My boat glided up onto the beach as I popped open my spray skirt. The dense smell of sweat and urine assaulted my nostrils. I slipped out of the boat and fell into the water, tried to stand, and contented myself with wading. I waded in the water for minutes, looking up on the island at the campers. Occasionally one would walk by and give me a look of total confusion, but the refugee Cubans arriving moments before distracted them from my arrival, at least long enough for me to learn how to walk again. Continue reading Key West to Tortugas, Part 3
One rainy day in college, just before Thanksgiving, I stood out on the side of 311 near Roanoke with my thumb out. I had been threw hell the past few days but still was ecstatic. I was excited for my warm cozy bed, a large PK’s pesto pizza, and a good Pixar movie. But I was most thrilled about what I had just done, the grueling solo backpacking adventure I would remember forever. Hour after hour people sped by me without even the slightest hesitation. And eventually one man took the time to roll down his window, slow down, and flick me off. I was baffled by his judgement. Initially I thought, no I’m not one of them but then wondered, one of who? He could know nothing about me from his drive by and from his attitude, never would.
The setup I decided on for the outriggers is similar to Andrew McAuley’s rig for his Tasman Sea crossing. I used ram ball and socket mounts, size 1.5 inch ball on the deck on either side. I used giant 1.5 inch washers on the underside but I still think I need to reinforce the hull with some fiberglass in that area. The benefits of this design is its flexibility and convenience. It’s weakness is the stress on the hull and weight. I considered simply strapping the extra paddle to deck but realized that would be neither flexible, resilient, nor convenient. However, the load would be distributed across the hull whereas the load for the ball and socket setup is on the hull in just a 2.5 inch diameter circle. Another fault of this system is that the outrigger can slip over the ball, a problem I imagine worsens in the water. Still a work in progress but I’ll figure it out.
I have created a coffin but I sure as hell hope that I am not digging my own grave. I made a cockpit cover for my kayak, a kind of last resort safety capsule, a way to turn my boat into a life raft. I’m pretty proud of the design and the construction, it’s like nothing I have ever built before. But when I slid into for the first time today, with the roof less than an inch from my nose, I realized what I had done. This is an absolute minimal design so that I can store it below deck. It is cut in the middle to latch together and to break apart. On top I have installed an air-only ventilator, an incredible design that could very likely save my life. The frame is made from fiberglass which I purchased from Tapp Plastics. The latches I purchased from The Toggle Clamp Store.
First I taped down the mold which I cut from polystyrene foam using a hacksaw and an electric carving knife and then sanded down. I then covered the whole thing with plastic wrap which I then covered with mold release. Then I laid down one layer of 2oz fiberglass mat and then another layer on top of that, all the while rolling to smooth out bubbles as best I could. I ended up with an imperfect piece but good enough for my purposes. I am currently working applying an overhang on the front cover which will come over the rear cover to allow me to make it watertight. All the edges will be coated with a rubber seal.
I imagine trying to sleep in this thing will be pretty close to anyone’s worst nightmare. Alone in the ocean, no land in sight, with a twenty-one inch beam, and two inches of freeboard, crammed down in a cockpit no bigger than a coffin. But while I hope it never comes to that, it is a safety measure that I would feel moronic doing without. I would much rather spend a few hours waiting out a storm in a coffin then the rest of eternity in a coffin. It may seem curious why I would even consider putting myself in these predicaments. I’m not. It’s an all else fails scenario. The goal is to bring this trip to safer than the thousand mile drive down I-95 to the Florida Keys. Not more comfortable, just safer. And this cockpit cover is another step in that direction.
I’m currently reading Vicki McAuley’s recount of her husband’s attempt at kayaking across the Tasman Sea and am absolutely hooked with the tale. With each fumble and misstep though I am cheering so desperately for Andrew, really feeling emotionally attached in his journey. But I know the outcome. We all do, with a simple search of his Wikipedia page. And it burdens me so terribly. I feel like I am there, cheering for him, but all this happened when I was just a junior in high school. The story is remarked upon as one of the greatest kayak expeditions of all time. But we all know it was a heavy price to pay. It pains me so much to keep reading, knowing what the ending with be. Maybe his wife will provide me with closure that I otherwise would not be able to attain. I know I must finish reading, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to know. I want to admire Andrew for all his successes and not empathize with the pain of a widow when she heard the news of her husband’s empty kayak found bobbing in the Tasman. Continue reading The life of adventure
Recently I have been studying the exploits of some incredible adventurers, specifically solo explorers in small water craft crossing bodies of water that regularly sink much larger vessels. The designs and the different methods of accomplishing similar goals are so vastly different that I find myself absolutely fascinated and curious as to what is the absolute best method.
The reason this is all of interest to me is because I am also exploring the possibility of embarking on one of these long distance adventures, one that I can only find record of one other person attempting, albeit with a companion and in a canoe. This man, Verlen Kruger, paddled from Florida to Venezuela, and that is exactly what I hope to do. Verlen completed the trip with assistance for long open ocean crossings, something I cannot expect nor intend to receive.
I joke that for a trip to become an adventure you must be absolutely regretfully miserable for some amount of time. It is not necessarily designed into the plan, but is very likely unavoidable. I am planning my next great adventure, one that will take me from the civilized world to a marine habitat for several months. My vessel is a 2006 NDK Explorer, british racing green. The proposed route, follow the Antilles from Key West to Puerto Rico. There are stretches that will take me out of sight of land for an entire day, left only with the company of the flying fish, dorados, and sharks that will accompany me and likely occasionally provide me with a meal. I’m outfitting my boat as a home, with electric bilge pump, sleeping pad inside the cockpit, fresh water supply spitting from the rear hatch, cockpit cover to lock down and survive even the worst storms, and a small sail for the favorable breezes. It is not a suicide mission, it is a vacation in fact. In may seem crazy but in fact it is a deviation from my usual course of venturing into snow-covered sub-zero forests. I will have my challenges, most definitely, but they will be winds and wildlife, baking heat and water water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.
I am using a lot of ideas from the greatest adventurers, Ed Gillet and Andrew McAuley most notably. Gillet paddled from California to Hawaii while McAuley paddled across the Tasman Sea from Australia to New Zealand, both in production kayaks. My adventure will be hugging land and will be much different from their trips into vast open water. But mine will carry the risks of Caribbean storms and entire days out to sea. I have obtained most of my knowledge from sailors, however, seeing as they are the most often to make trips like this.
This is a documentary on Andrew McAuley’s adventure. Take note of his kayak modifications, especially the cockpit dome, Casper. But most importantly, try to understand Andrew, to see where he was coming from. Please try to not be quick to judge him and instead try to imagine his life, how exciting it must have been and understand that there are many ways to live a life, and maybe one where we don’t fear death isn’t so criminal.
Full documentary: http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/ifhx2EQEubk