Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A girl, a kayak and a dream

I have a dream, who doesn't. My dream includes taking about a year off of work, quitting if I have to, and to do a kayaking expedition trip as well as finish hiking the southern section of the Appalachian Trail. After that, who knows where the wind will carry me but I would like to head over to New Zealand and Australia to do more kayaking and hiking out on the sunny blue waters of the south Pacific seas. In my mind, the kayak expedition trip will be about two to three months long and will either be a circumnavigation of some large island or following some inside passage of some group of islands. The options really can be limitless but I will have a time line to follow, budget to set and if I want to use my own boat and gear, then I am also limited by geography. It would not only cost too much to plan an expedition outside of North America but the logistics involved are likely to be much more intense. So for now I chose to make my first expedition trip within North America. I already have a few places in mind and will have to start doing some research on those places. I have set my research sites on either Vancouver Island or Newfoundland Island; both of which are in Canada, one on the east coast, the other on the west coast. Vancouver seems to be the better option right now as it will be less time-wise and distance-wise but has many options for increasing the length of the trip by simply continuing to follow the coast north up through the inside passage. My goals are to set up some timeline of when this will happen, bring up my ocean skill set so I can actually physically do this, and get the gear I will need to do this trip.

Why blog about this? There are a lot of people out there who can't do such adventures as these and they live on other peoples adventures, so I decided this is a good time to start sharing.
* First, this lets people see the planning process
* Second, to show anyone can grow to an adventure
* Third, to write about the adventure

Planning an Expedition
A lot of planning goes into setting up an expedition trip. Sometimes too much planning. I spent way too much time obsessing over the details of what I would and would not do on my thru-hike of the Appalachian trail that I think I lost sight of my goals with the planning. This time I am trying to balance the logistics involved in the planning with the unpredictability that happens once plans meet real life. I will have to go about procuring coastal maps and figuring out good places to resupply as well as spend nights, but I will not lay out such a strict timeline as weather, fatigue and sight-seeing will change everything. I want to enjoy myself on this trip not make a goal and feel I have nothing to show for it.

The immediate logistics that are cropping up are skills needed, equipment, food supplies, which trip and start date. Many things hinge on what trip to chose, and I think most of it boils down to Vancouver at this point since that is a shorter trip and will require less endurance. Based on some preliminary reading, Newfoundland will require at least three months of hard paddling just to do the circumnavigation. Whereas Vancouver will likely require about six weeks but there is then the inside passage that allows for lengthening the trip over a few more weeks, even up to another month.

The equipment needed for the trip is mostly independent of the trip chosen as both trips are on the ocean. Ocean travel generally requires dry suits even in the summer especially in more northern areas. A backup paddle, some dry bags and backpacking equipment should round out the equipment. The food is another issue. Until I figure out what trip will be the expedition, I can't determine if it will be possible to stop and resupply or if all the food needed will have to be carried.

The start date is somewhat flexible but the end date isn't. The expedition must finish before any fall and winter storms will start moving in. It is dangerous enough on the ocean in a small craft without having to worry about gale force winds, crashing waves and generally miserable weather. And depending on when weather moves in, that will determine the end date for the expedition.

My goals are to recharge myself from the everyday grind of life. And what better way then to get away from it all. My other goals will also include bringing up my skill set so I am confident in a knowledgeable way, not a cocky way. Up until this point, I have not really taken my kayak out on the ocean, the real ocean. I have been in protected marshy areas, and large bays, but not on the open ocean. The dynamics of the ocean are very different from those of a river or lake. There are waves and tide to contend with. Waves means it is more difficult to launch off a beach or to even land on a beach. The waves keep pushing and getting in and out of a constantly moving kayak will be a challenge to contend with. Tides are their own force and it will be important to be able to figure out where the high tide mark is so the campsite can be set up in the correct spot and kayaks will not float away overnight.

In order to start meeting some of my goals, I have started to register for local festivals and search out local training classes in order to bolster my skill set. I will be taking a few open water classes and doing some sea surfing. After that I will take a BCU 3 Star training class and try to assess for the 3 Star rating as well as the ACA L3 rating. This will mean I am capable of kayaking in conditions deemed 3 Star in difficulty. I will also be attending any other classes that seem useful to the expedition.

I love to write. Case in point, I wrote a novel during National Novel Writing Month, took me two months to write it but I successfully completed the month long challenge three years in a row, resulting in two novel length works to my name. Only one is self published right now, but it is the start of something new and exciting. I also wrote about my Appalachian Trail adventures which took place in 2005, my original blog entries are still available on my hiking blog for all to read and follow along on. The nice thing about the progression of the blog was that I also set that blog up well before my trip actually started and it is interesting to watch the progression of how I go from a happy carefree planner, to suddenly worry about pack weight, aching knees and not doing enough miles initially. Over time the hike changed me, made me see and appreciate things I hadn't noticed before. I am sure that will happen again on this trip. And I wish to share that personal adventure with people as well. The heart ache and joys of the trip is better shared with a community of friends

I hope that in doing this, people can follow from the beginning of the story and watch as I grow, adapt, change and eventually make that first paddle stroke on my great adventure. Maybe by doing this, I can inspire other people to pick up and do this as well. I found it very energizing to go off for a long distance thru-hike in the summer of 2005 and I think it is once again time to pick up and go off on a new adventure. A water adventure this time.

[Photo by: seidsvag]

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