Road trip!!

Before we can even begin to row anywhere, we had to transport the boat to Lanzarote. This was a whole adventure on it’s own! And while stressful at times, it was also a lot of fun!

A bit of background so you know who people are.

Me: hopefully you know who I am by now. I am one third of our company, Monkey Fist Adventures. I rowed across The Atlantic Ocean with Billy and I will be rowing across the Indian Ocean with Rachel and Billy.

Billy: one third of Monkey Fist Adventures. Rowed with me across the Atlantic Ocean. Has previously rowed across the Pacific and Indian Oceans with Barry.

Barry: one third of Monkey Fist Adventures. Our land support and social media super star for our Atlantic crossing. Previously rowed across the Pacific and Indian Oceans with Billy.

Rachel: hasn’t yet rowed any oceans but will be rowing across the Indian with me and Billy (and John, who isn’t in this post but was pictured in the previous post about prepping the boat).

Part 1 – Salisbury to Dover

The first goal was to get to East Wittering where our boat was being stored at Andy’s house (a friend of Billy’s. It is always usefully to have a friend with a property big enough to store a boat), and it’s also good to have a friend who is willing to drive you from Salisbury to Wittering via a printing company to pick up our freshly printed team clothing, this really was 11th hour stuff!

Friend and fellow adventurer Jo Bradshaw

Barry and Rachel arrived and we set about loading everything into the boat (in the rain, dark and freezing cold!).

A couple of days before this we found out we had to produce a carnet. This is all to do with imports and exports and makes sure we aren’t bringing in stuff to sell on the sly. A carnet is a list of everything on the boat, including its cost, weight, serial number, country of manufacture. Literally everything. Plus a separate list of consumables, so all the food and fuel. I had my computer writing everything on a spreadsheet while Billy picked everything up and guessed it’s weight and cost. It was a pretty awful job!

It also seems to be a good way of customs making money because every time someone looks at it it costs money, and every time someone looks at it they have to stamp it and that costs more money!

So as we loaded everything on the boat I started to see stuff that wasn’t listed on the carnet. Too late now!

Back in the summer, when we were in Cowes week, we got chatting to the Landrover guys and Billy convinced them to lend us a vehicle to tow the boat down to Cadiz. This again was a bit touch and go as to whether they were going to agree to go through with this, and it was delivered at the 11th hour (you’ll notice there is a running theme here!), but thankfully it all worked out and they even branded it for us.

Having a brand new Landrover, with hitch assist, was going to make our lives so much more comfortable and so much easier. After about 6 hours or packing the boat it was around 1:30am and we got ready to attach the boat to the car and drive down to Dover to get our very early train to France.

It was all going so well, until we found out that our 7 pin plug on our boat trailer did not match the 13 pin socket on the Landrover tow bar!

We searched around Andy’s garage and we didn’t find anything, and at 1:30am there aren’t a lot of options left. We tried the nearby petrol stations and we had no luck so all we could do now is go back to Billy’s house and get a couple of hours sleep.

6:30am saw us driving about searching for this adaptor. Screwfix, nope. Halfords, nope. Sainsburys, nope. Toolstation, nope. McDonalds, nope! (not for the adaptor or a decent breakfast but the others needed coffee). We eventually found a second Halfords with an adaptor and by the time we had returned to the boat, fitted the adaptor and hooked it up to the car, our train to France  had already left and we had gone absolutely nowhere!

Rachel was able to book us another train for the next morning, so we decided to go to HMRC and get our carnet stamped and our boat checked and our road trip had properly begun.

Going through customs is a bit of a lottery. it can be quick or it can be a long drawn out process. Similarly to going through customs at an airport, most of it depends on the person you get and how they are feeling that day.

We settled into the truckers cafe to wait our turn. This is where we witnessed Barry (the vegan) take on the biggest full English breakfast available, the one that’s pitched as a belly buster on the menu. The one with 3 of everything. That’s a lot of meat for a vegan to handle!

After finishing the breakfast in approximately 3 minutes and 14 seconds, he then ate a ‘normal’ size full English breakfast for dessert. I have never seen anyone eat so much and so quickly. I think he should quit ocean rowing and pursue a future in food eating competitions.

