Now we are four. Quackers the truck, Sedna the Boat, Suzy the (Kilimanjaro-climbing) friend and I are en route to San Francisco from Tampa - a distance almost equivalent to this summer's row from San Francisco to Hawaii. That journey will (weather permitting) take me around 75 days. This journey will, I hope, take no more than 7, so we should be on the West Coast by Saturday night.
The upgraded trailer is performing just great so far - not a wobble or a wiggle - so there is a good chance that after all her adventures Sedna will make it safely to Frisco without flying off her trailer and skidding along the freeway - my vivid but hopefully far-fetched nightmare.
[photo: L to R - Suzy, Quackers and me - Sedna hidden behind]
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]