On 14th December 2016 volunteer wildlife rescuer Daryl Farmer, 42, from Forest Row East Sussex started rowing over 3000 miles solo from La Gomera to Antigua undertaking the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. He is one of only two Classic Solo boats undertaking the challenge.
The past month which has seen him away from his family over the Christmas and New Year Period, has been an extremely rough ride so far. His row has seen him battle with enormous waves which have washed him overboard, seen his boat capsize and bash his head leading to concussion and a satellite phone call for advice from the challenge’s duty doctor. Rudder cables and foot plates have broken and needed fixing. Plus, unfavourable weather from Sahara sand blocking his solar panels to storm winds pushing him backwards.
The row has however had its amazing moments for Daryl and never has “Rowers Ark” been a more fitting name with Daryl being joined on his voyage by fish which have shared his breakfast, brightly coloured fish and spotted dolphins swimming alongside keeping him company. As well as brown and white bird which slept on board his boat at nights keeping him company during the day too.
Daryl is behind schedule as a result of the rough weather but has rowed approximately 800 nautical miles so far and has another couple of months of rowing to reach Antigua.
Trevor Weeks MBE founder of East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service said “People across Sussex and beyond have been following Daryl’s progress on social media and ‘Dot-watching’ on the internet following his boat’s tracker, every day I log on to see how Daryl has done and read his partner Sabine’s updates. Daryl’s ability to adapt to each challenge which is thrust upon him is so outstanding, and his ability to fix things , resolve problems without looking to others for help, I think we could all learn a thing of two from him and his dedication. What an amazing guy, and what amazing support his partner Sabine is being to help him along and keep us all updated.”
Daryl’s father Rob Farmer on facebook said “I am very proud of him and the causes he is doing it for and I know he will never give up unless he really has too but I am so so worried about him and whatever happens I will be pleased to see him home again on dry land.”
Theresa Hilton also said on Facebook “I just got done looking once again at the map, and can feel the immense struggle Daryl is going through right now. Daryl is not only alone out there, he is up against the biggest POWER we know Mother Nature teamed up with Mother Ocean. While I see him struggle as I watch that little boat on the map, I know he is not only a WINNER he is A force to be reckoned with. We are so behind you Daryl....What a trooper.... Be safe and rock on, your family has to be so proud...so very proud.”
Daryl is raising money for East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service (WRAS) and people can support Daryl by making a donation at his justgiving page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/atlanticsolo2016
Daryl’s Rowers Arc Facebook page is www.facebook.com/Rowing4Reefs
To track Daryl’s progress visit https://www.taliskerwhiskyatlanticchallenge.com/race-tracker/
PHOTOS: Courtesy of Jamie Sparks.
The row has started in some very rough seas. Daryl is supposed to eat about 5000 calories a day but in the rough weather it can be difficult doing so. Boiling water, preparing food is all very difficult to do and at one point Daryl was only managing a fifth of his food intake as a result.
Whilst out on deck Daryl was suddenly confronted by an enormous wave which washed him overboard. “It is times like this which make you realise how important all the safe procedures are for Daryl and that you can’t afford to cut corners as your life depends on your safety equipment.” Said Sabine.
“Only a couple of weeks into the row Daryl hit his head whilst inside being thrown about like stones in a bottle on a beach. He mentioned the following day he couldn’t see out of one of his eyes properly. I asked him to take a photo of his eyes, face on direct at the camera with flash to see if his pupils dilated equally. I never thought he would ring back in 5mins and tell me he's done it and his right pupil wasn't constricting! I told him I was concerned and immediately asked him to contact the duty officer who dealt with the situation and within a few minutes the Atlantic Campaigns Race Doctor was talking to Daryl. The conclusion was concussion and thankfully by the next day his vision was improving and is now back to normal with both pupils working as they should!” said Sabine.
Daryl may not come first in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2016 but Christmas Eve he was the first of the fleet to capsize. Daryl said “It's not a nice experience at all and I was quite shocked when my narrow 6ft x 4ft cabin which is my home sand safety was suddenly thrown upside down. Bojangles [Daryl’s boat] did what she was meant to, as all ocean rowing boats are designed to, and she self-righted within a few seconds, ready for the continued beating the ocean and weather continued to throw at us. Its not easy cleaning and tidying up in such rough weather either!”
