it would be the north-west monsoon.

Step Three – The asian continent warms

During summer in the northern hemisphere, the asian land mass warms and the opposite occurs.  The air rises and creates a LOW pressure region over the Asian continent, lower in pressure even than the air at the equator and further south.  Consequently the air travels towards the low pressure region in Asia making the winds south-easterly (below the equator) and south-westerly above the equator.

Click this LINK here to see an animation of winds during the south-east monsoon  on 19 June 2015.


Why is this important to Rowing from Home to Home?

Wind strength and direction is extremely important to sailors and mariners for obvious reasons. Now we are travelling by human power so will NOT be using sails of my kind, however the wind still influences our vessel enormously, either aiding our progress or restricting it. It can even push us backwards or worse still into dangerous areas/objects where we do not want to be.  We cannot really make headway against wind speed more than 15 knots and the higher the wind speed the rougher the sea state becomes, to a point when we cannot row safely.

So judging the best time of the year to make this expedition is something that I have been studying for a very long time.  As know one has even tried to travel from Singapore to Australia by human power in a rowing boat – I need to research and make the decisions without the benefit of others experience.  Based on the information given above it would seem the north-east monsoon is the logical time to attempt the expedition?

But wait! There is one more factor to consider.


A tropical cyclone is a rapidly rotating storm system characterized by a low-pressure center, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain. Depending on its location and strength, a tropical cyclone is referred to by names such as hurricane , typhoon, tropical storm, cyclonic storm, tropical depression, and simply cyclone.[4] (source Wikipedia)


Unfortunately the period of the north-east monsoon is also cyclone season.  As you can see from the image above of cyclone tracks recorded over time, our rowing route from Indonesian across to Darwin in Australia passes right through ‘cyclone alley’.  Being caught in a cyclone is something we will need to be very careful to try to avoid.  These are massive storms, with very rough sea states and bad enough for large vessels let alone small little rowing boats. But as with most things in life of value, you have to make compromises and take risks to achieve them.  We need the north-easterly/westerly winds therefore the risk of cyclones is something we will have to manage.









Every boat needs a name: Welcome to the world Simpson’s Donkey!

As the title of this post suggests, every boat needs a name.  Following along from my trusty inflatable kayak which is named ‘The Divorce Machine’ (given by kiwi buddy Blair Spendelow), there were rumors and suggestions abounding that the rowing boat would be suitably named ‘The Divorce Machine 2’.  This was not to be and after a few months of brain storming I am proud to announce that our beautiful Rowing Boat is officially known as ‘Simpson’s Donkey’.

So where did this name come from? It is to do with a very sad part of world history, World War 1.  One of the great battles of WWI was fought at Gallipoli, this became known as the Gallipoli campaign, the Dardanelles Campaign or the Battle of Canakkale to the Turks.  Gallipoli is a peninsula on Turkey’s coastline.  Between 25 April, 1915 and 9 January, 1916, the allies consisting of troops from the UK, France, Newfoundland, India, Australia and New Zealand mounted a massive attack, and attempted to storm the Gallipoli peninsula. The ensuing battle resulted in 500,000 casualties and after 8 months of fierce fighting  – the allies withdrew, their campaign a failure.  But for the Turks it is regarded as one of the greatest Ottoman victories during the war.

“In Turkey, it is regarded as a defining moment in the nation’s history: a final surge in the defence of the motherland as the Ottoman Empire crumbled. The struggle formed the basis for the Turkish War of Independence and the declaration of the Republic of Turkey eight years later under Mustafa Kemal (Kemal Atatürk) who first rose to prominence as a commander at Gallipoli” [source: Wikipedia]

It also formed a very significant part of Australia and New Zealand’s history.

“The campaign is often considered as marking the birth of national consciousness in Australia and New Zealand and the date of the landing, 25 April, is known as “Anzac Day” which is the most significant commemoration of military casualties and veterans in those two countries.”[source: Wikipedia]

As with every battle there were many heroic feats on both sides.  One of the more intriguing and inspiring stories is of an Australian soldier John (Jack) Simpson Kirkpatrick who served as a stretcher bearer with the 1st Australian Division during the campaign.  After landing  on a beach at Gallipoli peninsula known as Anzac Cove on the 25 April 1915, Simpson began to use donkeys to provide first aid and carry wounded soldiers to the beach  for evacuation.  Simpson and the donkeys continued this work for three and a half weeks, under very dangerous conditions.  They were often under fire and the story goes that he used a at least 4 different donkeys during this period as each one was killed in the line of duty.


