The Heavenly Hell

Jun 20, 2017

I’m tucked up in my cabin like one of those contortionist ladies who squeeze into tiny spaces. I’m avoiding the midday sun that is streaming through the door and filling half of our already small cabin.

I’m on my 2 hour break that I so desperately need because I am struggling, but there’s no chance of a rest in this sweat pit.

It’s not just me who’s struggling, the rest of the crew are too. Fortunately for them, they have been blessed with more melanin than me which means they are able to row wearing little clothing. Not me though. I’m full sleeve, high neck SPF 50 sun top with a pair of black leggings (it’s the only colour I have) covered with 3 water-saturated white t-shirts for extra protection, donning my legionnaire white cap. I look and feel ridiculous but it’s the only way I’ll not end up in hospital with severe sunstroke and third degree burns. I am roasting and can feel my internal thermostat slowly tripping out.

If I was to step outside on deck (ha! That makes it sound luxurious) and take a picture, you would more than likely sigh, in that dreamy way you would if looking at a postcard of a tropical island. The sky is pure blue, the ocean is emerald green and is so calm it looks as though it’s been digitally enhanced. Pictures and videos will not do our view justice.

Today we had a pod of 20+ dolphins dance around our boat. We’ve seen dozens of puffins and watched gannets dive for fish. We even had a pet sea gull follow us for miles and miles as we crept up the Irish Sea towards Wales’ most westerly point. We named him Jonathan Livingston.

Wish you here? From the description in the paragraph above, it sounds like a dream. It is, except we’ve been rowing nonstop for over 24 hours in 2 hour shift patterns in the blistering heat.

Laura in Heavenly Hell

As we’ve got zero phone reception, we can only guess that it’s the hottest day of 2017. The sun’s rays bounce off the glass-like sea and the white deck of the boat. There are very few places to escape apart from under my wet white clothes and the tiny shaded area at the back of my cabin.

Welcome to heavenly hell.

To keep me occupied in my 2 hour rowing shifts, shifts that I wish would be over within the first 5 minutes of starting, Charlie our skipper tells me funny stories and we play ‘Jellyfish Cricket’. The games involves scooping passing jellyfish with our oars.

Please Note: No jellyfish were harmed in the game of Jellyfish Cricket.

Laura in Heavenly Hell

My 7 day old Compeed has melted into my trainers and the remainder on my foot has congealed} on to the mattress that lines my cabin. It’s happened on Lesley’s side, right where she rests her head. Let’s hope she doesn’t notice the bogie-like residue, along with the copious amount of Sudocrem I’ve splodged over the cabin from my various burns, rashes and irritations.

On that note, I forgot to mention; to add to the heat of the day, a flask of boiling water from our Jetboil cooker fell on me earlier, scalding my skin.

Today I am being tested.

I have 13 minutes until I head back on the oars for another 2 hour shift. It’s 14:47 and it’s still frighteningly hot.

It’ll take me those 13 minutes (and the rest) to get dressed into my sun protection gear.

Please please let there be some clouds tomorrow.

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Read more from the Great British Row 2017