The Ocean Rowing Society Salutes Legendary Rower
Don Allum (May 17, 1937-Nov 2, 1992)
Click on voyages above for individual
(click photos for larger image)
|Letter sent by Geoff Allum (Cousin)
Addressed to Kenneth F. Crutchlow (Executive Director)
'Please find enclosed Don's diary of his 1987 St Johns/Ireland Crossing.
This is exact copy of the original and includes Don's rather eccentric
spelling. Having rowed with Don in 1971 I know that he never made a fuss
about anything and was always apt to understate things. So when he says it
was rough it was rough. This voyage was carried out without satellite
navigation, any sort of communication distress beacons etc. or life raft.
The local people of the town of Dooagh literally waded into the sea as Don
and the QE3 were washed up during the worst storm most could remember and
dragged him ashore. I hope everyone who reads it enjoys it. It's a great
memorial to a great man.
Geoff (left) and Don Allum pictured with their boat Q.E.III after their 73 day voyage from Gran Canaria to Barbados.
To see photos of the Monument for Don Allum click here
acknowledges Geoff Allum for allowing us to publish for the first time anywhere
Don Allum's unabridged log.
To Kenneth F Crutchlow:
21 June 1987 10 am
Good start a soft westerly wind. Very soon to leave the wonderful Newfie
people. I have four ball point pens, none write. I saw three whales early
on but nothing away from land. No fog yet so I am dry.
Not a bad day, a south westerly wind, I would rather be heading south though.
It wasn't very cold last night probably because there was no fog to make
damp. Hands are very blistered. I have been in sight of an iceberg all day
it makes some strange noises.
A whale paid a call during the night, I could hear it blowing, you would
think it was going away and then it would blow right near the boat, it was
weird not to be able to see it. Lovely day no wind to notice. Hands are
very bad so I opened your half way parcel and am wearing the gloves, bliss
After all yesterdays hard rowing there is a strong easterly wind blowing
this morning and fog, but the fog is clearing. I hope it doesn't last
long. Coldest yet.
I am letting the QE3 drift. She is drifting southeast the rudder is
helping her south. I am well clear of Newfoundland so it should be safe.
I have just lost my glasses over the side. I was adjusting the rudder and
my feet slipped and my head hit the blister. I shall have to look after the
spare pair a little better tomorrow's forecast is much the same. If rowing
teaches you anything at all it must be patience.
Saw a whale about this morning to far away to get a shot, there don't seem
to be many about. A good day for rowing, slight breeze from the south but
no problem, hands and bum very sore, I will be ok in a week. I have a leaking
water bag that I have been keeping on deck, not to worry I have plenty.
Saw lots of cod trawlers today; they all seemed to know where I am bound
for. The gloves have holes in them but by the time they have fallen to
bits my hands should be ok. Forecast for tomorrow is good.
So much for the forecast it has been overcast and windy and the last 3
hours very windy and roughish, the wind is from the north so it has helped
me get south. Coldest day yet. Saw two burgs this morning but to rough to
row over. Concord has passed over twice, the double bang is something
else, no wonder it's not allowed to go through the sound barrier over land,
it's like two 16 inch naval guns going off together, it takes about two
minutes for the sound echo to go.
A strong wind to the south and choppy seas, so I am going south, its very
hard rowing and very cold but no fog. Heard concord this morning though
not as loud as I am further to the south. I have seen no sea life yet; I
shall have to wait until it is calmer. I have just heard on the radio that
Tom ( McClean also rowing Atlantic)is 350 nautical miles east of St. John's and is having good weather, if
it keeps up he will get the record with ease. I could do with a few
Grand day for rowing, little wind and calm and the fog had gone by 1 ' o
clock. The sea seems to be lifeless nothing I haven't taken one snap yet.
The mat for the sleeping bag is marvellous it not only is very comfy but
its very good insulation against the cold. I'm sleeping like a top no
problems with Number 2s either. The weather tomorrow is forecast strong SE
winds and rain I hope they are wrong.