Simpson (right) with one of his Donkeys carrying a wounded soldier. (Source Wikipedia)

“Colonel (later General) John Monash wrote: “Private Simpson and his little beast earned the admiration of everyone at the upper end of the valley. They worked all day and night throughout the whole period since the landing, and the help rendered to the wounded was invaluable. Simpson knew no fear and moved unconcernedly amid shrapnel and rifle fire, steadily carrying out his self-imposed task day by day, and he frequently earned the applause of the personnel for his many fearless rescues of wounded men from areas subject to rifle and shrapnel fire.”[source: Wikipedia].

As with many stories over the time, their are varying accounts of the exact facts.  It generally seems to be accepted that Simpson managed to bring over 300 men back to safety during his 24 days serving at Gallipoli.  Sadly Simpson was killed my machine gun fire at Anzac Cove on 19 May, 1915.  However “Simpson and his Donkey” are now very much engrained into the “Anzac legend“.  You can read more about the man and his colorful history here: http://www.anzacs.net/Simpson.htm or here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Simpson_Kirkpatrick

Simpson’s Donkey is a synomonous with bravery, faithfulness and courage.  But most importantly to me, the little donkey was a symbol of hope and safety. Imagine being a wounded solder on the battle field, under fire and in pain, far from home, the sight of Simpson and his brave little donkey coming to your rescue as your lifeline must have been one of the most beautiful things you could ever imagine to see.

Our rowing boat is our lifeline, just like the little donkey, she does not move very fast, but we must rely completely on her, for her strength and her sturdiness to carry us safely From Home to Home.




Simpson’s Donkey is officially registered as  New Zealand vessel (Registration number NZ 2270).  She arrived in Singapore two weeks ago and I am very proud to now have her in the water at the beautiful Raffles Marina.  Raffles Marina are very kindly hosting her at their world class facility for the entire 9 months leading to our departure in January 2017.  During this time there is a massive amount of training, preparation, familiarization, modifications and enhancements to do before departure. (See two very short videos of the arrival and launch below)

As with all major expeditions, budgets are always challenging and I am always happy to hear from any potential customers who may be interested in my inspiring keynote speaking services, which is the way I have funded the bulk of the campaign to date.

For those of you reading this who use Facebook, please note I also post regular weekly updates to the expedition facebook page which you can see here: https://www.facebook.com/GrantAxeRawlinson/

Thanks for reading and have a great week ahead!

Grant ‘Axe’ Rawlinson

NB:  A big thank you to my friend Ms Lyn Fielding, for helping suggest the name ‘Simpson’s Donkey’.  Originally I was contemplating ‘Anzac Spirit’ for the boat name however the word ‘Anzac’ is protected in New Zealand and Lyn gave me this alternate suggestion which I immediately loved. Lyn, for an Aussie you are not bad🙂


New Team member Charlie Smith!

There has been an intense last few weeks in the Rowing from Home to Home camp, and some big progress has been made. See the updates in brief below:

Charlie  SmithFirstly I would like to make a huge welcome to Charlie Smith who is joining the team as the second rower and crew mate for the journey from Singapore to Australia.  Charlie hails from Essex UK, and if you know much about Essex you may leap to the conclusion that Charlie is a skinny, pasty faced, tracksuit wearing fella with a gold chain around his neck who speaks loudly on his mobile phone and loves football.  Charlie has none of these traits and instead is a strapping, handsome, intelligent, 25 year old investment banker who is currently based in Singapore. An adventurous chap, Charlie loves mountains and spent his time climbing when he was based in the UK.  Since moving to Singapore, Charlie has turned his attention to the sea and has his own long terms plans to take part in the Atlantic Talisker Challenge Rowing Race in a few years time.  Charlie has bought a huge amount of positive energy to the team in the short time he has been on board.  He is strong as an oxe with a down to earth attitude, good sense of humor and has shown his immediate intention to roll his sleeves up and get stuck into the hard grind of preparation for an expedition of this magnitude.  I am looking forward to getting to know him very much better as we spend countless enforced hours together over the next year.

4T8A3191-e1433226950391-193x290Another new team member is Wendy Riddell, a lovely Scottish lady with a beautiful accent who is a professional personal trainer and nutritionist based in Singapore.  Wendy is assisting us putting together out nutritional plan which is not an easy task.  Somehow we need to bring 60 days of food on board for two people, which will will supply 8000 calories of the required carbohydrates, protein, fat and essential minerals to keep us going on a grueling 2 hours on/2 hours off shift, 24 hours per day.  The food has to weigh maximum 1.5kg per person per day and as we have no refrigeration on board, needs to be able to last in 30 – 40 degree heat for weeks on end without spoiling!


Expedition name change – Some of you may have noticed a slight change on the expedition logo.  The original name of ‘Rowing Home’ has been changed to ‘Rowing from Home to Home’.  This is due to the fact that Singapore is my current home having lived here for 18 years of my life.  So I really do feel as if I have two homes, one in Taranaki, New Zealand, my original home, and one where I live now, Singapore, hence the change in name made the expedition seem more fitting.  Thanks Cory Bellringer for designing the logo.

