Salt, Sweat, Tears: The Men Who Rowed The Oceans by Adam RackleySalt, Sweat, Tears: The Men Who Rowed The Oceans by Adam Rackley

Salt, Sweat, Tears: The Men Who Rowed The Oceans

byAdam Rackley

Paperback | September 30, 2014

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A riveting first-person account and history of rowers who have attempted to navigate across the Atlantic

More people have climbed Mount Everest than have rowed across the Atlantic. For more than seventy days, Adam Rackley and his rowing partner ate, slept and rowed in a boat seven meters long by two meters wide, in one of the world’s most extreme environments. This is his story of adventure, endurance, and self-discovery.

They were following in the wake of pioneers. In 1896 George Harbo and Frank Samuelsen, a pair of Norwegian fisherman, crossed the 2,500 miles in a wooden fishing dory––and their record stood for 114 years. John Fairfax, a smuggler, a gambler, and a shark hunter, was the first to complete the feat singlehandedly in 1969. Others have followed; some have not survived the attempt. This is their story, too.
Adam Rackley is a former Platoon Commander with the British Army, has worked as a fund manager, and lectures on finance at the BPP Business School. Salt, Sweat, Tears is his first book.
Title:Salt, Sweat, Tears: The Men Who Rowed The OceansFormat:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 8.4 × 5.5 × 0.78 inPublished:September 30, 2014Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143126660

ISBN - 13:9780143126669


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Adam Rackley was born in the Netherlands in 1981. He studied at the University of York and received a degree in finance and financial law from the University of London. He was a platoon commander with the Black Watch at Fort George in Scotland before working as a fund manager and lecturing on finance at BPP Business School. He lives in South London with his wife, Alice. Salt, Sweat, Tears is Rackley’s first book.Equipment on a Modern Ocean Rowing BoatGlossaryAIS – Automatic Identification System. A system which shares information between vessels within a short range of each other over the VHF radio system. AIS information can be programmed to display on a vessel’s GPS screen.ARGOS – Satellite beacon-system which can be used to track vessels anywhere in the world.Autohelm – GPS-controlled steering system.Backstops – The point at the end of a rower’s stroke when the legs are fully extended, shoulders are back and the handles of the oars are pulled back towards the chest.Beam sea – Waves coming in to the side of a boat. A beam sea may cause a boat to rock violently or capsize.Bow – The front of the boat. Rowers face away from the direction of travel and so row with their backs to the bow.Bow rowing position – The foremost rowing position in the boat. The rower in the bow seat steers the boat using a footplate which is linked to the rudder by steering lines.Cam cleat – Spring-loaded mechanism which uses friction to stop a rope pulling through in one direction, but allows the rope to move freely when being pulled in the opposite direction.Cleat – Fitting onto which a rope can be tied off.Dory – Small, flat-bottomed fishing boat.Draught – Vertical distance between a boat’s waterline and the keel.Drogue – A funnel-shaped device deployed underwater from the bow or stern of a boat to keep her facing into the weather, reducing the likelihood of capsizing and slowing her drift.EPIRB – Emergency Position-Indicating Rescue Beacon. A small device mounted on the outside of a boat that is activated manually or after prolonged submersion in seawater in order to request a rescue. The EPIRB sends a satellite message and emits a radio signal, allowing rescuers to pinpoint the boat’s location.Gunwale – Top edge of the side of a boat. On a rowing boat this is a flat surface for sitting on, jumping off, or pulling yourself back into the boat after a swim.Keel – ‘Spine’ of a boat, running along the length of its hull. A deep keel reduces the effect of the wind and swell, allowing the boat to hold its course more easily, while also making the boat more stable by lowering its centre of gravity.Knots – A knot is one nautical mile per hour.Nautical mile – A measure of distance used by mariners equivalent to one minute of arc at the equator. (There are sixty minutes of arc in one degree.) One nautical mile is equivalent to 1.15 land miles.Port – The left-hand side of the boat when facing in the direction of travel.RIB – Rigid Inflatable Boat.Sea anchor – Parachute that opens under water to keep the boat facing into the oncoming weather. This reduces the likelihood of capsizing and slows the boat’s drift.Slide – Narrow track that the rower’s sliding seat rolls along. The seat runs on four small wheels.Starboard – The right-hand side of the boat when facing in the direction of travel.Stern – The back of the boat. Rowers face away from the direction of travel and so row facing the stern.Stroke rowing position – The rearmost rowing position in the boat. Called the ‘stroke’ position because the rower in the stroke seat sets the tempo of the rowing stroke for the rest of the boat.Two-up – Both members of an ocean-rowing pair on the oars at the same time, as opposed to one crew member rowing and the other