56. Mick Dawson: Rowing across the Pacific Ocean

Mick Dawson Sue Stockdale talks to Mick Dawson about his epic adventure to row across the Pacific Ocean, and how he overcame numerous challenges. These include a failed attempt when a freak wave capsized his boat after 109 days at sea, how he avoided being crushed by container ships, and a night facing sea serpents.  Mick Dawson is a former Royal Marine, a professional sailor, author, motivational speaker and one of the most experienced and successful Ocean Rowers in the world. He has undertaken a total of six ocean rows in the last two decades. Two across the Atlantic Ocean and four across the Pacific, rowing in total, more than 22,000 nautical miles.

Most notably he became the first person to successfully row across the North Pacific; from Japan to The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, during an epic voyage with his friend and rowing partner Chris Martin. It would take the intrepid pair 189 days 10 hours and 55 minutes to complete their non-stop record-breaking voyage; Rowing almost 7,000 miles to complete one of the world’s last great ‘Firsts’ and earning them a place in the Guinness Book of World records. Their remarkable feat is yet to be repeated.  More recently Mick was part of another remarkable world first; Rowing 3000 miles from California to Hawaii with Steve Sparkes, who is blind, having lost his sight during his military service. When he and Mick stepped ashore in Hawaii, 82 days after their departure, Steve became the first blind person ever to row the Pacific Ocean.

Connect with Mick Dawson via his website and Linkedin and Facebook and Twitter and see his books on Amazon 

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Key Quotes

‘I think for me it started as a young child and I saw things that piqued my curiosity -principally things to do with the sea’.

‘I’d lost communications because my satellite had broken about day 12 on that trip. I’d been at sea for 109 days when I capsized’.

‘The first thing you’ve got to do when you look into any great ambition is you’ve got to take responsibility’.

‘When things go wrong, it’s your responsibility to find a way to get back on track’.

‘People would say – how can we help? And I like that, it sums up that ethos between mariners that bonds complete strangers together’.

‘It’s an amazing stretch of ocean where few people go, and I thought that it was my opportunity to paint the world with bright colours’.

‘It was two hours on, two hours off – 24 hours a day for the six months out there’.

‘You are seldom beaten by the challenge in front of you. You’re invariably beaten by your approach to that challenge’.

Mick Dawson Transcription

[00:00:00] Sue: hi, I’m Sue Stockdale and welcome to the Access to Inspiration podcast, which provides you with inspiration through conversation. You won’t find celebrities in this podcast, but you will find amazing people, including a sports scientist, a neuroscientist, and an environment. Each of their amazing stories has the power to strengthen shape and challenge your views of the world. I hope the conversation ignites new possibilities within you, makes you think and behave differently as a result. Our final guests for this series about curiosity is Mick Dawson. He’s a former Royal Marine, a professional sailor, motivational speaker and one of the most experienced and successful ocean rowers in the world. Most notably, he became the first person to successfully row across the north Pacific from Japan to the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco during an epic voyage with his friend and rowing partner, Chris Martin, it took them 189 days, 10 hours at 55 minutes to complete their non-stop record-breaking voyage. I can’t wait to find out what about that. And all of his experience and insights and the role curiosity has played a role in his success. Welcome to the podcast Mick.

[00:01:26] Mick: Thank you very much for the invitation.

[00:01:29] Sue: I’m delighted that you’re our final guest for this series, which is on curiosity, and I’m pretty certain that curiosity has played a role in these amazing adventures that you’ve had just to remind our listeners that you’ve done over 22,000 nautical miles on oceans. What do you think is important about curiosity.. And how has that played a role for you?

[00:01:50] Mick: I think for me, it started as a young child and I saw things that picqued my curiosity, principally things to do with the sea. And I saw it as a source of adventure and excitement, and I followed that curiosity and that led me down towards the sea. And as you say, excessive miles in an ocean rowing boat so just goes to show how, wherever young, the things that can inspire us and that can cause us to do amazing adventures in later life.

[00:02:16] Sue: I’m wondering, what is it that draws you to the water, in particular oceans Mick?

