I have done four presentations in the last week, and am starting to really get the hang of it. Last night's event at the Davis Island Yacht Club was one of my best to date, and I was immensely flattered to receive a standing ovation. I was also awarded with a framed declaration from the US Rowing Association, recognizing my 'achievements' - I think I might show it to the Leander Club (mischievous wink...).
Now it is time to stop the talking and start driving once again. Today Sedna and I leave Tampa to start driving westwards towards San Francisco.
I've made a lot of friends during my brief time in Florida, and am already looking forward to coming back here again. So much world, and so little time...
[Photo: Sedna leaving the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa]
A huge thank you to Nick and all the guys at Continental Trailers, who donated a day's work and assorted spare parts to get Sedna's trailer roadworthy in time for her trip across the States from east coast to west, and thank you to George Knutsson for co-ordinating this magnificent and generous effort.
The trailer had been bought on my behalf in Antigua at extortionate cost, but was not well-suited to its purpose. Sedna did not sit squarely on the supports and had shifted in transit between Miami and here, the lights didn't work properly, and the wheelguards had been removed so a stone could have flicked up at the hull and damaged it. All these faults have now been rectified, plus a few other enhancements besides, so Sedna now sits rock-solid and safe.
Yet again I am hugely indebted to people I've never even met, but without whose generosity and kindness I couldn't even attempt to do what I do. And yet again Sedna gets to go places and meet people that I've never seen...
[Photo: the Continental Trailers guys with Sedna]
Yesterday I was reunited with my ocean rowboat, Sedna Solo. I hadn't seen her for over a year, since I left Antigua one week after finishing the Atlantic Rowing Race.
She'd had a few adventures in the meantime, dawdling through the Caribbean, and I really didn't know what kind of shape she would be in - especially after her boatnapping in Antigua.
Just before noon I arrived at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, which has been her home for the last month, and the curator took me into the hall where she was on display. It was an emotional moment when I caught my first glimpse of her - still looking splendid after all this time, her 'Voyage' stickers still vibrantly rainbow-coloured against her silver paintwork.
Once I clambered on board I soon stopped being emotional and went back into practical mode, composing a mental list of all the work that needs to be done. Her deck paint is in a very sorry and discoloured state, the steering mechanism is entirely rusted up, and up close her silver paintwork looked very scratched and scuffed. I opened up a few hatches, releasing a strong whiff of mould and freeze-dried food. I took a quick look at the watermaker, and it seems my 'pickling' process has worked as I couldn't see any green stuff growing in there. I haven't investigated the electrical system yet, but I am assuming it will have to be entirely replaced as saltwater corrosion has probably been having its wicked way during her prolonged stay in the tropics.
So I am going to have my work cut out to get her seaworthy and beautiful again by July. But where there's a will there's a way...
[photo: George the trailer saviour, me, and Dave Conley of MOSI]
Yesterday I had a great training session on the rowing machine in the well-appointed gym at Woodberry Forest School and then hit the road again. I am now in South Carolina on my way to Tampa, Florida.
Tomorrow I will be reunited with my boat at the Museum of Science and Industry, who have also arranged for me to do a number of media interviews (including Channel 10) and presentations. Driving south has been like putting the arrival of spring on fast forward - the trees are now a bright spring green and the weather is getting rapidly warmer.
Good news arrived yesterday - a very nice man called George (a friend of a friend of a brother of a friend) spent his whole day fixing my trailer up so a) it is now roadworthy and b) it holds Sedna securely in place so she won't shift in transit between Tampa and San Francisco. (See my earlier blog on this.)
I had to arrange some repairs of my own yesterday. Quackers' air conditioning stopped working. It was 81F in Virginia and I was wilting in the heat, so facing Florida, Louisiana and Texas without aircon was out of the question. Aircon may not be environmentally friendly (it increases fuel consumption as well as involving unfriendly chemicals) but I'll make up for it by spending the summer in my very UN-air-conditioned boat.