resting.PrologueThe packet contains fifty-six jelly beans in six different flavours. I remove a bean and inspect it closely. I try to imagine what it will taste like, before putting it in my mouth. There is a tightening along the inside of my jaw and the bottom of my tongue as my taste buds respond to the tanginess of the sweet. I roll it around my mouth, savouring the flavour and the changing texture as the hard, smooth shell dissolves, leaving the soft, thick centre. For a while this sticks to my teeth and the roof of my mouth, but soon the residue has dispersed and I am left with a lingering sweetness. I repeat this exercise fifty-five times.In an hour the jelly beans are gone and I feel a sense of loss. In my hand is the empty packet, which I now consider closely. I reread the list of ingredients and look at the branding and the manufacturer’s address. I study the picture of each flavour of jelly bean and try to remember what it tasted like. I become aware that I am running my tongue across my teeth and in the cracks between them, looking for a crumb to savour.From the angle I am lying at, it is possible to look out through a thin opening in the main hatch at a slice of cloudless, ethereal blue. My mind leaves the stimulation of the last hour behind and drifts in the empty sky. I’m reminded of a line from a book I once read. ‘Whither are we moving? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space?’Every few seconds I feel the gentle, rhythmic acceleration as Jimmy drives on the oars. My ears are filled with the trickle of water on the hull of the boat, the splash of the oars, the roll of the sliding seat and the occasional creak of an oar gate. My view of the deck, through the perspex hatch, is blocked by a towel, which serves to keep the sun out of the cabin. But the air inside is still and the heat is oppressive.I look at my watch. It reads 15:51. My watch is set to GMT, which means it is nearly 1 PM local time. This is the hottest part of the day. There are less than nine minutes until my next shift. I think through the things I must do before I am ready to take over from Jimmy on the oars. A muffled gasp from the deck reminds me that he is in a great deal of pain.I shuffle around so that I am now sitting up, with my feet in the footwell, in front of the hatch. I slide my feet into a pair of red Crocs and open one of my water bottles. It is almost full. I pour in the remaining half of my isotonic powder packet. From the netting on my right I pull out my white legionnaire’s hat. Inside the hat are my sunglasses. I put both on. I pull the towel off the hatch and stow it in the overhead netting. Sun streams into the cabin and almost immediately I start to sweat. I unwind the cord which has been keeping the hatch ajar, and swing the hatch open.Jimmy is sitting five feet away, facing me. He is wearing a hat and sunglasses that match mine and a pair of fingerless yellow DeWalt gloves. Black hair and a thick black and reddish beard of almost the same length cover his head and much of his face. When he sees me he pulls his right earphone out, without breaking his stroke.‘How’s it going, Jim?’ I ask.‘Feels like good rowing conditions, but the mileage isn’t great. I think there’s a current. We’ve done three miles. Is it hot in the cabin?’The water is flat. There is a momentary hint of movement in the air, then it is still again. I shield the GPS monitor from the glare of the sun and look at the current speed and bearing and our remaining miles to destination. The monitor tells me that Antigua is 1,011 nautical miles away.‘It’s really hot in the cabin. There’s just no breeze at all. How’s your bum?’‘Bum’s OK. PvK’s lube is working well. But I’m having problems with my crotch.’I nod, but I’m short of anything helpful to say. Jimmy has been working through the medical kit, looking for solutions to his crotch chafing. He has also been cutting his seat padding into smaller and smaller pieces to try and reduce the rubbing.‘Ready when you are,’ I say.‘Let’s do it.’I lean through the hatch, take Jimmy’s water bottle and pass him mine. Then he hands me his seat padding. It consists of three layers of dense foam and a neoprene rowing seat pad, held together with Velcro strips. This padding sandwich is topped with a wool cover, which is thick with Sudocrem and Vaseline. I lay Jimmy’s seat padding in the cabin and hand him mine, which he places on the wooden seat. Then he gets up and moves down the starboard side of the deck, while at the same time I move up the port side. We are well practised and in a few moments we have swapped places. Jimmy is standing in the footwell inside the main hatch and I am sitting in the bow rowing position, adjusting the foot straps around my Crocs.We have performed this routine every two hours for the last forty-seven days.1.The American Dream, 1896On a crisp January morning in 1883, Howard Blackburn and Tom Welch stepped off their schooner and into a twelve-foot fishing dory. After a week of fishing by the Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland, the schooner’s hold was almost full and soon she would be making the journey back to the busy fish market in Gloucester, Massachusetts. While Welch pulled in and rebaited the cod lines, Blackburn sat at the oars, keeping the dory clear of drifting sea-ice. All the while the pair