AN international crew, including a Killaloe coast guard member, have succeeded in completing more than half of their gruelling 5,000km row across the Atlantic Ocean.
Mike Jones, who also works as operations manager with the University of Limerick Activity Centre (ULAC) at Ballycuggeran, Killaloe, is battling the might of the ocean with five crewmates.
Despite three attempted starts due to adverse weather conditions, the crew of the Sara G set out from Agadir in Morocco on January 12 in an attempt to row across the ocean. Provided there are no unexpected setbacks, they are expected to arrive in Barbados on March 4.
Two charities, Milford Care Centre, Limerick and Marymont Hospice, Cork, will benefit from Mike’s adventure. Having set a target to raise €25,000, half of the money raised will go to the charities and the remainder will go towards covering the cost of the trip, which is expected to be in the region of €15,000.
Following the initial buzz of getting started, the crew quickly got into a routine – two hours on the oars, two hours’ rest and began to make great time, covering nearly 100 nautical miles in one day.
The first major issue they had to contend with was nearly losing their wind generator, closely followed by the realisation that some of their dehydrated food had been contaminated by diesel.
The ocean decided to throw some very challenging weather conditions at the crew and while on the oars one night, Mylene, the only female on board, was knocked out of her seat by a wave losing a set of oars in the process.
The crew battled through the weather but once the seas calmed, the inevitable happened with the wind taking a turn, forcing the crew to go to anchor for six days to avoid being blown back towards Africa.
Mike described it as, “possibly one of the most frustrating aspects of ocean rowing as all you can do is sit and wait”.
The time did give the crew a chance for their bodies to recover from the stress of the gruelling rowing routine and also time to perfect their fishing skills. Back off sea anchor, the crew also had a near miss with a tanker.
On the environmental side of things, Mike and crew have seen sea turtles, sharks, dorado, tuna and whales. All of this is coupled with the fascinating nighttime skyline, which allows them to hone in on constellation identification.
For now, the home slog is really on but the crew’s journey is being eagerly followed on Facebook and Twitter. Fundraising is still being carried out and donations are still being made through the website www.atlantic5000.com.