A tin of luminous spray paint, cool man and some rum punch
The clapped out minibus screeched to a noisy stop and Willies gold teeth glinted in the mid-day sun. It was like looking at a pot of gold.
‘Ok man, need a ride?’
‘Well yes do you know anywhere I can buy a tin of
‘Hanks shack man. Cool’
‘Can you take me there please?
Ever since the little turbo prop commuter plane had dipped her wings to signify Liat flight 563 from Barbados into Antigua was beginning to descend the pulse rate quickened. Not because we were scared of the flight, although locals call the Caribbean Airline ‘Leave Island Any Time’, but we were closer to bringing our boys home from an epic journey or as Willy
would say ‘cool man’
It seemed a long way off from a cold Saturday morning in Northallerton helping Dan fund raise while he sat on a rowing machine nonstop all day. This was our introduction to the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Row Challenge 2013 – Toms pal from Aysgarth boarding school – the little geeky big spectacled boy of seven was now preparing to row 3000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean with his colleague Will in what is the toughest rowing race in the World. Both guys were rowing to raise funds for charities close to their hearts from a family perspective. We took a table at the Gala Ball they organised in London
to raise funds and quickly realised that these two boys were not only there to achieve the unthinkable but also so committed to raising funds for such worthy causes. Kerfoot en famille were hooked.
They left the Canaries on December 4th with 15 other boats. Facing them was a journey of a lifetime facing odds that at times must have felt insurmountable. Elizabeth and I started a daily routine of following their progress online. It became compulsive. ‘The row rates dropped to 1.7, only 2786.4 miles to go!’ On my twitter account I created #Sunbedsupportteam
and we tweeted daily offering encouragement. When the big storm hit them and morale was low we tried to help them along. It felt as though in our own little way we had to help them through this and when we received our first tweet reply
from them it was unbounded joy in Ainderby Steeple!
Elizabeth talked to Dan’s Mother Susie and heard about an emotional phone call they had at Christmas, the opening of their presents, the failure of some kit, the pain of it all but their sheer determination of both to see it through. It seemed unreal sat having Sunday lunch at their home only three weeks ago while they battled ever onward to their goal. Have to say Susie’s roast beef and puds were amazing. Dave provided copious amounts of a very decent red. I tweeted the boys that night about the beef in hope it would spur them on!
Hanks shack was the B&Q superstore of Antigua. The spray paint was there in luminous orange.
Willy smiled with his pot of gold.
‘Real cool man’
Rosa the housekeeper at our hotel provided the old white bed sheet. I then got to work.
‘Real cool man’
Three days #sunbedsupport were on the beach counting the miles down. Less than 100! Less than 50! They’ve tweeted …….can see land! 9 miles to go let’s move and catch the hotel launch into the famous English Harbour 5 minutes away! We arrived at 1600 hours hung the banner over a balcony and started on rum punch. I swiftly moved to G&T when I saw the doses Gaynor behind the bar was ladling out. Here we all were waiting in this magnificent natural harbour where Nelson came to protect his fleet and where our boys would arrive soon. The chat and atmosphere was electric. Light faded as we heard they had crossed the line but we could not see them. We grabbed our flares and waited emotions running high stomachs churning and G&T’s having that calming influence.
One loud boat horn sounded in the entrance, then another, then a red flare lit the sky! Our boys were coming home! Through the darkness a tiny boat appeared Dan & Will proud and erect arms aloft whooping with joy and they each let off a flare. More flares went off horns sounded we jumped up and down hugged strangers and just went wild. Tears were everywhere as Mothers and Fathers embraced sons cameras were flashing everywhere. Magnate Tompkins stood red flare in the air grinning from cheek to cheek. Dan came to us and said ‘Kerfoots!!!’ The party began.
Yesterday we went to see the boat. We climbed on board and had photos taken with our heroes. I sat in the rowing position in complete awe. Will told me about how he was rowing and saw a huge wave of 35-40 feet coming and shouted to Dan in the cabin hold on! He took her to within 5 feet of the top and knew they would not make it. They rolled over into the trough. About the 8 foot shark who followed in their wake for miles. The container ships which passed in the night. The technical hitches.
All in this little tiny boat for 54 days.
I cannot say how much I admire these two guys. Apart from raising £85k they have gone where few others have dared to. It takes not only super human fitness but also the mental attitude to succeed. On the inside of the boat it reads ‘never, never, never give up’.
Don’t know what I am going to do now. Another week in Barbados then home. Something will be missing. I will miss the comradeship of Wills friends and family, the way Susie, Dave, Wonderful Jo who was inspirational support, Gilly, Pandy, George, Miss Oz, Angela and Magnate Tompkins allowed us to become part of this epic adventure. Before I forget I have an exclusive story for the D&S Times about Magnate Tompkins being reprimanded by the Antiguan Fire Service for letting off a flare on the key side. Cool man.
After we saw the boat yesterday I noticed an old boy sat on the dock watching us.
‘How you doing man’ he asked?
‘Just great our boys are home safely’
‘Them boys are so brave real brave man’
‘Cool man’ I replied as I turned to walk away.
Never a truer word spoken