[00:02:20] Mick: Again, I absolutely agree. It’s so important that you expose youngsters to as much potential as possible when they’re young. And when, when I was growing up albeit, a long time ago now I grew up in Boston and Lincolnshire, which on an estuary effectively, it’s a port town with a dock and a fishing fleet, or you certainly used to have a bigger fishing fleet in shore fishing fleet.

And I remember from the age of five, walking to school, grandmother picking me and my brother up and walking three or four miles across town to school. And we’d go across the bridge where the fishing fleet was. To me, that fishing fleet, all the noise, the lights before it was dawn in the morning, those guys working on those boats seem like ocean liners to me at that stage. And that river going out to some [00:03:00] mystical place in the distance, just flicked a switch in me, a passion for the sea, for the ocean. That’s never really gone away.

[00:03:06] Sue: I guess I want to start off where your first sense of ocean rowing started , which I understand was crossing the Atlantic. How did that come?

[00:03:15] Mick: Well, that came 20 years ago now. Well, not really 1999. I discovered there was a race to row across the Atlantic, at that stage I’d left the marines was working in private yachting which quite frankly, I was fairly disenchanted with. It was looking for a major challenge, something to get me back on track, get me something that I had in the Royal Marines that I’d lost. I read a book called into thin air about the worst season on Everest. in 96, and thought right so I’ll climb Everest. And then fortunately for me, I found out about this rowing race across the Atlantic ocean, that one I can do that tomorrow. I don’t really need much training for that. And that was it. I entered that race and brother and I took part along with 36 of the boats, rowed from Tenerife to Barbados. And that was another light bulb moment. The light switched on. I’m going to do more.

[00:04:03] Sue: And I understand that when you were doing that, there were some Marines that were attempting to row the Pacific at the same time. Is that right?

[00:04:09] Mick: It was just prior. They would have been at the same time with us, but sadly they were T-boned by a fishing boat, little more than a thousand miles from finishing that north Pacific crossing, Don, Mee and Tim. Welford. We’d followed their progress, particularly I’d follow that. I mean, it’s fantastic and not just have the right attitude to it. It was enormous challenges to get across and they were just dealing with it all in their stride and when they didn’t make it, and it was literally just before we set off, they were T-boned I said, well, thats it thats our next project we will pick up the baton. The guys have taken there and we’ll finish up.

[00:04:41] Sue: Yeah. Those are easy words to say. Mick I’m imagining the reality is a little bit more challenging, particularly as it took you a few attempts eventually to be successful.

[00:04:51] Mick: Well, yeah, it’s a world of difference from crossing the Atlantic. I would recommend anyone who’s looking for a challenge to get involved in those races, to the Caribbean, from the Canaries, but the north Pacific. is a totally different proposition, which I discovered the most of the people who have tried discovered in, certainly in 2004 rowing solo. Sadly, my brother couldn’t commit to it because he had two young kids. I got to almost the same spot as Tim and Dom and I was capsized and effectively sunk again, thought I was on the downhill, but it wasn’t too bad.

[00:05:21] Sue: So just, let’s kind of think about that for a moment or two. You’re saying now you are in the midst of the Pacific ocean on your own and your boat sinks. How do you even find a way to get help?

[00:05:33] Mick: Well, I’ve lost the communications, actually my satellite phone had broken I’m thinking about day 12 on that trip. And I’ve been at sea when I capsized 109 days. Fortunately, as well as the satellite communications, I did have emergency beacons. So I had a, an EPRB in the cabin with me. I was trapped in the cabin when the boat rolled over, she didn’t pop up. So it was a case in having to flood that cabin to get out, which effectively sunk the boat. But fortunately, I [00:06:00] had emergency kit with me that gave an SOS No information, just said I had a big problem. And what position i was at. And it gave me an opportunity to survive. Really.

[00:06:10] Sue: So there you were sending out a signal hoping that somebody would hear that signal. And I guess as I’m listening to you Mick you’re making it sound very rational and a sort of ordinary everyday thing that people face How do you even contemplate and maintain belief that somebody will come to rescue you.

