Ian’s Blog – it’s not all bad!

I’m trying something different with this post, feedback welcome as it’s on a lighter note – and as I say to my kids, ‘Well I made myself laugh’! or to annoy them even more in a text I just send IMML!

This will be best with sound by the way.

I’ve generally relayed only events in the hospital or directly to do with my current predicament but I also want to be clear that it is not all bad by any means. Not least the constant love and support from Lisa, having our Lily buzzing around the house being rude to me, keeping in touch with the other kids away at Uni and work and their shenanigans. They all give a positive boost but to be honest, and I hate to admit it, one of the main sources of comfort has been the bloody dog!

I’m at home on my own a lot as Lisa tries to juggle a million things with home stuff, kids, work etc and her/our dog is often the only source of companionship I have and it has made a difference. She is quite anxious if I am struggling and will buzz about me which can be a pain but is equally a nice thing. Or she could be doing something really daft like worrying other animals….

You can see that Bella is without doubt cute but she still has her failings like any dog….for instance oh how I laughed when she found a rotten egg to anoint herself with and stank horribly so it was straight in the shower for a clean up which I’m sure she loved.

Rotten egg – the equivalent of Hugo Boss for a dog

Post shower – she despises me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However all things are put in perspective and my day and night as you know revolves around going to the toilet every half hour or so and during the day I try and get little cat naps after what is always a pretty sleepless night. Add in that I also have to measure the amount of wee that I produce every time I go and each wee then goes into a bowl so I can see how much overall I am producing, how much ‘matter’ is in it, and what colour it is to have a good idea of my hydration – it’s so glamorous!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that was often my day, having some laughs with the dog, going for a wee and measuring it all and getting the occasional sleep. When I sleep I always dream and often they are far from relaxing and can be quite torrid although one day I dreamt I was back out on the ocean and lying in the stern cabin on a pretty calm day listening to the water running alongside the hull of the boat, something like this:

 

I think you know what is coming next…….I woke up and could still hear the water running alongside the hull of the boat, at first I was confused and then the penny dropped……’Bella!!!!’

She was clearly thirsty and fancied something more ‘meaty’ to drink rather than her bowl of water!

Disgusting bloody dog, but she does make me laugh and compared to some of the things I’ve had to do during my time in hospital and subsequently the dog wasn’t that horrible by comparison; for example after my transplant every wee and every poop had to be done in a bowl to be tested for infections etc. and for some weeks you have very loose bowels and with my bladder infection I was weeing blood.

So, Bella disgraced herself again and spent a while in the dog house, well, asleep on the sofa in the conservatory, probably dreaming with something just on the tip of her tongue…..bless her!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a countdown to me not using FB anymore and if nothing else I find this method more amusing and more therapeutic as I get to write more – makes up for not talking at people so much!

Please feel free to come on board with the subscribe via email below and as we go through different anniversary dates from just over a year ago I will flag those up, write about new stuff and add in some other anecdotes like the one above. Most of you know me well enough to know what to expect, it won’t be politically correct and a good part of it is like as not going to make you wince but I have to keep rowing the boat.

xx

If you ever feel like giving up….

One of the most amazing rowing races ever and epitomises never giving up, it’s not over until it’s over.

So, next time you feel like it’s all over and want to stop because you’ll never get there, just remember GB rowers Jonny and Greg Searle (plus Garry the cox of course!), and their will to just keep going to the line.

If you’ve not seen this before GB are in the blue and white boat – they win gold….

 

 

Inspiring places..

I spoke at an International Summit here for C-level executives – an amazing place to go to for a first visit to Ireland.

The summit seminars and meetings were all held in the main hotel and the dinner I was speaking at was in the country house building you will see – a pic below too.

The video about the hotel and grounds is well worth a watch, such a beautiful place and definitely going back there one day!

The wind is blowing on the ocean too….the wrong way

The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is slowly but surely edging towards its conclusion – two boats remain, the Americans aboard 32 Degrees have 378 miles to go but in the last 24 hours made only 15 nautical miles and are showing 0.9 knots boat speed.

