Dawn Wood's

solo atlantic challenge 2019

DAY 4 (16)

Shades of Grey

29th January
It’s been days since I saw a sunrise! The past few days have just been different shades of grey (isn’t that a book?!) depending on what time of day it is, today is no exception. But nothing can dampen my spirits today as the wind is changing in my favour.

Overnight and this morning were still hard going but with the expectation of some faster days coming up I got my head down and kept at it. During the morning I passed a quite large piece of fishing net about 10m off my port side. It was very lucky I did not get tangled in that. Fishing net round my rudder would prevent the boat from moving properly and if I could not release it could be an expedition finisher.

About two hours later I passed a rather large yellow buoy, I am not sure if they are connected but I was lucky not to hit either- thousands of square miles of ocean and I nearly run into them both!! 

By the afternoon an ominous whistle starts to sound around the boat as bits of rope, aerials and safety lines start to move with the quickening of the wind speed. Within an hour I had what I had been waiting for, and some!!

With 33kts of wind now blowing it was one hell of a ride. The waves I am sure reached 20-25ft at times, it’s a real art to getting this right or I could capsize the boat. I have to manoeuvre the boat to make sure that each wave catches the boat from behind, picking it up like a toy car then shooting it off over the other side.

I am pretty sure I hit 9kts at one point which is pretty impressive for a rowing boat. However, if you see Charlie from Rannoch, it was at least 20kts as he pledged £10 for every knot over 5.5 to my charity the Marine Conservation Society.

This was a very exciting, adrenalin fuelled afternoon, I was in my element!! There was often a rogue wave that would hit from the side and send the boat sideways setting the whole deck completely awash.

It’s been hard work at times whilst rowing on flat ocean just to reach 1.5kts. Now I was doing an average of 3.6kts and it’s still hard work but in a totally different way. I have to have my wits about me at all times staying as safe as possible whilst heaving the oar through the water to change the course of the boat ready for the next wave.

I have very good seamanship skills and never take anything for granted when it comes to being at sea, so everything on deck and in the cabin was tied down, secure and in its correct place meaning I lost nothing overboard. Well I thought everything was secure!! 

I have 5 lockers in the deck of the boat where I store my food. Each locker has a round watertight screw on lid – well they are watertight if you do them up properly.

I noticed that my ginger nut biscuits seemed to be tapping at the see-through lid, as if to try and get out? Erm, that’s not right? That locker is only half full so I should not be able to see anything at the lid height.

I realised that the locker was full of water just as a gummy sweet snake swam past the ginger nuts.

As I took the lid off I could see that it was full to the brim and everything inside, including 5llb of gummy snake sweets, was swimming round in it. Now comes the task of bailing it out. Keep in mind I now have 20ft waves, the deck quite often being awash and the boat not always being level.

I quickly emptied out the food content onto the deck and began to bail as fast as I could before it filled up with water again. I don’t know how, but apart from a couple of small splashes I managed to empty the locker of water and re pack the undamaged food pretty quickly and without anything going overboard!

Needless to say my daily checks now include ensuring the hatches are tight. It’s so easy to loosen them with your foot as you go past.

This amazing wind and thrill ride lasted well into the night and as much as I want it to stay it’s pretty exhausting. 

It does not matter what the conditions are like, out here it is going to be a tough day, if it’s flat calm extra strength is needed to drive the boat through the water, or strong winds bring other challenges to deal with the conditions. This is an incredible challenge and one I feel grateful to be experiencing, I have worked so hard to get here and will take in every last part good and bad. 

Until tomorrow land lubbers! 



  1. Capt. R on January 31, 2019 at 9:30 pm

    This appears to be somewhat awesome!
    Good times, bad times this girl keeps going.
    The Dengie needs you back safe and sound after you finish this amazing challenge.
    Capt. R

    • Barry Smith SWF Essex on February 1, 2019 at 10:56 am

      Hi Capt. R, Southminster:
      Many thanks for your comments and for letting us know your location, it is appreciated. You and all Dawn’s friends are ‘awesome’ for your comments, support and commitment to her epic Challenge. I feel, I need to respond to you on Dawn’s behalf until she is in a position do that herself.
      Thank you so much from Dawn’s family.
      Go Dawny row to Barbados!!!
      Many thanks from Jaime, Sheila,Zoë, Gary & Barry (Row Aurora HQ. SWF Essex)

  2. Brenda on January 31, 2019 at 10:37 pm

    You can do this Dawn, we are here edging you on.

