It began at approximately 18h00 last evening. Nearing the end of my rowing shift, my rib playing up after being washed overboard the day before (harnessed), I noticed the usual cirrus clouds on my south eastern horizon but, this time, there were bulbous cumulus nimbus clouds boiling white and majestic at a rapid upward speed behind the dark grey of the nimbus. I said to Wayne, ‘weather on the way, rain squalls on the way at the least, heading right at us.’ Wayne peeked out of the cabin and confirmed; ‘hmm, doesn’t look good.’

As the heaving boiling continued rising upwards, the entire storm, for that’s what was brewing, was moving rapidly towards us as the sun dropped low on the western horizon.

We checked all lashings on deck, went through our regular safety checks, from life jackets to full EPIRB (Emergency Positioning Indicator Radio Beacon) protocol. This we do regularly. Then the first small squall spattered sudden but heavy rain on us and moved on by.

We prepared our freeze dried dehydrated food and boiled desalinated water in the Jetboil. I was enjoying my chicken tika with rice while Wayne went for the chicken korma with rice when the boat lurched and yawed (spun sideways) and we spilled good food. The swells were not big at around 8 feet but the sea began frothing with white caps and small peaks moving in different directions. Then big rain hit hard, thunder and lightening cracked and lite the now black sea.

‘Have you ever seen a white out?’ asked Wayne. ‘Sure, in a dust storm in the Gobi Desert and on my Antarctic expedition; scary stuff’, I replied. ‘I think we’re in for one tonight’, he replied. He was correct.

So, here I am, a veteran at long and grueling expeditions, crossing an ocean for the very first time in my life, in a rowing boat called Mhondoro. Let’s put this in perspective; I have never been out on a luxury liner let alone s yacht further than the horizon. Now I’m very very far from any land in a 6.8m row boat about to experience a ‘white out’ in an electric storm in the blackest of nights. ‘Great!’ I said nervously. You see, this feeling of being utterly out of control and at the complete mercy of the elements was not new to me. It was exciting actually but called for discipline and a very level head. Yet all the logic in the world could not subdue my feeling of utter vulnerability. This was a new lesson for me; do all you can and then accept resignation! As the serenity prayer says; ‘God grant me the courage to change the things I can, the grace to accept the things I can’t and the wisdom to know the difference.’ Boy, was this a test!

Because of the lightening we had to shut down all electrical systems. This included navigational chart plotter, navigation lights and AIS (Automatic Identification System) which we need to pick up any ships in the vicinity. For all intense and purpose, we were s bobbing, insignificant cork, bouncing around on a very tempestuous sea. Helpless and very alone.

We took turns at watch. One on deck the other below in relatively short half hour spells; this to prevent total fatigue. Wet all the time, we attempted, as one does, to lighten things up. Me, with my amazing array of under the table jokes, Wayne with hot chocolate and deep chats about our ‘purpose’; which we both share deeply.

The night was very long with hardly a dull moment; which I would have welcomed. The only upside was that, because of the prevailing storm wind, we were moving West North West at 3 knots (about 5.5kms) without rowing! Today’s chart plot showed we had moved 68 nautical miles (multiply by 1.8 for kms) including rowing, over 25 hours. Impressive!

What I witnessed last night had, yet again, humbled me. We so easily forget tough times and hardship but, for me, these are life lessons to be welcomed. How can I possibly know joy, happiness and wonder if that is all I’ve ever had? I would have no comparison and, in all likelihood, think there was something better. We need the dark and the light, the hot and the cold, the great love and the pain of deep loss, the Ying and the Yang. We are born into this and are equipped to handle it, grow from it and be an example to others because of it. There is leadership in each and everyone of us. Choose it, embrace it.