Debra Veal, who is taking part in the Ward Evans Atlantic Rowing Challenge, chats about her daily routine and how she copes with life alone in mid Atlantic. Veal set off from Tenerife with her husband but after 13 days Andrew was unable to adjust to life on board such a small rowing boat and decided to retire. He was immediately transferred to the support vessel leaving his wife to go it alone!

A typical day aboard Troika Transatlantic

  • 0500 hours – Wake up call

    First task of the day is always to massage my fingers from their locked state. I can’t do anything until I get my fingers moving. I switch on the GPS and check where and how far I have been blown during my sleep period and prepare for row one.

  • 0530 hours – Row 1

    Although I am always tired and my body aches during the first rowing session I generally enjoy it as I am rewarded with a sunrise in the last 10 minutes of the shift.

  • 0700 hours – Breakfast

    Sunrise is impressive for about an hour. So I enjoy it as I drink my hot chocolate and eat short bread and other breakfast bars. This rest period is my main navigation period. I fill in the ship’s log book with details of weather and my position but only plot my position on the chart every five days. I switch on the satellite phone as I do at the start of each rest period desperately hoping that I will have received some text messages. I also write an account of the previous day’s events.

  • 0830 hours – Row 2

    My body has generally woken up a bit more during my first two-hour stint. It’s a good time to row because the sun is still relatively cool.

  • 1030 hours – Mid morning break

    After some snacks there are always many jobs to be done such as washing clothes, sorting out food, positioning the solar panels and making fresh water.

  • 1130 hours – Row 3

    The last hour before lunch is often unbearably hot. I drink by the clock, sipping every 15 minutes to avoid dehydration.

  • 1330 hours – Lunch

    All of the lunches we packed require cooking. The last thing I feel like doing is sitting by a hot cooker so I often skip lunch. I have completely lost my appetite since I have been at sea and regularly have to force myself to eat something. I then call Hayley or the support team to give a report of my progress.

  • 1500 hours – Row 4

    Spanish lesson. One and a half hours of listening to a CD of a Spanish class makes time go quickly.

  • 1630 hours – Tea break.

    I read or write my diary during this rest period and sometimes have a short sleep.

  • 1730 hours – Row 5

    These are my last two hours of rowing in daylight. The sun sets at the end of this shift.

  • 1930 hours – Dinner

    My appetite returns a little after the sun has gone down. I have a big meal to make up for all the food I should have eaten during the day but I know it is still not enough. Then follows the thing I have looked forward to the most throughout the day – I phone Andrew on the Challenge yacht.

  • 2130 hours – Row 6

    It takes me about 10 minutes to get into rowing in the dark but often much longer particularly if there is no moon or the cloud cover is thick. The stars are so clear out here – it’s quite breathtaking.

  • 2300 hours – Night break

    Every night a heavy dew falls on the boat so I can’t comfortably sit out side during this rest period. But if I go in the cabin I risk falling asleep. After getting up at 5am and completing 10 and a half hours of rowing it is hard not to. But if I do, I find it almost impossible to get up for row 7.

  • 2330 hours – Row7

    There is little incentive to climb out of my nice warm dry cabin for this shift. I am exhausted by this point. It takes every ounce of mental strength I have left to do it.

  • 0130 hours – Sleep

    Before I can go to sleep I tie up the oars and secure everything on the deck. I am often up during the sleep to scan the horizon for ships and check the compass and wind direction. Al