TWO friends from Newport are currently in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean battling severe storms as they attempt to row to South America.
Stefan Vine and Johnnie Ball tackle the 3,800 mile journey from Portugal to French Guiana to raise £100,000 for dementia carers – a cause close to their hearts following the death of Mr Ball’s father consequences of the disease.
Joined by qualified expedition doctor Dirk Von Delft, from South Africa, the two first-time rowers were on day 44 of their adventure on Thursday and are on the “last leg” of the journey.
But this last leg is great, and the three crew members of the Forget Me Knot still have almost half of their journey before reaching dry land again.
Any hopes the trio had of a smooth journey were dashed almost immediately, when storms impeded their progress.
“For a couple of weeks they had really bad weather and they got thrown around like ragdolls,” said Mr Vine’s uncle, Graeme Kean.
“They didn’t have an easy crossing.”
To make matters worse on these stormy days, the crew relies on solar panels for all their electricity – without the sun, vital equipment like their satellite phone won’t work.
“If they go through a bad period of time and can’t recharge the batteries, they’re out of touch,” Mr Kean added.
“It’s scary because at one point they were in shipping lanes and didn’t have enough power to let other ships know where they were.”
But despite their trials, the Forget Me Knot crew members have also experienced “a lot of ups”, Mr Kean said, and are currently enjoying much milder weather and seas as they head to the west.
Ocean. Image: Forget me the row of knots” alt=”South Wales Argus: Newport man Johnnie Ball is one of three crew members attempting to row across the Atlantic Ocean. Image: Forget me the row of knots” class=”editor-image”/>
When conditions permit, the three update their followers via a blog and on Facebook, and have also managed to call in Radio 5 Live for a series of interviews.
Their adventure has also won huge public support, raising £65,000 so far for their chosen charities.
To donate to the fundraiser, visit www.gofundme.com/f/forget-me-knot-atlantic-row
Tuesday’s rowing saw the trio beat their personal best for the trip, clocking 74.5 nautical miles – a far cry from the slow progress they made in the storms and headwinds of the first few weeks.
“They feel positive,” Mr. Kean said. “I hope it will be an easier last step.”
The Forget Me Knot bears the names of the three crew members and their national flags.
And in a nod to Newport, Mr Vine has also included the town’s coat of arms, with its appropriate motto marc land – meaning “land and sea”.