chatted about how they would spend their wages back on dry land.That afternoon Blackburn and Welch missed the tell-tale signs of an approaching winter storm and, while the more experienced crews cut their day short and returned to the schooner, the young dorymen worked on. Soon the storm was upon them, accompanied by a thick, disorientating mist. Separated from the safety of the schooner, there was nothing they could do but spend the night bailing and knocking off the ice that was forming around the hull and threatening to sink their little boat. When dawn came and the weather finally cleared, Blackburn and Welch took to the oars and made for Newfoundland, but on the second day Welch stopped rowing, lay down in the bottom of the boat in despair, and died. Blackburn continued to row and after five days with no food, water or sleep, he carried Welch’s frozen body ashore. Blackburn had lost all his fingers and thumbs and most of his toes to frostbite.Blackburn’s story was the talk of the town when George Harbo arrived in the New Jersey fishing village of Nauvoo. The stocky young Norwegian had just landed on a steamer from Brevik, where he had studied at nautical school. Norway had a proud naval tradition, once boasting the third largest merchant fleet in the world after Britain and America, but she had been left behind in the race to build bigger and faster steam vessels, and now the fleet transported only low-margin bulk commodities. Demand for Norwegian timber and fish was also in decline and, over the last twenty years, a fifth of Norway’s population had emigrated in search of a better life.By contrast a million people were arriving in America every year, looking for that better life. The country was rapidly industrializing, jobs were plentiful and land was cheap. From the Old World of Europe, America was seen as a land of opportunity. Many of the Norwegians who arrived in New York made their home in the New Jersey fishing communities just across the bay. So it was for Harbo, who, after a brief stay in Brooklyn, made his way to Nauvoo, an informal collection of rough wooden huts built on sand dunes at the water’s edge. Shanty towns such as this one each housed a few hundred dorymen. Conditions were basic, but they provided a sense of community and an honest living.The dorymen worked the waters around Sandy Hook Bay and sold their produce at Fulton Fish Market, at the foot of the newly opened Brooklyn Bridge. Harbo joined a crew and had soon made enough money to pay for a ticket to bring his wife, Anine, over from Brevik. The following August, their son, Andrew, was born and Harbo took his young family to Brooklyn to watch the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty. The sense of occasion gave Harbo confidence that he had been right to bring Anine to America. Here, with hard work, anything was possible.But in some ways the New World was not so different from the Old. The New York metropolitan area, which encompassed a large part of the New Jersey shoreline, had hierarchies of its own, controlled by the Irish community through a political body called Tammany Hall. At local elections, their strategy was blunt and effective. In those wards that were predominantly Irish, the ballot often returned more votes than registered voters, while ballot boxes from other wards were stolen and thrown in the Hudson, or returned nearly empty, with voters having been prevented from attending the polling stations.With their men in power, the bosses of Tammany Hall extended their grip across city life. Most notorious amongst them were Richard Crocker and Bill Tweed, both of Dublin stock, who controlled appointments to the city’s police force and access to lucrative contracts, such as refuse collection and public works. They created self-serving monopolies, like the licence to supply ice to the New York Harbor, and this in turn allowed them to amass huge personal fortunes.For many of those outside the patronage of Tammany Hall, life was a struggle. In Manhattan, one and a half million people lived in dilapidated tenement blocks run by petty gangs who controlled pickpocketing, prostitution, extortion and murder in their respective areas. Having a trade and the benefit of an education, Harbo was in a better position than most of these unfortunates, but still he dreamed of something more than a simple fisherman’s life.His hero was Henry Stanley, a Welshman who, like Harbo, had come to America as a young man in search of his fortune. While working as a reporter at the New York Herald, Stanley was sent to Africa to find David Livingstone. The expedition was a success, and Stanley became a household name. Harbo owned a copy of the book How I Found Livingstone, and knew that Stanley’s lectures had filled theatres on both sides of the Atlantic. In recounting the stories of his adventures, Stanley had become rich. If Harbo could accomplish something as notable as Stanley had, he would be able to give his family the life they deserved.As time passed, and Harbo continued to bring home the same wage from the same hours of toil in the New Jersey surf, a creeping sense of failure grew within him. Anine had left her family in Norway to help him make something of himself in America, and this was not the future he’d had in mind for her. Anine respected her husband’s choices, but