Rowing from home to home logo

The new logo

The boat – more exciting news here and she is currently tucked away nicely inside a shipping container on a much larger boat on her way to Singapore.  She will arrive in Singapore next Friday 11 March and be delivered to her new home for the next 9 months, the beautiful Raffles Marine based here in Singapore.  She is officially registered as a New Zealand vessel, complete with her own name, registration number, MMSI number and VHF radio call sign. (Her name to be be revealed in the upcoming weeks).  I have to say a huge thank you to Charlie, Mike, Lottie and the team from Rannoch Adventures who have done a wonderful, 6 month effort to build this beautiful craft.  She has some interesting modifications which I have added in to combat the conditions we expect to face along the way.


Sitting in the 3/4 completed boat in January in Rannoch’s yard in the UK

Training and preparation – physical preparation is ongoing with 5 times per week gym and erg (rowing machine) sessions.  Registrations and paperwork for the vessel have been completed which was a time consuming exercise,  navigating the safest and most cost effective options in terms of what country to register the vessel in.  I have undertaken and passed my marine VHF radio operators exam so am now legally allowed to operate a marine VHF radio at sea.  I am currently partway through my PPCDL – powered pleasure craft drivers license, which is a requirement to operate a boat in Singapore (even though our boat is only ‘human powered’).  This is an intense course with two exams (practical and theory) but a great foundation to learn about navigating around the busiest port in the world which is not for the ignorant, the untrained or the faint of heart.

Over the next two months we will fit out the boats electronics including the water maker, VHF radio, autopilot, GPS chart plotters, radar reflectors and AIS transponder. Both Charlie and I are also taking the following technical courses : Sea survival, First aid at sea, Coastal Navigation Theory, Offshore Navigation Theory. And of course we will be spending countless hours on board the boat, training, learning, adapting and getting used to every single inch of her so that once we depart we can handle everything that is thrown in our direction.

Have a wonderful weekend ahead!

Grant ‘Axe’ Rawlinson











5 ways to raise money for your expeditions if you cannot find sponsorship

I receive many requests from people for advice on how to raise sponsorship to support the cost of their expeditions or adventures (In fact  I get so many requests I wrote this article giving 10 practical tips on how to do it yourself).

I also frequently hear from a number of people who cannot embark on their expeditions due to a lack of sponsorship.

I have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for my expeditions throughout the years and I would like to share some good and bad news with you.

The BAD NEWS is that if you are using the excuse that you cannot go on your expedition due to lack of sponsorship – you are telling a lie.  If you really want to go on an expedition, you will find a way to do it. You will find a way to overcome every single hurdle put in front of you. Raising necessary funds is just ONE of those hurdles. The beautiful thing about taking on massive challenges is that it forces you out of your comfort zone and shows just how much you really want it.

So how do you raise that money then?

Well, the GOOD NEWS is that there are many ‘other’ legitimate and legal ways to raise dollars without going down the sponsorship route.

Here I will share with you 5 tips how you can raise money for your expedition WITHOUT getting sponsorship. Each of these tips I have used successfully myself in the past so I know they work!

1. Corporate Keynote Speaking.

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Me giving an ‘Axe on Everest’ keynote, a story I have given at least 100 times now and raised a great deal of $ for future expeditions.

Learning to tell a really good story about your adventure and especially the lessons you learned through it, which can translate to a corporate context is one sure-fire way of making money.  Good keynote speaker can pull in anywhere from $500 to $10,000/talk, depending on their level of experience SPEAKING, their profile (how famous are they?), and how much VALUE they can persuade the client they can give to their audience.   I have been professionally speaking for 6 years now, and it is the number one source of raising funds to support my expeditions (my next expedition ROWING from HOME to HOME has a budget of $250,000).  The problem here is that professional speaking is a profession, it is a skill that takes years to develop, and not everyone can master it, however if you are prepared to put in the effort, the rewards are there.

(The good news here is that I can help you develop your keynote address. I am a professional speaking coach and I specialise in working with professional and aspiring professional speakers to “define, refine and shine” a polished keynote address that will literally knock your audience out of the park. Visit my website or contact me on axe@axeoneverest.com to learn more)


2. Run an event

For a successful fund-raising event you will need the following ingredients:

  • A great venue (preferably for free)
  • Fantastic entertainment (preferably for free)
  • Sumptuous food and/or drinks (preferably for free or low-cost as possible)
  • Lots of people (who will pay money to attend your fantastic event)

282 Rugby 6 nationsSo how do you do this? Let me give you an example how I ran mine:

The venue – I found a new, upcoming sports bar in the city which was looking to raise its profile and wanted to introduce itself onto the scene as the premier bar to go to in town for sports people. I visited them and told them in return for them supplying me their venue for the evening, I would bring along at least 150 new customers, all sports people themselves, definite repeat customer potential and the event would be great exposure for their new bar.  They agreed to this as a fair value exchange in return for offering the venue for free.

