Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Mark Twain

There’s nothing–absolutely nothing–half so much worth doing as messing about in boats.

Kenneth Grahame

Naming a thing is daunting.  But we have some very clever friends.  And so we polled them, and one of them came up with this name. This adventure took me away over Christmas, which meant that as far as my  family was concerned, I was in the dog house. There were two, three things I was really grateful for – the adventure I was going to have, my family that was waiting on the other side, and the boat that took me there. You can’t row the Atlantic without a good boat and I had one.

Rannoch Adventures

2009 Rannoch’s founder, Charlie Pitcher, won the solo class in the Trans-Atlantic Race in his boat, ‘JJ’. Not long after, in his company’s second boat, ‘Soma’, Charlie annihilated the record in an amazing time of just 35 days.  These guys make amazing boats; that’s why I chose them to make mine.

The Power On Board (Not counting me, that is.)

175W of solar panels were my primary power supply from Solbian. My backup was a methanol-based eFoy fuel cell that could operate in any weather, especially useful in cloudy conditions to recharge the two deep-cycle rechargeable batteries I took along. Having enough power was definitely a challenge during the race, but by using the  electrical equipment sparingly, I was able to manage.

The One Piece of Equipment I Hoped I Won’t Need

The life raft was one of the smallest ones I could find but was still designed to carry four people. I don’t suppose they have much call for ocean-going solo life rafts. Go figure. I practised using it, but thankfully, I never had to break it out.

The R15

All of Rannoch’s boats are designed by internationally renowned naval architect, Phil Morrison. Safety first, then speed and comfort – that’s how all their boats are crafted. And they’re crafted with meticulous attention to detail. With each design they work on improving ergonomics, minimising potential faults and keeping things simple. It takes approximately 1600 hours to make an R15

The On Board Electronics

Thanks to Raymarine I had some great electronics on board –VHF, GPS, AIS and Autohelm.

  • The VHF Radio provided a link to the outside world, one that a rower definitely needs. It sends automated distress alerts over non-satellite radio systems alerting other ships and shore stations of your need, your GPS position, time information, your MMSI or Maritime Mobile Service Identification. Your chances of being rescued successfully are dramatically increased compared to a traditional Mayday voice call.
  • The GPS provided location, course and speed information and displayed it on the chartplotter, the digital map. With no solid horizon this was about the only way – apart from pulling out the old sextant – to tell if I was still moving forward and not heading off to Argentina.
  • The AIS tracked my course and speed as well as those of other vessels within range and would alert me if I was on a potential collision course. Which is really good as playing chicken with a container ship is not a good idea when you’re in a rowing boat!

The autohelm, or autopilot, was meant to keep me pointing in the right direction. I simply programmed in either a destination or bearing and the tiller drive then moved the tiller arm on the rudder to keep me pointing in the right direction despite weather, waves and currents. That was the theory anyway. On December 31, 2015 it broke. Thankfully, I had two back-ups. When one of those refused to work I was down to only one. I developed an appreciation for the phrase, ‘swearing like a sailor’.

TheBoat’s Vital Statistics

Length: 7m
Width: 1.8 m. There’s no pacing the deck in these boats. You’re either sitting down rowing or lying down sleeping.
Cabins: There’s only one big enough to sleep in. And it was just long enough for me to lie flat on my back with one inch or so to spare. When the hatch was closed to keep out water, which was all the time especially when I was asleep, the temperature inside rose to over 40oC. It was like sleeping in a sauna.

Weight: Around 800kg at the start of the race. Thankfully, the boat got lighter each day as I ate the food supplies.
Material: Glass fibre and foam laminate vacuum infused with vinylester. If it capsizes, the boat is designed to self-right, which is useful, to say the least. A feature I got to test. Twice.
Colour: White

Taking the Sea Out of Sea Water

The Schenker Smart 30 desalinator was perfect for making that all important fresh drinking water. It was almost impossible to predict how much water I’d be drinking each day. But fresh water was imperative and trying to carry enough would have been impossible. The weight might have sunk the boat. So, I took along two desalinators – including a manual one as backup.

The Concept

In 1896 when Frank Samuelson and George Harbo rowed the Atlantic they did it in an 18ft skiff, just over half the size of a lifeboat on the Titanic. The aim of a lifeboat is to keep its occupants safe only as long as it takes to be rescued. Hopefully, only a few days, and nights, at sea. It must have been unbelievably uncomfortable and rather frightening as it had no safety features to speak of and no lockable, waterproof place to keep their provisions.

Things have changed. Rannoch Adventures have been designing and building boats for years. Their founder, Charlie Pitcher, set the solo world record in one of their boats. They use cutting edge techniques, high tech materials. So I was confident that I’d chosen the right company to build The Dog House.

My boat, an R15 designed and built by Rannoch Adventures was designed to be as safe, fast and as light as possible. Samuelson and Harbo’s boat weighed about 250kg without any people or supplies in it. Mine weighed around 800kg. 200kg short of a metric ton. Every kilo shaved off was one I didn’t have to haul across the ocean.

The Build Process

Light and strong materials went into The Dog House. It had layers of strong glass fibre on either side of a foam core infused with a vinylester resin. The outside was a tough and smooth gelcoat. Using a vacuum bag technique, the resin was spread evenly through the glass fibre and foam sandwich so that there were no weak spots and the weight was distributed smoothly. Once these layers dried we then joined them together to make the shell of the boat. Using the same technique, we then created the inner panels and bulkheads, smoothing off any rough edges to make the boat as sleek and streamlined as possible.

The Fit Out

I had to be completely self-sufficient for at least ninety days. There was no-one to give me a hand, ask for help from or keep an eye on the weather when I was asleep. I had a wide range of equipment on board. Things that weren’t even invented when Frank Samuelson and George Harbo rowed out of New York in 1896.


  • Solbian solar panels: These produced 175W from which I had to charge everything else.
  • Efoy fuel cell: An excuse to buy a fuel cell!  Yes.  This is a lovely generator which turns chemical energy into electrical energy. When my batteries got below a certain level this automatically turned – usually ‒ to help top up the batteries.  
  • Raymarine’s equipment included a VHF, Chartplotter and AIS, which was vital if I didn’t want to get run down by a tanker.
  • Desalinator: I had two of these – a main one and a backup one. The main unit turned 30L of salt water into fresh drinking water in an hour.


The Conception

The design of my boat

The Sinews

Putting in the heart and muscle of the boat

The Skeleton

The bones of my boat

The Face

The final paint job

The Skin

The glass fibre layers

Testing the Life Raft

As close to using it as I wanted to get.

There was a single blue line of crayon drawn across every wall in the house. What does it mean? I asked.
A pirate needs the sight of the sea, he said and then he pulled his eye patch down and turned and sailed away.

Brian Andreas