Daryl’s boat developed power problems after winds from the Sahara blew a reddish brown dust across the ocean covering his boat disrupting his solar panels. Duty Officer Ian Couch from the Talisker Whisky Challenge told Sabine that the phenomenon of this dirty red wind is known as “Calima”, the red dust from the Sahara causing overcast conditions and coating things with sand making it harder to generate power. This is also called 'blood rain!'.
Early January Daryl was rowing so hard he managed to pull a foot plate out of the deck. “ I asked whether he'd turned into the Incredible Hulk out there as I know how well that was bolted on! I asked if he could fix it and he said 'it's all screwed back in and glued, just got to wait for it to set'! I was so pleased to hear that, as something like that can be quite devastating out there but it proved how he's adapting to his environment and he just got on and fixed it!” said Sabine.
Daryl has been unlucky to get caught by the edge of a storm out in the Atlantic which has pushed both Classic Solo boats backward towards La Gomera, this has required Daryl to deploy a Para Anchor which helps prevent him being blown backwards too far.
“Putting a para anchor out (or pulling it in) is not an easy task or without risk, you have to be really careful when deploying it not to get caught in the ropes, because as the para anchor opens like a parachute underwater it really drags the associated ropes in fast! If you end up caught in the line you could easily be dragged in! I love the way he calls me up and tells me all these scary things quite casually!” said Sabine Granger Daryl’s partner, “How he manages to pull 120m of retrieval line and 90m anchor line in and the para anchor, I don't know! This is definitely a man who's eaten his weetabix!”
Rowers Ark has certainly been a suitable name for his challenge. Recently Daryl has been sharing his breakfast with a Black Triggerfish which has been eating out of his fingers. When pulling in the Para anchor he managed to catch a 2 ft long Dorado.
Over New Year Daryl text to say he had a bird for company on board his boat. After Daryl head injury Sabine started to thing he must have been hallucinating that he's got some lady on board or may be a mermaid?! “When we spoke later that evening he confirmed it was of the feathered variety!! A small brown bird about the size of a starling, with a white patch on its back has kept Daryl company. “He says he thinks it sleeps on the boat as there's always poo on the deck in the morning, and during the day he's flying around and when Daryl spots him and says 'hello mate' he flys over and sits on the boat! A true 'Ark Mate'” said Sabine. The bird was later identified as a Storm Petrel.
There has also been a group of bright blue and yellow fish about 18" long which Daryl thinks are called Jacks around the boat following him. New Year’s Eve Daryl was woken by the sound of dolphins outside, which spent quite a while swimming around keeping him company. Daryl said to Sabine “This is the only way to see Dolphin’s in the wild where they belong so happy and free not unhappy and miserable trapped in a dolphinarium for selfish human entertainment.”
Communication has been a big boost to Daryl and being able to speak by Satalite phone to Sabine.
“As his shore team, I need to keep his spirits up when it gets tough like during the recent storms, and be there to listen when he needs to talk. The highlight of 'the storm communications' was when I asked how his beard was looking and I said it's weird not seeing him for this long, I commented that I still have this image of him looking like Tom Hanks in Castaway, when he arrives in Antigua to which Daryl replied I think I look more like 'feral Brian' from Family Guy! I know you have to be a fan to understand but I laughed for about 5mins till my abs could no longer take it! It was just so Daryl's sense of humour!” added Sabine.
For Daryl the purpose of this race is to get across and raise money and awareness for his charities. Being in a pure solo ocean rowing boat he knows he will never get the consistent speed the other boats will get, this has turned from a race into a journey of mind, body and soul and standing up for what you believe in!
The power of these creatures is immense and this is what Rowers Ark is all about! It's a voice for our wildlife and nature! Something Daryl has been so passionate about since I've met him! Every endurance challenge he has ever done has been to raise awareness and funds for conservation be it ocean or land creatures!
It is a very real situation that we are creating our own 6th mass extinction and we are losing beautiful creatures around the world at an alarming rate! If we don't change the way we respect our planet and keep destroying it with industrial farming and fishing and entertainment for our own pleasures we will have a very desperate situation for our children, who will look at our generation thinking what were they doing!
But there is always hope and our message at Rowers Ark is that one small change can create a better future! A bird feeder in the garden, respecting our local wildlife, simple things that if we make the changes locally we create a better world to live in globally.Share this!