No pics at all for today, the most memorable of the trip. I do hope that readers who were there will email or send me their own for posterity. It would in any event be very hard to pick out just one that depicts a highlight of an incredible day.
As forecast, the weather is appalling when we awake and pack up, well before daybreak. To get to Hull in time for the 11:00 two minutes silence at the Cenotaph, I allowed a three hour ride which should have been plenty for a flat 30 mile trip. The combination however of congregating the five of us, Mike Stoccaro, Martin Cornally, Tim Phipps and Rachael Davidson who are riding the last stage, coupled with a full gale from the south will make this a very difficult target. Without question this is the hardest day of the trip. The wind is so strong and unrelenting from the south so there is no respite. We are frequently split as a group and are travelling the busy A163 as the most direct into Hull. Terry is now the sweeper for all of us and I am consoled only that I know that no-ne is going to be left stranded. It is selfish too that my obsession is that I must make the Cenotaph for the 2 minutes silence. I thus find myself with Mike who is a keen cyclist and kind enough to lead the way for much of the ride, letting me draft and thus safe my own strength. So it continues until we are entering the Hull suburbs and when at last the proximity of buildings shelter us sufficiently to permit a bit of momentum.
In spite of best efforts, the sound of the cannon at 11:00 reaches us while we are still several hundred yards from Paragon Square so we are a minute of so late...
The order of ceremonies on 11 November do not involve wreath laying for the gathered representatives of the armed forces and the auxilliary associations but just a simple act of rememberance followed by introductions of attending veterans to the Lord Mayor.
There is a small crowd there who are paying their respects and Mike and I join these until we spot the AOS delegation. It is a very special moment to be reunited with Maria on such a significant day...
Salvina, who has been my inspirational mentor throughout, has organised interviews with the Hull Daily Mail and therafter with Radio Humberside. She first provides me with the AOS wreath to lay at the cenotaph. We are all filled with our own thoughts at this time. It is a bittersweet moment for me and the ride is at last over.
The final push really is made in style as Martin, Mike and I ride the couple of miles to the Seafarers centre. The sky is truly black to the north and we are fortunate to get there before the heavens break!
THE EGO HAS LANDED!
Whatever the conditions outside, there is only warmth inside. The welcome is quite amazing and I am touched to see so many people who have turned up to make it such a great day! David Gemmill, Lord Mayor of Hull and his wife both are present too. Our Chairman Eamonn Delaney is kind enough to say some nice things about me and then it is my turn. I cant remember what I said, but it wasn't enough to express the gratitude I owe to AOS in general for allowing me to do the Seawheeling ride. The AOS network thoughout the entire country has galvanised in an incredible way to welcome me at every turn. Without that, it would have been a miserable lonely experience. I again singled out Salvina, who has cared for me by ensuring that I was housed throughout the entire first part of the trip from Hull to Liverpool. There were occasions when ladies (with raised eybrows) would give me breakfast, and produce a banana, and say "I've been told by Salvina that you must be given a banana for breakfast!" Salvina's support has been a constant inspiration to carry on.
I mentioned Terry Jepson. Terry, ex cop and 100% reliable friend made the Liverpool to Hull trip possible. It is a certainty that without Terry, there would not have been a Part 2 of the trip. I dont know how he did it, but whenever I needed him to be there, he was. Setting up, clearing up, cooking, towing were just done. No fuss, just done. Many many thanks Terry, I was so glad that AOS recognised your enormous contribution.
I also mentioned Maria. She allowed me to fullfil this mad dream (aka Ego Trip) to the detriment of maintaining the house, decorating, neglecting the garden and losing the last year which has been consumed one way or the other by Seawheeling. I know there is a bit of catching up to do!
What I know I failed to mention are all of those wonderful people who helped me along the way.
I also neglected to mention my good friends at the Lloyd's Register Hellas Training Department in Piraeus who have sponsored the ride. Many thanks John and Jenny for your support.
I was asked on the Radio Hunberside interview on Thursday what were the low points. I wasn't able to think of any, because whatever they were, they were nothing compared to the highs. On reflection I would however list them in this order
1. Disappointment that what I thought was a realistic Justgiving target is not going to be achieved.
2. Loss of the Garmin - I really did want to have printouts of each day's track
3. The laundry at the Hellensborough caravan site when together, Terry and I managed to feed the £3.00 into the slot, push the powder into the dispenser, lock the door and then realise with horror that our laundry was still lying on the floor! The worrrying feature about this is that the laundry was fitted with CCTV. I would not be surpised if our antics are not already on UTube!
So that's the story of Seawheeling. It has been a memorable, enjoyable adventure and I hope the blog has given you some of my experiences along the way. Most importantly, I hope that it raises awarness of the plight of today's seafarers and of how much we rely on them.
Thanks for reading.