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Aurora sea school &


The name 'Aurora' comes from the Latin word, meaning 'Dawn', so it was an easy choice of name for a challenge and a business.


Dawn is a commercially endorsed Yachtmaster, Yachtmaster examiner and an accredited instructor in many maritime disciplines such as RYA navigation, vhf radio, RADAR, advanced powerboat and Yachtmaster to name just a few. She previously worked commercially on the water for 20 years as a police boat skipper so is no stranger to working in extreme maritime environments. 


Dawn first became involved in coastal rowing in 2014 when her home town of Burnham on Crouch set up a rowing club. Charlie Pitcher (Ocean rowing world record holder) is the president of the rowing club and founder of Rannoch Adventure. Charlie learnt about Dawn’s skills and asked her to help with an ocean rowing project in China.


Charlie said;

“Dawn had all the skills I needed in a team member to help with this project. She is just amazing"

After being a part of this project Dawn began expanding her business 'AURORA SEA SCHOOL' to help more Ocean rowers achieve their goals with both on and off the water training.

Dawn quickly realised that she could not continue to work in the Ocean Rowing Industry without taking on an ocean herself.

'ROW AURORA SOLO ATLANTIC CHALLENGE' was born in April 2018 with a start date of January 2019 in mind. 

By the 25th of February 2019 Dawn Wood was the proud owner of the title 'Ocean Rower' and a successful solo and unsupported independent row across the Atlantic ocean. 

During the past few years Dawn has continued to develop her portfolio, training many ocean rowers and planning for the next big adventure. 

She has rowed the Atlantic three times, rowed the Pacific once and has rowed hundreds of miles round the UK coast (See past expeditions for more information).

The fight to protect our planet

Dawns first Ocean Row mission was to raise awareness about ocean plastics and pollution. She raised £20,000 for the marine conservation society earning the title of fundraiser of the year. 

This problem affects every person and living creature on the planet as the discarded plastics will eventually end up in the food chain. 

Despite the fundraising effort now aimed at a new charity. Dawn continues to encourage people to reduce waste, try to be less of a throw away society and choose products that use less single use packaging in particular single use plastics. 

"If everyone makes a small change, together we can make a huge difference"

Dawn Smith

Row Aurora's chosen charity for the Pacific 2023

5 years ago, Dawns friend Sara was sitting in an assessment ward waiting for her Oncologist to visit to confirm that her breast cancer had come back as secondary. In the terror of those hours, she concluded she couldn’t be unique and there must be others needing support. A Google search came up with nothing in the four south eastern counties of the UK, the nearest group being South London. There was nothing else for it – she had to start one herself, but she needed help!

Sara contacted her good friend Claire and her new friend Carole to see if they would help her. They readily agreed, saying they had been desperate for a support group – it’s a very lonely journey when you don’t have anyone to talk to, openly, who completely and utterly ‘gets it’!

On 29th January 2020, after liaising with the Secondary Breast Cancer nurse at their local hospital and having patients referred to the group, they held their first meeting .

Sadly, after only two monthly coffee mornings, they had to cease meeting due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, that didn’t stop them – they had already set up a Whatsapp group to arrange meetings and have general ad-hoc chat – this became their lifeline!

Why the name ‘Big Purple Pants’? - Throughout her primary journey, whenever Sara was asked if she was okay, her standard answer was, “I have my big girl pants on and am fighting hard”. Sitting in that ward, she recalled that mantra. The purple part? Quite simply, it is her and her daughter’s favourite colour (although she checked it didn’t clash with other charity colours). Lilac is the ribbon colour for ‘all cancers’ – seemed quite apt as it can travel to anywhere once it had a mind to! Secondary breast cancer can affect anyone, so the word ‘pants’ felt quite appropriate too, being neutral and generic.

We are so proud of what we have achieved so far, and we want to continue letting it be known, that we are here for anyone who is looking for a support group with people who ‘get it’!

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