Sunday 28th December
19:30 GMT – Where to start, its been a frantic 24 hours and so much had happened.
Finishing the row – I got my head sown and had my 2 hours sleep, 7 hours sleep ver a 90 hour stretch, this all sounds unbelievable now I’m sat in an apartment back in normality (?). Made some coffee set up on deck an d was off after 30 minutes. This was a tough challenge, I had to row 21nm and be at the marina between 9:30 and 11:30 local, it was now 10:30 local so I 11 hours . At the speed I’d done the the afternoon before (1.75 knot average) I could just do it. Rowing through the night can be tough sometimes but I had no choice. It was flat calm, humid and the current was pulling SE, I drifted south east but not got much closer to Cairns, it would have been nice to have drifted towards Cairns and had a couple of miles less to do but like the rest of the 209 days nothing was going to go easy.
I set off and decided to do the row in two mile blocks and then have my two minute break, I had just over 16nm to go to the first way point which was a headland where I could see a navigation light flashing. I had to average 2 knots or I had no chance of getting there. I know it sounds crazy putting a deadline on arrival but Cheryl had worked hard to get peoples interest and all the delays had given her a tough challenge and I didn’t want to disappoint anyone.
The rowing was not easy but I made just over 2 knots for the first 2nm. The challenge now was to keep that going. The current pulled hard south east every time I had my 2 minute break so I had to keep pushing hard. Ghe pairs of miles started ticking by, 2 down 14 to go, 4 down 12 to go, its a slow process but I was keeping just over 2 knots. On these night rows its the 3 /4am period thats hard to keep going through but some how by just before 5am local I made the first waypoint. At this point I was looking for help from the incoming tide and I just saw my knotometer flast a 2.4, 2.5 at me and I could feel the pressure on the oars get a little easier.
As day started to break the sky was incredible, packed with dark brooding cloud that had created the humidity, the water was flat calm so it seemed to seamlessly join with the cloud, the light behind the could created a truly mind bending light show. I had 2.5 hours to make the next waypoint where Cheryl and the girls were coming out to meet me before the last push to the marina. The tide started to help and I was ticking along at 3 knot, all of a sudden the pressure was gone, I knew I was going to make it with time to spare and that was the moment I felt like Id completed the crossing.
The tip of the headland was actually the Yarrabah area (An Aboriginal community) this was a stunning backdrop for for the next hours row. Cairns is situated in tropical mountainous rainforest and this row into the marina turned out to be set against a stunning backdrop. I made it just round the corner into a sheltered bay to wait for Cheryl and the girls and as I stood up from my seat got my first sight of Cairns, it looked stunning set along the waterline backed by the mountains. After a short wait Cheryl arrived on a boat owned by Brett (a friend of Des) and we had an emotional reunion with all three girls trying to fight back the tears. We sent 20 minutes in the beautiful bay chatting in what I think is the most relaxed state I’ve been in for the last 209 days. They had brought me even more food, everyone seems to think I need to eat more for some reason. They took off to collect some press guys and I set out on my last approach. By this time the sun was up and the cloud had gone and it was scorching. I pulled away at the oars heading for the marina which was about 3nm away, still potentially an hour and a half. After a short row a guy appeared in an ocean scull, I think his name was Rohan, we had a nice conversation and then other boats started to appear and before long I was part of a small flotilla.
I was struggling navigating as my AIS alarm was going off all the time and it overrides my navigation information. It was screaming hot but slowly I was creeping to the end of the journey. The marina was now very close, lots of people whistling and shouting from boats, as I closed in on the marina entrance the walk ways were full of people shouting and cheering, I was waving my Tilley to show appreciation but I new I had to concentrate, the boat is a nightmare to control in tight spaces and I didn’t want to either make a monkey of myself or crash into a million dollar boat. I turned into the marina and made my way safely to my berth and the trip was complete!!!!
The welcome from Cairns has been incredible, I’ll make that tomorrows blog. Its been frantic from stepping off the boat, I did think I would do a Frankie Detorri dismount by hopping over the rail and say that was the ride of a lifetime but as I crouched to jump I could feel my legs starting to give way so I stepped off and nearly fell in the water (which is full of Salties). From there my life was taken over by press and the time has flown.
Editors Note: We are struggling to post pictures as the wifi is not so good here. We will post more pictures/videos when we get a better connection.