We were pretty nervous about the boat being checked, not just because most of the stuff on the list was estimated, but if they did choose to check every single thing we would be there for hours, that boat was stuffed full.

Thankfully all it took was a quick glance, enough to make sure it was a boat, and we got our ok stamp.

There were 4 of us because it’s a long way and the driving needed to be shared. I’m really not that keen on driving. I don’t mind driving a car, but not keen on driving in the rain or the dark, and although I have had a driving licence for 18 years, when you don’t drive that often you lose a bit of confidence.

My confidence at driving a car with a 29ft ocean rowing boat attached to the back was zero!

Part 2 – Dover to Cadiz

The problems of driving a car through a place designed for truckers!

Somehow we managed to change our train ticket from the next morning to the next hour, so we didn’t have to wait around and we were able to get on the Eurostar and on our way to France.

We then spent the next 30 hours driving through France and Spain, firstly avoiding the many toll roads, but we were going through a lot of small streets with speed humps and annoying things, so we got back on the main roads and just went through the tolls. Easier for driving but not as good for scenery!

We stopped a lot at service stations because however fancy and however new the car is, when you are sat down hour after hour your bum will hurt. It was also essential to get out of the car and get some fresh air because those meaty breakfasts we had at the truckers cafe weren’t doing any of us any favours!

desperate times call for desperate measures
Some of us got more sleep than others!

It was a fun trip, and we had many laughs and played a few silly pranks, mostly on Rachel, but 48 hours after we began we were very glad to get to Cadiz!



We were all quite pleasantly surprised by how nice Cadiz was. I hadn’t really given much thought to where we were going, and I assumed it was an industrial port place, but it was a beautiful mix of old and new. Lots of very old buildings and lots of history, lots of moroccan influence. It would be nice to visit again.

After taking the boat to the port and sorting out where we were departing from we had a day to kill.

Our little boat getting lost among the massive trucks!
Another step closer to Lanzarote

Food was never far from our minds so first stop was for breakfast, of pizza, paella and churros! And a Spanish version of a hot chocolate which isn’t designed to drink but to dip your churros in. Delicious!



Cadiz is pretty small so it’s a really nice place to walk around and we went to explore. We also wanted to find a nice area to take some pictures of the boat and the Landrover. We found this lovely walkway out to this old fort. Billy wanted to drive the boat onto this walkway, which was about the width of the boat. Thankfully he was convinced by us that this was not the best idea and we didn’t do it. Honestly it had disaster written all over it!


Instead, we took the boat to a nearby beach which was a much better idea!


Billy then decided he wanted to test out the drone again. It was a very windy day and we were told it’s best not to fly it when it’s really windy! It also wasn’t the best idea to put the drone and the controller on the sand, in fact it was a terrible idea! There was sand everywhere, especially in bits where there should never be sand! It didn’t fly away this time, but the drone story does not end here and will be continued later on in the row!

It also might not have been a good idea to take the boat so far into the sand because we got it stuck! Thankfully we were able to use the Landrover to pull it out, and before that big old storm rolled in!

We returned the boat to the port and did some final checks and made sure everything was in a position where it wouldn’t fall over. I think the tiredness and stress of the last few days took over because Billy and I argued. He told me to take the decals out of the boat before towing it on the other side, I thought it was unnecessary and he shouted at me for always questioning him. So I cried!

Silly stuff and I don’t think it would have happened had we not had just had the build up of stress over the last few months and had hardly any sleep over the last few days. But I had warned them before that if I cry that’s it for the day, it doesn’t stop. Even when I am over it and have moved on, and I am smiling and laughing, I am still leaking from my eyes, and it only stops after I’ve been to sleep. They got to witness that first hand!

We had such a good time up until now and I did feel really bad for ruining our final night together in Cadiz.

Billy and Barry left early the next morning. Barry had to get back to work so took a flight out of Seville, and Billy had to make that long drive again all the way back to England.

