Monday 28th December

No time marker today as time is now unimportant. It’s been a crazy 24 hours, I knew once I had my 20 minutes with Cheryl and the girls before rowing in to the marina that things would be out of my control for a while.

I’d managed to pull up to the dock without any embarrassing incident and the walkways all around the area were packed with people cheering and whistling. Once off the boat I spent some time answering some press questions, there were a number of TV crews, some of whom had been out on the water. One reporter asked me to do a few poses that normally I would have said no to but I cooperated the best I could. The more I did, the more he pushed, eventually asking me to jump in the water. This is where I drew the line, first the water looked horrible and second I knew there would be croc’s in there. I didn’t realize but apparently we were on the dock for close to three hours, the deputy mayor came to say well done (not sure what the mayor was up too). One of the strangest things was there were two people in uniform there who waited for ages before speaking to me, I thought they would just ask a couple of questions. It turns out they were the immigration officials, they checked my passport, even filled in my immigration questionnaire for me and all I had to do was sign it, the best passport control experience of my life. They asked for a couple of picture which obviously I was happy to do, they even made a second stamp in my passport as the first was a little blurry and I said I was going to use it in the blog. Brilliant guys!
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(click on the image to enlarge)

I’d guzzled a couple of bottles of cold water while doing all this but it was hot on the jetty, although I was ok everyone else was hot so we started making our way to a gelato concession the girls wanted to take me as there was shade there. Answered some more question, a few more pictures, Patricia from the Cairns Yacht Club, who had been helping Cheryl for a few days presented me with a yacht club pennant. By this time it was late afternoon, I’d done a couple of phone interviews, we went back to the boat, had a quick tidy up, took off some valuables and headed back to the hotel we were staying at. I’ve got to say it was nice to get in the car (with air con) and be alone with Cheryl and the girls. Cheryl has done a brilliant job as a one women media team. I did a live on air phone interview with Sky news which was a bit strange but apparently didn’t make me sound like a kook.

Since then it’s got even crazier. Our flights were booked to go to Sydney a while ago and difficult to change as everyone goes to Sydney for New Years because of the fireworks. So with less than 24 hours to go we had to go back into town and start cleaning the boat. It’s rainy season in Cairns, although we’d had a brilliant day for arrival it had rained on and off since we arrived at the hotel. We ended up being lucky and got about an hour and a half of work done on the boat before being rained off. Cheryl, the girls and Tony all pitched in. I did some more phone interviews and Sunrise the morning show on Australian TV wanted us to go to their studio. Cheryl wisely said they needed to come to the hotel as we were short on time and they agreed. After a brilliant nights sleep, no rocking or banging about I was up at five doing a couple of radio interview on the phone by 6:45 we were sitting in the hotel foyer with a camera crew ready for a live satellite interview going out across Australia. This was the interview where the guy said I looked like I’d come out of Changi Prison camp, not sure that was politically correct but I answered his questions. This is also the interview that made the Sydney Breakfast Show cancel. I’ve got to say I’m quite proud to have been rebuffed because I was on a competitor program. The guys that did the satellite uplink also did some post live interview stuff for channel 7 the Queensland evening news and apparently I’m the main story and the closing story. The Cairns Post, I seemed to be the main feature, front page no less, a number of inside pages and even the cartoon, it’s brilliant. Apparently I made the UK news quite big, lunchtime, 10 o’clock, radio 5 live are chasing for an interview, associated press, the list goes on. Who would have thought there would be all this interest, it’s only transitory and I’m not sure how much more I could put up with but it does make me realise how big a deal the achievement is.

One of the things I find slightly amusing is really the Vanuatu Times really got the scoop, they were the first people to really pick up the story, first Vanuatu then the world.

I must say for someone not so keen on all the press side of things I’m not devastated by anything I’ve said or done but have cooperated as much as possible with reasonable requests and interest. I think because it’s always been the furthest thing from my mind, leaving San Francisco with just Cheryl and Tony on the dock and no fanfare I’m happy to share the story now it’s complete and I made it.

We had to go back to the boat this morning and finish cleaning her. I did get even more press as the Cairns Post want to do a weekend feature. But the priority was sorting the boat out. We’d invited Des (Captain of the New Mist) and his wife Penny for lunch and just like the last seven months we were under big time pressure. Tony and I were dripping with sweat cleaning the boat, eventually done, we went to a local restaurant for lunch. Once sat down, it was the first time we’d really stopped since the meeting 3 miles out. It felt great to sit back and relax, it was also my first real meal. I had fish and chips with an extra bowl of chips, it was delicious. Turns out Penny is from Scunthorpe a few miles up the road from Sheffield. Des is a proper seafarer who has raced big ocean races all his life and built New Mist. I just know he’s got a million great stories to tell, it’s a real shame we are rushing off, they are great company and I didn’t realise but Des gave up his annual Boxing Day Party to shepard me through the reef.

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We’re now on the plane on the way to Sydney where we have two days before we fly home then it’s back to reality. Not sure how I’ll cope but life needs to return to normal and I’m sure it will.

There’s probably only a couple more blogs in the story, I’ll start posting images over the next couple of days and any interesting developments.

That’s really it for today.

John

Out.

Editors note: check the gallery for more images.