Today, Stephen’s Day or Boxing Day as it is also known, while we are all tucking into our left-over turkey sandwiches, Renmore man Damian Browne will have solo-rowed 12 straight days on the Atlantic Ocean.
For us the next 12 days will be filled with family, friends, good food and homely comforts. Damian will spend Christmas surrounded by the high seas with no family members, friends or fancy food to enjoy – nor any home comforts that we all relish at this time of year.
Since his departure from the La Gomera Marina (Tenerife) on December 14th he has already had a rough ride. In the first few hours at sea, Damian’s body reacted poorly and he was unable to eat properly as sea sickness took hold. His strength suffered and rowing was a chore as his progression in the water faltered. Although it was a physical struggle to rid his body of the sickness, his mind became agitated and his best laid plans over the past 18 months were being compromised. Still, he picked up the pieces and got into his stride over the next few days and began to get some good momentum going.
Within a week he was beginning to look like the fictional character Gulliver that he brands his mission on, as his beard thickened and his skin bronzed due to his all-day exposure to the warm sun across the Atlantic Ocean. By his tenth day at sea, more troubles were in store. Upon waking very early and setting out for his 14 hour daily row, Damian soon discovered that one of his oars had gone astray somewhere into the wide open blue ocean. If that was not bad enough, giant sea swells (a series of mechanical waves that circulate between water and air) made getting into a rowing rhythm extremely challenging. This was accompanied by him witnessing a wall of 3 metres of water on his rowing deck immediately after he took a quick call of nature!
There’s no doubt that Damian is feeling the pressure on the high seas (despite his tip-top preparation that one would expect from a former successful professional athlete and adventurer) but at the same time, he is revelling in it. Having set out to row 4,800km alone for Médecins Sans Frontiéres Ireland (an emergency medical aid charity for conflicts and natural disasters), the Strong Roots Foundation in Rwanda (which teaches orphan children) and Madra (a charity for rescue of abandoned dogs) he is, despite all the challenges, succeeding.
We can but marvel at Damian’s adventurous spirit and charitable contribution to humanity and perhaps contemplate how he is teaching us to keep the faith over this Christmas period.