    Go Dawny row 🚣‍♀️🚣‍♀️🚣‍♀️🐢🐬🦈🕊🏅🚣‍♀️🚣‍♀️🚣‍♀️💕💕💕

    • Barry Smith SWF on February 1, 2019 at 11:02 am

      Hi Brenda
      On behalf of Dawn we thank you most sincerely for your encouraging comments. We appreciate you edging Dawn on towards her goal, not only reaching Barbados but reducing plastic contamination in our oceans.
      Go Dawny Row to Barbados !!
      Thank you so much from Dawn’s family.
      Many thanks from Jaime, Sheila Zoë, Gary & Barry (Row Aurora HQ. Essex)

  3. Nikki on January 31, 2019 at 10:42 pm

    Amazing Dawn! Keep going xx

    • Barry Smith SWF Essex on February 1, 2019 at 11:09 am

      Hi Nikki,
      You’re absolutely right she is amazing but this is a ‘team effort’….you and all Dawn’s friends are ‘amazing’ for supporting her throughout her Challenge and hopefully afterwards.
      Go Dawny Row to Barbados !!
      Thank you so much from Dawn’s family.
      Many thanks Jaime, Sheila Zoë, Gary & Barry (Row Aurora HQ. South Woodham Ferrers Essex)

  4. Jay Freeman on January 31, 2019 at 10:49 pm

    My God Dawn amazing and absolutely incredible determination, we all have complete admiration for you here in our house. Keep that attitude and those oars working. Good luck.
    Soldier on!

  5. Nicki on January 31, 2019 at 11:07 pm

    I love reading your posts, so uplifting, you get on and deal with every hurdle put in your way, you embrace the beautiful moments and you don’t dwell on the hard ones. I can only wish that people reading your posts can learn from your positive nature. That said, you already have some amazing positive people following you and encouraging you.

    • Barry Smith Essex UK on February 1, 2019 at 3:42 pm

      Hi Nicki, On behalf of Dawn, may I thank you for your lovely remarks I’m pleased that you think her Blogs are so uplifting. Your comments are very profound and for Dawn’s family quite emotional. Your absolutely right there are amazing people including yourself, following Dawn on her quest to reduce plastic contamination in our oceans. I’m sorry I’m replying and not Dawn – I feel the need to respond until Dawn gets the opportunity to reply herself.
      Go Dawny Go to Barbados
      Many thanks Jaime, Sheila Zoë, Gary & Barry (Row Aurora HQ. SWF Essex)

      • Nicki on February 1, 2019 at 10:13 pm

        Thank you very much for taking the time to answer, very kind of you.
        Go Dawny Go to Barbados!

  6. Sandra on January 31, 2019 at 11:59 pm

    Your Absolutely amazing Dawn so enjoying following your journey you are doing a wonderful job we are all with you eVery inch of the way x

  7. Wendy McLaren-Morris on February 1, 2019 at 12:20 am

    Your amazing Dawn.
    Sheer grit and determination through waves the size of a house!! In a sail boat they looked big but in a Rowing boat they will look massive.😱😱
    Keep going so many people are following and supporting your epic adventure.

  8. barbara mansfield on February 1, 2019 at 12:43 am

    you are so strong , behind you all the way, fantastic young lady x

  9. Nick on February 1, 2019 at 1:00 am

    Absolutely amazing keep going smiffy I take my hat off to you ! Absolute admiration your a brave young lady Stay safe x

  10. David Box on February 1, 2019 at 3:26 am

    Great effort Dawn and great to read your blog. You are an inspiration, bon voyage!

  11. Dean on February 1, 2019 at 6:17 am

    Brilliant read. Keep safe. You are truly Amazing.

