We’re in serious problems!

Team apple pie of oceanrower.eu is rowing from mainland Europe to mainland South-America with the aim to break 7 world records (fastest crossing from Europe to South-America, fastest 5-persons team from Europe to South-America, First blind rower from Europe to South-America (Shane Ryan),first 2 ocean rowing crossings within half a year (Ralph Tuijn), oldest person to row from Europe to South-America (Predragh Tripkovic), first person to row 5 times from mainland Europe to South-America(Ralph Tuijn)).

In March 2021 oceanrower.eu is leaving for the 6th year in a row with crews rowing from Europe to South-America achieving yearly new world records. Next year we leave in March from Portugal again with 2 ocean rowing boats. One skippered by Ralph Tuijn with 9 ocean rowing crossings under his belt and numerous world records. The second boat is skippered by very experienced ocean rower Livar Nysted who has done 5 ocean rows. Former world record holder of the Indian ocean and world record holder of the North Atlantic beating the longest standing world record in ocean rowing history of 114 years!

Interested to take part in our next Atlantic crossings in 2021 go to oceanrower.eu or send me a PM. While currently on the Atlantic messages will be answered asap after arrival in South-America.


And yes we are back on track for the speed record from Africa to South-America with an average speed at the moment between 3 and 4 knots. The weather forecast looks stable as far as we can see it till a week from now with the prevailing trade-winds how they should be and how they are already from the start of this crossing.

If we arrive before the evening of Thursday the 23rd of April we will still have the world speed record for Africa to South-America. So that leaves us 16 days! So far we are well on track!*

With our new soldering gear we went to work on the watermaker. We could solder the broken part together but soon the watermaker stopped working again. The half-melted electricity box is not water tight anymore so moisture came in, had worked its way. This was beyond our limits so from now on we hand-pump every odd day 10 liters of drinking water next to the 220 liters that we have left on board. That should get us in.

The weather stays very stable and on the evening of day 35 there are hardly any waves and wind. It’s my rowing shift late in the evening and Shane is rowing behind me. In front of me Livar is sleeping in the aft cabin with the hatch open. Suddenly out of nowhere a huge shark launches an attack on the aft of the boat. The hard impact resonates tremors through the whole of the hull while the remains of a large wave are left where the monster surfaces again. Livar jumps up with his head almost hitting the ceiling in an adrenaline rush with his eyes almost popping out more awake than ever screaming over deck: “WTF was that?” It stayed by one time. A while ago it happened also on the aft cabin and a few days ago Livar spotted a large shark fin behind the boat. Could it be THE MEG?

Three days later it was time again to clean the barnacles from the hull of the boat. Darragh jumped in the water to fix the job. A few minutes later he surfaced again and asked me: “Ralph, I can’t remember the bite marks on the rudder from last time. Where they there all ready?” No Darragh, they were not!

And what’s going on with the flying fish. From Cape Verde on like normally you see them regularly but this year more than normal. Some nights, it’s ridiculous how many. Huge groups sometimes as many as 500 but we get hammered by them like never before. During that nights we all get hit often during rowing. We stopped even to safe their lives as so many land on deck that our rowing time goes down. What does it mean ? That the sea state of the fish population is healthy or that there are not many pelagic fish left to hunt them? Although we see a lot of bonito that are having a hell of a time here!

On the evening of day 36 at 21.00 GMT we break the magic line. So from now on our finish line at Cayenne is less than 1000 nautical miles. Yesterday evening we passed the marker of 2/3rd of the crossing. We are on schedule for the world record but from now on the currents and eddies till the end are far more unpredictable and that caused already a little course change today to avoid a strong currents that would push us to the north.

Let’s get back for a moment to our favourite topic and that of the world: corona or covid 19. A while ago, before we left a strange Chinese virus. Now when we are closing in on the finish a world wide pandemic virus. The most expanded since the black plaque in the middle ages. The whole world is in a lockdown leaving us up here on the ocean almost stateless. The pariah of the world who have certainly the least chance to have corona aren’t welcome on land anymore or let’s say it this way. We get a little bit the feeling that the land people are against the sea people.

Well we don’t have a clue what’s going on in the world at the moment. We get some bits and pieces mainly in the interest of our situation but overall I get the feeling that everybody is confused and often they don’t know what they are doing or what has to be done.

Meanwhile mainly without asking for it, ministries of foreign affairs, migration and port authorities of France, Ireland and the Netherlands are involved in the situation. Especially, flabbergasted about the Dutch advises I almost want to set my Dutch passport straight away on fire. Not really used to panic reactions of Dutch officials or maybe they just want to get rid of me.

Let’s start with the France well better said French-Guyana. I got the feeling like they are the most fond of ocean rowers and they provide us with the best information.