she never felt at home in America; a Lutheran upbringing in Brevik had not prepared her for the squalor and violence of New York.Harbo’s nautical training and experience of the tides and currents around the channel into Manhattan meant that he was well qualified for a position as a harbour pilot. The law required all ships entering New York Harbor to be under the command of a licensed pilot, and the rate paid depended on the size of the vessel. The sighting of a transatlantic steamer would spark a race amongst a dozen pilot boats, competing for the generous fee. Successful pilots often became rich and well respected, like Captain Richard Brown, who was a well-known figure in Sandy Hook Bay. Captain Brown had skippered the America to victory at the Royal Yacht Squadron’s first annual regatta around the Isle of Wight in 1851. In his honour, the trophy was renamed the America’s Cup.The opportunity to become wealthy, and perhaps one day earn a reputation like old Dick Brown’s, convinced Harbo to leave the dorymen and join a piloting company. He worked hard and was soon earning good money. For the first time since moving to America, he could afford to make life more comfortable for his family, moving them into a New Jersey suburb and buying Anine a small piano. The sound of her playing reminded him of their good fortune, and to add to their blessings Andrew was joined by a baby sister, Louisa.But Harbo had become part of an industry that was poorly regulated, and the race to bring in the next ship encouraged excessive risk taking. Six months after Louisa was born, tragedy struck the New York pilots when seventeen of them drowned in a storm in a single night. The deaths shook the community and prompted Anine to question Harbo’s choices; she would rather have a fisherman for a husband than have no husband at all. For months the couple argued, in their own restrained way. Eventually, Harbo relented and by the time their third child, Grace, was born he was back where he had started at Nauvoo. It was a painful blow for the proud young man and it left a seed of sadness in his marriage. Every morning, as he ran his dory through the surf, he was reminded that he had failed.Meanwhile, in the summer of 1888, Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen led the first crossing of the Greenland ice cap. Nansen rejected the traditional ‘siege’ approach to polar exploration, which involved setting up resupply positions along the expedition route in advance of the main party, and instead adopted a fast, lightweight, self-sufficient philosophy, designing his own sledges, sleeping bags, stoves and wolfskin clothing. The Norwegian press predicted that the expedition would be a disaster, ensuring that Nansen received no public funding. But the young explorer was already known to his countrymen as a national skiing champion, and he used his charisma to pay for the expedition through private donations. Despite terrible weather conditions, the party successfully crossed the ice cap in seven weeks. The team then had to spend a long winter in the small, isolated town of Godthåb, and it wasn’t until the following spring that a ship was able to make the journey to the west coast of Greenland to bring Nansen and his companions home. On his return to Kristiania (now Oslo) in May 1889, he was greeted by a crowd of 40,000. Nansen’s reputation – and his fortune – were made. Because Nansen was Norwegian and of a similar age to Harbo, the explorer’s story struck a chord with him and rekindled Harbo’s ambition to make a name for himself.Anine was growing homesick for her old life in Brevik, and the changing attitudes in New York towards immigrant communities made her increasingly anxious. Then, in May 1891, eleven Italian immigrants were lynched by a mob as a reprisal for the murder of an Irish police chief. It was the final straw. Despite Harbo’s pleas, she made arrangements to take the three children back to Norway, leaving in August 1891 on a steamer bound for Brevik.Four days into the Atlantic crossing, a small funeral party gathered on the stern deck of the steamer. At the front stood Anine, gripping Andrew and Louisa tightly, her thick black hair tied in a bun over her head. After the captain had said a few words, the crewman dropped a small canvas bag containing Grace’s body into the sea. She had died suddenly from pneumonia. In a bag weighted with sand, Harbo and Anine’s youngest daughter quickly sank beneath the waves.Alone in New York, the grieving Harbo buried himself in his work. He found a niche picking molluscs from the tidal mudflats around Sandy Hook. Emptying his catch onto the deck, Harbo would sort the soft-shell clams from the mud and other debris. During long, lonely hours on the mudflats he began to think seriously about how he might follow in Nansen’s footsteps.Clamming was hard work, but soon he was making enough money to hire another doryman. Frank Samuelson was a fellow Norwegian, a few years younger than Harbo. He had been working on a merchant vessel and at a stopover in New York had asked the skipper for permission to leave. As Harbo had, he soon arrived in Nauvoo. Samuelson was 6’3”, broad shouldered, and powerful on the oars: he could row a dory out past the breakers faster than any of the other fishermen. Harbo knew that he could do with the help of a