  12. Billy james on February 1, 2019 at 6:31 am

    Well done tawny, I love reading your updates and hopefully the ginger nuts are ok as well 😊

  13. Debbie kimber on February 1, 2019 at 7:57 am

    Love reading your incredible posts !!! It is really beyond comprehension to us mere mortals what you are going through and how you are coping 🌟🌟🌟

  14. Jade on February 1, 2019 at 8:27 am

    😁 I am so glad you managed to rescue the gummy snake and ginger nuts from mortal danger. I’m sure that’s an act of bravery worthy of a lifetime supply of biccies from Mr McVitie for sure 😜 .
    Its great that you can keep your cool and take it all in your stride/paddle. Keep going and keep seeing the funny side. x

  15. Michelle Madden on February 1, 2019 at 8:31 am

    Dawn you are doing amazing! your stories are great and I cant believe how brave and strong you are! I think about you every day and I know your family prob think about you every minute! I cant wait until you achieve it and when you are back Rob and I will come over to celebrate with Gary Zoe and your family! CHAMPAGNE is definitely on the cards! willing the weather to be on your side. Michelle and Rob and the Crazy Shar Pei! xxxxxxxxxxxxx

  16. Nigel on February 1, 2019 at 8:45 am

    Us land lubbers are all in awe of you. Your grit and determination puts us all to shame. However, we are all still willing you to that 20kts using soggy gummy bears and ginger nuts as fuel.
    Keep going you are still a star and inspiration.

  17. Keith Simpson on February 1, 2019 at 9:42 am

    I can remember the rough and the smooth conditions. I can picture those waves. Very exciting and keeping you busy. And then going stir crazy with no wind. And l was in a 38 feet yacht. You might as well carry on now mate, halfway there is the same distance back. Stay safe mate. See you in a couple weeks time. Think, and stay positive. One hell of a great experience.

  18. Lynn Pettegree-Blake on February 1, 2019 at 10:08 am

    Dawn you are a true inspiration
    Hope you have extra supplies of ginger nuts and gummie snakes
    Keep going we are all behind you

  19. Sue Heaton on February 1, 2019 at 10:25 am

    Well done you and great news re EPSA draw

    Eurocamp – Special Draw – Of all the EPSA members we have, can you believe that the draw for the holiday at Eurocamp was won by a member who is probably the most difficult to get hold of at the moment! Dawn Wood (who I actually mentioned in this email a couple of weeks ago) is presently rowing her way to Barbados to raise awareness of plastics in our polluted oceans. At first we didn’t realise because Dawn is on our list as Dawn Smith! Well done Dawn and keep rowing

    • Barry Smith Essex UK on February 1, 2019 at 4:02 pm

      Hi Sue,
      Thank you so much for the comment. Dawn is aware of the Special Draw and is over the moon to be a winner (is this a good omen?). However, she may have difficulties arranging a bit more annual leave to cover the holiday!!!!! Thanks once again for encouraging comments
      From Jaime, Sheila, Zoë, Gary & Barry (Row Aurora HQ. SWF Essex)

      • Sarah Symkiss on February 1, 2019 at 7:01 pm

        My colleague and I in RMU were very pleased to read Dawn won the Eurocamp Draw at work and hope the holiday doesn’t have an expiry date so Dawn can enjoy the holiday when a/l allows!
        Well done Dawn keep on rowing, love reading your updates. When you return you should do a talk about your adventure? Take care and stay strong in mind and muscle xx

  20. Bill Stock on February 1, 2019 at 11:26 am

    What an incredible blog entry that captures Dawn’s courage, determination and brilliant seamanship skills. It takes a true master mariner and heroine to drive a 21ft rowing boat at up to 9kts in winds of 33kts and waves up to 25ft high. Most small boat sailors would run for shelter in those conditions.
    Look at the progress Dawn has made this week: on Jan 28 at 9am she had 1718 nautical miles to go. At 10am today that was down to 1498. That’s 220 nm! Brilliant! On Jan 30 she recorded 72 nm in 24 hours which is stunning.
    The tracker also shows that at the same time last year record holder Kiko Matthews was slowing down with headwinds. The gap is closing and Dawn could really benefit from good NE Trade winds forecast for the next six days. The race for the record is definitely back on. Go Dawn!

    Hi Sue, re post above: Wouldn’t it be ironic if Dawn has won a holiday to a Eurocamp site that specialises in white water canoeing in France?

