Sorry for the radio silence from us the last couple of days… The finer details of rowing around Mauritius and physically getting into port was a lot harder than expected!
The excitement of seeing land for the first time in nearly 2 months happened at first light on Thursday morning. During the preceding night, we had had a fairly frank discussion and decided we were going to give everything we had left to see if we could get some of the big Indian Ocean crossing records. At 6am we therefore started rowing together. This translated into basically rowing consistently until we felt so broken we just had to have a break. We calculated that it should have taken approximately another 18 hours to get into the port on the south west coast so we knuckled down, entered the zone and tried to ignore the pain by focusing on the goal and reminiscing over some of the real highs of the past 55 days.
As we edged closer to Mauritius, the stunning coast line started coming into view and we had to develop the knack of looking at it over our shoulders as part of the rowing stroke. The next 12 hours was spent working our way along the south coast in order to round the southwest corner and aim for the landing point on the west coast. Sometime on Wednesday afternoon, our AIS (basically the boat satnav and collision avoidance system) started alarming to imply a possible danger ahead and we heard someone trying to speak to us on the VHF radio. The Mauritian coast guard were welcoming us to their waters and congratulating us on our journey so far. To top it off, we realised that the beeping was alerting us to the coastguard plane which did the most amazing fly by over the boat while welcoming us over the radio. It was the most incredible sight and the first time it really hit home that we had nearly arrived and completed the seemingly impossible journey. It definitely struck a chord with both of us and turned us into emotional wrecks!
We continued to plod along the south coast as the day waned before learning an interesting fact – we were busy rowing, minding our own business when Ted was hit in the chest by something. Naturally, he assumed it was another flying fish but no – three squid had made a dash for freedom to enjoy a ride on a rowing boat! Who knew they could jump?!
That evening after dark we were treated to our families visiting us in a local fishing boat. Apparently, they had left before dark to find us and were on the point of giving up when our small light was spotted! Not only was it the first time we had seen another human being in 2 months, it was just such a high to see our loved ones. We spent some time hearing some of the news from shore including the horrendous realisation that we were being made to row an extra 25 miles further north to Port Louis. This was a crushing blow, bearing in mind we had already been rowing for 24 hours with only 2 hours off and were also dangerously low on water and power. The conditions at the time were good and so we did our best to suck it up and plough on to make sure we arrived first thing on Friday morning.
The boat left us after about an hour, once they saw we were making good progress. We then turned the corner onto the West coast and things took a nasty turn. The wind picked up but was very much in the wrong direction. The conditions were so bad that the boat slowed to barely moving despite both of us rowing as hard as we could. We were struggling to make any progress north towards Port Louis but more worryingly, we couldn’t get towards the shore and were actually being pushed further out to sea towards Africa. By this point, we were both broken, both physically and mentally. The fear of having to row for days more when only a few hours ago we had been on the final stretch, didn’t help our morale! By the early hours of the morning our bodies were falling apart and the weather was getting worse, we were virtually at a standstill. The realisation started to dawn on us that we were physically going to be unable to get the boat into shore and we would likely need a tow. Such an unbelievable disappointment having rowed 3600 miles from Australia and then not being able to finish the thing! We contacted our families on land, asking them to arrange for a support boat to tow us in and then turned the boat directly towards the coastline to try and tread water to stop ourselves getting pushed further out to sea while we waited the 4-5 hours for the boat to arrive. We both took a short rest with the other maintaining ground before getting back rowing two up at about 3am. By this stage we had been rowing around 30 hours with only 4 hours of rest (not sleep) time over the period. After a couple of hours rowing directly towards the coast (rather than north to Port Louis) we found out that immigration was going to let us land on the Black River in the South (level with where we were) which was the most amazing news and we are so grateful that they made this exception for us. This meant that if we could only make some headway east towards the coast we would be able to finish the expedition completely unassisted. We managed to make a little bit of progress and found ourselves marginally speeding up as we got closer to the coast. By the time the boat reached us we were substantially closer to shore and we came to realise that we were going to be able to bring the boat in and see the expedition home. Our final few hours were spent rowing alongside our families and camera crew who were encouraging us from the boat that they had been lent by the incredibly kind Jean-Pierre Henry, owner of JPH Charters. We are so grateful to him (and for allowing us to shower) as we pushed hard to make sure we got a time of less than 57 days.
We reached dry land 56 days, 23 hours and 45 minutes after casting off in Geraldton, Australia. We received the most amazing welcome and it was a bit of a challenge keeping our emotions in check! I hope you’ve all managed to see the live video on Facebook of the arrival!
It would be remiss at this point if we didn’t thank a few very special locals who gave such crucial support when we arrived:
The Coral Tree Restaurant who put up with our press conference with good humour and some amazing bites; Astrid and Coraline who had arranged both the boat the night before, and Francois and his lovely film crew – and given Ted’s Dad crucial support in wrestling with local beaurocracy – AND doing the live stream on Facebook, the film of which has now been visited by over 100,000 viewers! Mr Kumar at Customs House and Patrice at La Balise Marina for all their help to Ted’s dad. And of course Jean Pierre who came to the rescue with his boat the morning of our arrival.
Finally we’d like to thank our families for being the most incredible support over the last 18 months. They’ve always been there during the tough times and without their help we wouldn’t have reached the start, let alone finish line. In particular, we are so grateful to Ted’s mum Alex who spent many hours every day sorting through our messages and sending them onto the boat in a form we could download and easily read. Thank you also to Ted’s dad Jo for all his help throughout, introducing us to sponsors, fundraising for MSF and we’re just sorry he had such a hard time with Mauritian immigration! Thanks must also go to Jack’s dad Vic who was the source of all things fishing and looked after us prior to our departure in Australia and Jack’s mum Jill also for her help with our fundraising for MSF and vast support from virtually every midwife in the UK! Finally, our siblings for all their supportive messages and looking after the families during our absence. We are sorry to have put you all through it!
Ted and Jack