man like this on the voyage that was beginning to come together in his mind.In 1893, Nansen left Norway on another expedition, this time in a bid to be the first man to reach the North Pole. This was the catalyst Harbo needed to make a decision that he’d been considering ever since Anine had left him. One afternoon, while they worked the clam beds, he explained that he planned to row across the Atlantic Ocean and wanted Samuelson to join him.Samuelson looked at the older man in silence. They had met only a few months earlier, but he knew Harbo well enough to tell that he wasn’t joking. He wondered instead if he had gone mad. No one had ever rowed across the Atlantic before. As far as he knew, no one had even attempted it. Samuelson gently reminded him of the story of Howard Blackburn, who had lost his dorymate and all of his fingers rowing from the Grand Banks back to Newfoundland ten years earlier. The vicinity of the Grand Banks was perilous, foggy, and iceberg-ridden, and eighteen years later would become notorious as the final resting place of RMS Titanic.In order to reach Europe from New York, Harbo and Samuelson would have to row past the Grand Banks and then on for a further two thousand miles. But Harbo was adamant. A winter crossing would indeed be suicide, but a summer crossing should be possible given the right conditions. He began to explain to Samuelson about the seasonal weather and the importance of riding the Gulf Stream; it was a relief to finally be sharing his thoughts with someone.The Gulf Stream was well known to mariners of the time. Benjamin Franklin had named it in 1770 when, as Postmaster General of the British American Colonies, he was asked to investigate why mail ships took so much longer to reach America from Britain than those on the return journey. With the help of his cousin, a Nantucket whaling captain, Franklin produced the first chart of the Gulf Stream. With the benefit of this current, Harbo believed that a crossing could be completed by two men in a dory, under the power of oars alone, in less than sixty days.The pair usually worked in silence, but that afternoon Harbo spoke excitedly about his plan. He explained the size of the boat they would need, the quantity of fresh water and the type of provisions. Samuelson interrupted occasionally with a question, but it was clear that Harbo had thought the project through in detail. Samuelson promised to consider it, and lying in bed that night he could think of nothing else. The next morning, as they carried their boat down to the beach, he agreed to join Harbo’s expedition. They put down the dory and shook hands, and then Harbo made him promise to keep their plans a secret. More than the ridicule of the other dorymen, Harbo feared that word would get back to Anine.In the winter of 1894 Harbo returned to Norway to see his family and during his stay there Anine became pregnant again. Harbo knew that he should use their time together to explain his plan to her but, afraid she would make him promise to abandon the idea, he avoided the subject. To keep his mind from it, he chatted instead about Nansen’s latest polar expedition. He spoke about Nansen so much that, in October 1895, when their second son was born, Anine sent word to Harbo that she had named him after the explorer.Harbo and Samuelson used their modest savings to commission William Seaman, a respected New Jersey boat builder, to construct a boat which could handle the conditions they expected to encounter in the North Atlantic. Seaman built an eighteen-foot dory with a double-ended hull which would surf comfortably in the waves and, using the best materials available, sheathed the boat’s sturdy oak frame with white cedar planks.1 He made a canvas cover which could be fixed across the gunwales in rough seas to help prevent the dory getting swamped. Watertight metal lockers would keep documents and sensitive equipment dry, while also providing buoyancy to prevent the boat sinking in the event that it was swamped. As an added precaution, Seaman installed grab rails along the hull that would allow the crew to right the boat if it capsized.Only when preparations were at an advanced stage did Harbo write to Anine to tell her of his plans. He explained how their crossing would be assisted by the warm currents of the Gulf Stream, and how Samuelson’s experience and his power on the oars made him the perfect crew. He described Seaman’s pedigree as a boat builder and all the safety features that had been built into the boat. He reminded her of the crowds that had greeted Nansen on his return to Kristiania, and tried to explain that the fruits of the expedition would finally provide them with the life he had always promised her. In desperate letters Anine begged Harbo not to go. It was clear to her that the expedition was suicidal, and almost everyone agreed with her, particularly those with experience of the open ocean. But Harbo was already finalizing his preparations, and would not be put off. In fact, he was looking for a publicist.From Sandy Hook Bay it was possible to see across the water to Coney Island, which was known to the locals as ‘Sodom by the sea’. Behind the promenade entertainments, illegal drinking houses jostled with opium dens and brothels for custom, and unlicensed prizefighting was a popular crowd-pleaser. This