[00:06:25] Mick: I think it comes with a positive attitude. You’ve got to have to take this kind of expeditions in my book. The first thing you’ve got to do when you look into any great ambition is you’ve got to take responsibility. And as soon as you take responsibility, even as I say that to you, I can feel myself physically and mentally preparing myself for the challenges to come. If you’re not taking responsibility, you’ll fold at the first real setback. And I knew that this was a real possibility. This is not a given that you’re going to get across that route far from it. So it’s my responsibility. I chose to be there. I was as well prepared in those circumstances or could have been enormously grateful for my time in the Royal Marines, because that really gave me the, a lot of the skills actually to get out of that situation. But definitely the, the mental attitude to stay positive. Consistently. And I said out loud to myself, I’m not going to die here. I will get through this. It ultimately it comes down to take responsibility and when things go wrong, it’s your responsibility to find a way to get back on track.

[00:07:19] Sue: And how did that happen?

[00:07:21] Mick: Well its a combination. I’m glad to say the signal was received. I think I was in the water or in the water for just under 24 hours because I expected four days somebody would get to me, that’s what I was working on. And I’m sure if I got to the end of that four days, I would have given myself another four days and just kept going until somebody turned up.

But fortunately the US coast guard from Kodiak, Alaska. Got the signal from Falmouth of all places. They originally received the signal cause I was, a Brit deployed the nearest resources to me, which is 600 miles due north effectively. They flew down over my position in the black of night, phenomenal example of their expertise. Flew round me lit up the whole area with flares dropped the life raft after me that I sadly let disappear in the distance. I didn’t want to risk get myself into a worse situation, swimming from my one-man liferaft to a 12 man one. And they then redirect to the ship, the Hanjin Philadelphia, which later that night collected me.

Eventually I have to say it got very complicated with the ship turned up again. Yeah. I don’t make light of it. Got a huge debt to the US coast guard and the crew that, Hanjin Philadelphia without them. I certainly wouldn’t be giving this podcast.

[00:08:27] Sue: So those that came to your rescue, as you say, are a key part, I guess, of what is the camaraderie that ocean farers have, would you agree with that, that you think there’s something unique that those that go to see have a mindset or an approach to helping with.

[00:08:42] Mick: Absolutely. And that’s the perfect example of it. I’d almost go so far to say it’s the romance of the sea. The people who work at sea especially off shore at sea, all realize that by other common and I won’t call it enemy. You can never regard the ocean as the enemy. It’s an adversary. You’re [00:09:00] not meant to be there. It’s a hostile environment to human beings. We choose to be there. So you have an adversary. And the biggest adversary is that common one to all of us. And that’s the ocean or the sea that you set foot on. And everybody knows what the potential for things going wrong. And I loved it consistently. I remember numerous times contacting ships, usually in a near miss situation on the VHF, the short range radio, and almost invariably, the first signal is people would say would be, how can we help? And I like that, that sums up that ethic or ethos between mariners, that bonds complete strangers together. And it bonded those people that rescued me the coast guard crews that were the seamen on that ship. It was that mutual bond that has have that. Sadly, I think doesn’t exist, certainly not to the same extent on dry land.

[00:09:46] Sue: So there’s that connectedness there. There’s a, as you described it, potentially the romance of the sea, and yet you are unsuccessful in that first attempt, what then motivates you to try again? Cause I’m sure many people would at that stage say, well, I gave it a good shot and it wasn’t to be.

[00:10:04] Mick: I had to think long and hard about it. Not least because there’d been a major international rescue mission to save me. And I had a responsibility as far as I was concerned from the moment I press that beacon under responsibility for the lives of those people coming towards me. And I’ll have to think long and hard about going. Thinking that whatever you do, however well prepared you are, there’s a potential for that to happen again on that route. For sure. I have to say it as a feedback from both the coast guard members of the coast guard and pretty much all of the crew, the hundred and Philadelphia that convinced me. I mean, I want it to go back, but I didn’t know if it was the right thing to do, but they convinced me the crew of the HanjinPhiladelphia running a book on how quick I would go back. And the fact that they all were certain I’d be successful the next time. So that kind of gave me permission to go back.

I’m very aware that people can be critical of it. And I’m very aware that you put in people’s lives at risk. If I have to come and help you. I also believe that the world’s a better place for people trying to roll oceans, climb mountains. Fly further. You know, I grew up in the seventies, effectively, sixties and seventies.