Day 9 (Morning)
Strong SE winds roughish no chance of rowing. Shame after yesterday's good
day. The radio report say this afternoon it will moderate and change to
SW, that will be fine.
The wind got stronger throughout the day a lot of pumping all wet. No hot
food or drink today.
Fog strong westerly, rowing was very hard trying to keep stern to wind so I
removed the flag pole and 14 inch radar reflector and moved a 5 Gall Jerry
can to the stern, it worked a treat, best days rowing yet. In couple of
days my hands will be fine, don't know about the bum.
Very Strong SW wind, rain very hard rowing 10 on one oar one on the other,
when it stopped raining, down came the fog everything soaked otherwise I am
in the pink. I heard on the radio that Tom is done very well and hopes to
cross in about 50 days, go for it Tom.
I was bitterly cold last night my clothes were wet, sleeping bag wet, it
took hours to warm up today started well with a nice westerly and fog that
cleared up by 8.30, good rowing, the fog returned midday and it got very
cold. At 4 it dawned on me that I had some thermal underwear it was rather
an ordeal to strip of and put it on, I thought something was going to fall
off. What a c*** I am.
This morning a very high wind from the north and rough seas. I was unable
to hold the QE3 on any sort of course, so decided to wait for a change in
wind direction. It did change about 4 in the afternoon but then the boat
must have been swamped a dozen times, water everywhere including the cabin.
The boat has got a list to starboard, I have checked the chains in the
cabin and they haven't moved I shall check those in the bows when the
weather allows. I have balanced the boat with the Jerry cans of water.
I am reading "Moby Dick" very good too. I have just heard on the radio
Richard Branson (crossing Atlantic in Ballon)has made it good for him, poor Cameron.
Smashing day, slight breeze from the north but good rowing sun all day.
The sea is green instead of black. I hear Richard Branson didn't quit make
it so it's all down to Cameron now (crossing Atlantic in Ballon).
As I am writing this there is a whale blowing about half mile away, I
haven't seen it but can hear it and see its breath , fingers crossed that it
comes closer I still haven't taken any snaps yet.
Strong easterly wind. I tried rowing into the wind.
but I just stood still so I rowed north for 3 hours but it was all
right arm stuff. I now have to wait it out.
Looked at the weather at 5am still a strong easterly and at 7 it started
raining. The sort of day to send you nuts.
Rain all day but no wind, very good rowing. I could do with a bath and a
trip to the laundrette, the cabin is starting to smell a bit ripe a whale
sounded about 30 feet from the boat this morning I grabbed a camera but he
or she didn't reappear.
Strong wind from the north high seas, I tried rowing east across the wind
but I spent more time pumping out the boat than rowing. I hope tomorrow is
Dull and overcast, little wind good rowing. Plenty of wild life today, the
first was one of those giant sharks but it was timid and didn't come very
close about a hour later three small whales came by the boat but didn't
linger although I banged on the boat and whistled. For the next hour they
passed the boat in small groups, in all there must have been about 50 or
more, they where black and cream colour. I think they were a type of large
porpoise I didn't take any photographs, as the light was u/s. It certainly
makes rowing far more interesting.
Strong west wind, rain. About 10am in the distance I saw two large black
and yellow dolphins jumping strait up into the air together they came
closer to the boat and I managed to call them over. They gave me a display
as good as you would get at any marine wildlife park. I just hope the
snaps come out ok. For there was no time to use the viewfinder, just point
and shoot very exciting.
Strong Northly wind, sea rough and wet. It was possible to crab along to
the East but it was hard wet work. The sky is still overcast with showers.
One day I shan't have to wear waterproofs. I haven't smoked for 24 hrs
Dull and overcast but no rain. Moderate to westerly. Calm sea I have seen
nothing today a bit of a disappointment as I thought things were livening
up. I did listen to the British Grand Prix. Well done Nigel (Mansel)a very
exciting race. The clouds seem to be breaking up, a little sunshine
Rain all day, rowing good no sigh of life, no fags (slang for cigarretts).
Cold wet fog all day but good rowing.
Chicken supreme for tea(evening meal) someone at Batchelors should be arrested for aiding
the enemy, it looks and tastes like chicken droppings.
Wet fog good rowing. I had a visit from about a dozen dolphins at last
light no photos.
Overcast, good rowing I have lost three bags of water I found a bit of
gravel under the floor boards, its not a big deal.
A big tanker pulled alongside around midday but he was ok for food and
water, I thought maybe he was in trouble. More dolphins in the afternoon.
No wind, overcast, good rowing no wild life, very dull, what I need is to
be attacked by "Moby Dick" anything for a bit of action.
At 7 this morning there was a hell of a row about half mile away, it was a
school of dolphins there must have been hundreds. I think they were
feeding. I tried to attract them but they made so much noise I had no
chance of being heard. 11.30 the same again, but this time a dozen whales,
one of these days things must click, cameras mostly.
Strong southerly wind and rain. What a way to spend a Sunday. I was
having my tin of beans for breakfast when I had another quick visit from
the black and cream porpoises; they are gone before you can reach a camera.
6.30 this morning a school of dolphins came around and stayed awhile.
Using the viewfinder on the camera is a waste of time. You must point the
camera and shoot, things happen to fast. Something like this really makes
my day, I just hope they come out. Rain and mist all day good rowing, no
Moderate southerly, wet and foggy. I was a hard slog going east, wet work.
At two in the morning I woke to whistling and clicking from under the
boat, porpoise, I got a camera and torch and went on deck the torch
wouldn't work so I gave up any idea of any snaps. Once I had striped the
torch down and wiped it with a T-shirt it was ok.
Strong southerly and overcast very hard rowing. My right arm is falling
off. Saw a small shark breakfast time I mean 3.
A tanker passed in the afternoon about a mile away. I doubt if they saw me
the sea was a bit up and down.
Strong southerly wind. The sea is too rough to crab along east, I am
letting the boat drift north. All's wet. I hate doing nothing.
Same as yesterday, not a hope in hell of rowing. I hope it doesn't last
too long or I shall run out of books yet again. Overcast with showers. I
have had washerwoman's hands for sometime now and my hands are sore, the
salt water gets in the cracks of the skin.
And again but rougher with rains up and down all night pumping out. I hope
I get a couple of days of sunshine when this bad spell is over to dry my
gear out. 4.30 pm the wind has moderated and is going round to the SW.
Yippee. The sea has yet to settle to the new order of things and is a
I have been rowing to the NE all day, its the nearest to east I can get the
wind is still strong. Geoff if I don't start seeing wildlife soon we shall
have enough film to last us for years overcast and showers.
Overcast and misty, light SW breeze. I rowed to the east but there was a
lot of one arm work. I have seen nothing and heard nothing all day just me
and the QE3 in a world of our own.
Light westerly breeze, misty. When the wind is in this direction I wish it
would blow gale. I am going to put my watch forward an hour last thing
tonight; I don't want to suffer from boat lag when I eventually land. Very
sore bum, many lumps and bumps.
Southwesterly wind, overcast, fog. When I get the chance I am going to try
and work my way south until I can hear Concorde and then follow its sonic
boom all the way to the English Channel, if the wind is kind. Its four
days since I last heard it, I have been taken North by this SW wind, it
shouldn't take long to get south once the wind changes. Hands cracked and
sore through being wet.
Dear Margery Proops (UK,s Dear Abbie) about 11 am last night I was relieving myself before
going to sleep when I suddenly heard an express train and then found myself
under water the trouble was the hatch to the cuddy was open and the
sleeping bag was open, I don't think I need to go on. The point is I swore
once or twice, do you think it will become a habit. Overcast rough sea,
strong SW wind. I need a couple of days of sun now.
Strong SW wind, dull and overcast all day, rain in the morning. I managed
to crab along east, but it was slow hard work. I long for a northerly, I
would hate to land in Iceland, and if I don't start to see the sun more
often I shan't have my holidays in this part of the world again.
Day 42 (1st August)
Very rough last night, very wet and no sleep. Still rough this morning and
lashing with rain, wind still from SW. I have just checked and it is 28
days since I have seen the sun, no tan this trip. My hands are cracked and
sore through being wet all the time.
Sleeping is a problem with a soaking bag, I have unzipped the bag and use
it like a blanket, and I wear my waterproofs and wellies (boots), it's not to bad.
Today the wind is a N easterly and its pissing with rain, I'm pleased about
going south not so with the west. Another water bag has leaked its not the
taps it seems to be the corner welds, not to worry, I have plenty.
Rain strong wind from the SE sea anchor out. BANJAXED. Temporary I hope.
Overcast, moderate southerly breeze, I can just about crab eastwards, I
think I shall have to use the sea anchor tonight. I am far too much to the
north I was only joking about landing in Iceland, never mind, it's in the
lap of the Gods. Sea anchor is out for tonight.
Slight wind this morning, I was able to row south, around midday the wind
strengthened still blowing north, I put the sea anchor out 2pm and did some
washing. Overcast with a wet mist.
The sun has got his hat on. Lovely day, still a gentle breeze to the north
but I can make some sort of progress to the SE. I can dry a few things and
do some washing, phew at last. I saw two large whales about 3pm, I tried t
get to them but they were moving too fast and they didn't come when I
called. B*******. I've only got dolphins; I need whales and sharks now.
Sea anchor out tonight.
Still blowing due north, I rowed for a couple of hours this morning but had
to give up, the boat wasn't moving it's like trying to tow a Spanish
galleon. Is overcast again, I had my summer yesterday just heard on the
radio that Tom is 160 miles west of Cornwall and should be home in about 5
days Great that's one up on the French. Blowing hard from the South
Sea anchor out, very strong southerly, rough sea. For five days I have
been going north, it can't last forever, can it?
This is the worst part of any trip, being helpless, not being in control
and the mind-blowing boredom. Turning in at night and praying that the
wind changes during the night. The boat is drifting north the anchor
doesn't stop all movement. Raining, it's not all doom and gloom I had a
crap and didn't get wet.
From about 2pm the wind got stronger and stronger it was the worst weather
I have ever known and the wettest. I was pumping all day water everywhere
I was pumping around ten in the evening when I happened to look behind
there was a mountain of water towering over the boat and that is the last I
knew until I surfaced about 60 foot away I thought the boat had gone but it
was behind me, I had a hell of a job getting to the boat because it had the
sea anchor out and I had to swim into the weather, there were times when I
thought I wasn't going to make it. The boat was full up with water and all
the Jerry cans and flare canisters were floating around and the oars were
over the side. I used the big bucket to bail out. The hatch on the front
blister I believe saved the boat, lots of water in there but it filled
slowly. The boat would sink like a stone because of the old anchor chain.
|Don after capsize|
|As I was bailing, my face was dripping blood
into the water, it didn'thurt.
I lost a few things. Compass and box a flare jar I thought at first
it was the jar holding exposed film, passport etc. plimsolls but it was
just biscuits and gum. After all that I had to stay up until 5 in morning
until it got a lot calmer in the morning I had a look at my face and I have
a cut above my right eye about 2 inches long, down to my skull. I shall
have to use the little silver compass. It is a lot calmer now and I am
going to get some sleep. No, good night. The rudder ropes snapped and
today I had to repair them swimming two days in a row bloody cold.
I can't find the silver compass I think it must be in a flare jar, its to
rough and wet to risk opening them everything is soaking wet, and I am very
cold and my head throbs. Sorry yesterdays report was so garbled but I was
bushed. The sea anchor has had it, worn away in may places; I moved the
chain ballast so that the boat was more even in the water. It has shifted
to one side.
