Julie Cherrie is counting down the days until her husband returns to the safe shoreline, away from the dangers he and his Team Gallagher rowing teammates are facing as they face the biggest test yet - rowing the Tasman.
It's an emotional journey for Julie, who hoped Nigel and his team of rowers would make it back by Christmas, a goal that is now very unlikely. With injuries, a possible mid-sea rescue and a date of arrival unknown, Julie is staying strong with the support of her family, friends and their son, Thomas, five, who is also eagerly awaiting his father's return.
We speak to Julie about the highs and lows of supporting her husband's lifelong ambition to row the Tasman.
After all the many months of preparation, you must be proud of your husband that they are at least half way home. How do you think they are coping?
This expedition has been 8 years in the making for Nigel! So yes, I am extremely proud that Nigel is finally realising his dream and is on the biggest adventure of his life. I spoke to Nigel via satellite phone last night and they are definitely finding it mentally challenging. They’ve only been able to row approx. 12 days out of 23 days, and it’s the downtime which is the most difficult to deal with. When they are rowing, the team are happy as they are making progress.
How is the timeline going? What's the latest arrival prediction?
It’s the million dollar question that everybody asks me – how long will it take for them to get home??! I have no idea, but I had been hoping for New Year’s Day. However, they got blown back by strong winds over the last 2 days and are now rowing hard to make up that time lost, so I think it could be another 2 weeks at least before they arrive home.
How do you manage to keep in contact?
Technology is a wonderful thing! We can send SMS messages via the satellite phone, and I’m pretty much addicted to reading the Facebook and Localist updates every day. And of course I’m tracking the progress on the map on the Localist site too.
What's your boy's reaction to his Dad's achievement?
Thomas is only 5, but he has a pretty good comprehension of what Nigel and the lads are doing. Nigel had the opportunity to take the boat to Three Kings school a couple of months back and did talks with all the children on the expedition. And he got Thomas to help demonstrate rowing, which Thomas thought was very cool! We have a world map up on the wall in Thomas’s room, and I have been using a drawing pin to plot Nigel’s location every few days.
How do you manage to stop yourself worrying?
Believe it or not, but Nigel is not really a risk taker and is a really cautious person! So I know in my heart that Nigel would never do anything that would put himself or the team in danger. Safety was a major priority with the organisation of the rowing challenge, and they have every safety device you could think of on the boat! Of course, you can’t help but think about the ‘what if’s’ – but we have a little mantra in our house ‘control the controllable’ and don’t worry about anything else. I am also really lucky with all the support from people at work, my friends and my lovely family.
What will be the first thing you'll do when Nigel gets back home? Are there specific things he is missing?
Get him to mow the lawns – it’s out of control. I also have a turkey in the freezer, so that we can do a second Christmas when Nigel gets back. Thomas is stoked that he gets to have two Christmases this year! Nigel’s favourite food is Jaffa Cakes, so I’ve got a couple of packets ready for when he gets off the boat.
What's your advice to other wives whose husband goes off and does amazing things for a while?
I find it really interesting, the number of women who have said they would never let their husband go off and do something like this. It never really occurred to me to try and stop him! I have a huge amount of admiration and respect for Nigel and it’s actually a really cool feeling knowing my husband has worked so hard and is now achieving a lifelong ambition. My advice would be to keep yourself busy, so you don’t have too much time to worry, and surround yourself with supportive friends and family, and focus on the positive!