Rachel and I had some time to kill, in-between visiting customs to get paperwork stamped which I remember having some drama attached to it but I can’t remember why. I have now learnt that when it comes to customs nothing is simple, and there are a lot of conversations which have to be had before you get a stamp, and even when you do get the stamp it’s a lottery as to whether they have stamped it in the right place. And doing it all in Spanish just adds a bit more spice to the situation!

So after we had been in and out of customs a few times we had a couple of hours to wander around the big fish market. I had taken my passport out with me just in case and I will be eternally grateful to the Spanish man who ran after me with it in his hand to give back to me after I had dropped it on the floor without noticing. That really would have been a disaster!

Who knew Monk fish, which taste so good, are the ugliest fish ever! And what’s with all those teeth!! Also, sacks of fish eggs, they definitely don’t look delicious. And that poor Marlin who has had his head chopped off, I certainly wouldn’t want to run into one of those in the middle of the ocean!

As a side note on Marlins. There have been a handful of ‘attacks’ on ocean rowing boats by Marlins, and this years Talisker Atlantic Race (2020) saw attacks on 3 different boats, until than there had been like 3 attacks ever, so we aren’t sure happened this season, but their sword nose thing managed to pierce the hull and go straight through into the cabin where thankfully no one got hurt. If someone had been lying there it would have literally stabbed right through them. I am pleased I didn’t know anything about this before I left!

Part 3 – Cadiz to Lanzarote

Finally it was time to get on the ferry and settle in for a 30 hour crossing. I was expecting the ferry to be quite punctual with it’s departure, but I also forgot we were working on Spanish time which is basically they will leave whenever they are ready.

I went up onto the deck to watch our boat being loaded on and I was starting to get a bit panicky when 5pm, our departure time, came and it was still sat where we had left it. I stood up there feeling a bit stressed and very cold until 6:50pm when they finally got our boat and loaded it on to the ferry. Relief! It was the very last thing to be loaded because shortly after we were under way!


It was an ok crossing. I felt a little queasy at times but not sick. The ferry had quite a roll going on. If you looked out of the windows they would be filled with sky and then a few moments later be filled with sea so it was going slowly from side to side. Enough to cause a big crash of plates and stuff in the canteen, it was quite amusing!

Rachel was happiest in her little nest inside. She really can sleep anywhere!

Sorry Rachel!

But also big shout out to Rachel who came on the ferry with me so I didn’t have to do it alone, that is real commitment to the project!

I think they make the seats as uncomfortable as possible on purpose, it was so hard to sleep in those chairs without losing feeling in your bum or feeling like you’ve broken your neck. I spent a fair bit of time up on deck in the fresh air and it was the first time I really thought about what I was doing and being at sea. Looking around the ferry and seeing absolutely nothing around us, imagining what it would be like without the sound of the ferry engine and so much closer to the water!

I actually started to get a bit excited about leaving, until now all the focus had been on just managing to get the boat to the start line.

Ocean sunrise

Because of the delay leaving we arrived in Lanzarote at 1am where we were met by my mum and dad and family friend Pete who has a vehicle with a tow bar.

Normally because of health and safety you aren’t allowed to do anything at ports and the people who work there have to do everything, especially the loading and unloading etc. Not the case in Lanzarote! We had to get the boat off ourselves which meant Pete had to drive onto the ferry, and dad, who has never towed anything before, had to hook up the trailer!

Driving it off the ferry was a tense moment! The ramp was a bit steep and the bottom of the trailer got wedged on the ramp. There were about 10 workers stood around looking at us and watching us struggle, but not keen on helping! Eventually someone appeared with some blocks and were able to force it over and it landed down with a thump. I think I may have stopped breathing for the entire process!

There was some confusion as to which way the lever had to go to release the brakes and the advise we took from a Spanish lady may have been incorrect as when we drove home behind the trailer there was a terrible smell of burning rubber, and I’m really not sure how the trailer wheels didn’t catch fire! There was definitely some smoke coming from them!

The trailer was wedged on the ramp

But we made it home around 2:30am and 6 days after I left my house in Salisbury, I had finally made it to Lanzarote and another step closer to the start line…