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Rower Sally heads for islands (the easy way)

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Sally Kettle’s friends could not understand why she was nervous about heading out to make a film about St Helena and its sister islands.

After all, she is no stranger to the Atlantic Ocean: she has rowed across it twice.

Sally's adventures are described in a book
Sally’s adventures are described in a book

This time – even with a detour via Tristan da Cunha – the voyage aboard the RMS St Helena promised to be considerably more comfortable. With no shark attacks to worry about.

Maybe the nervousness was something to do with the fact that she only got signed up for the trip – and her first job as a TV presenter – a few days before departure.

She made the admission in a brief chat with St Helena Online, just before joining Governor Mark Capes aboard the RMS for – probably – its last-ever voyage to Tristan da Cunha.

Sally contacted the site in search of advice, and suggestions of people to talk to about Saint culture for the film. “It’s a travelogue looking at life and wildlife on the islands,” she said.

“No – not rowing there this time.”

The island odyssey is but the latest in a series of adventures that have included rowing across the Atlantic twice – the second time, with her mother.

They claimed the record for the fastest crossing by a mother-and-daughter team.

She described one of the crossings on her website:

“We faced horrendous conditions, huge seas, ferocious winds, and rain for a month. We also struggled with injuries, which led to one of the team leaving the boat and disqualifying us from the race. It was an emotional rollercoaster but we pulled together and against the odds (no rudder, a shark attack and a broken water-maker) we still crossed the finish line.

“I’ve never spent so much time in pain! From blisters to sciatica, constant muscle pain to overwhelming exhaustion, I was in pain 24 hours a day. Having said that, we made it across and arrived with smiles on our faces!”

Things were already proving challenging when the shark struck:

“Our rudder was stripped from the back of the boat by a huge wave. We jerried up a rudder with T shirts and a bucket at the end of it. And guess what? A great big shark decided to come and eat it.”

In May 2010, Sally joined the crew of a yacht in the Clipper Round the World Race, sailing between Jamaica and the UK via New York and Nova Scotia. She wrote:

“My own race had it’s fair share of disasters – a dismasting, a grounding, several injuries, a couple a which were very serious – in fact I dislocated a toe and fractured my thumb (off the back end of the Isle of White, how exotic!).”

Sally’s website says she has raised more than half a million pounds for charity.

She travelled to Padang in Sumatra with a response team from the International Shelterbox charity, handing out tents to some of the 250,000 families affected by a devastating earthquake.

She has also retraced the footsteps of WW2 Resistance heroine Nancy Wake in a demanding trek across the Pyrenees too – and yes, she’s taking her walking boots to St Helena.

She broke the news that she had landed her first TV presenting job (“Eeek!”) on the internet messaging site, Twitter, only nine days before setting off.

sally tweet job

sally tweet airportsally tweet scaredSome of Sally’s adventures are related in a book, Sally’s Odd at Sea (“Think Bridget Jones meets Moby Dick”).

As well as writing and presenting, she has qualified as a personal trainer and works as a motivational speaker.


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