My heroes were all people who did things that’s tends to have been robbed or the celebrity is now. And it’s more like a lifestyle that they’re promoting, but the people I grew up thinking, my heroes Chay Blyth, Ridgeway, Robin Knox- Johnston. Most people went out and did incredible things and painted the world in bright colors for me. And to go back onto the north Pacific, knowing what I knew about it. Cause it’s an amazing stretch of ocean. We are a few people go. I thought that that was my opportunity to paint the world and brighter colors.

[00:11:35] Sue: So what was different about the second attempt compared to the first.

[00:11:40] Mick: I got to San Francisco, which somebody different. The second lesson, I’d learn one big lesson by again, as many good lessons to learn by chance. I ended up rowing the Atlantic for a second time. I worked on the Atlantic Rowing race and stepped in as a last minute replacement for the boat I [00:12:00] rescued the first day of the race and I went across with a complete stranger. In difficult conditions. It was dreadful conditions at sea. 17 boats capsized in that race or whatever that included us, but we popped back up. And think six were lost completely although no crew were lost or badly injured, but it was a very challenging crossing on that Atlantic route. And it taught me that A I could go with somebody other than my brother, because I’d gone with a complete stranger. And B it taught me that two people rowing would be far more likely to get across the north Pacific cause it’s attritional, it’s stopping you pretty much all the time. And if it’s not stopping you, it’s definitely not helping you. So you have to have somebody able to row whenever you can possibly row. And that’s simply not the case as a solo rower, there’s going to be gaps in that because you just of keep a level of pace. So the big thing was a big lesson, which personally think made it possible to be successful because I don’t think I’d have ever done it solo was to go back with the teammate, the crew member and Chris Martin.

[00:12:56] Sue: And how did you find Chris to team up with him?

[00:12:58] Mick: The misfortune to be in the same Atlantic road race I took part in by mistake really, or unexpectedly, and they had the double misfortune to come into Antigua, we finished in Antigua on that one, and then find himself in a pub called the mud Mongoose with me, where I managed to persuade him eventually after a few beers that go to the north Pacific with me would be a good, a good laugh. I think I said it. Wasn’t a good idea.

[00:13:23] Sue: So there you are. You’ve managed to twist Chris’s arm to join you on this row. For the listener that can imagine what the Pacific is like. Just paint us a picture of what size of your boat is and what is inside?

[00:13:37] Mick: Cause I obviously lost my boat when I am came to grief in the Pacific row solo, I built a new. boat. BoJangles is the name, but she was built specifically for the north Pacific, with every lesson that I’d learned in corporate and latterly when Chris joined me a lot of his rowing expertise, he’s a way more accomplished rower than I was a world-class Flatwater rower. So technically and equipment wise, she was as good as ocean rowing boat. Well, she was by far the best option around, but then she probably still is as good as most now, 11 years later, but it’s totally self-sufficient. It’s got solar panels two sealed compartments forward and aft. Forward one for storage, more than people the aft one, basically our only shelter in either in between rowing shifts or when the storms come, which was frequent on the north Pacific. And in the middle is basically just a simple rowing deck with slide in seat albeit super engineered to be tough enough to deal with what would be ultimately six months at sea and everything on that boat that we thought we would need for potentially six months, at sea. From rations to reverse osmosis water unit to make fresh water out of salt water, and a fully incorporated musical playlist as well, along the way. Yeah, definitely I had a few audio books. They were absolutely priceless. The audio books.

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And in terms of routines, I know from own expedition experiences, creating a routine is really critical to success. Did you have any sort of rowing routine with Chris?

[00:16:08] Mick: We were absolutely religious, about our rowing routine, it was two hours on two hours off 24 hours a day. For the sailors out there. We also split the dog watch, which means we did a one hour watch, six to eight in the evening. And then that would mean we would do it different hours every day. So one day you’d actually do 13 hours. The next day you’d do 11 hours. It’s amazing how fast that 11 hour day starts to feel like a day off. When you’re working that rigorous routes absolutely exhausting, but we worked out and ultimately we were at sea over six months that we may have not rowed 12 hours, six shifts in six months than when we possibly could have. When we stayed in the cabin a little longer than we needed to after a storm or got into it a little earlier, when the storm was coming, that was how religious we got to be because we had to grab every single mile that we could towards the American coast.

