It was the fifth Wednesday of the month when, following tradition, we entertained our partners to an evening out, this time it was dinner at the Long Ashton Golf Club.
Row, row, row the boat, the name of a well-known song is probably the most apt title for our-after dinner speaker's talk on how she and a friend did just that across the Atlantic Ocean
After yet another delicious meal at this popular venue our lady speaker, Melanie King, delivered a powerful dessert.
Mel did not have far to travel as she lives nearby at Abbots Leigh, a trip of 4 miles covered in less than 10 minutes, in fact, no distance at all compared with the journey she was to tell us about which took 77 days 2 hours and 38 minutes and covered over 2,500 thousand miles.
In 2010 she and her long-time friend, Annie Januszeweski, both in their thirties, set off in a 25-foot rowing boat to cross the Atlantic and they hoped to break the record for two ladies doing so. In fact only six other pairs of women had ever attempted such a feat!
Keen members of Bristol rowing club, they had trained long and hard for this event. Commencing preparations in 2009 it took them over a year before they, their boat and the conditions were right for them to start.
No stranger to travelling long distance over water, Mel, in 2007, had sailed competitively around the world for eleven months in an international clipper race and so fully appreciated all the possible conditions that they may encounter en route. Never-the-less they determined to go ahead.
There were many hurdles to overcome before the race started. These included securing a suitable boat, raising the money to finance the trip including expensive safety equipment, communications and navigation technology, provisions, water purifier, and, learning how to use them all and getting to the starting line in the Canary Islands.
The boat had a small cabin at either end, one to store their provisions and the other for creature comforts included a padded mat used as a bed, essential spare clothing and communications gear.
Eventually all conditions were ideal and they departed La Gomera and their last sight of land for months to come.
During the first couple of weeks they each rowed 18 hours a day with both rowing simultaneously at times in order to make good distance. They then reduced this mammoth work-rate to 12 hours per day worked in 2 hour shifts, 2 hours rowing and 2 hours resting and trying to get some sleep.
Mel wrote up a daily blog which recorded some of the memorable sights they enjoyed such as the wildlife which visited them coming very close to their boat in which they were so close to the water that they could touch it. Whales, dolphins, dorado fish and phosphorescent algea which glowed in the dark night were spectacular as were the daily sunrise and sunsets they saw.
Several times the weather became rough and they had to take precautions against being washed overboard. On other occasions the wind got up and unfortunately blew in the wrong direction. It was then necessary to utilise their sea-anchor and rest for several days to prevent them being blown back from whence they had come. Sadly, this scuppered their chances of breaking the record for the crossing.
Eventually, with land apparent on the horizon, they recommenced each rowing 18 hours per day to achieve a ‘sprint finish’ to the line in English Harbour, Antigua.
We can’t imagine how wonderful it must have been for them to feel terra firma under their feet, have a great meal with a glass of wine and to sleep in a comfortable bed that night.
What a magnificent achievement and what a great presentation!