Meeting Manx lawyer Andrew Baker in a bar at Lagos Marina last November was a happy accident because we soon discovered we shared an interest in rowing. Andrew is a big friendly bear of a man who exudes cheerful sociability, quick to laugh and share a beer. So it was a surprise when he pointed out an odd-looking craft alongside the dock and told me that he was about to embark on a solo row across the Atlantic, from Lagos to Barbados via the Canaries. He seemed the antithesis of the hardened, steely-eyed solo adventurer.
The voyage was still a dream – though several years in the making – as he sat chatting to clients in his legal practice, half his mind faraway on the ocean. Approaching 40, Andrew felt a need to do something dramatic and testing before he embarked on life’s more standard journey of marriage and family.
To provide a focus, Andrew engaged with several sponsors, the main one being Reach IOM, a charity dedicated to helping young people overcome the social stigma of discussing mental health issues. Mindful Walks, run by the Manx Wildlife Trust, organises tours designed and led by guides who are trained ‘mind’ coaches. The challenge of a prospective 90 days alone on the ocean connected with these charities because the isolation and loneliness in the hostile environment of an ocean requires tremendous strength of mind. Scotty is not there to beam you up.