[00:16:59] Sue: And since you talk about the Pacific ocean being against you, so to speak, what’s the reason that you go from west to east and not vice versa?

[00:17:08] Mick: That thing about it being less great first, it was, is it possible to get across that route? Obviously we proved it was but more specifically, we proved that it was possible to get into San Francisco, not just north America that could be done, but we wanted to show, you could navigate through that system. To be honest, to go the other way. You’d have to come further south and come up for the Philippines to get to Japan. It would be even more difficult to travel the Northern route bizarrely the other way around, because you’d be pushed south immediately leaving the, leaving the U S.

[00:17:40] Sue: there was a practical reason for doing it that way. As much as wanting to finish under the golden gate,

[00:17:44] Mick: it was a practical reason, but it was to prove it could be done. And even looking at the route in charts and all the weather systems and the potential for the wind, whatever direction where need. Whenever there was always that possibility. It was always going to be difficult [00:18:00] to do it, but it was right. Here’s a chance to prove we can do something that’s never been done before. And that’s really, for me, more than anything, that was the principle reason to do it. We felt it could be done, but we knew it was going to be really relatively.

[00:18:12] Sue: And you bring us back to that lovely theme of curiosity about what’s possible. I know that there must’ve been many, many challenges as you were rowing across the ocean make, what are some of those highlights as to, you recall and maybe even lowlights?.

[00:18:30] Mick: On that particular trip. There were just so many things, really the solo trip for me, even though I came a grief probably remains in many ways, the biggest high. Bizarrely enough considering now ended because I probably have the most contact with wildlife on that trip.

Maybe that was emphasised by the virtue I was on my own, but I recognised about 60 or 70 close encounters on that solo trip with all manner of species of whales, right whales, minke pilot whales, sperm whales on one occasion, a blue while which reminds one of the best moments in my life of the best hour in my life was rowing with a blue whale for about 45 minutes, just yards away from me, it was like rowing alongside an island. On many occasions on that trip, I was adopted some may say stalked by a pod of killer whales, and I got to be within touching distance of killer whales in the middle of the Pacific, which. It’s never left me even after I sank and it came grief, that was one of the reasons I went back. A council estate kid from Lincolnshire I’d never expected and was never meant to see anything like that. And the north Pacific gave me that opportunity. So that was a big part of going back is to get that story again with Chris, it was a different story. We had equally great experiences, but it wasn’t the same. And I think really you could go to the north Pacific a hundred times and you would get a hundred different stories.

[00:19:46] Sue: Now, I know one that you have shared that I’ve heard you talk about is about the sea serpents that you experienced. Tell me about that.

[00:19:57] Mick: There’s no way I would lie about anything on these adventures, because it would just discredit something that’s so important to me. And plus you don’t need to lie about it. It was incredible. So I will tell this story and listen to this, take it as they will, but I swear to you it’s as I saw it. And that was, I think the day after my birthday, June the 13th on the solo row.

I was running flat calm conditions on a particularly black night with just a navigation light for illumination behind me. So it was just like a circular twilight around the boat, by this stage quite a few fish, decided to take cover under the boat for protection wrongly in this occasion, because some large predators came and started literally decimate the fish underneath the boat. And this happens from time to time. It, wasn’t not unusual, but I couldn’t work out what the predators were. And they were incredibly fast and incredibly aggressive. And then when one of them swum down the side of my rowing deck, where I was sat rowing at the time. It was the length of the rowing deck. So it was at least two meters long and it looked like a joint conger eel.

My first thought was that, and there were about seven or eight of these things [00:21:00] smashing around the boat, just beneath the surface of the water. And I just couldn’t believe conger eels roamthe surface of the Pacific in packs.. And they literally decimated the fish. That’s they totally eradicated the fish on to my boat and I hadn’t identified them. And I was looking around from the rowing position. When I looked over to one side and out of the water was the head of one of these animals staring straight up, at me all I could see was the reflection from the navigation light on their eyes, or their red eyes from the nav light and almost like a red glow on the nose. And they looked reptilian and they looked about the size of a dog, a big dog’s head. That’s what it looked like. And I just looked on. It was literally no more than an oars length away from me staring straight at. And I thought, well, actually, exactly what I said, but something along the lines of you’ve got to be joking.

