by Nigel Cherrie
We rowed under the Auckland Harbour Bridge 10 days ago now and since then, I have been having mixed emotions about our adventure on the Tasman.
Obviously, I have enjoyed being at home in Auckland, spending time with my family, good friends and meeting our sponsors who made it all possible.
It's nice not to have to get up for the 3am shift and sleeping a full night in a dry bed that doesn't move and having non-salt encrusted clothes are luxuries I will never take for granted again.
On reflection, I feel very proud of what Team Gallagher has achieved, given the conditions we experienced and the constant challenges we faced and how we dealt with them as a team.
But, on top of the 'content-ness', I did feel a slight void in my life for a few days after the row. When you have been pushing towards a goal for so long, to wake up and not have something to aim for, even not having to go training each day, leaves a slightly empty feeling.
The easy way to solve to this? Set a new goal! So I have. I'm aiming to windsurf the coastal classic yacht race route from Auckland to Russell later this year - 120nm in one day (slightly quicker than we could row it!). I think the record is under 14 hours but we'll have to see if the conditions on the day let me have a crack at that.
I would put a few dollars on the other team members setting themselves new ambitious goals in the near future too.
I have found myself in a day dream a few times in the last week, remembering those final few miles when we came into Auckland for the finish and then making the harbour bridge with a final sprint. I think it was partly achieving the end goal of rowing under the bridge, which I had visualised for so long that made it special and also because it is home. I love Auckland and it was great to finish here. Maybe I should windsurf from Russell to Auckland instead?
Ironically, our finish date was two years to the day that Shaun Quincey set off on his record-setting Tasman row. I watched Shaun's documentary two nights ago and it set off a number of memories from our experience including storms, beautiful calm days and breakages although thankfully for us, no capsize.
I feel thankful we never experienced a full 180-degree roll. Two teams aiming to complete long distance rows this week - one in the Atlantic ocean and another going from Victoria to Hobart - have seen their expeditions prematurely ended because of capsizes. I thank our designer for our boat's stability, even in the worst of the Tasman, when six to eight metre seas broke over the top of us and crash landed onboard, we never came close to going half over.
It was wonderful to see family, friends, supporters and sponsors at the Viaduct. Thank you to everyone that showed up. It was quite emotional for me personally to see Sir William Gallagher and Margaret Comer at the finish.
Together they offically started the campaign when they agreed to become our title sponsors and so it was fantastic to see them at the finish when we achieved our goal. I half-apologise for giving them both large hugs after not washing for 55 days.
Quite a few people have mentioned my son Thomas coming onboard just after the finish. I knew there would be lots of people I wanted to speak to on the dock - to say thanks for their contribution - so it was our opportunity to spend a few minutes together.
I wasn't sure he wouldn't recognise me as I was 18kg lighter and a lot hairier since I last saw him on November 10. His first words? "Daddy, can we get a dog now?". He was holding me to that promise and yes, we now have a four legged family member named Hudson.
Once the meet and greet had finished, James and Andrew had slipped off to their free rooms at Hotel De Brett, my wife asked what I wanted to do. I had, by this time, consumed half a bottle of champagne and a few beers and hot, fat food was all that was on my mind. So we walked across to the Auckland Fish Market for fish 'n' chips. I got a few funny looks, probably as I resembled a homeless person so my wife had to explain I had, in fact, just rowed the ditch.
The last week has been quite busy. I have started work on the domestic chores list that was put on the back burner for nearly a year. So I have gone from diving into the clear, blue Pacific Ocean to clean to the hull to getting up ladders to clean the gutters.
The weight is coming back on slightly quicker than I lost it. I've gained 10kg in 10 days. A few large breakfasts and some alcohol does wonders for weight gain. I'm glad training for the new goal starts soon otherwise I could accelerate past my previous weight rather quickly.
I'm still cleaning the boat and the equipment. The smell from the hatches were we stored two months worth of rubbish, some of it swimming in sea water, was quite something. It was, quite simply, absolutely foul.
I'd better get on with preparing for our speaking engagements about the row - I'm looking forward to sharing the stories about the time at sea with our sponsors - and finishing the book I started at sea anchor. We may have crossed the finish line but there's still plenty to keep me occupied.