Email This Page to a FriendPreview: Tom Robinson’s Solo Row Across the Pacific – Update #5 and #6 from Tom’s Shore Team
November 19, 2022
The following is a letter sent by Tom Robinson's Shore Team to the followers on his website TomRobinsonBoats.com. You can sign up on his site to receive these updates directly, and we'll carry them here on OCH as well.
“Update #5 - Strangers in the Night"
Tues, Oct 25, 2022
Dear Sponsors, Supporters, Family and Friends
First up, an apology for the lateness of this update. We were ready to send it earlier but delayed doing so until we had a better idea of Tom’s plans in relation to the zigzag course mother nature has been making him take. Then along came Steve Stone’s recording of his conversation with Tom which is discussed below. We hope you’ll find the wait was worthwhile as we cover a lot of news in this edition.
Off Center Harbor interview
A big supporter of Tom’s Pacific Row is Off Center Harbor (OCH) which is based in Brooklin, Maine, USA. One of OCH’s key people is Steve Stone. As you would know from our last update, Steve telephoned Tom recently and interviewed him for the OCH website. If you haven’t heard it already, the interview can be found HERE.
After the interview Steve kindly emailed Tom’s parents and reassured them that he was in good spirits, in good form and that the interview went well. He said that Tom’s only complaint was of a very sore bum – perhaps induced by Maiwar’s rolling motion in cross winds.
In the shore team’s August update titled “Muchas Gracias” it was noted that with Maiwar in low latitudes close to the equator, the Equatorial Current now had Tom in her bosom. Little did we know just how long that bosom would cling to Tom. After numerous attempts to come south, on Wednesday 14 September Maiwar, at a position 3 degrees south of the equator, commenced her long 400 nautical mile descent to the latitude of the island of Hiva Oa in the Marquesas. By 25 September she had come south by some 60 nautical miles to be at 4 degrees south. We thought she was well on the way … but that current kept Maiwar in her grip: when it turned north so did Tom. With the current now setting north west and with fresh south easterly winds Tom had no choice but to try to minimise the extent to which he would be carried north.
It was not until 21 October, after he had unwillingly been carried north by 120 nautical miles to 2 degrees south that he at last recommenced a downward course. As Tom battles the currents and wind it’s clear that he will not make the Marquesas but will be forced to carry on to a new, more westward destination. He tells us that he’s in good health, has plenty of food and can make water if his bottled supplies are exhausted. It’s now a matter of consulting the charts, plus the current and wind forecasts, to see what options are available to him.
Whose idea was it to row across the Pacific?
In mid-September, not long after Maiwar commenced her first descent, Tom gave the shore team a phone call (kindly at 1am our time). This was the first time we had spoken since before he left Lima on 2 July. He sounded relaxed and in good spirits as if he was anywhere but on a boat in the middle of nowhere. He said his best daily run had been 49.9 nautical miles. He also told us that in a 25 knot breeze some rapid bailing was required after a large wave put Maiwar on her beam ends (on her side) and made a forced entry into his cabin.
(Some) supplies are running low
A most surprising piece of news from Tom during that phone call was that he was running out of one of his most important items … writing paper. Those who know Tom know he’s a keen writer. One does wonder what he’s writing about if he’s almost depleted his paper supply so early in the trip. Based on his skill at catching seafood, perhaps he’s writing a recipe book for ocean rowers on creative ways to serve tuna, dorado and squid using only two ingredients and a small gas jet boiler!
Time to get the cleaners in, again and again and again…
Ocean rowers know that in tropical waters they must go overboard from time to time to reduce drag by removing barnacles and weed from the bottom of their boat. This is an onerous task that must, nonetheless, be done. Little did Tom realise that he would be reporting to us that these necessary baths would occur weekly.
Around midnight (our time) on Wednesday 21 September, Maiwar passed a milestone signalling that she had 1,000 nautical miles to go to reach the Marquesas; she was almost three-quarters of the way through the first leg of her trans-Pacific voyage.
In the Marine Traffic screen shot above, the identified pleasure craft is Maiwar. This shows her latitude and longitude in the top right corner plus the 1,000 nautical mile distance from Maiwar to Hiva Oa in the Marquesas. Unfortunately, Tom has passed a milestone on a route that he is no longer taking. He is now 400 nautical miles north of the Marquesas – so near and yet so far.
A very lengthy phone call
The shore team had a second phone conversation with Tom on 6 October. He was sick of trying to get south to the Marquesas and was looking forward to choosing and achieving an alternative destination. Following is news from that phone conversation with Tom.
Strangers in the night
Tom’s had many interesting encounters with flying fish. They’re small (about 3 cm in length), numerous and comical to watch as they hurl themselves out of the water. One morning he awoke to discover 17 flying fish had landed, unexpectedly, on Maiwar’s deck - the most he’d ever seen.
Due to the temperatures around the equator, Tom’s been sleeping at night with the hatch open to allow airflow through his cabin. While preparing for his row he imagined many scenarios, but not one scenario was of a flying fish making its way through the open hatch to land on his legs in the middle of the night! One can only imagine his reaction and his exclamation!
Very big fish
Growing up in Australia, everyone learns at a very young age that sharks live in the water we swim, fish and play in. But we almost never see them. Tom, however, has seen plenty recently. They come close to the surface and are about 10 feet long. He assured us that they are merely sightseeing and pose no danger to him. (Fun fact: Maiwar is 24 feet long.)
Favourite books … so far
Many of you would know that Tom is an avid reader. In fact, he took with him a number of books to read throughout the trip. Perhaps you’ve read his blog about the bookshelf on Maiwar. For those who missed that blog here’s the link:
During last week’s phone call he very excitedly told us about two of his most recent reads. He’s awarded “Greatest Book Ever” to Small Is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher and “Most Favourite Book” to Henry David Thoreau’s Walden or Life in the Woods. Harry Bryan, a regular contributor to Off Center Harbor, also puts Small Is Beautiful in his list of best reads. See: