After major logistical and legal nightmares - largely revolving around trying to get a boat trailer bought in Antigua street-legalised in the US - my boat Sedna has at long last arrived at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, Florida. I still haven't seen her, as I'm 3500 miles away on the West Coast. The report on her condition from MOSI is as follows:
"The interior of the cockpit was covered in tree debris and water. We have vacuumed all the water out and are working at cleaning the tree 'crud' from the fiberglass surfaces. It may have stained the surfaces a little.
As you may know, the boat does not sit well on this trailer and it actually has rotated a little and is not sitting 'flat'. I don't know what stresses that is putting on the hull..."
I'm still finalising my schedule for the next few months, but chances are that the first time I'll see Sedna will be at the end of March. Given that there have been no reports of major structural damage, I'm optimistic that we can have her shipshape in plenty of time for my July launch date.
So I'm not panicking yet. I was already expecting her to be rusty, mouldy, and to need an entirely new electrical system. I'm hoping that the rest of her problems are nothing that a good clean-up and a lick of paint won't solve.
In the meantime, I would like to hereby give thanks where thanks are due. I am forever indebted for the huge and generous contribution of time and effort by Scott Stemm, the brother of a friend of a friend, whom I've never even met. It is due to the kindness of strangers such as Scott that crazy expeditions like mine are made possible. If you ever feel jaded about human nature, I would highly recommend embarking on an ambitious adventure - it absolutely brings out the best in your fellow man (and woman). I am constantly amazed at the generosity and altruism of people who have nothing to gain other than the possibility of profuse thanks and a bit of reflected glory - and of course, a mention on my website. Thanks, Scott - and to Greg his brother, and also to Josh and Daniel Sampiero who retrieved Sedna from hock in the port of Miami. I look forward to meeting these two pairs of brothers when I make it over to Florida, and saying thank you face-to-face.
Wow. If I was ever under any illusions that rowing an ocean was hardcore, check out what these guys have just accomplished... running 4000 miles across the Sahara Desert, running up to 50 miles a day. Phew.
In Seattle on Monday I had a meeting with Bob Pavia from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - also known as NOAA. (Someone did comment, when they heard I was going to be meeting Noah, 'I didn't know he was still around.')
Spurning Seattle-based Starbucks, We met somewhere much better - Zoka's Coffee Shop - to discuss my environmental message for the Pacific row: the huge problem of marine plastic pollution.
'While you're here,' Bob said, 'You should try and meet Curtis Ebbesmeyer, the guy who tracked the Nike trainers when they went overboard from a container ship. He lives just a few blocks away.' A quick Google or two turned up a phone number, and Curtis came to meet me in Zoka's.
The photo shows us poring over a map of the world, on which Curtis has marked the huge 'Garbage Patches' - the areas in the centre of ocean gyres where rubbish accumulates. My route from San Francisco to Hawaii will take me past the Great Northern Garbage Patch - an area roughly four times the size of Texas. Curtis estimates that the patch holds around 200 shipping containers and 50 deserted yachts as well as discarded refrigerators and TV's.
During my row I will be logging any sightings of debris, including a GPS position. I will need to see this with my own eyes. It sounds awful almost beyond belief.
After a month away I'm back in the US. I nearly wasn't. I was stuck in US Immigration for about two hours yesterday, trying to persuade them not to deport me. Due to complicated travel plans over Christmas (during which a return ticket didn't get used), plus an administrative oversight, I had arrived in the US without a return ticket as required under the visa waiver scheme. Oops.
Luckily I ran into a nice immigration official rather than a not-so-nice one, and once I'd booked my one-way ticket back to the UK for May, I was allowed in. If I'd been less lucky, I could have been sent straight home and not allowed back in for 5 years, which would have thrown a major spanner in the works for my Pacific row. It was a close shave. Phew. Note to self to get longer-term visa sorted as soon as possible.
A huge amount happened last week in the UK. I had about 18 different appointments, and met with well over 100 people. Far too much to tell here, but here are a few photos to give you a quick overview of the last 8 days.
Ian Clover (who was such a help to me when I arrived in Antigua last March at the end of the Atlantic Rowing Race) gives me a refresher course in astro-navigation, including how to use a sextant (that weird-looking contraption in his hand). Also on the course was Sarah Outen, who plans to row solo across the Indian Ocean in 2009. Thanks to Jon Mendez for the use of his boat as a floating classroom.
With Geoff Holt, who sets out in May to sail single-handed around the coast of the UK - an incredible feat, considering he is quadriplegic. Ian Clover will be his support boat skipper and general project manager. Inspiring stuff.
With Cdr David Williams at HMS Drake in Plymouth, where I was the after-dinner speaker on Friday night at a formal dinner for 120 past and present Naval officers and their wives. A successful and highly enjoyable evening- a lot more fun than my previous encounter with the Royal Navy!
Stevie Smith, who currently runs the passenger ferry in Salcombe, crossed the Atlantic and the San Francisco-Hawaii route of the Pacific using pedal-power. I met him in Salcombe to find out more. He tells me that he found the Pacific much more pleasant than the Atlantic, with longer waves and more consistent weather systems. I do hope that my experience echoes his...
And finally... Ouch! Toenails are toast after descent from Kilimanjaro.