First man to row the black sea - on borrowed time

Firefighter Scott Butler, who works on white watch at Wokingham, Berkshire, relishes new experiences so much he set himself a challenge to do something new every single day for a year.

He permed his hair, rode a camel, fired a gun (at a gun range), tried food he had never previously tasted and has even done “extreme ironing” (for a definition of this go to among many others.

Then, 21 days short of the end of the challenge, he crashed his speedway motorbike. “You can never predict how things will turn out,” says the 35 year old.

But the crash did not stop him from carving out a really big adventure. He cycled across Europe to Bulgaria, rowed across the Black Sea and then climbed the highest peak in Europe, Russia’s Mount Elbrus.

“I saved up all my time off to make this epic adventure,” says Scott, who cycled for 18 days, rowed for 29 days and climbed for another 10.

He set up to promote the event. It worked. He raised more than £5k for charitable causes including the Fire Fighters Charity.

Scott, who is the first person ever to row the width of the Black Sea, admitted he sometimes “fell asleep at the oars” due to fatigue.

He recalls: “It’s hard at night because you can’t time your oars with the waves in the dark, so I rowed for 16 hour shifts with 15 minute breaks and slept at night.

“I would finish for the day and have a cigar, then look up at the clear skies. In the morning the dolphins would be swimming around while I had breakfast. It was incredible.”

The weather on the Black Sea can change in the blink of an eye. “I’d be admiring the view, and then a vast wall of black rain and cloud would be coming straight at me,” says Scott.

“The sea looked like it was covered in snow, it was raining so hard. It could tip it down for 14 hours straight.”

Scott rowed an astounding 1,032 miles, not including an additional 45 miles he spent going in the wrong direction due to bad weather.

The intrepid Scott forgot to pack one critical piece of kit while preparing for his trip – his watch.

Scott’s friend firefighter Billy Taylor was there to see him off, and having himself completed many acts of derring-do for charity, Billy was sporting the rugged timepiece he had worn on his seafaring adventures.


It had been donated by Elliot Brown Watches, a specialist provider of watches that will endure all extreme weather conditions.

It was quickly handed over and survived another beating on Scott’s journey, when it was frequently under water and bashed against the boat’s oars.


Cycling through Eastern Europe towards Elbrus was hard, but with lots of “moments”.

Scott says: “The further east I went, the more friendly people were. When you get to Bulgaria, its people appreciate you’ve come a long way.

“Little things made the trip, like the old lady who came out with fresh lemonade, inviting me to sit under her tree in the shade. People spot you have a broken wheel and come back to tell you.


“It was also breathtakingly beautiful, with all the rivers, gorges and lush valleys. It took my mind off the fatigue – the cooking equipment and tent on my back weighed a lot.”

On Sunday 24 July 2016, Scott made it to the summit of Elbrus, some 5,642 metres from the base camp.

He found the thin air a challenge and the climb down was hard on his knees, but it was worth it to get to the top of the highest peak in Europe.

Scott likes extremes of all kinds, including weather. His next trip is to run 159 miles across the Sahara, which he estimates will take him seven days. This time, hopefully, he won’t forget to pack his watch.

Elliot Brown Watches have created a beautiful, functional and rugged watch exclusively for U.K. firefighters. Find out more here.

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