My friend Niall who lives in France and who rowed with me across the Atlantic a couple of years ago contacted the authorities in French-Guyana with the following respond in writing:

“At the moment, the coast of French Guiana is closed. Arrival is only allowed after agreement with the competent authorities and subject to compliance with the instructions relating to COVID-19.......The competent port authority and government services will determine the arrangements to be made for the reception of your transatlantic rower and crew members and I will keep you informed as soon as I have more information."

Niall will fill in the official forms for us provided by the French-Guyana authorities for our arrival. Mainly showing that we were long enough at sea and neither of us is sick 48 hours upon arrival.

Another problem is that in French-Guyana you have to stay inside with limited travel outside. That’s a problem because we don’t have a house in Cayenne and all hotels are closed! And here my friend Dolores from Paris comes in, who is going to row next year with me across the Atlantic, and contacts my favorite hotel in Cayenne where I stay every year after the crossing. Hotel and restaurant Ker Alberte are closed like the rest in Cayenne but they come up with a wonderful solution. As Ralph and his rowing crew come from the sea and it’s impossible to have corona they can have the whole hotel for themselves including private swimming pool. As the restaurant is also closed we can use the restaurant kitchen to prepare our own meals. Another problem solved.

My local friend Pascal helps me out as every year with the arrival and boat transport. We just only still have to figure out how to do that this year as he had to close his shop and boat yard also. But who knows maybe it becomes like the hotel also a private boat yard.

However the ministry of foreign affairs in Ireland doesn’t trust us and contacts the Dutch consular section in Parimaribo in Suriname. Yes that’s the neighboring country of French-Guyana that was till 1975 part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. If it went better after that. I don’t know. I just know that the president Desi Bouterse of Suriname is wanted in the Netherlands for drugs smuggling and the December murders. Haven’t said that I think rowing into Suriname isn’t an option anymore! Well this is the respond literally from the Dutch in Suriname to the ministry of foreign affairs in Ireland:

"In case one of your missions is in contact with the rowers/captain, our mission in Paramaribo would advise them to stop their trip. They might want to look out for a possibility to look for a ship that would accept to take them on board of their ship to their destination but to avoid Guyana because of the lockdown. Another alternative they named was to change course and head for one of the islands of our Kingdom in that area. Our mission in Paramaribo thinks possibilities for Guyane are difficult."

So leave my ocean rowing boat and get rescued or row on to the closest Dutch island thousands of kilometers away without water and food. My Dutch passport is almost catching fire by now!

Everything went pretty well with 870 miles to go when disaster struck. A couple of days ago we were attacked by a huge shark and we thought to be lucky but late in the afternoon of day 38 we found out that we were not. Suddenly the autopilot kept on going out of course. When I removed the autopilot and turned the helm manually I immediately felt that there was something seriously wrong and that probably the rudder was broken. I unbolted the rudder and Darragh jumped in the water to get the rudder from underneath the boat and bring it on deck. We were amazed. The attack happened with so much force. Next to the teeth marks the whole carbonfiber shaft was torn to pieces and a very strong thick metal ring of 3 millimeters thick and 5 centimeter high that holds the rudder in place was torn apart and completely disappeared. How the hell are we going to fix this problem with still almost one thousand miles to go! If I look at the bite marks on the rudder is shows that the teeth marks are about 5 centimeters from each other apart that means it was a massive shark and it had to be otherwise you cannot tear such a solid rudder apart.

Meanwhile we are stuck here with a problem even bigger than the shark. How can we repair the main carbon-fiber shaft with limited materials as epoxy and glassfiber mats. Next to that the tubes in the aft of the boat where the shaft of the rudder is normally fitted has been bend also by the immense force so the question is even if I can somehow fix the shaft will it fit in the boat again and if it does will it still turn so that we can steer the boat. As for now my opinion is that the rudder situation is not looking promising but the coming days, I will try to work on it. Right now we quickly have to look at a way to keep the boat going on an acceptable course with hopefully at least some speed.

When we were sitting pretty devastated on deck with suddenly the speed world record definitely out of reach I mentioned as I have noticed before with a Rannoch 45 ocean rowing boat while leaving it to the elements the bow of the boat turns straight into the wind and waves. Making not much speed but the course is ok and as the trade winds look this year very stable and let’s hope it will be keep on doing that for another couple of weeks although slow it will push us in the direction of Cayenne. However slow progress means we don’t have enough food. The only vessels that we sometimes see in this area are fishing vessels. If we see one, we will try with our VHF to get in contact with them for food supplies.

To follow our current Atlantic crossing go to oceanrower.eu @ follow next expedition.

From Ralph's Facebook page