A pensioner who rowed solo across the Atlantic Ocean says he feels “strange” as he adjusts to a “different world” following the coronavirus pandemic.
Graham Walters, from Leicestershire, has broken two world records, despite being towed ashore in the last few miles.
The 72-year-old, who spent 93 days at sea, has become the oldest person to row solo across any ocean and the oldest person to row an ocean more than once.
When he set off on 25 January, the coronavirus was still a relatively small outbreak, largely confined to Wuhan in China, but Mr Walters is now back on dry land and COVID-19 has affected many countries.
Speaking to Sky News, just a day after he arrived in Antigua, he said: “I’m feeling okay now. It’s a bit strange obviously but trying to get used to life and a different world.
“In all honesty I hadn’t heard a word about it, it was a new name – I’d never heard of coronavirus.
“I have a sat nav so I can talk to my wife now and again and she’s been telling me how things have slowly got worse and worse.
“I couldn’t have done anything about it so… that part of it I didn’t think about.”
The pensioner’s trip was made in a boat, named after his grandfather.
He built it 22 years ago in his front garden, and said it had taken him a while to build up to the adventure.
“My wife said that in all honesty if I had one more row she was going to leave me because enough is enough, so it’s taken me quite a while to talk her into agreeing to this trip.”
Mr Walters said he spent much of the three-month trip “thinking”, to stave off the loneliness: “I always think a lot, the mind wanders, I’m thinking and when people say ‘what is loneliness?’ I don’t really know, probably, what actual loneliness is really like – I’m lucky like that.
“It’s important, when you’re rowing, to think about different things. Sometimes you can think about the future – but that’s difficult with what’s happening now as to what the future may hold, and also the past.
“The past is a big thing to think about – what’s gone on, what’s gone by and gone past, so that’s a big part of the rowing.”
When he arrived at English Harbour in Antigua, he was greeted by lots of people, congratulating him on his voyage – despite the wind levels forcing him to be towed on to shore.
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He said: “I was amazed at the people who came out cheering, ringing and shouting in little boats, and the reception of the Antiguan people was fantastic – especially the Antiguan government, they’ve been amazing.”
Mr Walters also revealed to Sky News his breakfast regime while he was out on the open seas, saying: “Normally I start the day with an early row, then it’s nice to look forward to breakfast, I must admit, and porridge. Porridge, and then beans and sausages – in a bag, obviously.”
This was Mr Walters’ fifth Atlantic crossing, and his third as a solo rower.
Mr Walters was raising money for Help for Heroes, and was inspired after seeing wounded veterans in other Atlantic crossing races.