Daryl Farmer amazingly continues to make progress and has now got ‘just’ 840 nautical miles to go – he made 13 nautical miles in the last 24 hours but spare a thought for this – rather than any particular progress towards the finish line the weather on the ocean has blown him north around 50 nautical miles. That must be horrible!

The weather map shows the reason why with winds blowing at between 10 and 20 knots due north and where the wind blows is where you will go. In a weeks time the story will be transformed in theory with fast conditions on the cards and winds possibly in excess of 20 knots blowing exactly in the right direction.

The seas look like they will follow suit so there will be some very fast – but very tricky conditions on the horizon – and a possible blast into the finish. Having said that the weather is a cruel mistress and we had so many days of being promised by our weatherman that the ‘magic carpet’ was on its way ‘tomorrow’ and we all know when tomorrow comes!

The Talisker boats carry water ballast so are less prone to capsize – we never added ballast as we were so focussed on the speed record; despite this a number of the Talisker boats have still capsized and that potential is always there – the next week will be very testing if the weather sticks and with the boats much lighter with so much food consumed by now all the safety protocols will be at the top of the list. Not least, keep the bl##dy hatches shut!

Big seas and big winds scheduled in a week….

 

Going north….whether you like it or not.

Shark!!! Oh no, my mistake…there aren’t any.

Imagine looking down underwater when you are swimming in the sea and you see this below you. Then imagine you are 540 miles offshore…that’s when the theme tune for ‘Jaws’ starts playing in your head…

When we capsized and went into the water I had no thought about what might be in there with us. It was only a while later after we had the liferaft sorted and I went back into the water to dive under the boat to find our water bottles that I thought we might not be alone. A question often asked about when we were at sea is ‘Did we see any sharks?’ The answer is with some relief particularly with our self-inflicted swimming episode – ‘No, we didn’t.’

I had a clear dread when I opened my eyes under the water to try and see the water bottles that I might also see an image similar to that above. On our Sea Survival course we were told that in a liferaft situation we should all ‘do our business’ whilst still in the water so we did not have to in the raft – I suspect that if I had seen a sight like that above I would have involuntarily ‘done my business’ regardless!

I say we never saw a shark – we did see this – but I convinced myself it was a lonely dolphin…..not so sure now looking back…

Fortunately, from my point of view we never saw a shark and that prompted me to look into that a little more when we were back when I’d seen occasional news snippets on ocean populations or even shark attacks on people.

When you look into the global shark population decline it is easy to see why we did not….most large shark species have declined by 90% or more and whether that is a product of over fishing, shark fin fishing, pollution or whatever – it puts into stark contrast just what a mess we are making of our home.

Check out the grpahics below for some facts and figures – beware the image of a hammerhead stripped of its fins – the horror of that is immense – and maybe have a read of the National Geographic article here that gives some ideas of what we can do to make a change.

 

Image result for shark fin fishing

Image result for shark fin fishing

Image result for shark fin fishing

Image result for shark fin fishing

Disaster recovery – does your business have a plan?

There are loads and loads of Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) templates available online – many people think of them as for IT only – the day that your computer terminally crashes or the server dies, or perhaps worse case scenario what happens when that bus comes along with your name on it? There are Risk Assessment proformas and endless Health and Safety features – all for good reason.

Each one must be right for your business or organisation as a quick scan online will bring up DRP’s ranging from Primary Schools to IBM. The key is whether you have one in place and whether it is right for you and your business – something that you are the expert on – however that brings it’s own dangers – the problem with being the expert is that what if you are not even aware of the right questions to ask in certain scenarios; in some circumstances those with less experience, or who we might think of as naive even, may in fact be your best asset.

They might be the ones that ask the questions you have not even thought of – and so ignore them at your peril!

