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real life

“It was a good physical test, I was happy my body could hold up to that”

“I crossed the Atlantic in the ultimate

physical and mental test”

Mike Jones signed up for a 5000km vo where Mother Nature was often ag yage across the Atlantic ainst him By Aoife O’Connor

O

ver 50 days on the open sea in the cramped confinements of an 11ft rowboat might not appeal to everyone, but for Mike Jones (pictured inset) it was an epic adventure he couldn’t refuse. The 29-year-old from Cobh, Co Cork was part of a team that set out in January of this year to row across the Atlantic, crossing from East to West from Morocco to Barbados as part

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Woman’s Way, May 3, 2010

of the Atlantic 5000 challenge. “I didn’t give the trip a lot of thought before hand,” Mike says when he’s asked about nerves, “I had a few minor injuries before we went, but got great support from physios so I knew they wouldn’t stop me.” This wasn’t the first adventure Mike has undertaken; whose sailing, kayaking and mountaineering adventures have taken him all over the world. In fact,

admits that the challenge wasn’t a new idea but something he had been considering doing for a few years. “I understood the process of what was going to happen,” he says, “and the guys I signed up with seemed to be pretty similarly-minded in putting safety as a priority.” However, having raised almost E8,000 with this challenge for Milford Care Centre, Limerick and Marymount

Hospice, Cork, Mike admits that if he was to undertake another adventure he’d need quite a bit of enticing! In preparation for his latest voyage, Mike and the other crew members put on weight in anticipation of the journey so there wasn’t excessive weightloss because of the intensity of the rowing and the fact they would be surviving on rations. Six people from different corners of the world, including Mike and fellow Corkonian Peter Williams, boarded their boat, the Sara G, and set off from Morocco on 12 January this year on a journey where their only company would be the sea creatures and birds of the skies. Life on board was basic, with no frills or major home comforts and the crew were put to the test. “You were basically either rowing or resting,” Mike says. “There was no hanging around or doing anything in between, you were constantly busy. When you were ‘resting off’ you were either cooking and cleaning or sorting out some admin during the

day. Then at night once it got dark, the rest of your time was spent sleeping. We all got on well considering we were six strangers in a small pressurised environment. When we got tired or the rations got less people did get cranky but you learn where people’s boundaries are and work around them.” Before their trip, the Sara G had already crossed the Tamsan Sea, the stretch of notoriously rough water between Australia and New Zealand, which meant the crew had ultimate

‘‘

I’d love to say I was terrified at some stage but I honestly wasn’t

faith in their vessel surviving the Atlantic crossing. “She was pretty well built and sturdy,” Mike explains, “because she has survived some pretty serious weather out there from the reports that we’d heard from the previous owner. So it was never really in doubt that she wouldn’t hold up to whatever the Atlantic had to throw at her. I’d love to say I was terrified at some stage but honestly I wasn’t.” Battling with the elements of nature in the open sea did test the entire crew and Mother Nature was a friend or foe at any given time. Luckily, no major injuries or accidents plagued the crew during the voyage, with chaffing and blistering the main problems being experienced. “A couple of those days were pretty rough and stormy. The boat was thrown

about quite violently for long periods. But at no stage would I say I was afraid. I was pretty confident in the boat and the rest of the crew that we’d tough out whatever situation came to us.” The gruelling routine meant Mike rowed for two hours and rested for two hours six times a day, so a total of 12 hours rowing was done every day: “It was a good physical test out there, to put your body through 12 hours rowing a day, I was quite happy that my body could hold up.” In the last few days of the voyage as the crew in the Sara G edged ever closer to their final destination of Bridgetown, Barbados; the Atlantic seemed reluctant to release them as they hit a patch of current that stalled

any progress they were making. “It was painfully slow at that stage and that was mentally quite a low point as well as physically because you just couldn’t stop rowing. You knew if you stopped rowing you’d start going backwards. So physically it was quite tough as there was no let up, and mentally it was hard because to be so close and yet feel it slip away.” However, the current calmed and the sea became navigable again. “It was amazing,” he said, “because the water actually changed colour as we went through it. It was a really bottle green colour for that patch that we hit and then it went back to its usual aquamarine blue, which was strange.” The crew of the Sara G rowed the final few miles into the port of Barbados at 6am on 10 March after 57 days. “I was exhausted by the end. But then the adrenaline kicks in and we were just happy to arrive in one piece. It was nice to get off the boat and relax and see family and friends on land. “The trip taught me that I’m quite good at keeping routine and quite disciplined which is really important out there. You have to stick to your routine because your routine is in a sense your sanity. That’s what keeps you going”. WW

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Woman’s Way, May 3, 2010

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Atlantic crossing  

Mike Jones voyage across an ocean

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