The entertainment – Rugby players when not playing rugby like to do two things, drink beer and watch rugby.  I chose a night when an international rugby match was being played live on television.  It was free to watch and as far as rugby players go, the best thing they could think of watching that particular evening so that solved the entertainment problem.

Food and drinks – Rugby players love beer. I asked the bar to introduce me to beer sponsors, who were looking to further penetrate the sports scene in Singapore. In return for their beer, I promised them exclusivity as the official beer suppliers and splashed their logo all over the marketing info for the event (see attached).

People – I leveraged off my network of friends and friends of friends to spread the word.  As it was an evening of rugby and beer and very good value at S$100/ticket (as many rugby players would drink 2 – 3 times that per night in Singapore), it was really not very difficult to sell tickets.

I ended with a cool S$15,000 in cash from the evening, not to mention some great exposure for my expedition!

NB:  It took me two attempts to get this right,  the first event I ran, I paid too much for the venue and the food and drinks, did not charge enough for ticket prices and in short, was a great deal of work for what ended up to be only a few hundred dollars profit.

3. Hold an auction

auctionThe ingredients to run a successful auction to raise funds are:

  • Companies/organisations who will donate auction items
  • An auctioneer
  • A venue
  • Inspired people who want to buy your prizes

I held two auctions where I managed to get a number of very attractive prizes to auction off and raised a total of $25,000.

Examples of the prizes were vacations in  luxury villas on tropical islands, tickets to sporting events , cruises on yachts, rock-climbing lessons and more.  In return for the gifts, I offered the donors exposure and marketing during the auction and the build-up to the auction.

The trick here is to find the most valuable prizes you can, that people will be prepared to pay as much money as possible for as they may still be getting it cheaper in the auction than what the normal list price is.  To obtain these prizes, I looked for donors who were looking for more exposure for their products, who would be in a position to donate a product or service which may not necessarily COST them a great deal but has high value to the ordinary consumer.

You will also need an auctioneer, a venue and  people to attend the auction.  For the venue, please refer to ideas from lesson 2 above.  For the auctioneer, if you can’t find a friend or a friend of a friend, then do what I did and do it yourself (a terrifying experience I must admit but if you want it badly enough, you will do it).  One way I found to attracting people to the auction was offering a free 45 minute inspiring keynote presentation by myself first on the evening, followed immediately by the auction.

4. Apply for grants/scholarships

scholarshipsWhen I attended the Outward Bound School in New Zealand many years ago, I was first introduced to the world of grants and scholarships for outdoor activities.  These come in many forms and can be from lotteries commissions who are forced by the governing bodies in certain countries to donate proceeds back to the community, to private companies who offer their own grants.  Generally you will need to make a written submission to a panel of judges and then wait some time to hear the  decision.  The important thing here is to do your homework as some of the scholarships run on one or two yearly cycles, so you may need to apply one to two years before your expedition departs and ensure you do not miss the cut-off.

Rather than pasting a list of links here which may soon be outdated, please use GOOGLE to find grants and scholarships which are relevant to your expedition/adventure.

5.  Mortgage your house

mortgageWhen people ask for me for sponsorship advice, I often ask them this question “How important is this expedition to you? If you do not manage to raise the money through sponsorship, are you prepared for example to re-mortgage your house to raise the funds?”

This is often met by silence, but those individuals who reply that they would do anything it took to get the money together are the genuine articles. These are the people I know are completely committed to the expedition.  On the other hand, there are some who treat sponsorship as a paid holiday and who have the belief that if they do not get sponsorship, they will not proceed.  They have no intention of putting ‘skin in the game’, and are not prepared to commit any of their own money.

If your expedition means enough to you, taking a loan/mortgage is a potential option and I know some people who have successfully done this and paid it back over the next few years.  It does not necessarily have to be as extreme as mortgaging your property, however even continuing working in your day job for an extra few months may be the best option all round.  I have only ever embarked on one expedition that was 100% fully sponsored, the rest I have committed a significant portion of my own cash and time.

I hope this article helps you.Good luck on your journey!







Inspiring People: Scott Butler – journey to Elbrus

In this interview I catch up with firefighter and British human powered adventurer Scott Butler, to hear about his latest expedition to climb Mt Elbrus, the highest mountain in Russia and the continent of Europe.  His climb has an interesting twist as he is not starting at the base of the mountain but from his home in the UK, some 2550 miles away!

