Police officer to embark on 3,000 mile solo Atlantic row
A marine police officer and adventurer is swapping her role as skipper of Essex police's launch boat for a mammoth 3,000-mile solo row across the Atlantic.
Dawn Wood, who patrols 400 miles of the county’s coastline, rivers and estuaries will use her epic row to record vital data to help tackle the growing problem of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.
She said: “I want to draw attention to the dangers and harm caused by the plastic. It is a real threat to the whole environment, but we need evidence and data to understand how it is affecting and harming the planet - and to find ways of combating it.
“Anything people can do to help raise money to tackle this problem is welcome - I am rowing the Atlantic, but I hope it inspires others to do something.”
Working with the National Oceanology Centre at the University of Southampton, Dawn hopes to be part of a planned scheme to take sea water samples during her gruelling crossing.
A new record for the crossing was set earlier this year by Brit Kiko Matthews, 36, who overcame serious illness to complete the voyage in 49 days and seven hours - six days faster than the previous record.
The 42-year-old is already training hard for her mammoth voyage in her 23-foot purpose-built boat, but the estuary near her home in Burnham-on-Crouch may not be the same as the isolation will she face for more than seven weeks on her row.
She will set out from Gran Canaria, when the currents and weather are favourable, and will be rowing up to 20 hours a day facing perils including storms with huge 80 foot waves, threats from whales, submerged containers and the failure of vital equipment like auto-helm, water-maker and solar panels.
She is also getting used to dehydrated food. Her rations will consist of nutrition powders mixed with water from the boat’s water-maker which turns sea water into drinking water.
Safety is paramount. She will have to stay clipped on to the boat every minute of every day - even when she is snatching a few hours sleep in the tiny cabin.
Her boat is self-righting and virtually unsinkable, but one of the biggest dangers she faces is if she falls over the side.
She said: ”If I am not tied to the boat then it’s the end, the boat will carry on with the current and I will have no way to get back on board.
“I’ll have the latest safety equipment, a satellite phone, emergency beacon, flares and VHF radio, but I could be 1,000 miles from land. There is a link to the UK coastguard at Falmouth who would organise a rescue bid, but the nearest boat could be two days away.”
Dawn has already won the backing of explorer Ben Fogle who rowed across the ocean in 2006. He sent Dawn a video message of support which said: ”As a man who has rowed an ocean myself. Good luck! I wouldn’t do it again, but what a fantastic cause. I’ll be following you and hope you have a huge amount of support.”
UB40 singer-songwriter Ali Campbell also sent her a good luck video message.
Dawn, who has been a police officer for 22 years and is also a firearms instructor, has trained other rowers and is already preparing hard for her mammoth voyage.
Her first goal is raising funds. The boat and expenses for the crossing will be almost £80,000 and she is hoping for sponsors and to reach the £100,000 mark to boost research into ocean plastic pollution.
The boat is being prepared by Rannoch Adventure, also based in Burnham, who are the country’s leading experts in solo rowing boats.
Boss Charlie Pitcher said:”Dawn is a very accomplished and determined woman, she is capable of doing the crossing in record time and has the drive.”
But Charlie, an experienced endurance rower who in 2013 set the world’s fastest solo row across the Atlantic, added: “It is not just a physical challenge, but a mental one too. One of the problems is loneliness - being totally on your own with effectively nothing around you but sky and ocean. That’s when determination and self-belief have to kick-in.
“It’s all about planning and preparation which are paramount, as is the departure date and the route. Dawn’s trip will take advantage of the currents across the Atlantic to the West Indes as well as the Trade Winds.”
Follow aurora-row on Twitter and visit www.rowaurora.co.ukfor more details and to donate.