And then I looked to my left and another one was up out of the water. And again, I could only see the eyes reflect in the navigation, light and illumination off its nose. And it hit now perfectly it we’re sitting in there talking to you in my room that it was probably just breathing, but I can promise you at that time, it sounded like a hiss. And I just thought I need to get off this deck because these are very, very aggressive predators. All the fish are gone. And then they are now looking at me. unfortunately, cause you row where possible naked. I was naked just to add to my vulnerability and I had to step over the oars strapped across or now strapped across my boat and get to the cockpit. And the only saving grace for me is I put some shorts some inadequate shorts running shorts, some particularly inadequate dive and knife and a right angle torch. And I stayed out on the deck. I have one leg in the cabin, but I didn’t retreat to the cabin for about 35 minutes. Shone the light onto these animals and there say seven or eight of them popping up around the boat at different times.

And every time I hit them with the light they’d disappear under the water and pop up somewhere, just outside of the range of the line. I never, once I get the light on enough to identify. And never did they come close enough for me to identify them? I ruled out, obviously it wasn’t turtles, no way, way too fast and aggressive for turtles, although they did seem to have that sort of a head, but on a much larger scale, I thought sea lions at one point. And I keep going back to that these days, trying to find a rational explanation. But I remember ruling that out at the time as well. They weren’t sea lions. I’ve seen sea lions and seals at sea, but it wasn’t like them. And I literally didn’t know they disappeared for 35, 40 minutes. I eventually lost interestedly and disappeared. I then went into the cabin and locked the cabin door for the rest of the night, which I don’t often admit, but I didn’t feel like rowing in the dark with those things. Literally no more than 18 inches away from me.

[00:23:38] Sue: My goodness. I can’t imagine what that must have been like for you. And I also know that on that row you also had some other visitors of the rather large variety in terms of passing ships.

[00:23:49] Mick: Yeah. Yeah. I’ve got a say that came with equal terror because the equipment in those days, wasn’t that reliable light and you’re on the radar of passing ships and the north Pacific. It’s all massive [00:24:00] industrial ships. And they’re not looking for you, even if they are looking for you out the window, they’re not going to see you in our rowing boat. So if you don’t show up on the radar you’ve got to avoid being hit by them. And I have four occasions. I avoided at least four when I literally rowed from under the bows of passing ships and it was bone chillingly, terrifying. I remember the last time it happened, I’d come out a week’s worth of fog, which brings its own nightmares in quite strong winds as well.

And I was rowing so relieved to be under a blue sky again, and then saw a ship coming towards me over my shoulder I realized because I’ve got so good at avoiding these things. I was actually going to hit it and I couldn’t row fast enough to get past it. It’s enormous 375 meter container ship, Maersk container ship. And so I jumped on the VHF. The short range radio said, unknown vesselvessel, whatever position. This is ocean rowing boat off your port bow. There’s a risk of collision. And I can remember the guy almost falling off his chair. It sounded like it was, he acknowledged the call, but you did acknowledge it. And then he immediately turned the ship to starboard or started to turn it to starboard.

And I was so close by that stage. It meant the back of the ship was now likely to hit me. It was coming around to hit me. And this turn, I jumped back on the radio said, stop to stop a turn. You’ll miss me. If you keep going straight. Oh, I’ve got to say he did. He stopped the turn. And then the real bonus about that was I can actually have a conversation and a message home. So I spoke to the guy on the radio. Never forgot his name. Palios Henrik. And asked him if he’d send a message home. he did and possibly the most memorable of that whole night, it was the last thing he said to me as the ship was disappearing over their eyes. I never, never got the chance to see him personally. Last thing he said to me on the VHF radio before he was Mick you English, you some crazy bastards, I’ve been called worse.

[00:25:41] Sue: The solo voyage had some unexpected highlights and lowlights as you described. When you were there with Chris, did you get on well together? Because I could imagine being in a pair in such a small space, there would be the potential for arguments or frustrations. How did that work?

