I've been home for 72hrs already. Can't quite believe it. People keep asking me, "Was it what you expected?" Well, I think so. The thing is that I didn't really know what to expect - other than, perhaps, the unexpected; and the trip certainly delivered on that score.
The two years spent getting the old bod into shape certainly paid off. I knew that the row would be full on from the beginning and that I had to be able to avoid getting injured early on. Problems in the first week or two would not have been good. Luckily, and somewhat surprisingly, I remained pretty much intact throughout. This apart from a run-in with an empty sardine can lid (which my finger lost) and a painful clash involving a buoy, an oar handle and my shin.
The rowing bit was tough - every bit as tough as I had anticipated; but it was general life on board that I found most draining. Nowhere to sit comfortably - or stand. Moving around was mostly tricky and, occasionally, terrifying. The 8m length of the boat is not far to walk unless: the waves are 20ft high, the deck is soaking wet or there are two or three rowers to clamber over. Going to the loo could take twenty minutes and eating was often just impossible. Exhausting!
Those things aside, it's been an enormous privilege to peek into the world of ocean rowing, spend two months with lovely crew-mates and see our stunning coastline from the outside looking in. And the wildlife was... magic: jellyfish, puffins, gannets, kittiwakes, seals, dolphins with even glimpses of an orca and a minke whale. And then there were all the fabulous people we met on the way around, sometimes as part of the plan but often by serendipitious accident.
The scariest bit was broaching (getting side-on to the waves) in a Force 8 just outside Hartlepool in the darkest dark. We made it into the harbour, thank goodness; but it was a close one. As for the best bit: there were lots of those. I'd have to say that night rowing with the stars shining and the water glowing with phosphorescence or the many simply breathtaking sunsets and sunrises will always be among my favourite memories.
So, two years in the preparation, two months in the execution and I'm done. I'm back to my normal life, now, much to Mark's relief! I'm busy with a post-row round-up and realise just how many thank-yous I owe. So many people have helped me - I am very grateful to every one of them.
Next? Hopefully the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race next spring. After that? We'll see.
Thank you to all of you for your wonderful help and support. I could not have done this alone!
Over and out. Unless you are coming to the Highclere Red House on Wednesday from 6pm...