AFTER 51 days, 17 hours and 15 minutes, rower Dawn Wood slowly docked into Port St Charles on Barbados to become only the seventh woman ever to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Now back at home in Burnham, the epic adventurer has had time to reflect on her monumental challenge and the tasks which lie ahead for her beyond the journey.

Despite not breaking Kiko Matthews’ world record, Dawn says the voyage was an overwhelming success and she is still blown away by it.

She said: “It feels good to walk around again because I didn’t walk for seven weeks. I only stood up on the boat because of the room.

“The first day was surreal because as I was rowing away, I saw Gran Canaria disappearing and there was nothing but open sea.

“The wind conditions in the first few days were not ideal.

“There was a wind coming from the southwest which means you’re rowing against the wind.”

Despite the challenges on her first few days, things started to pick up as she got into the swing of sea life.

She said: “I would say the wildlife was the highlight.

“There was a turtle who literally came up right past me to inspect the boat. I put my camera in the water and he came right up to it.

“Apparently there has been no other rower that has had an encounter with a turtle so it felt special.

“The dolphins at night were magical.

“They were following my boat under the surface in the water and they were glowing blue due to the moonlight.

“It took my breath away and it was one of the situations where I wanted someone to be with me to see it.”

She knew she had hit the halfway point thanks to the notes she was keeping.

To celebrate, she ate a whole pack of Jaffa Cakes – her favourite snack.

“It’s not often you get to do it so I thought why not,” she said.

“Part of my routine is to check and plot my position on a paper chart when I check my GPS.

“The point of that is that if my electrics go down, I still know where I am.”

The low points came in the form of plastic pollution and adverse weather conditions pushing her back.

She said: “The low points were seeing the plastic floating on the sea.

“I was halfway, in a place where there are no humans and yet it was still there.

“Another low point was one day when the wind was against me.

“You can see on the map where it looks like I just went in a circle. It was a particularly mentally tough to deal with.

“If you’re going against the wind, you physically can’t row against it.

“They said if I did the row at the same time of the year as Kiko did hers, I would be holding the world record.

“It’s because of the weather I ended up 50 hours behind her.

“Trying to get the world record was one of the goals but that went down the list.

“The main aim was to get across safely and I managed to do that.”

The last five hours felt like a lifetime.

Dawn said: “The closer I got, an hour almost felt like six hours.

“I wasn’t expecting the reception I had. I was a bit of a rabbit in the headlights.

“It turns out my Dad had called the Rotary Club of Barbados to join in and congratulate me.

“There were people that were on holiday who heard about my journey and came down to the port to greet me, so it was pretty amazing.”

During her travels, police officer Dawn saw plastic bottles, fishing nets, seaweed embedded with microplastics, a polystyrene kebab container and a rubbish bag.

She said: “Unfortunately, I was not able to collect all the plastic I saw.

“If I did, there wouldn’t be any room in the boat since there was so much.

“But I marked the points where I saw them on a GPS and I will put them together into a map to highlight where the worst areas are.

“I can only see 100 metres out from the boat and the sea at some points is five kilometres deep.

“If that’s what I’m seeing on the surface, then what the hell is underneath. It’s mindblowing.”

She didn’t see many human faces during her travels, but did have some interactions with passing boats.

She said: “The Queen Elizabeth cruise liner passed me but it was too far away to see people.

“There were two times when a boat thought I was in trouble. They circled back and saw if I was okay.

“One yacht threw me some fresh fruits and some beer.

“The rules of the challenge meant that if there is a chance encounter at sea, you can accept some packages.

“I had one beer on the night they gave them to me and one during my final sunset.

“It was a bit warm, but it was the best beer I had ever tasted.

“The fresh fruit was nice too. I had been living on dried food which was nutritionally acceptable, but the apples and oranges were mouth-watering.”

Finally, she revealed her advice to other rowers who want to take the challenge and her future plans.

She said: “Everybody has a different experience so the advice I would give to rowers is talk to as many people as you can.

“The second piece of advice is if your planning and preparations are spot on, you’ll be okay.

“I am definitely not going to stop.

“I’ll probably take the boat around with me to open days and speak at events and schools to raise awareness.

“My focus is on the younger generation because I know they can achieve what I have.

“I was not naturally athletic or academic, I just worked hard towards my goals.

“Everyone has their own ocean to cross and if they can find the skill they are good at, they can do anything.

“There was no point during the row where I wanted to give up so I may do it again. Who knows – maybe on another ocean.”