was the world of Richard Fox, a fight promoter and media man who published a monthly boxing journal called The Ring and also the Police Gazette, a daily tabloid. No one had done more than Fox to promote bare-knuckle boxing in America, and he was a man who got his way. When John Sullivan, America’s unofficial prizefighting champion, refused to fight in a bout that Fox proposed, Fox taunted him by awarding the challenger a diamond encrusted title belt and announcing him in The Ring as the Heavyweight Champion of the World. Goaded into a response, Sullivan reluctantly agreed to fight on Fox’s terms, and beat the challenger to claim the belt.Fox had arrived on a boat from Dublin twenty years earlier and scraped together the money to buy Police Gazette, a failing newspaper. He had a keen nose for stories that would appeal to popular tastes, and he filled the Police Gazette with scandal, crime and sensation, making a small fortune in the process. When there was little to report, Fox created news by offering gold medals to people who broke bizarre and dangerous records. With ruthlessness and charm, Fox had made it in America.The media mogul was the obvious person to approach for help in publicizing the expedition, and at his offices the dorymen outlined their plan to row from New York to the French port of Le Havre. Fox was intrigued, and after listening to their plans he agreed that if they named the boat after him, his newspaper would raise the profile of their expedition and award them gold medals on their return.On Saturday 6 June 1896, Harbo and Samuelson cast off from the Battery, on the southern tip of Manhattan. True to his word, Fox had given the expedition good publicity, and curious locals gathered to watch the pair load Fox with equipment and supplies. Based on Harbo’s estimate that it would take sixty days to row to Europe, they provisioned with sixty gallons of water, a hundred pounds of tinned meat and fish, hard tack biscuits and jam, coffee, wine and a wooden box full of raw eggs, carefully wrapped in seaweed.By the time everything was stowed and the pair were happy that Fox was correctly balanced in the water, over a thousand people were watching from the quay above the pontoon, and the crowd was starting to get impatient. Two men and a small wooden boat were not quite the spectacle that the Police Gazette had promised them, nor were Harbo and Samuelson used to being the focus of all this attention. As people began to shout and jeer, Harbo tried to tell them about the terrible conditions they would face in the North Atlantic. But the crowd wasn’t in the mood for a lecture and Harbo’s thick accent only encouraged them. Just before 5 PM, the tide turned and the dorymen cast off, relieved to finally be free of the mob and on their way.Adopting their usual rowing positions, Harbo sat in the bow, from where he took charge of steering the boat, while Samuelson sat in front of him in the stern position. Filled with nervous excitement, they rowed hard through the long summer evening, building up a sweat under their woollen shirts. By sunset they were off Coney Island, with the lights of the promenade obscured by a thick mist. These were familiar waters and, dropping anchor in the shallows just outside the main channel, the pair went to sleep listening to the ring of the Sandy Hook fog bell and thinking of their warm beds only a few miles away.Samuelson woke before sunrise and pulled himself out from under the canvas cover to make a pot of coffee on the kerosene stove. The dorymen shivered through breakfast in the rain and, despite the headwind, they were glad to get back on the oars. Occasionally they heard a vessel pass, but with a visibility of only twenty yards, they saw no one. Harbo’s calculations put them south of the shipping lane, which they hoped would keep them safe from a collision. Late in the morning they stopped for biscuits, jam and a drink of water. By now visibility had improved enough for Harbo to confirm their position with a compass bearing. Samuelson suggested that they make coffee, but Harbo reminded him that there was only enough kerosene to use the stove once a day.Sunday June 7th. Lifted anchor 4 AM. Wind north-east moderate with rain and fog. Started to row out to sea. Passed Sandy Hook lightship 11 AM, bearing west, distance 5 miles. This is the last bearing.2After rowing two-up through the day their plan was to row alternate three-hour shifts at night and, after a dinner of hard tack biscuits and tinned ham, Harbo returned to the oars. In the stern of the boat Samuelson pulled the wool blanket and the canvas deck cover over himself and curled up on the mattress, which was made of reindeer hair and would stay soft and warm, even when it got wet.A stiff southerly wind arrived with the dawn, but the fog remained. Now well beyond their old fishing grounds, it felt to Harbo as if the adventure was starting in earnest. By midday the fog had lifted enough for him to take a sight on his brass quadrant. By aligning the instrument with the sun at its highest point, a reading of latitude could be taken. Harbo and Samuelson would know how far north they were, but without an expensive chronometer there was no way of accurately measuring longitude. To know the distance they had covered across the Atlantic relied on dead reckoning, which