Our return to England on the Louise Jane was uneventful, mostly because in my post-swim daze, I have little recollection beyond feeling seasick and being cared for attentively by Melissa and Emma. Arriving back on the shores of England at the Dover Marina two hours later, I am greeted by three wonderfully familiar people. Cheering for me with massive smiles are my swim buddy, Mike and his wife Steph as well as Pete Perez who is holding a beautiful bouquet of yellow roses! Both Mike and Pete were prepping for their own swims across the English Channel, yet to my delight, made time to welcome me back to England.
The boat comes to a stop, and my welcoming committee has a few laughs at my expense. Though covered with some modesty in my long swim jacket, I am still wearing my swimsuit. My little feet are tucked comfortably into my woolen Ugg boots, pulling together the outfit nicely as I depart the boat. I bid Andy, James, Phil and my observer, Steve a fond farewell while my crew collect all my belongings. The plan for this special evening is to head directly to the famous White Horse Pub to write my name and swim time on the wall or ceiling. The White Horse was built in 1365 and it has become a storied English Channel tradition for swimmers to record their Channel accomplishments by inscribing their name and swim time on the walls, ceiling and door of the pub.
Swaying side to side after having been on the boat for a few hours, I shuffle deliriously on my way to the restrooms and shower at the Marina. Though devoid of much self-awareness, I somehow come to the sensible realization that perhaps I should change out of my wet, lanolin covered and sea "fragrant" swimsuit. Emma assists me with the more technical details of the shower, turning on the faucet and ensuring the door is closed for privacy. Alone inside the shower stall, I save myself from slipping a couple of times as I struggle to pull the suit off with my very tired and already sore arms. It's an enormous task and extremely tiring.
Minutes later, maybe more, I change into my sweatpants and sweater, and emerge a little more decent than before, though I’m hardly in a state of mind to care much. Next thing I know, I’m behind the wheel of the little red Peugeot, DRIVING my crew to the White Horse pub. Concerned I was the only one legally insured for driving the rental car, I convince my crew that in my current state it is still a good idea for me to drive. I don’t exactly recall the journey to the White Horse, but I do remember panicking with the thought of having to park the car on the steep hill near the pub and performing a hill start later in the evening. Safety first, folks.
With the sun now set, as I trudge up the stairs to the warm inviting glow of the lights in the White Horse, I am, quite simply, elated. Surrounded by countless scribbles of swim details of friends and strangers, I have one mission: to add my name, nationality and swim details to the same real estate as those who came before me. Distracted by this last remaining mission, I scour the walls and ceiling of the pub for just enough space. As I inspect the interior of the White Horse I pay my respects to all my friends whose names I recognize, and I truly cannot believe that it is my turn to add my name. Much to my delight I locate the names of my relay teammates from our swim across the Channel in 2011. Oddly enough the space I secure for my solo inscription is inches away.
My movement through the pub must have garnered some attention as I find myself in conversation with curious patrons of the bar. Who knows what I told them, however, upon locating my tiny slither of ceiling real estate, I receive a hearty round of applause from the pub. The bartender hands me a black Sharpie pen. It’s time.
My arms are now very sore but I am determined to get the job done. Propping up my right elbow using my left hand and cocking my head back far enough to gaze at the ceiling, I write my name: Kiwi Kimberley Chambers (NZL) 12hrs 12 mins September 12th 2013. An obligatory WOO! is added for good measure.