[Axe]  Hi Scott, thanks for taking the time to talk.  Can you tell us about your current expedition “Journey to Mt Elbrus”.

[Scott]  Hi Axe, thanks for asking me! The Journey can be broken down into three stages – firstly the cycle which was a 2000 mile unsupported, fully loaded solo journey from the UK to the west coast of the Black Sea and the port of Burgas in Bulgaria.  Secondly I aim to do a solo, unsupported, row 750 miles across the Black Sea to the port of Batumi in Georgia.  Stage three involves the title of the trek – climbing Mt Elbrus just inside Russia which is the highest peak in Europe at 5642m and one of the seven summits (the seven summits are the highest mountains on each of the seven continents).

[Axe]  What gave you the idea to attempt this journey?

[Scott]  It all started with just the simple thought of “what next?!”  I was just looking for my next challenge and climbing a mountain seemed like the next thing to do.  From there I figured why fly all the way there?  That body of water could be interesting to cross somehow… and it all just fell into place!

[Axe] In 2015 you set-off and had some bad luck, can you give us an overview of what happened?

[Scott]  Wow!  Yeah, it seemed if it could go wrong it would! I started with a failure of my sat nav and so from day two in France I was already off my planned route and trying to navigate by map and by phone.  This is very time consuming and wasn’t helped when my phone gave up the ghost!  Add to that broken spokes and punctured tyres, 40 degree heat and then the worst news.  My car that was towing my boat; kindly being driven by friends Tim and Jason, blew its turbo 15 minutes into France!!  Sadly, the car is still in France and not working and all attempts as getting the boat to Bulgaria never worked out despite valiant efforts by many.


[Axe] On a scale of 1 – 10 how disappointed were you when you when you realised you could not continue in 2015 and would need to postpone?  Did you ever feel like giving up all together?

[Scott]  Disappointed… yeah, that’s one way of describing it! I felt as though I had failed and let people down if I’m honest. I was lucky in one way in that I had the rest of the cycle to focus on, and tell myself that just the ride on its own was no mean feat. If 10 is the worst, the I’d say 8 or 9 at the time, but the support and well wishes of my followers helped me get through that. Giving up altogether was never an option!

[Axe]  Has this journey been attempted before?  If not – does being a ‘first’ make it more of an attraction to you?

[Scott]  People have been cycling across Europe for decades and Elbrus has no doubt been climbed by thousands, but nobody has ever rowed across the Black Sea before so a World record is in the offing!  I didn’t know this until I’d set my mind on this challenge so it wasn’t an incentive but certainly became a huge focus of the journey.

[Axe] What were the highlights of the 2015 stage?

[Scott]  Austria was undoubtedly a huge highlight.  The scenery along the Danube was breathtaking and camping literally meters away from the riverbank in a stunning valley was one of those moments where you think “It’s places like this that are why I do these things”. The Danube in general was a highlight- especially as I never planned to ride it!  With the navigation problems an Englishman living in Germany that I bumped into suggested that I take the Danube as it was well signposted.  It wasn’t straight but I could just knuckle down and it enabled me to knockout 140 mile days in the saddle.


But more than the scenery it was experiencing countries like Serbia where you wouldn’t necessarily visit.  The further East I got the more friendly people became.  That’s not to say I didn’t meet wonderfully kind people in the West, far from it!  But I think the further East you get, the less cyclists there are and maybe people appreciate how far you’ve come to be there in that moment. Honking horns, people waving, thumbs up as they pass, being given free food and drink in exchange for photos with me, picking me up when stranded with a busted bike in Hungary when looking for bush to camp behind… it really was wonderful.


Not forgetting the other cyclists that I met! People from all over the world, heading in each direction, with different aims and daily mileage, but all out there searching for something.  Brilliant.


[Axe]  I understand you took a ferry across the English Channel, which obviously is not human power, did you ever consider human powered options for this portion and how important or non-important was it to you to make the trip as human powered as possible?

[Scott] As I mentioned before, the journey really only began as a jaunt up a mountain and slowly developed into the trip it became.  The idea that I would make my way by human power was something that ‘just happened’.  I did take a ferry over the channel –  I looked into kayaking the channel but it proved to be too costly!  I never made too much of it being all human powered and although there was some disappointment at having to take a ferry, ultimately I felt that I was covering enough miles by my own power!  The problems with the boat and the extra cost ultimately made up my mind.  Once this is competed and I have a few thing under my belt then ‘going the whole hog’ might be on the agenda!

[Axe]  What were your biggest fears before you started the journey and how how did you manage these? 

[Scott]  Without being big headed, I didn’t have any fears.  At least I didn’t allow myself to acknowledge any fears!

[Axe] Whats your biggest fear and challenge going into Stage 2 and 3?