I turned over about 3 hours ago, it happened slowly and then it turned back
slowly. I can't write much yet I still have a few things to do. I lost 20
galls of water so she is lighter than ever. If anything else happens I
hope I have time to put this in a container. Love to you all.
Nice calm day, good rowing. I had a check on what has been lost; it's
quicker to say what I have got. Meat packs, tins various, rice Mars bars,
I have enough to get through. The sea anchor has nearly had it. Apart
from knowing the boat can go over my main worry is the cut on my head its
very deep at least half an inch and 2 inch long, all I have is some TCP and
a bandage. Oh well could be worse.
Dull and overcast plus a few showers. It's hard to know what to write
about after the excitement. There is a stiff breeze taking me south, nice
and welcome after all the northern winds. Cuts ok so far, a bit puffy but
would be normal I suppose. A tanker passed about a mile away this evening,
first I have seen for about a month. I heard that Tom has made it. Great.
Dull and overcast showers wind SW there is pus weeping from my eye and I
don't know what the hell to do about it. I have nothing to stitch it with
and no antibiotics to keep it under control. Just keep my fingers crossed.
Rain, strong SE wind what's left of the sea anchor is out. My eye is
streaming puss; I still don't know what to do about it. The wind moved round to
the south about 3pm so I got some rowing in. It stopped raining and is now
foggy. What I miss most is coffee and tea, the water tastes foul.
Very strong southerly. Spent the day trying to crab east, wet hard work.
Last night I gave my eye a good going over with the TCP it's fine now, even
the swelling has gone. I am going to get off this boat as white as I got
on it, overcast again.
Very rough last night, no sleep, very wet, it is still the same this
morning. I hope it doesn't last to long, as it is still hard to the north.
I hear on the radio that a Frenchman has just given up. Roughly from the
same position as me, I must admit it's rather rough.
Great days rowing strong wind but right direction, cloudy. I am still
sleeping in my waterproofs under a wet sleeping bag, I have nothing to wear
on my feet, I lost them during the first excitement.
Talk about pissed off. A SE wind, sea anchor out. So near I can listen to
radio Ireland during the day it mean its not more than 250 miles to go,
less than two weeks rowing given the chance. The cut is weeping puss
again; I am using strips of T-Shirt soaked in TCP as a bandage. The last
few days the wind has been cold, my body is as white as the day I started.
1.30pm pissing down with rain and a strong wind, its mental torture.
5pm-east wind, rough and wet.
Wind from the south, strong showers. I can crab along to the NE but its
hard and wet work. The weather is not good enough to be able to get a fix,
but I think I will be going over the top of Ireland unless there is a
change in wind direction. Three tins of food had blown this morning and
another water bag has burst, that just leaves me with 19 bags as ballast
(under 380 lbs.). I lost 200lbs last week. The sea anchor has come to the
end of its life, it's a pity the 5 gall Jerry cans have gone I was going to
use them as a substitute anchor.
Great, the wind was blowing south first thing this morning; I started
rowing at 7am, the wind increased in strength all morning and the sea got
very rough. I had to row all day without a break just keeping the stern to
the waves. I didn't get anything to eat until 8pm; I wasn't going to risk
it. It rained all day of course Poor Hungerford (this refers to the
Not a bad day, wind SW showers, the wind is a southerly this evening. A
large cargo boat passed me this morning going the same way. I have been
listening to RTE all day on the radio, its clearer each day. I saw a gull
(seagull) this evening.
Stiff Breeze blowing south hard wet work trying to work east but not a bad
day, a few showers. Another strange bird today, different from yesterday's
this one's greatest wish was to land on my head the cut healing nice and
clean, and closing up by itself, it must be my clean living.
Wind from the east, not very strong but enough to stop me in my tracks.
It's cloudy with a touch of sun now and again, so I shall try drying out
some of the gear and hope the wind changes soon. 1 pm wind the same. Rain.
