After arriving in Cowes, I spent most of the following morning on the end of the telephone doing press and radio interviews. Amazingly, my trip had generated quite a large amount of media interest, which had built up more as I approached the finish, so we had decided to set aside a day for me to do as many interviews as possible. Answering interviewers’ questions was very new to me, but I quickly realised that they followed a similar pattern: ”Why did you decide to do it?”, “How long did it take?”, “What were the best and the worst bits?”, “What did you eat?”, “Did you get lonely?”, and so on! I must say I found the interviews far from easy, however, it was amazing to share the story of the magical adventure I had had.
With the interviews over and knowing there would most likely be photographers at the finish, I nipped into town for a quick haircut – got to look good after all! I was then due to meet some of the fundraising and marketing people from the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust to help to drive in as many donations as possible by doing specific promotional content for them. This was so important, the money we were raising would help to rebuild young people’s lives after cancer, something I felt privileged to be able to support.
Up to this point it had been a fairly normal day really. Then, Ellen MacArthur walked through the door!
Dame Ellen MacArthur has always been my idol, not just in sailing but for how I want to lead my life. In fact, her inspiration was one of the reasons why I decided to sail single-handed around Britain. Ever since she had sent me that signed copy of her book when I was 12, with the words “Go for It” written inside, she showed me that I could do whatever I wanted if I put my mind to it and never gave up.
So, I quite literally jumped out of my skin in surprise, excitement and disbelief when Ellen walked through the door with her dog “Norman” and said “Hello Tim”! I simply couldn’t believe it. Although my parents had mentioned that I might meet her, I didn’t dare to believe them, but when Ellen really did turn up, I was ecstatic!
Meeting her was incredible and more than I could ever have dreamt of. It was magical because I could actually ask her all of the questions that had been spinning around my mind for years. We shared our experiences of sailing solo around Britain, which for both of us was the first big adventure of our lives, and then spoke about my ambitions for the future. With her unique perspective, she was able to give me valuable advice about the world I want to enter and was so supportive and encouraging. A quote that always rings true to me is “the world is your oyster”, yet knowing how to crack open that oyster is quite a challenge. My conversation with Ellen helped me begin to figure out how to do it, and It’s certainly an hour of my life that I will never forget.
That night I tried to get to sleep fairly early, although it seemed rather impossible with all of the things that were flying through my head after such an inspiring day.
Before I knew it, I was up again. For the final time of my whole trip, I prepped the boat and set off again, just Alchemy and I. It was surreal to say the least. Even though I was fully aware that this was the end, in the back of my mind I still had a little voice telling me that this was just another leg… I knew that wasn’t true though, as much as I wanted to believe it.
As I left the marina there were quite a few people who came to wish me farewell, making lots of noise with horns, pots ‘n’ pans. Leaving Cowes, it seemed as if the weather Gods knew that it was a special day too – there was bright sun and blue skies, something fairly rare in Britain!
In truth, I don’t remember much of the last few miles across the Solent to the finish in Hamble. I was full of concentration because I found myself sharing the channel with what felt like an armada of ships that were leaving Southampton!
Then, for the last time, I pulled down Alchemy’s sails, put the engine on, and motored into the marina. This time it was the marina where it all began.
As I came onto the pontoon there were a whole raft of photographers and even a BBC News cameraman and presenter. All of this probably made it one of the most stressful moments of the whole trip; I was concentrating on not crashing the boat, trying not to swear out of nervousness, and all whilst simultaneously smiling and waving! It was far from the sort of finish I had expected. Soon though, the press were gone and I was left surrounded by the wonderful friends and family who were the best supporters I could ever have.
And just like that, my adventure was over.
Sailing around Britain has changed my life.
I set off ready to discover the world – and 1,743 nautical miles later I had realised that I was only just beginning to discover what was around me. At every stop I met someone different who would have their own stories and tales, and with every leg I sailed, I would notice something new about the planet that I was on.
What I had discovered was how vast this world really is – which is only serving to fuel my desire to keep on exploring!
I set off ready to challenge myself to see whether I could live up to what the world would demand of me. Despite being full of trepidation and angst, I was happier than ever – I felt totally free, and for the first time in my whole life I had only myself to rely on to get me through the situations I would encounter.
When I returned, I was still happier than ever! However, I had learnt that the good, the bad and the nasty come in equal shares. When I was in the bad or the nasty, I learnt that that was OK, and I had taught myself that if I was safe, nothing else mattered.
I had learnt that my mood and feelings would always directly correlate to my decision making, and I found that when you are level-headed, calm, and methodical you make the best decisions.
All these learnings could be read directly out of a psychology book – which I had done anyway before I set off, so I somewhat knew about them already. However, what I discovered is that it is one thing to read about them, and something completely different to comprehend, and then assimilate them. That is a process I am sure I will continue with for the rest of my life.
As I write this, just over six months since I finished this adventure, I am already looking to the future. I don’t know what it will hold, but I am the only person who can determine what it could hold, so I am going to give it my all.
Sailing around Britain was the first act. Now it’s time to reach for the next!