[Scott]  Again, no real fears, although, and you’ll laugh at this; my boat sinking!?  Since I discovered that the boat I had bought was rotten inside, I’d spent all my time repairing something I had no knowledge of.  With such tight time constraints I never managed to get the boat into the water to see if it floated!!  People were incredulous that I was heading onto the Black sea without seeing if my repairs were seaworthy and in hindsight this was quiet irresponsible, but I was confident!  At least now I get to test it in some actual water!

[Axe] What is your budget for this expedition? (if you don’t mind me asking!)
[Scott] A budget is a funny thing. It makes you think, naturally, of money. But in reality, certainly in my case, it meant ‘time’ much more than it did money. We all lead such busy lives with so many commitments that getting time away (and to train!) to pursue these sometimes perceived crazy pursuits can be difficult. I’m very lucky that my employers allowed me to:
A. save some holiday from the previous year and
B. the shift pattern that I work as a firefighter allows for larger chunks to be taken off.
The two different budgets will of course intermingle if you aren’t as lucky as I have been as you may need to get the financial backing to cover unpaid leave for example.  For me that was the toughest part: getting sponsors. I did secure some but ultimately I have backed the majority of this adventure. Now I’m doing it ‘budget’ style, certainly in regards to the cost of the boat, and if I’m honest I’m waaaay too slapdash to keep proper track of my expenditure. Once I’m ‘in’ I’m ‘in’ and what it cost is what it costs, using my credit card and dealing with it another day. With the problems I had with the boat and the car and false dawns of restarting thanks to the garage in France (whole ‘nother story) my costs went up. But loosely 8k for the boat, £1000 for tow bar and trailer service, £800 for the bike and equipment, mountain guide, pass and visas etc £2500…. around £15k should have covered it all… but bear in mind as long as I don’t sink or trash the boat there is always a second hand market for ocean rowing boats and it will always be an asset.
If you want it enough it can be done!


[Axe]  Please tell us some more about your boat

[Scott]  Pacific Pete is a 23ft 1997 Woodvale class plywood ocean rowing boat.  It has crossed the Atlantic 5 times and was last owned by Geoff Allum who, along with his cousin rowed the Atlantic in 1971!! Geoff was a huge help and inspiration and I only hope I can justify his decision to sell it to me!  By today’s standards it is old fashioned and heavy- but I like that about it!  As you well know yourself Grant, this isn’t a cheap thing to undertake and Pete was in my price bracket.  It was unfortunate that it turned out to need so much work, but neither Geoff nor I were to have known.  Finally, it’s name.  I’m honoured to carry the name Pacific Pete.  Peter bird was the first man to row solo across the Pacific Ocean and he was a great friend of Geoff’s.  Peter was sadly lost at sea on a further attempt at the pacific.  It’s an honour to own and to be rowing such a legendary boat and one with such a legendary name attached.


[Axe]  How much training, planning and preparation did you and are you doing for this expedition?

[Scott]  Training wise I did at least a 10k row every day on the rowing machine, but usually 2 hour stints – sometimes 2 sets of 2 hrs and sometimes a 4 hour stint (mind numbing!).  I’d also fit in weight training and running.  Couple that with evening stints on the exercise bike at work and 50 to 80 mile bike rides.  The planning was relatively simple, but the logistics and fundraising/sponsor seeking was hugely time consuming and to be honest with you quite demoralising!  I’m no ‘blagger’!  All in I took around 18 months to bring it all together… which made the last minute rush with the boat repairs quite galling!

[Axe]  What are the top three lessons you have learnt from attempting this expedition? In hindsight would you do it again?

[Scott]  Would I do it again?  Absolutely!  As soon as I got home I missed the ever changing scenery, the never knowing where my next meal was coming from or where I was going to sleep that night, meeting new and interesting people and challenging myself every single day.

Lessons?  Hmmm… No matter how demanding my thirst or how pushed for time, you’ve got to eat.  I’m well aware of the importance of nutrition and in my opinion I follow a diet that fits my training needs, but this seemed to go out the window when on my travels!  Take spare spokes and… Bring a spare car!?!

[Axe] How can people follow your progress when you set-off again?

My website www.journeytoelbrus.com has a map linked to my GPS Spot system and I update my facebook page www.facebook.com/journeytoelbrus – which proved to be the greatest tool on my travels to keep people involved with little videos. Over 1500 people watched me run into the Black Sea!

This interview features in the Inspiring People section of my website.  Not ‘inspiring’ in terms of making billions of dollars from raping the planet and the earth’s resources, but tales from ordinary people who do extraordinary things, who get out and make positive impacts, who send positive messages through the way they live their lives.  We all have a part to play in our future.  I am very excited to share these stories with you and if at least one of them can touch and inspire you to make positive changes then I will be very happy!


