01 Mar 2005, Yorkshire
'Hello, I'm enquiring about keeping my boat in the marina over the summer.'
'What sort of boat is it?'
'An ocean rowing boat.'
(expecting usual response of hilarity and/or admiration).
'Sorry, but we don't allow rowing in the marina. The rules say all boats have to have a motor.'
(Hang on, this isn't the way the conversation is meant to go.)
'But it's an ocean rowing boat. The motor is me. That's the whole point. Even having anything that could be used as a sail is totally against the race rules.'
'But OUR rules say you have to have a motor, for safety reasons. Can't you fit an outboard to it?'
'So you want me - let me make sure I've got this right - you want me to fit an outboard engine to my ocean rowing boat? Don't you think that might strike my sponsors as being a little bit suspicious?'
'Those are our rules.'
'Well, there's my plan for the summer up in smoke. I'll have to find another boatbuilder and another place to live then.'
'Well have a think about it, and let me know if you change your mind about the outboard.'
23 Feb 2005, Hampton Court
An oxymoron, you may think - an ocean rowers' social. Surely ocean rowing has to be one of the most antisocial sports ever invented - three months of mid-Atlantic solitude. But believe me, ocean rowers make up for it the rest of the time.
Last Wednesday's get-together was organised by Chris Martin, one of the other solo entries in this year's race, former Hampton boy, and a mere stripling of 24 years old. Also present were assorted rowers (including another Hampton old boy - Jonny Searle, who won Olympic gold with his brother in the coxed pairs in Barcelona), Ken Crutchlow (president of the Ocean Rowing Society) and Iain MacAulay, a veteran of the Ray Mears survival course I did last year.
I was vaguely hoping for an early night, as I'd been up since 4am that day in order to do my training at home in Leeds, meet with Concept II in Nottingham at 7.30am, undergo sports testing at Hatfield at 10.30am, and meet a sponsor at South Mimms in the afternoon.... but inevitably the party moved from the pub to the curry house, and I ended up tottering off to bed at 1am, 21 hours after I got up. So my sleep deprivation training is already underway.
For the rest of the photos of the get-together, see http://www.oceanrowing.com/Hampton_Court_Feb2005/index.htm.
22 Feb 2005, Yorkshire
It was the crack of dawn on Sunday morning, and I was a whisker away from dashing down to London to see Dame Ellen MacArthur sail up the Thames and talk onstage at Greenwich. I'm reading her autobiography at the moment, and am impressed, awed, and inspired by her guts and determination.
But I had a four-hour ergo to do, so I decided I couldn't justify the journey. I had to settle for reading the next chapter of her book, about her voyage through the notorious Southern Ocean during the Vendee Globe.
I won't attempt to summarise what she went through down there - but the miracle is not just that she survived, but that she wanted to. Most of us would have given up the will to live and curled up to die.
It's unlikely I'll face anything quite so challenging in mid-Atlantic. There WILL be challenges, yes - maybe psychological more than physical - but if in those moments I can recall Ellen MacArthur and draw inspiration from her example, it will make my troubles seem very minor in comparison.
You're never too old to need a role model, and people like Ellen make us reconsider what we thought was humanly possible. She's an inspiration.
19 Feb 2005, Yorkshire
I remember an optimistic era (around the time of the Sinclair ZX 81) when technology was being hailed as the global panacea. More leisure time! The paperless office! Freedom from the drudgery of repetitive chores!
But instead of making us free, technology seems to have made slaves of us. A huge industry has evolved to service its every need. Far from having the paperless society, we seem to be drowning in mountains of computer-generated mailshots, and most instruction manuals are bulkier than the gadget they're instructing us about.
And have computers made our lives any less stressful? Techno-rage, techno-envy, techno-hassles - go figure.
And what has prompted this techo-rant? You've probably figured out that I've just been getting to grips with some new gadgets. I'm sure that once I've got them broken in, they'll be great. But over the course of the last week the urge to throw them in the bin / out of the window / at Bill Gates's smug smiling face has at times been almost overwhelming, as has the desire to return to a simpler age when humans were still smarter than their inventions.