Date: 09 Jun 2018 17:03:26
Title: Make your way to Stornoway.

NY2SY, New York to Stornoway, that was always my dream and always my intention. It was that route or nothing. I do have a stubborn streak in me. Last year, having spent a number of weeks waiting in the marina for a suitable weather window that would allow me to get a safe and decent start, it was suggested that I perhaps look at other places to begin my row from. No, it's NY2SY or nothing. The weather window I needed never appeared in time and I was indeed left with nothing.

About 2 weeks after going on standby to begin my row this year, I was beginning to get the feeling that perhaps my stubbornness was in danger of keeping me from getting out onto the ocean at all. There was no change in the forecast for the coming week and I would then be coming up to the end of May. My latest start date was mid June. My weather router, Leven Brown, gently introduced the option of heading south to the Virginia Beach area into one of our regular telephone conversations. My heart was still set on leaving from New York but the more I looked at the weather down south (sustained offshore winds from W/SW), and compared it to what I was experiencing in New York, the more I began to see it as a viable alternative. I then had to ask myself, what is it that you really want to do? I really wanted to row across the ocean, so what did it matter where I started from? It wasn't an easy decision to make but when I made it I knew I had to be committed to it. Logistically it would be a challenge as I would have to take the boat out of the water at Liberty Landing Marina, find a way of transporting the boat on her trailer down south and find a marina in the Virginia Beach area that would be willing to accommodate me at very short notice. Also, it was a bit of a gamble because there was no guarantee that I would indeed get the weather window I needed down there. I felt it was worth taking a chance. If the weather wasn't coming to us in New York then let's be proactive and go and find the weather.
I made contact with a few marinas but they either never got back to me or didn't think that they could help. I was beginning to despair as I couldn't set off with the boat if I didn't have somewhere to put her. And then I got lucky, so lucky. I phoned a small family-owned marina in Norfolk,VA called Cobb's Marina. It was basically my last roll of the dice. They couldn't have been more welcoming and helpful. They could put my boat in the water for me and also supply me with a pontoon berth until I finished getting everything ready (again) and going on standby (again).
The team at Liberty Landing Marina were very understanding about my change of plans. I was disappointed that I would be able to leave from there as they have been so kind and supportive to me and my challenge since 2014. I know that they also wanted me to succeed and if that meant starting from somewhere else, then so be it. I'll always be very grateful to Dan, Josh, Andy and all the guys in the service yard for all their help over the years. I must also mention the late Bob Bain, who originally agreed to help out with NY2SY back in 2014. Then my good friend Pat Nee stepped in. Pat is originally from Ireland but has lived In New York for many years now. I was introduced to him last year by a fellow ocean rower, Gavan Hennigan (his story is well worth reading by the way), and Pat very kindly agreed to look after my boat over the winter. Pat organised a vehicle and driver to take me and my boat 350 miles south to Norfolk, VA and went out of his way to make sure that the whole relocation process went smoothly. I cannot thank him enough for all that he has done for me over the past year, one of the kindest people I have ever met. His driver, Landy, did a fantastic job of towing the boat in some challenging road conditions, muchos gracias amigo. 

I arrived at Cobb's Marina and spent the weekend getting the boat sorted. She was put into the water on Monday morning and I tried not to pay too much attention to the fact that they had I had been allocated berth 13! Cobb's Marina has a great atmosphere about it and it didn't take long to make friends with other boat owners and answer all the questions they had. There were many offers of help and I began to feel at home very quickly. Word spread quickly and Megan Shinn, a reporter from the news channel '13 News Now' came down to the marina to do a piece about my row.
I was ready to go on standby that evening. I was delighted, but also quite emotional, when Leven told me that I could start my row early on Wednesday morning (23rd May). It's then that reality hit, this is actually happening. All the setbacks and postponements and failures of the last few years seem to go rushing through my mind all at once, almost like a release. Happy, nervous, excited, scared, relieved, anxious. There was a final flurry of preparations and re-checking and also challenging the self-doubt that was beginning to creep into my thoughts. I had saved a few dollars to spend on a decent final meal ashore that evening but by the time I completed all my various tasks everywhere was closed. So I sat on a bench at the marina with a McDonald's takeaway and ate in silence as I listened to boat fenders squeaking against the pontoons and halyards gently knocking against the masts.
Morning came quickly and I was ready to start. I was leaving at 6.15am to get out into the high tide which would help take me out to sea when it turned and began to ebb. A handful of folk very kindly got up early to help see me off, which meant a lot to me. Many thanks to Robin and Jackie and also to the two other gentlemen who were there. Without too much ceremony, I slipped the lines, eased ALBA out of her berth and slowly rowed out of Little Creek inlet and out into Chesapeake Bay.

My sincere thanks to Linda, David, James and the team at Cobb's Marina for all they did for me. I wish that I could have spent longer in the marina but I do hope to return.


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