That is exactly the situation we had on our boat; we had an expert ocean rower on board but he still did not recognise that the physical set up for the rowing positions was compromised – and as someone with no proper rowing training or experience why would he know? He justifiably relied on the experts who designed and built the boat but who had made fundamental errors in the set up of the boat. Yet he took the advice of the trained rowers on board who suggested changes had to be made following sea trials and took that advice and made the changes which in turn improved the performance of the boat and the crew’s ability to row her well.

Additional questions were raised by other crew members on aspects of how the boat was set up too – often dismissed out of hand because most of us had not been out on the deep ocean in such a rowing boat before.

Risk Assessment for me was developed around people asking me about what if things do go wrong and my standard answer was ‘What if they don’t?’

You can see the lengthwise safety line and below it with the spare oars strapped to it the safety bar. Without doubt that stopped us going over the side.

I also clearly remember asking about the validity of the heavy, what looked like over-engineered safety bars – my thought was to look at removing them as the safety line would be good enough….wouldn’t it?

The first night at sea showed that naivety can be dangerous – and at that point I was thinking I wish we had a bigger safety bar and was so grateful for the one we had as we were so often nearly swept overboard.

On a different, more sombre note, a couple of years after our trip a different skipper stuck to the view that the safety bars were not needed, that they were unnecessary and that turned into a decision I think he will like as not regret for the rest of his life.

So, on our boat we never went through any sort of Disaster Recovery Plan or even any sort of Risk Assessment – we all knew we had a safety bar, a safety line, lifejackets stowed ready for use, a liferaft ready and waiting, a self righting boat, grab bag, emergency food & water, a lifebelt – even things with letters on like EPRIB and AIS!

We had done the right training too so that was all sorted – VHF radio course, sea survival, day skipper qualification (probably inadequate).

So we had lots of ingredients but no recipe and certainly no finished ‘Bake Off’ winner!

We also had one main protocol – keep the hatches shut;  the only way the boat would self right in the event of a capsize is to have the hatches closed so that the cabins do not flood. If they flood you are done. Human nature is what it is though – it’s boiling hot in the cabin, you take every chance to have the hatches open to let the breeze through and that breeze is best when the wind is blowing and when the wind is blowing the seas are bigger. If the seas are bigger the chance of capsize is greater.

One could argue then that if you stop following the protocol and either have the hatches wide open, or wedge them partly open to convince yourself that will be ok, then what is the point of even having hatches? Yet if you said let’s go to sea without them people would think you are mad, you would think yourself to be mad – yet leaving them open becomes ok…..human beings eh?

The safety bar and the safety lines were viewed very differently because we used them on every single shift, whatever the weather was doing so we had a constant reminder of their value.

That was further demonstrated when the safety line broke and Mark Beaumont was so nearly lost overboard into the night, hanging on literally by his fingertips – I was doing exactly the same at the other end of the boat. It showed how much we needed it all the time and it showed just what would happen without it.

We never had a moment where we thought we could do without the safety bar or the safety line – that would have been madness but that reminder was never there with the hatches.  We kept dodging bullets and so became complacent as that danger faded into the background – but it was the one that nearly killed us.

I have a view on all things Risk Assessment, Disaster Recovery, Health & Safety – the latter is a great thing in so many ways and has no doubt helped save so many from injury or worse – but equally it can make us complacent to danger. That old adage that the best safety device we could fit to any car would not be bumpers, air bags, ABS brakes, seatbelts etc but it would be a sharp metal spike in the middle of the steering wheel….!

In hindsight it was not so much that we did not have a proper plan, rather that we had no plan at all, not even a discussion around what to do if things did go wrong. The list of things that can go wrong is endless and it would be impossible to cover them all individually, but a decent plan gives you a chance to recover quickly and well – for us it could have been anything from injury or illness for a crew member or worse; it could have been someone breaking down to the point where they could not stand it on board anymore and needed to get off – that has happened a number of times with different crews.