[00:25:58] Mick: I think that was our secret. I think we were the best possible partners. Certainly from my point of view, Chris is the best partner for me. I suspect I was more challenging for him at times we got on really well. We got on well before hand and I knew instinctively Chris would be somebody I could work with. You’d have to go a long way to find a nicer guy or be a more capable guy. And we both know that in that pressure cooker environment of six months on a boat, that’s not an expedition that becomes your way of life. At that length of time that any necessary argument and basically most arguments, if not all are unnecessary, would risk destroying the project. And so we had times that both of us, when you’d knew the other person just didn’t want to talk, you know, it was just, I’m a bit of a low and we’d manage that perfectly. We knew when to gee each other up and when to leave each other alone. So we had a few bits that’s where we were managing each other, but we had no arguments, no real argument at all on that crossing. And I think that was in many respects, the secret of our success, because there’s not many people can live together on something, the size of a large dining room table working [00:27:00] that hard for six and a half months and say that they didn’t have an argument.

[00:27:04] Sue: That does indeed. So like a big success for you there, you said at the outset, when you were describing what was in the boat, you talked about music and audio, and I’m wondering if there are any particular tracks that stuck in your mind that either motivated you or just remember.

[00:27:20] Mick: Yeah, absolutely that throughout music and to some degree audio books, because music can lose its novelty after a while you need a different kind of stimulation, but music has been key to all the rows I have done because it’s an emotional connection to the positive time in your life.

Positive memories, nine times out of 10, but the best example I can give of the power of that again, was on the solo. When I was learning the joys of the north Pacific, where it was just gently pushing me backwards for about seven or eight days, every two miles I went forward, it showed me back three or four miles and bearing in mind. I didn’t know if it could be done. I thought this is how it’s going to be. And I was going berserk, out , of frustration. It was just soul destroying. Probably as lower point as I’ve been on an ocean rowing boat and thinking I just wasn’t going to be able to make it. And there’s a playlist that my brother made up for me songs aren’t specifically ask, get me stuff that I wouldn’t normally listen to so I can discover it on the road. And what seemed like the lowest possible moment, a song from Divine Comedy, a group I wouldn’t probably listened to. And certainly an album track that I wouldn’t at the, just the right moment. This song called charmed life came out of the speakers. And one of the verses in charmed life was if I can remember the quote that says sometimes life is like being a float in a raging sea in a little row boat with the waves, just trying to wash you overboard.

But if you take your chances and you ride your luck and never, never, never, never, never give up those waves will take you to a friendly, shore. Unbelievable. It was as if it had been written for me. And it grabbed me a moment when it was up pretty much at my lowest and absolutely transformed. It taught me one of the biggest lessons I’ve really gained from ocean rowing. And that’s the, no matter how bad the situation is, no matter how little control you’ve got over, what’s going on around you at that particular time, one thing you’ve always got control over is your approach to that situation. You are seldom beaten by the challenge in front of you. You’re invariably. Or your approach to that challenge. It comes from you. It doesn’t come from a challenge in front of you and that ridiculous song, you know, it’s my favorite song, now, that unlikely event, event. And that completely unexpected song allowed me to find a catalyst for change to stop that spiral down. That defeatism that was settling into me and turn it round into. I’ll never, never, never give up. And the proof of that was because I was still going backwards more than I was going forwards for the following eight days, nothing changed except my approach to that problem. And that allowed me to get through that whole period. So I’ve never forgot that which is so important and you always control your own approach to a problem.

[00:29:57] Sue: That’s such a powerful message to be [00:30:00] reminded of Mick. And I’m imagining that you take that forward today. I don’t imagine you just sitting on your sofa doing nothing. What’s your latest challenge. That’s keeping you focused.

[00:30:10] Mick: Well, I have to say over the last 18 months, I spent more time on my sofa than I care to, but I’m glad to say that, that the light at the end of the tunnel seems to be here and may next year is quite a big year.

