I survived! Obviously. This is me after the final dunking - the one in pitch darkness. And no, I'm not being sick - am just trying to get the water out of my nose.
It wasn't exactly my idea of fun - in fact I'd been dreading it. Way back in June, when Cdr Mike Pearey first suggested I might like to do the Royal Navy's underwater escape training, it seemed like a good idea - useful skill to have, and a personal challenge. But as the time grew nearer I was getting cold feet.
I'm no water baby - I'm the sort of person who holds their nose to jump into a pool - and I definitely prefer to be attached to a scuba tank when underwater.
But BBC Radio Solent were all lined up to record the event, so there was no wimping out. The consolation was that at least their reporter, Jo Palmer, would be keeping me company. Or so I thought.
In the car on the way to Yeovilton she came up with the pathetic excuse that she's pregnant. 'Shame - I'd been really looking forward to doing the dunking.' After watching the training video, though, she'd changed her mind - 'Actually quite relieved I'm NOT doing it.' Yeah, thanks!
The video had got me freaked out too - it showed a Robbie Williams lookalike repeatedly adopting the brace position and grappling with seatbelts of increasing complexity, including one with 5 straps that looked almost impossible to undo.
But as with so many things, the reality wasn't as bad as the anticipation. My seatbelt had a mere 2 straps. And I had an escape window to myself, so no waiting around underwater for others to exit first. It could be that the Navy were giving me an easy ride, but I'd prefer to think it was just a more realistic simulation of my solo situation on the boat.
I even got 5 dunkings for the price of 4, as somebody forgot to undo their seatbelt before trying to make good their escape, so we had to repeat the second run. Thank god it wasn't ME that cocked it up.
The staff at the dunker were brilliant. As they said, the object of the exercise was to build our confidence that we could handle a ditching situation - not to scare us or drown us. The briefing was thorough (if rather scary) and the Navy's frogmen kept a close eye on what was happening in the dunker. At the end of the session I did indeed feel more confident in my ability to handle a potentially scary situation.
I found to my immense relief that once we were in the pool I was so focused on what needed to be done, I didn't have time to be scared. I hope that I'll react the same way if things get a bit hairy in mid-Atlantic - that I'll focus on surviving, and only allow myself to consider how much danger I was in once it's over.
I'm starting to feel quite the local celebrity. While the Sedna Solo has been at Dolphin Quay Boatyard there has been a steady stream of visitors dropping by to enquire what the purpose of this strange-looking boat might be. The other day someone even asked me for my autograph. It's a small kind of fame, and rather fun. This is me with Thomas and Edward Richardson, in a photo taken by their father.
I'm looking forward to next weekend's Emsworth Food Festival, when I'll be proudly showing off the newly-completed SS. Or HOPEFULLY completed. She still looks like a building site, but Richard Uttley confidently assures me that all boats look like that until the eleventh hour.,,
Chris Eubank may or may not be able to confirm as keynote speaker at my party, but either way I'm glad I had the chance to meet him. And he gave me a lift to the station in his Humvee - cool!
The meeting was set up through a mutual friend, who gave me Chris Eubank's number and told me to give him a call. Nervous or what?! We had a brief initial chat on the phone, and Chris asked me to call him on Thursday to confirm. On Thursday I couldn't get through. 'No, you won't', said Mutual Friend. 'He's in court. Call him this evening'.
Come the evening, and I was working late at the boatyard installing electrics with Robert Tait from 7E Communications. I rang my mother to find out the verdict. Absolute discharge, but 6 points on his licence and GBP450 costs.
I made the call. 'I won't keep you long', I said, 'I know you've had a trying day.' Robert cracked up. Oh no, unintentional pun. Doh! Fortunately Mr Eubank didn't notice my gaffe. We arranged to meet at what turned out to be a very chic hotel in Brighton. He was running late, but left me a message to let me know. I thought famous people reserved the right to turn up offensively late without feeling the need for explanation or apology, so I was impressed.
I'd been going through agonies trying to decide what to wear to meet Britain's Best Dressed Man, and in the end had to settle for the only outfit that fits after my startlingly successful pre-race podge-up. He turned up immaculate in slacks and tight-fitting t-shirt, still vee-shaped and powerfully toned.
We talked about the party, and he asked a lot of questions about my row. We ended with him saying he wants to help, but needs to check his diary. Then Mr Eubank left the building.
I gathered up my things and followed. His Humvee was still parked outside. I smiled in the general direction of the dark tinted windows. A window glided down. 'Where are you going?' 'The station.' 'Would you like a lift?' WOULD I???!!!
The conversation on the way through Brighton was less formal, more interesting. More Chris Eubank, fighter and philosopher. Just before we parted he recited the code of the warrior, which sounded like a quote but I think was probably his own. I wish I'd had a voice recorder running, because I don't have it word perfect and I don't want to misquote him. But anyway, it made me more sure than ever that he'd be the perfect speaker for my party. Really hope he can make it.
Also hope he doesn't get any more points on his license. Would be a shame to see the Humvee languishing long term in the garage.
An evening this is like a soothing balm to my itchy feet. How could I possibly wish to be anywhere other than England on a perfect summer evening?