We were lucky enough to meet up with Andrew Baker shortly after completing his self-isolation as he returns from his incredible single-handed row across the Atlantic raising money for charities in support of mental health. He answered some questions for us about his fascinating trip…
Reach into the Blue - An interview with Andrew Baker
Q: When did the scale of what you were trying to do sink in?
A: ‘I had a few weeks in Lagos Marina and it was the first time I thought oh ****, what am I actually doing here? I figured I was about 80% there and I kind think that in life most of us are only ever around 80% and if you try and get that last 20% all you’re going to do is procrastinate for perfection and never actually do it’
Q: How did you keep going?
A: I took each day and each task as it happened. If you can’t think, you’ve just got to sit down and have a cup of tea, chill out and say ‘Don’t worry about this’. I ran out of tea towards the end, and I’d taken 90 days’ worth of chocolate which ran out in less than 60! But I kept finding things too, I found like a bag of nuts or some mango slices that I had forgotten about and it would be like a little joy.
Q: Why did you decide to raise money for mental health causes?
A: I appreciate that at times we can all benefit from a more formal, organised service but I think it’s really important that we all take ownership of our own mental health and mental wealth but also that of our friends and the wider community. We need to challenge ourselves to test and build up our resilience, just like going to the gym. I set out to do this challenge for myself and I am really pleased that we were able to support Manx Wildlife Trust’s mindfulness walks with Mike Kewley.
Q: So, what was your mental state like during the trip?
A: There’s highs and lows, you have your bad days where you’re shouting at the ocean. It has a sense of humour and will always soak you just as your making a cup of tea. Sometimes I wanted to be in a bad mood, I’d just shout and scream and have it out and there’s no one there to hear me shout and scream.
Whenever any nature came along, whether it was a seabird, dolphin, turtle, or even a jellyfish, it would fill me with absolute joy. Especially when they interacted for longer. The dolphins were especially curious, and the birds would fly around for quite a while. I couldn’t believe there were birds out there, 1,500 miles from any land!
Q: Has the experience changed you?
A: The trip made me realise that we are spoilt for choice in our daily lives. When you haven’t got it you don’t want it. Food and entertainment were the only things I needed. I didn’t hanker for anything I didn’t have.
A lot of stuff in modern life is addictive and when it’s no longer there you can wean off it very quickly. Not having a mobile phone was amazing, with no distractions. It was really nice having things like music and audible books and a few movies on an iPad, so don’t get me wrong, I’m not against technology.
But it was so nice not having a news cycle with no COVID talk, no Brexit talk etc. I wasn’t bored for a second because there was always something to do. I became obsessed with getting to the other side, I just wanted to get home to see Lucy as quickly as possible.
Now I’m back I think I saviour food and drink more and senses like taste and smell. When we go for a walk, I can smell the hawthorn and I kick the garlic and lavender to smell them. We should really appreciate all our senses rather than just sight from a screen.
Q: What’s next?
A: I’m not planning anything yet, but I now know I can do anything and that gives me a huge sense of freedom. People keep saying ‘Oh, I couldn’t have done that’ but I have no doubt that we could all do it. It’s just how you break it down and have belief in yourself that you can do it. To not let things get too much.
We have a massive thank you for Andrew who has made it possible for our mindfulness walks to continue into 2022!
There is still time to sponsor Andrew which you can do here - https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/reachintotheblue
Don't miss the full interview with Andrew in our next Manx Nature magazine!