It’s the 40th anniversary of the Falklands war, which I was fortunate enough to take part in it as a very young, Royal Marine. And I want to do something to acknowledge that significant, probably less significant anniversary before we’ll die in bath chairs. So I’m literally in the. middle of creating a project where I’m going to kayak from the Commando Memorial, up in Scotland, and therefore they’re using coastal and mostly inland waterways via Glasgow, Sheffield, Coventry, Bristol, Southampton and Portsmouth. And finally to the Yomper statue, people who remember that statute see a Royal Marine with a union Jack on is on the antenna of his radio. Basically he was tale end Charlie for 45 commando. As I moved out from San Carlos on the yomp all the way to Stanley in the Falklands. As much as a fundraiser for the Royal Marines charity I’m going to use it as a vehicle to get as many interviews as possible from people, not just soldiers, but families that were affected people who worked as civilians to that whole project get filmed records of it. So. And create an archive for generations to come of the people who actually took part and their experiences and the impact that had on them. I’ve got to say last week I did the first five interviews. And if I had any doubts about the value or power of those interviews, they were dispelled as each one was brilliant. It was an eye opener for me, listening to those interviews and meeting those people.

[00:31:41] Sue: So it sounds like another worthy project that you’re going to be involved in. My final question to you. And I suspect I might know the answer to this. So you might have alluded to it already is when you are in that bath chair in your older age, what will you hope that your legacy is?

[00:31:56] Mick: The I can in some way have created something where somebody gone, well, if he can do. Well, I can do this. It’s all about passion and I’ve got a passion for the sea and that’s like one of those words that people dismiss really quickly, no passionate sounds romantic nonsense, but it’s not because all passion is, it means you’ve got fuel. You’ve got unlimited fuel and energy to pursue that goal. We all know it. We’ve all got things that we’re drawn towards that we want to do. I looked to say, I was passionate about the sea, gave may have a reserve of energy to achieve those goals that made it possible. And the secret is, is to look at somebody’s adventure. Hopefully somebody look at the things I’ve done and think, well, I’m passionate about that. It doesn’t have to be ocean rowing, it probably wouldn’t be, but just to show them that it’s possible, you can pursue your passion and it can be done.

[00:32:46] Sue: Well. I’m sure that by what you’ve shared with our listeners today, you will have engendered some energy, curiosity and passion within them to take that step into the unknown in whatever way that is. If the listener wants to find out more about [00:33:00] you and the projects that you have, the books you’ve written and so on, how might they be able to do that?

[00:33:04] Mick: There is a number of ways my book’s available on Amazon, both my books. The first book was wrote in the Pacific, which covers right up to the 2009 successful crossing in the north Pacific.

And my latest book came out last year and that’s never leave a man behind. And that tells a story of work I’ve done with recovering veterans since then a kayak or series of kayaking adventures culminated in a circumnavigation. Uh, part of the Falkland islands with a, an old friend who is suffering from PTSD from that war. And more recently, I have the honor of rowing across the Pacific, another old friend of mine from the rain, Steve sparks, Sparky, who, when we reached Hawaii from California, we raced from California. I, and when we reached the way Sparky became the first blind person to row the Pacific.

[00:33:50] Sue: Wow. So they sound like amazing adventure stories, I’ll put all the links to these things in our show notes so that our listeners can connect with you and find out more about all these amazing activities that you’ve done. It’s been absolutely inspiring today to listen to the adventures that you’ve had, not just once or twice, but on many occasions, all of those rows. Im imagining that if somebody just calls you up tomorrow and says,fancy a row across the Atlantic, you’d be the first to put your hand up.

[00:34:17] Mick: Don’t don’t encourage him. Thank you again for your time. It’s been really inspiring to speak to you today. So keep up the good work.

[00:34:28] Sue: Well, I hope Mick’s story encouraged you to think about what’s possible and to reflect on what you are passionate about, right. Remember, you can find transcriptions of this and all the other episodes on the access to inspiration website, access to inspiration.org. We will be taking a break for a few weeks. Now I’m be back again soon, bringing you the results of the listener and guest impact survey. And of course, lots more conversations to inspire you. I look forward to connecting with you again soon.

Copyright © Access to Inspiration 2021
Sound Editor: Matias de Ezcurra (he/him)
Producer: Sue Stockdale (she/her)