Day 5 update
Hello from Simpson’s Donkey!
It 1200hrs on day 5 here on Simpson’s Donkey as we send this update on our progress. The last 5 days have seen us make some decent progress but not without out share of challenges! Our farewell departure from Raffles Marina on Day one was everything I wished for. I did not want to publicise the date and wanted only a few close family, friends and supporters down to see us off. And that pretty much was exactly what happened as we had a very nice send off as we pushed off at 1405hrs. It was very surreal to leave from our beautiful home base for the past year at Raffles marina for the very last time and I looked back with a pang of sadness as we rowed slowly out of the marina and turned Simpson’s Donkey south. The plan on day one was to make it to One 15 Marine at Sentosa Island using favorable tidal currents. The little donkey was loaded with over 200kg of extra weight and this made our progress a little slower than normal however we immediately noticed she sat more stable in the water. The tidal streams were not as strong as we hoped and due to our slow progress we reverted to rowing two-up (two at a time) for the last 4 hours, we actually ran into the next tidal cycle and had a battle for the last hour to even make it into one 15 marina safely. Here we arrived at 11pm and moored up for the night.
Day 2 we departed at 1430 hrs, this was the day that I said goodbye to my wife Stephanie, and daughters Kate and Rachel who had come down to see us off. As every minute drew nearer to departure I felt sadder and sadder and held Rachel and Kate in my arms treasuring every second with them. Saying goodbye to Stephanie and the girls was the hardest thing I have ever done and my tears flowed freely as I gave them one last hug. My heart broke into one thousand pieces as I turned and pushed off the berth and we slowly rowed away. A huge part of me wanted to quit the expedition right there and then and go back home with them.
The plan on day 2 was to clear immigration in Singapore and make it over the shipping channel to Nongsa point marina in Batam, Indonesia to enter Indonesian waters officially. The shipping lanes were very busy as we rowed up to the crossing point. Here I monitored the AIS (vessel tracks) on the chart plotter looking for an opening and immediately saw we had a chance right then. So rowing two up we set off across and managed to pick the timing perfectly. Massive vessels were coming from either direction but we made it over. We then had another battle into beam on winds which caused a choppy, messy sea before finally arriving at Nongsa point after 7.5 hours continuous rowing 2-up at 10PM. Getting into the poorly marked marina channel was hairy in the dark and we ran over a shoal of 0.6 m depth which was lucky we did not hit the bottom. I had to radio ahead to Alistair to wave his torch from the marina to guide us in in the dark.
Day three we set off at 1430 hrs and headed south down the channel between Batam and Bintan Islands, we immediately began two hour shift patterns with the intention to keep the boat moving 24 hours per day. That evening I managed to sleep for around 4.5 hours in my breaks between shifts and Charlie also managed some sleep, and we also made decent mileage south bearing in mind the strong tidal streams we had to fight. Now on day 5, we have kept the little Donkey moving continuously for almost 41 hours and seem to be able to make the 40nm (70km) per day which I am working on. Life is all about adjusting to the routine of living on the boat, 2 hours on and 2 hours off, eating sleeping, rowing, maintaining our bodies and the boat, navigating and communicating using the sat phone and email system once per day. We had one exciting moment on the eve of day 3 where we ran aground on a poorly marked shoal on the chart. It was pitch dark and quite scary but we managed to get off with a few scratches to the rudder only. Charlie is rowing well and we both have developed pizza bum and working at cleaning and applying creams here to mitigate this. The north east monsoon winds are NOT blowing at all at the moment which surprises me and the sea-state has been like glass for the last two nights which makes rowing, eating and sleeping much nicer. Night times are lonely for me but beautiful also. The stars and the peace is a welcome change from Singapore hustle and bustle.
In 13nm we cross the equator – which is about 7 hours time so hopefully I can send a photo back from there.
Love to you all,
Axe and Charlie.