Moral is rock bottom. Strong easterly wind for the second day, if it
stopped now it would take two more days to get back to square one even with
a westerly; 4 days wasted. It's partly boredom; I've read all the books
(twice) the food is boring, I have no tea and coffee or spices to jazz up
the meat packs. It,s the that knowledge that the boat isn't all it's cracked up to be
especially now so much ballast has been lost and that it would turn over
more easy. But most of all it's the utter boredom of the brain. You
cannot row the boat in any other direction than that of the wind. If you
have the sea anchor out the boat rides at right angles to the oncoming sea.
By gum I feel better for getting that off my chest. I feel like some
beans now. 2.00 pm Wind blowing to the north. I had a very rough fix on
Dublin this morning and it looks as though I am going to miss Ireland, I
shall have to get one (a fix with sextant) when it's calmer between Dublin and Glasgow.
Terrible day, big seas, high wind, rain but its blowing south, it was very
hard work trying to get a bit east. I wish I had something to put on my
feet, I lost it all when we went over, its cold and my toes have salt-water
sores and they itch like mad at nightime. When I land I shall need a hand
to get these waterproofs off, I've forgotten how.
Bad night, rough wet and windy. Wind very strong to the south, the waves
are 100 times from crest to crest. This afternoon the wind went round to
the east, it just won't settle. RTE say it should be a westerly tomorrow,
fingers crossed. I almost forgot, cloudy and showers.
It was a westerly breeze and we had three hours sunshine this afternoon,
one of the best days rowing yet. If the weather stays fine I should land
in 3 or 4 days, I'm picking up RTE, FM loud and clear, it doesn't have much
of a range. They say we might get some sun tomorrow, it's a bit late now.
Dull, overcast, breezy, a day to make your bum sore, but a westerly.
Reception of FM on the radio wasn't as good as yesterdays', probably just
one of those things. It seems the wind should be ok for tomorrow, YIPPEE.
Good day for rowing, little wind, the God of behind's smiled on mine today.
I hope the weather holds by that I mean wind direction if it does I reckon
about 2 days. 9.30 pm I'm there, just went out for a piss, there is a
lighthouse flashing away.
The lights I saw last night was a fleet of fishing boats, there is a fair
bit of coast traffic but the bad news is the wind today is a SE and its
forecast to last 24 hours, it doesn't matter to much, not much could be
done over a holiday weekend. Never mind. 1.30 pm Easterly force for sea
anchor out. Tomorrow's weather report is not good at all; wind is all
wrong, going out to sea again.
Cloudy, wind from south getting along to the NE. I counted 11 trawlers
going up and down at 1 this morning and me without a radar reflector; I
sleep very lightly, one ear open for an engine getting to close. The
weather is supposed to be from the northwest tomorrow. It's nice to be
I got a good sight between Cork and Dublin and I have about 50 miles to go.
On the chart it looks as though you should see it until you look at the
size of the Isle.of.Wight. and that's about 30 miles long. The fly in the
ointment is the weather tomorrow, rain, wind force 5 SE, I shan't swear
until tomorrow. Cooker No. 2 has given up the game the top is corroded to
the bottom, it took me half an hour to get them apart with clove oil, the
thread has gone. Evening, forecast is now for gales.
Irish trawler pulled alongside asked if I was ok and told me about the
weather, force & gales later today. I am just 80 miles from Gallway Bay so
I must stick this last nasty and hope we don't turn over. I shall now
screw this log into the jar and hope to make another entry tomorrow. Shit
They say gale force 9 now 8.00 pm.
UPDATE storm force expected, the boat won't survive. I love you all x x x
x x x
Written on 2 loose sheets
torn from a paperback edition of 'The Incredible
|click here to read Geoff Allum's biography of Don||Don at Dooagh Ireland|
|click here for an ORS map of Don's above row (small map) (large map)|
© Geoff Allum
© Ocean Rowing Society 2000