was based on Harbo’s estimates of the currents, wind and their rowing speed.They rowed on, making good progress for two more days. On 11 June dawn broke with a fresh westerly breeze, but throughout the day the sea blackened as the sky clouded over, and the wind grew stronger, until by nightfall they faced a full-blown storm. The wind tore the tops off the waves and dumped water into the boat. Harbo and Samuelson battled to keep Fox stern to the waves, while the churning, chaotic sea threatened to spin her around and throw them overboard. They rowed on through the night, leaving the oars only to bail out the boat. While he bailed, Samuelson thought of Blackburn and Welch and how much worse things would be if this were January. Despite the conditions, it was exhilarating to know that, even as it battered them, the storm was sending Fox in the right direction.By daybreak the storm had blown over and the sea was back to a long, rolling, ocean swell. After bailing the last of the water from the bottom of the boat, Harbo pulled the sodden reindeer hair mattress out from under the canvas to air, then checked their provisions and repacked the boat, while Samuelson prepared the stove for a hot meal. Exhausted from the night’s ordeal, he didn’t notice the oily sheen of the kerosene on the stove housing and, when he lit the wick, the whole stove burst into flames. He shouted and jumped back, shielding his face. Harbo grabbed the bailing bucket and doused the flames. Apart from a few singed hairs Samuelson was fine and they laughed off the incident over a breakfast of hard tack, cheese, jam and eggs served with tinned beef and washed down with a pint of coffee.Friday June 12th. Both of us rowed all night . . . This morning the oil stove set fire to its house. Looked like danger for a few minutes but was soon put out.After a few hours of rest, Harbo took a sight to confirm their latitude and the pair started rowing again; that night a clear sky made it easy to stay on course. Again they rowed in shifts and, despite the sodden bedding, sleep came easily. The following day they attracted the attention of a passing schooner. After overcoming his surprise at finding a fishing dory 350 miles out to sea, Jossey’s skipper confirmed their position and promised to report Fox to the harbour master when he arrived in New York. Five days later, Fox’s paper noted wryly that the Norwegians were ‘not yet’ drowned.After waving off the schooner, Harbo and Samuelson rowed on as the swell grew short and choppy. The wind swung round to the east, gradually building until the pair found that, despite rowing two-up, they were being driven backwards. They had planned for conditions like this and their drills were well practised. While Samuelson kept the boat facing into the weather, Harbo deployed the sea anchor off the bow. The heavy canvas parachute was caught by the westerly currents and opened quickly. It was an eerie shape, hanging thirty feet below the surface, like the body of a giant squid.The line from the sea anchor quickly snapped tight and swung the bow of the boat directly into the oncoming weather. This would reduce their drift west and prevent Fox from being spun side-on to the waves (a position likely to cause a capsize). Dawn passed, but the wind continued to strengthen, whipping the sea into twenty-five-foot breakers. After tying-in to a safety line both men turned to the task of bailing. Soon they could barely bail fast enough to keep the gunwales above water. They were fighting for their lives.By late afternoon, cold and weak, but with the storm starting to subside, they ate a couple of hard tack biscuits and shared a bottle of wine. In all their years at sea neither of them had endured suffering like this and, huddled together for warmth under the canvas sheet, they wondered if they would have the strength to face another storm like that. Their conversation was slow and disjointed. Harbo thought of his family back in Brevik and wondered if Anine had been right to call this expedition suicidal.Checking through the inventory, Harbo found that they were missing a can of kerosene, which meant there was now only enough fuel to eat a hot meal every second day. Instead of coffee, they began to drink condensed milk mixed with water and they ate the eggs raw from their shells. One afternoon Fox was surrounded by a pod of inquisitive whales and, although Harbo worried that the merest flick of a tail might destroy their little dory, the animals glided past without incident.The following day Fox was spotted by a German steamer, the Fürst Bismarck. The skipper commented on the terrible state of the pair’s hands and faces, which were peeling and scabbed from exposure to the elements. He asked if they needed anything. There were many things they would have liked to ask for. In particular Samuelson thought that with a few canisters of kerosene they would be able to make life a little more bearable with hot food and coffee. But Harbo turned down the skipper’s offer of assistance, reminding Samuelson of the principle of self-sufficiency that they had agreed to before setting off. As they cast off from the steamer, the crew lined up on the deck to cheer and wave. Soon the ship had disappeared over the horizon and Fox was alone again in the North Atlantic.After three weeks at sea, Fox