    • Barry Smith Essex UK. on February 2, 2019 at 2:46 pm

      Hi Bill,
      We do get a little emotional reading the comments about Dawn and yours is no different.
      We thank you most sincerely for acknowledging her ‘seawomenship’ skills and the reference to true mariner has stopped me in mid-sentence. On behalf of Dawn, bless you and everyone who is taking the trouble to write such amazing comments. We would be immensely grateful if you could indicate where you are located please, so we can judge how far Dawn’s campaign is reaching.
      Many thanks
      From Jaime, Sheila, Zoë, Gary & Barry (Row Aurora HQ. SWF Essex)

      • Bill Stock on February 3, 2019 at 2:12 pm

        Hi Barry I am not too far away, in west Essex, but I have sailing friends in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk who are following Dawn and friends in Australia and the United States who are tuning in.
        I knew Dawn when I was in the EP press office. Being the only seafarer in the office I somehow managed to be invited out many times on trips with the Marine Unit. I have fond memories and many great photos I took during those trips. Some of the best pictures are of Dawn on a jetski flanked by the unit’s two RHIBs all doing more than 30 mph somewhere off Foulness. Happy days.

        • Barry Smith Essex on February 3, 2019 at 8:38 pm

          Hi Bill, Many thanks for your response – I’m very grateful. Your comments indicate that you understand what our ‘little girl’ is up against and how she is able to deal with the seemingly endless problems…… She does take after her mother!!
          I can relate to the photo you mentioned of Dawn, it is very impressive. Thank you for spreading the word about Dawn’s mission. We’re in touch with the Rotary Club of Barbados who are supporting her and we have been in contact with several Rotary clubs in the UK, including Suffolk. The hope is that we can achieve an ‘International Handshake’ across different countries to help Dawn achieve her goal. She is extremely fortunate to have friends such as yourself who are prepared to give her the encouragement she needs at the time she needs it!
          Kind regards from Barry (one of Dawn’s proud parents!)

  21. Justin Smith on February 1, 2019 at 2:23 pm

    Love reading these blogs Dawn and amazing how your humour shines through, shouldn’t be surprised really I guess. Glad gummies and biscuits surviving as well as you are – row onwards, looking forward to your next update 🙂

  22. Sarah & Gary BOCCRC on February 1, 2019 at 2:29 pm

    Smiffy, you are a true inspiration to us all. Words do not describe how much in oar(geddit!) we are of your achievements so far. We have been checking your progress several times every day. You’re doing terrific work!! Your grit and termination is reflected in every fascinating blog you write. tbh, we have visions of you doing the NZ Haka every morning to propel you through another awesome day on the oars… wouldn’t put it past you!!! May fair winds bring you amazing surfing conditions! MASSIVE hug xxx

    • Barry Smith Essex UK on February 2, 2019 at 7:40 pm

      Sarah & Gary
      On behalf of ‘Smiffy’, may another ‘Smiffy’ thank you most sincerely for your lovely comments and for checking Dawn’s daily progress, it is very much appreciated. Yes, we have had many sessions of the Haka over the years and I think it’s wholly appropriate to do it where she at the moment to try to improve her situation!! We second your good wishes for Fairwinds and hope Dawn will be back with us as soon as possible.
      Many thanks Burnham on Crouch Coastal Rowing Club for your kind words,
      From Jaime, Sheila, Zoë, Gary & Barry (Row Aurora HQ. SWF Essex)

  23. Viv. boccrc on February 1, 2019 at 3:34 pm

    so glad you got your phone working so we can continue to follow your amazing journey.. you are taking everything in your stride and continue to keep funny and positive in all your blogs. you seems to be loving those huge waves although tough work. complete admiration for you.. nearly on the the homeward stretch…go dawny..xxxx😘

  24. Nicki on February 1, 2019 at 10:16 pm

    Thank you very much for taking the time to answer, very kind of you.
    Go Dawny Row to Barbados!

    Nicki, Menton, France

    • Jaime, Sheila, Zoe, Gary & Barry (Row Aurora HQ Essex UK) on February 2, 2019 at 2:22 pm

      Hi Niki,
      It’s our pleasure – we would love to respond to everyone. We calculate that Dawn has now rowed over 1,500 statue (land) miles, which is an amazing achievement. Once again, our thanks for supporting Dawn with your encouraging comments and for indicating where you’re located. We’re trying to spread the word about Dawn & what she is doing and it helps to know how far this reaching.
      As you say…… Go Dawny Row to Barbados.
      Kind regards
      Row Aurora HQ Essex UK

  25. steve nelson on February 2, 2019 at 9:08 am

    Wowzaz 😵
    Loving the blogs

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