It was a really early start – we had to be on the boat for 8am. None of my stuff had been taken on – there was a bit of an issue with bunks, and to my knowledge it still hadn’t been sorted out. Best I just leave everyone else to it – I was confident there would be somewhere for me to sleep and somewhere to put my gear.
Paul helped me take the bags down the pontoon – security were not letting anyone other than crew on this morning. Shame – I wanted to show the children where I was going to live for the next eleven months. Paul managed to sneak through – he looked as though he was there to stay with the bags.
I found a bunk (the lower coffin bunk looked like it was going to be mine and someone elses, which suits me – I can get in that one). I had been assigned two small lockers, which most of my stuff managed to squeeze into. The only problem was the bag, which Wendy had said needed to be rolled up and put in the locker with your stuff. Mine has a hard bottom and wheels – even though it is Henri Lloyd sailing luggage. Didn’t know those rules when I bought it! I found a space under my bunk that it could be squashed down into, so that was OK then!
There seemed to be loads of odd jobs to be done before we left – then Paul rang and said William, Sadie & Alexis had arrived. I went up and got very emotional – Alexis will be five when I get back and it suddenly seems a very long way away. He was going to the sea life centre, so I told him to be back by 1.30pm, which is when Wendy had said we need to be back on the boat by. We had to fit AIS’s into our life jackets – a little implement that sends a GPS signal to several interested parties if you fall overboard. Let’s hope that doesn’t have to be tested then!
Back to the boat – it looked as if they were having a mini briefing. They were – and the timing had changed. We needed to be back on the boat by 12.30pm. That meant I probably won’t be seeing William again before I go. Oh no! We went through the procedure of the day, and then were told that we were free to go until we left. Paul was on the dock with Sonia – another emotional wreck so she started me off again! Anita, Karen and Sacha then turned up, and so did Harriet and Seb. This is all becoming a little too much – I seemed to be losing control very easily and very often!
We all went up to the Tower Executive Lounge for coffee and cookies – that place really is a god send. The dock area was becoming packed. We went up, had a nice chat, and then I headed back out to the boat as it was almost time to go. Oh my god – how emotional did I feel now? After hugging everyone (several times) I just needed to go. Paul said he had only three words to say to me (did wonder if they would be “don’t come back!”) but it was “hang on tight”. Oh yes – I am definitely planning on doing that!
I went down to the boat, and they were getting ready to hoist the drummers up the rigging. Every boat had a drummer that was standing half way up the mast – it looked absolutely fantastic, and sounded it too when they started. We were the third boat, and all had to get off and do a walk around the whole of the marina. I was asked to go second in line and take the “DaNang” flag. Felt like the flag bearer at the Olympics leading the GB team out. I saw Steve (brother-in-law) in the crowd taking pictures – and we were applauded all the way around the marina. We were then put in a holding area where we waited until each team was called onto stage. As were standing there, William ran up. He had found me – which started me off again.
I then had the flag taken off me, and I was to be one of two crew interviewed on stage, and the flag had to go on last. We were introduced to loud applause – and Sonia was just opposite blowing me kisses. It was so nice to see people you knew. We went on to “Wild Thing” playing – our boat song. Wendy was asked a couple of questions, and then I was asked why, as a Travel Agent that has travelled the world, I wanted to take part in the race. I said I wanted to inspire people to do whatever they wanted to do, because if I could do this anybody could do anything. Let’s hope I do it then!
We walked back to the boat after that, and got ready to leave. The rest of the teams were interviewed, and then the drummers were brought back down the rigging. Life jackets were put on, lines were made ready, and we were the third boat to leave the marina. Each boat went after four minutes, and again to our boat song. We went straight into the Thames, and had a “photo opportunity” with Tower Bridge in the background. We then had to turn left, and keep in a holding pattern until all of the boats had left the marina.
We did several loops, keeping in the same order that we left the marina. At 3.30pm Tower Bridge opened, and in a line of twelve boats we all sailed underneath. Both sides of the Thames was packed with people, and there were several supporter boats (seemingly the majority had orange tee shirts on!). Paul and the family were over the other side of the Thames, so we could wave from afar!
We all waited in a loop the other side, and then at 4pm the bridge opened again and we all headed through and down the Thames on the way to the mooring we were going to spend the night. The Thames had people lined all the way down, waving and cheering. The spectator boats came with us all the way to the Thames Barrier before turning back. Other little boats zipped up and down, tooting and waving. We all stayed in formation all the way down.
The weather had stayed fine – a blessing because it was meant to rain. I felt very sad knowing that it would be eleven months before I was going to be back. That feels an awful long time at the moment.
But – I don’t think I am going to have to worry about thinking too much. Pops and Tom were busy chopping all the vegetables to make a vegetable soup – with the free veg we got from Borough Market. I started dinner at around 6pm – and at 9pm it still wasn’t cooked! Note to self – start dinner early because cooking in a tiny galley for 22 people takes a lot longer than you think! Salmon in a chilli ginger sauce went down very well – but they don’t need to think they are getting that all the way to Rio!