5 lessons Rowing Home taught me in 2015

One of the great things about taking on huge projects is that you learn so much, about so many things as you journey through the process. It’s impossible to get everything right the first time, hindsight is a powerful tool and often wisdom is gained through experience and sometimes making bad decisions.  These are the 5 key lessons Rowing Home has reinforced to me in 2015:

 1.  The power of momentum

23d0566There is a Malay expression “Sidikit sidikit lama lama menjadi bukit” which translates into “”A little bit over a long time becomes a hill”

I have been working on ROWING HOME for 1.5 years now, and I could honestly say I cannot remember a single day that has gone by during this period when I have not done something towards the expedition.  Be it researching weather, equipment, boats, routes, previous similar attempts, approaching, contacting, meeting potential sponsors, training,  learning technical skills, budgeting, team selection, discussing with documentary producers and keynote speaking during the evening to raise funds.

Momentum has both energy and direction.  By losing the momentum in a project, you risk making wrong turns as well as making forward progress.   Similar to training in the gym, it’s much easier to do a little bit every day rather than attempt  to do a massive amount every now and again.

2.  The importance of  aligning values when building teams

valuesIt takes teamwork to make a dream work.   When working in teams, we can all share the same vision or end goal but have different ways of achieving this.  The methodology of achieving the end goal comes down a great deal to the values of the individuals and the team as a whole.  Working with teams who do not share similar values is a bit like trying to drive a car but having multiple people handling the steering wheel – all with different ideas on which direction to head to reach ultimately the same goal.  In Rowing Home, I have had to make difficult decisions on team selection, and have found that whilst painful to go through, there is an almost instantaneous surge of momentum and positivity when new team members with more aligned values come on board.



3.  Give before you expect to receive.

givingRaising money for expeditions can be difficult, soul destroying at times, time consuming and on the other hand very rewarding and exciting when you are successful.  As well as money, there are many forms of assistance  I require and I am lucky to have help from numerous sources, some of whom wish to remain anonymous and some not.  One key trait in common from the people who are helping me is the fact I have helped them in some way, at some time along the way.  Or at the very  least I always try and help them in the future.  You are in a much better position to request support from someone whom you having assisted  in some way first.  I have many examples of this , for instance earlier this week I approached a chap in the UK whom I had never met but wanted a favor.  I noticed he was raising money for a cause so made a donation, then sent him a message informing him I loved what he was doing, that I had donated to his cause and then finally asked him for some information.  He was very hospitable and helpful in return.   I also support other adventurers in many different ways, e.g. logistical support and I am continually being asked for advice on sponsorship.  Often these requests I find can be somewhat rude and selfish  in their approach (one lady contacted me and ordered me to introduce her to Richard Branson who she was sure would definitely sponsor her quest to climb the seven summits, unfortunately she failed on her first attempt at the first summit and gave up the project).  My motivation to assist people with these requests is greatly diminished.

Always be courteous and generous, if you are not, you will find it too late when you actually need something to start pretending you are a lovely person:)

4.  Put ‘first things first’.

prioritiesThere are hundreds of tasks to do to prepare for ROWING HOME. But certain ones are more important than others, the ‘mission critical’ requirements which must be met within certain time frames or the expedition would literally die.  One of these key tasks for example has been raising S$120,000 to get my boat finished for the expedition.  I continually remind myself that without money this expedition will be nothing, and at this stage this is the most important task for my time and energy.  The marketing, planning, training, preparation etc are also important however I only have so much time in one day and first things come first!

5.  Adventure is amazing but NOTHING beats coming home safely to see your family and friends:)

I love adventure, but it would mean nothing in itself to me without the knowledge I have my beautiful children, wife, extended family and friends to come back too.  There is a fine line to balance with serious adventuring and having a happy home life.  Many adventurers I know get this wrong and their relationships seriously suffer or are non-existent.  My biggest goals in adventuring are to balance pushing my thirst for extreme expeditions with:

a.  not getting divorced

b. not going broke

c.  not getting killed.

My love of family also pushes me to train and prepare harder in an effort to manage the risk as responsibly as possible.


Adventure means nothing without these people to return home too.

Happy 2016 everyone!





Rowing Home training in full swing

Merry December to all! Rowing Home training has been in full swing for two months now.  One of the main things I have realised early on is the importance of learning how to row!  Having spent lots of time on the water facing forward and paddling a sea-kayak, I have found it a very different and challenging experience facing backwards and adapting to the rowing motion.

Rowing a boat is really a full body work-out, using your legs, core and upper body. Because of this you can get more power into each stroke over a more sustained and longer period than you can kayaking (well I can anyway!).  It makes rowing a more efficient and faster way of human powered propulsion over the water.  I have been training at the Pandan Reservoir in light weight, single scull boats for the past two months.  These take some practise getting used to and consequently have seen me having a number of involuntary swims, however I am slowly getting used to them and attached is a short video clip of last weekends training session.



