Pending the arrival of adequate oars, it seemed as good a time as any to do some retail therapy. Manolo Blahniks? Prada? No. Musto, cargo nets and safety harness. And a quick catch-up with my one cash sponsor, the Happy Hippy Colin Habgood. And his mate Peter Lewer, seen here enjoying a fine repast in the Mariners' Restaurant at the Boat Show. Also had the chance to see the Rowgirls, similarly indulging in a spending spree on strobe lights and other such wardrobe essentials. No girl should leave home without one.
Minor crisis this week - after taking extensive advice from Howard Croker and Peter Hogden re how long my oars should be, turns out they're about 20cm too short to reach the water. And this despite extensive sessions with measuring tape and spirit level. Still not quite sure where it all went wrong (probably something to do with me being about a foot shorter than the average rower) but the main thing now is to make it all come right.
Somebody suggested that it wasn't that my oars were too short, but that the Atlantic was too low. Luckily the Americans seem to be doing their best to rectify that situation... :-). But pending greater effects from global warming, it seemed a good time to put in a call to the oar manufacturer.
I overestimated the time difference between here and Oz so when I rang Mr Croker it was 5.30am his time. To his credit he was remarkably helpful despite being awoken from his slumbers by an unhappy customer, and rapidly suggested a solution. This morning I'll be faxing over precise measurements and he'll knock up some replacement oar handles that will extend the oars by the required length.
He'll stick them in the post and with a bit of luck I'll have some functional oars in time for my sea trials starting next Thursday - seat-of-the-pants stuff, but that's becoming quite normal.
16 hours on a rowing machine can take its toll, especially on the sit-upon, as my mother would call it. Towards the end of a particularly sweaty training session it felt as if I was sitting on razor blades - and this is in my living room, before saltwater and tropical heat have been added into the equation. Fortunately Green People have come to the rescue.
My nutritionist, a mother of two, recommended their Baby Salve, as the panacea for all skin-related ills. Luckily Green People had already offered to sponsor my on-board toiletries, so one quick email and 6 tubes of soothing balm were on their way.
And it works (photographic evidence NOT supplied.)... which is handy - not easy to row if you can't sit down!
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.