21 Jul 2005, Emsworth
This is Tim Gilmore of Dolphin Quay Boatyard, where Solo will live while Tim's men and I get her ready for the ocean. As luck would have it they've worked on an ocean rowing boat before - David Pearce's Petrel - so Solo couldn't be in better hands.
Another Tim - Tim Davies of Simrad - rang this afternoon to say they've got my new marine instruments ready for me, and they're going to get them all wired up on a demo bench so I can see how it all works before tackling the installation myself. These instruments will tell me my position, speed, course, wind direction - figures that will be of all-consuming importance during the race, with the power to cause elation or depression.
Speaking of depression, earlier today I was feeling rather despondent after a particularly negative comment from someone at the yacht club. On hearing about my timescales and how much still needs to be done, he said, 'Crikey, I'd be panicking if I were you.' Not very helpful. 'Well, it's just as well you aren't me, then,' I said, and absented myself before he could further dent my morale. Comments like that we don't need.
Progress isn't linear. I grind away for days and weeks with little evident progress, then in the space of a few hours there's a sudden surge of activity and everything falls into place. Onwards and upwards!
19 Jul 2005, Emsworth
Photo: Roz receiving a brace of VHF radios from Jeremy Harrison (right) and Tim Davies (left) of Simrad
The observant may have noticed that my boat floats very high in the water - almost ON the water. This is because she has absolutely nothing on board, but that situation is being rapidly rectified... boxes full of strange gadgets and gizmos arriving almost daily. Dining room filling up rapidly, and bank account emptying equally rapidly. First Direct were on the phone to me today to check nobody had stolen my credit card - it was suddenly taking such a pounding.
The good news for my bank manager is that I got an exciting new sponsorship deal with Simrad on Friday - they'll be supplying me with my VHF radios - fixed and handheld. The best things in life are free...
11 Jul 2005, Emsworth
Alby McCracken of Para-Anchors Australia rang this morning, replying to my e-mail asking about these essential items in the ocean rower's armoury. He sounded remarkably cheery, considering it was 9pm in Australia and he was still at work.
We've arranged to meet at the Southampton Boat Show in September to discuss the ins and outs of para-anchors - a large fabric parachute that I trail from the bow of my boat into the sea, to stop me being blown too far backwards if the winds turn against me.
Seems I'm going to have a truly internationally-equipped boat - kangaroo skin gloves and oars from Oz, biltong from South Africa, homeopathic remedies from New Zealand, iTrip from the USA, and what no ocean rower should be without - an alpaca-skin seat cover from Peru. Sheepskin? - pah!
10 Jul 2005, Emsworth
Porridge with mashed strawberries and salted cashew nuts may sound a bit weird, but it's a surprisingly acceptable low-GI alternative to my previous preferred option - porridge with banana, dried apricots and demarara sugar. Maybe this new eating regime isn't going to be as tough as I imagined. Quite fancy a coffee though, and that's definitely off-limits.
The principle underlying my new diet is to moderate the fluctuations in my blood sugar levels. By avoiding caffeine and refined sugar, and moderating alcohol intake, the objective is to maintain more consistent energy levels. In the long term this should also lead to leaner body mass, as the body isn't confused by sugar crashes into thinking it's starving and has to lay down reserves of fat. I've just hit half a stone over my ideal weight, and no, it isn't muscle - unless the muscle is extremely relaxed and centred around my midriff.
I don't believe in diets in the sense of a short-term bikini-motivated fad, followed by a return to the eating habits that created fat in the first place. But if by eating differently I can enhance my energy levels and improve my longevity, I'm all in favour.
So let's see how the GI goes. If it's good enough for Kylie, it's good enough for me. But the proof of the pudding, so to speak, is in the eating.