Rowing Home gets two new team members!

Yesterday was an exciting day for ROWING HOME with two new members joining the team.

Rachel Jacklin Rawlinson and Kate Ngaire Rawlinson arrived one minute apart, twin sisters who came into this brightly lit, confusing world, very startled, with small whails and sporting more hair than their father.  (Middle names chosen after the names of their grandparents – Ngaire and Jack).

It is unsure exactly what position in the ROWING HOME team the pair will take up, however weighing in at 2.345kg and 2.565kg each, I can see enormous potential as lightweight rowing partners.  They definitely  wont be adding a great deal of unnecessary weight to the boat.

Attached below is mother and daughters.

This has definitely been a team effort and a massive thank you to Dr CT Yeong and the team from Mt Alvernia Hospital here in Singapore, as well as the many other people who have supported us on this difficult journey.





New expedition launch: Rowing Home – Singapore to New Zealand by human power

Things have been a little quiet on the major expedition front for the past one year here at axeoneverest.com, but there is a very good reason for that.

I have quietly been plotting away my most ambitious project yet. A human powered journey from Singapore to New Zealand, some 12,000km in length. The expedition is called ROWING HOME, and we plan to depart in December 2016 from the shores of sunny Singapore here, using a state of the art ocean rowing boat as the main mode of transport.

The journey will be split into four main legs:

Leg One – a 3,200km row from Singapore down through the Indonesian Archipalego to Timor Island

Leg Two – an 800km row across the Timor Sea from Timor to Darwin

Leg Three– A  4,000km cycle from Darwin across Australia to Sydney

Leg Four – A 2,500km row across the Tasman Sea from Sydney to Taranaki

Route map black and white

This expedition has a budget of S$250,000.  After one year of toil, shedding blood, sweat, tears and countless rejections from potential sponsors…. I finally secured the first half of the funding, S$126,000 worth, which is enough to have our beautiful ocean rowing boat finished (she is built in the UK by Rannoch Adventures), and shipped to Singapore, arriving in January 2016.

The boat will be based at the the beautiful RAFFLES MARINA Yacht club for ten months training, testing and preparations until December 2016 when we plan to depart with the North-East monsoon winds on this ‘never-before-attempted’ journey.



“To attempt a unique, challenging and environmentally friendly expedition through a remote and diverse area of our planet. To document and share the experience in order to educate and promote awareness in our environment. To inspire sustainable exploration and development along with healthy lifestyles.”


Rowing Home Logo

Our logo was designed by a Taranaki man (Mr Cory Bellringer).  You may wonder why a predominantly Ocean Rowing expedition has a mountain in the logo.  This is Mt Taranaki – a beautiful snow capped volcano which I grew up beside in the province or Taranaki, New Zealand. This is the first mountain I ever climbed at age 14.  It was many years later, during a climb of Mt Taranaki in 2014, that I first looked out over the Tasman Sea and came up with the plan to attempt this expedition.  From the mountain the sea looked huge, scary and beautiful, and I felt drawn to it.  Just as I feel drawn to mountains.  Mt Taranaki will be the point we will be aiming for to finish our expedition.  She will be our guide, our beacon to navigate towards as we near New Zealand.  Thus the mountain is a hugely important part of our expedition, hence our logo!

To find more about the ROWING HOME team click here.

To find more about the ROWING HOME sponsors click here.

If you are a school teacher and would like your class to follow this unique expedition please email me at axe@axeoneverest.com

Have a beautiful week ahead!

Love Axe

Peak to Peak 2015 – The movie – climbing the Dragon Horns

Instead of a lengthy blog post,  I created this short video of the awesome adventure we finished last week – Peak to Peak 2015 the  movie – ENJOY!

Peak to Peak is off and rolling!

We summited Bukit Timah Hill tonight to set Peak to Peak 2015 off in fine style.  At 163m ASL, Singapore highest natural land point is not the toughest climb any of us have made, but this modest jungle covered hill bought back many fine memories of the hours, days, weeks and months I have spent training here over the years for bigger climbs around the world.  In 6 hours time we will set-off on our bicycles to ride 150km, across the border into Malaysia, up to the small town of Mersing on the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia.  From here we will attempt to kayak out to Tioman Island then a three day climb of the mighty Dragons Horns to finish our expedition.

You can follow our progress live on the realtime map link attached here which updates from my GPS SPOT tracker.  Good night!


With Alan Silva on the summit of Bukit Timah Hill - the start point of Peak to Peak 2015.

With Alan Silva on the summit of Bukit Timah Hill – the start point of Peak to Peak 2015.

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