It could have been like on our boat where one member of the crew was becoming more and more violently irrational to the point of endangering the whole boat. It was a discussion that Mark and I had of had we reached the point where we needed to set off our EPRIB and call in a rescue before something went terribly wrong.

When things went wrong such as the rudder mechanism breaking or the decision was made to send someone over the side to check for barnacles it was all ‘in the moment’ and we did it ‘on the fly’, essentially making it up as we went along because we had no other choice. It’s not easy at all to haul someone back on board even when they have gone into the water from choice and in ideal conditions – at night, perhaps injured, in rough seas I wonder if that would even be possible.

For us we were by default dangerous, risky, stupid, ignorant, naive – all of those things applied – but we didn’t really know that and most importantly, we were fast! We were going to break the world record and become the first boat in history to row across the ocean in under 30 days weren’t we? That was our plan – simple and straightforward – we weren’t going to have a disaster – that happened to other people, not us…..so we had some real quick thinking ahead of us and it was going to come in a split second with no warning whatsoever – in fact it was worse than that because we had a big dose of complacency embedded into us by now.

We weren’t going to have a disaster – that happened to other people, not to us…..and then you are swimming!

Risk Assessment & Disaster Recovery – it seems almost like a waste of time but life does not run smoothly and the chances are there is a big wave out there somewhere and it has got your name on it!

What motivates you/how do you motivate – carrot and stick?

Motivation – are you motivated to get a reward, to get away from something negative or maybe stuck between the two…

As the rowers close in on the finish they will start to ‘taste’ Antigua – as we headed to our finish the growing feelings were along the lines of ‘Thank God it’s nearly over’ and ‘I can’t wait to get the hell out of here.’ Either way motivation was high to keep the boat moving.

Image result for towards and away from motivation

The hardest point was reaching halfway, 1,500 miles or so in just over 2 weeks of rowing – and knowing you had it all to do again except you were already exhausted. It was very easy to stagnate – funny that, I’m finding it the same with my weight and training at the moment…!

What keeps you going?

Image result for carrot and  stick motivation

Image result for carrot and  stick motivation

Image result for towards and away from motivation

Our GPS track – getting to halfway was nothing like as exciting as I though it would be – in fact, it was crap! Still, it was better than what lay ahead..!

 

 

 

Then there were three….

Just three boats remaining now – the incredible effort by Elaine Hopley sees her now just 261 miles from the finish and making great speed at 2.4 knots – over 500 miles behind her is the American duo of John and Kurt Schwartz  and amazingly Daryl Farmer is hanging in there a further 432 miles back with 1,210 still to go. To put that in perspective he potentially has another 38 days at sea at that pace after being out there for 56 days already, on his own. Not sure how much food he will have packed but he is going to be very, very thin…

Speaking of thin – that applies to the ocean wildlife population – although the current crop of ocean rowers will see whales, turtles, probably loads of potuguese man ‘o war, various ocean birds and almost certainly the occasional shark, according to the WWF they will see half the number of creatures that they would have done just 50 years ago.

Some species, ‘food fish’ of the tuna family have dropped by 74% – one study shows that somewhere between 100 million and 273 million sharks are killed by us every year – they kill only 12 of us per year…

So many species are affected by plastic – many people seem to think that is all waste dumped from ships but have a think about that plastic bag you may have seen on the roadside, next to the ditch, which drains to a stream, to a river – to the ocean.

Image result for plastic in the ocean

On our trip we saw countless plastic items large and small and even a sock with the flag of St George on it – funny, but not something to be proud of. I think we certainly saw more human waste than we saw wildlife.

Our famed sailor Dame Ellen MacArthur has seen the ocean the whole way round the world – and is another calling for action – not least because at this rate by 2050, there will be more plastic in the sea than there are fish. We can’t eat plastic.

We can make choices though and as people carry out protests for this that and the other – 50% of ocean wildlife has gone in 5 decades…..

Check out the WWF article, click here

Image result for plastic in the ocean Image result for plastic in the ocean

Image result for plastic in the ocean Image result for plastic in the ocean