After nine months at sea a group of female adventurers have completed one of the toughest expeditions on the planet – rowing more than 9,200 miles across the Pacific Ocean.

The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco.

The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco. Image by Jeff Gunn / CC BY 2.0

The Coxless Crew set out on their journey from San Francisco in April, when they sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge and pointed Doris, their pink 29ft boat, towards Australia. Shortly before 1am on Monday, after 257 days of enduring storms, enormous waves, sea sickness and the odd attack of flying fish, the four women nosed Doris’s faded bow into the Marlin Marina at Cairns to be greeted by their proud families and friends. There was jubilation as Laura Penhaul, Natalia Cohen, Emma Mitchell and Meg Dyos hugged each other before joining hands and taking their first unsteady steps onto solid ground for more than three months.

Sitting down for a well-earned beer in front of scores of people who cheered them ashore, the women were all grins as they described their expedition and arrival as “an overwhelming experience”. But there were conflicting emotions as they said goodbye to Doris, whose cramped cabins and salty deck have been their home for three quarters of a year.

Satellite image of the Great Barrier Reef

Satellite image of the Great Barrier Reef Image by eutrophication&hypoxia / CC BY 2.0

Their final few days on the waves were spent negotiating the Great Barrier Reef and dodging dive-bombing boobie birds, and with conditions conspiring against them and supplies dwindling fast they had to dig deep to finish the last few miles. Despite taking three months longer than planned the expedition has set two world records, the women becoming the first all-female team and the first team of four to row the Pacific.

During their expedition the crew:

:: Rowed at least 8,000 nautical miles, or 9,206 miles – more than a third of the Earth’s circumference. The true distance, measured by equipment on the boat rather than by satellite estimates, could be hundreds of miles more.

:: The first leg, San Francisco to Hawaii, was at least 2,641 miles; the second, Hawaii to Samoa, at least 3,074 miles; the last leg, Samoa to Cairns, was at least 2,957 miles. They also rowed at least 534 miles on a first leg that was aborted when water damaged the boat’s battery charging system.

:: Spent 257 days at sea – 84 days on the first stage, including 16 days for the aborted attempt; 96 days on stage two; and 77 on stage three.

:: Enjoyed around 512 ocean sunrises and sunsets.

:: Lived aboard a pink 29ft, 1.5-tonne boat called Doris, a Greek baby name meaning “gift” and also the daughter of Oceanus and mother of the sea nymphs the Nereids in Greek mythology.

:: Ate on average three meals of dehydrated food a day – around 770 meals each of freeze-dried chicken noodles, curries or spaghetti Bolognese, supplemented by protein bars, chocolate, nuts and porridge.

:: Burned 5,000 calories each a day – roughly the same as running two marathons every 24 hours, or more than 510 26.2-mile races over the entire expedition.

:: Rowed in pairs for 12 hours a day, in two hour sessions – about 3,080 hours each in total, the same as rowing non-stop for 128 days.

:: Slept approximately six hours each a day, napping for 1.5 hours at a time.

:: Endured gales, storms, waves as high as three-storey buildings and temperatures up to 40C (104F) and as low as 12C (53.6F).

:: Suffered sea sickness, sunburn, salt and pressure sores and hands that stiffened into claw shapes from pulling the oars for so long.

:: Saw humpback whales yards from their boat, pods of dolphins, schools of mahi-mahi dolphinfish, a sea snake, at least one albatross and two sharks they christened Eduardo and Fernando which followed their boat.

:: Dodged scores of flying fish – though they were often caught out and ended up bruised and battered with dazed fish floundering on Doris’s deck.

:: Spotted little other human life on the ocean – a few cargo ships, the odd passenger boat, a couple on a yacht and another ocean rower, John Beeden, who set his own record for a solo Pacific crossing just before New Year.

:: Enjoyed pancakes cooked on the deck by the Sun’s rays, using a Coxless Crew postcard to flip them.

:: Adorned Doris with fairy lights and a mini tree for Christmas, even smuggling aboard a Christmas cake.

(Press Association)