14 March 2013
I last wrote two days ago some 87 miles from Port St Charles and a lot has happened since then. I'll go back to my final approach as the wind built on the penultimate day and my last night at sea was in fact one of the most worrying as the waves got bigger and the wind got stronger, coming from just off my starboard side. I was incredibly tired which probably made it worse, but as dawn broke on 13th March, I had covered good miles during the night and knew I would get in that day. The wind was now a steady 16 knots, but the waves were even bigger, so surfing was again the main course for the coming hours. The sky was mixed with dark squall clouds and light puffy ones mixed with the sun which was more comfortable and I wasn't worried about re-charging the battery as I wouldn't need power for any more nights. My main concern was holding a steady course with the wind behind as I approached the final 15 miles to the North Point. No room for error here, so fairly nail biting stuff. But then the wind dropped which slowed the boat and rowing became so hard as the waves were mixing the sea all up without enough pressure to keep promoting surfing for me. The last hours were so difficult in that I was exhausted, but now had to put in every ounce of energy to keep the boat on a steady course, to run over the breakers in a shallow patch north of the reef and to then alter course to run more south down towards the Arawak Jetty with an offshore wind blowing across my quarter. Brian Wells, with Billy and some fellow crew members on board met me at North Point in a Sports Fisherman to guide me to Port St Charles and thank the Lord they were there and that it was daylight. I am so glad I approached this last leg in daylight as the wind increased again later in the evening and perish the thought of coming in or trying to come in just 12 hours later! I really don't think I would have made it into PSC without a tow as the offshore wind would have then been too strong to fight. The most amazing thing happened just one minute after I finished at 1738....Eddie WO burnt out and seized up, sending me into a 360 degree turn and setting all the alarms off. Alarming! How lucky was I to have this happen then and not just hours beforehand! So in the end, Majestic with Devonish at the Helm threw me a line and towed me the last few hundred metres (after the finish!) into the Port St Charles Yacht Club where there was a fantastic reception party ready to greet me.........
...and there was my wife Emma looking to me from 100 meters away! She kept that a secret, but as I was brought alongside, out of the swimming pool on the waterfront, popped my two little boys, James and Freddie. I couldn't hold my tears back and the flood gates erupted as I was re-united with my them. Then I realised there were so many other people I knew from Burnham there, Tony Allen, John Barker to name a few. I stepped ashore and all behind me was forgotten, my exhaustion, my journey and my thoughts as for the next few hours we all had a jolly good time, beer flowing, fantastic cooking from the kitchens and many kind words and laughs. Billy then announced that The Sun had pulled out all stops and extended their support by flying my family out and covering our accommodation for 10 days. I just have to say this was the icing on the cake to what has been a massive campaign for me which ended in success.
That evening, Billy, Rosie and the four of us walked to our Villa and I had the biggest, longest shower one could imagine, a quick shave and off we went to a lovely beach side restaurant where I has a shrimp cocktail and a Medium rare steak and a few Mountgay and tonics! I ended up in bed about midnight and for the first time in 35 days, as I lay down to close my eyes, I heard nothing. No autopilot motor going to and fro like a the sound of cows moo-ing. No crashing waves smashing the side. No bubbly noises running down the side of the hull and no wind whistling about the hatch or the cabin area....and no movement. Although I nodded off within minutes, I was up again five hours later and quietly went downstairs, turned on the computer, turned on my mobile phone, drank lots of tea and started catching up on all my unanswered emails, texts and missed calls etc. Life was back to normal as I started to become in touch with all I left behind and I must say one of the wonderful things about being at sea......it is just you, the boat and the wilderness and basic communications! Now I'm back in the 24/7 rush hour of life and it seems to have speeded up even more.
As for the World record attempt? It was successful. I dreamed of being the first person to break 40 days to cross the Atlantic solo rowing, but with a perfect timing to my start date and excellent weather for most of my journey, with the best equipment I could possibly have and the backing and support from my sponsors, an excellent training programme and the re-fuelling of energy from receiving all the goodwill messages from all my supporters, the team behind me.............WE SMASHED IT! 35 DAYS AND 33 MINUTES. As I wrote in the last blog of my last rowing campaign....JOB DONE!
There is much to tell about some of the things that will change in my life as a result of this particular journey.