was somewhere south of Newfoundland, perhaps a few hundred miles from the Grand Banks. A night of sharp, icy rain marked the start of a storm that lasted for several days, forcing the dorymen back into a routine of bailing and rowing, occasionally deploying the sea anchor for long enough to snatch a moment’s rest and some food. By 1 July conditions had improved sufficiently for Samuelson to light the stove. By the time Samuelson had cooked their meal, Harbo was fast asleep. Samuelson woke him and, after they had eaten, they huddled together on the soaking mattress and fell into a deep, blissful sleep, with the gentle sound of lapping water in their ears, and the morning sun warming their faces.Harbo woke soon after midday and stood up to stretch his back and legs. The air was still and the blue sky was streaked with a thin wisp of cloud. On the horizon he saw a sail. He watched it for a while and, when he had worked out its speed and direction, he woke Samuelson. They made a course to intercept the vessel and, as they drew near, Harbo identified it as a fishing schooner. The storm must have carried Fox right onto the Grand Banks.The skipper of Leader naturally assumed that Fox was a fishing dory that had been separated from its ship, but the state of the two men and a glance at the equipment on board verified Harbo’s story. The pair declined the skipper’s offer of a meal, but the position he gave put them on the south-eastern edge of the Grand Banks. Harbo did a quick calculation before sharing the good news with Samuelson. They had rowed a thousand miles from New York and were now more than a third of the way across the Atlantic. That afternoon they came across another fishing schooner and retold their stories about the adventures of the last few weeks. As the sun set, Harbo and Samuelson shared a meal of tinned fish and hard tack, washed down with condensed milk and water. They agreed that it had been a good day. Chatting with fellow dorymen had raised their spirits and, having reached the Grand Banks from New York, the pair knew that they had already accomplished something remarkable. To mark Independence Day they allowed themselves a small luxury.Saturday July 4th. This day we celebrated by washing ourselves in soap and fresh water. The first day our faces have seen good fresh water since leaving New York.Although there were only damp, salty shirts and oilskins to put back on afterwards, it felt wonderful to be clean.For the best part of a week conditions were kind to them, but soon enough the bad weather returned and Harbo and Samuelson were back to the now familiar routine of rowing and bailing. One evening Harbo was rowing while Samuelson bailed when the howling wind suddenly cut out and the sea became as flat as if they had entered the shelter of a harbour. Through the darkness, Harbo thought he could hear the sound of waves breaking on a beach. He wondered if exhaustion was causing him to hallucinate, but his dorymate could hear the same thing. Samuelson stood up in the stern of the boat and tried to make out where the sound was coming from. He could think of no other explanation than that they had made land, but Harbo reminded him that they were little more than a week east of the Grand Banks. Europe was still two thousand miles away.Suddenly, out of the darkness, a cliff face emerged, less than sixty feet away. Harbo saw Samuelson’s expression and turned in his seat to look. It was an iceberg. In silence both men craned their necks to gaze up the wall of ice, which rose into the starless night. Around them everything was still, except for the gentle breaking of waves and, in the distance, the wind’s muffled roar. There was something majestic about the iceberg and resting in its calm lee they felt cocooned from the harsh ocean around them. Harbo tried to preserve the image in his memory as the iceberg slipped past and into the night. A few moments later and they were again at the mercy of the storm.With first light it became clear that things were about to get much worse for Harbo and Samuelson. To the east, the cloud base was starting to fall, a sign that the weather was closing in, but the men were more alarmed by the view to the west, where the sky was a wall of black. Fox was in the path of a hurricane.

Editorial Reviews

"Straightforward and engaging- relentless as the sharks encountered." - Sports Illustrated‘Incredible true stories from the limits of endurance, written by a man who’s been there’Sir Ranulph Fiennes, author and adventurer'"Rackley writes with brutal candor and a storyteller's flair - providing readers memorable on-board views of a world most will ever see." - Publishers Weekly"Told in an earnest and captivating style, first-time author Rackley will delight both armchair enthusiasts and real-life adventurers when they discover another sport for their dreams." - Library Journal‘We need the people who climb mountains, cross oceans, voyage to the moon, to tell us who we are.  Adam Rackley is one of the very few who has both the literary skill and the sensory intelligence to make the rest of us understand what exactly is out there, and why. In this gripping and superior book he is both seaman and historian, telling the story of his own voyage and the rowers who have gone before him’Peter Nichols, author of A Voyage for Madmen