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Tuesday, July 23, 2013
The most honest words from an Arctic rower: "Our constant companions of mosquitoes, anxiety, and each other, interspersed with moments of laughter, tears and serenity... All our expectations have been given a good shakeup."
We oscillate between romanticizing and demonizing things in our own head most of the time, ever so briefly stopping by in reality. Well reality came and bit both Matty and I on the butt badly the past 4 days. All our expectations have been given a good shakeup.
After a frustrating series of delays Day 1 started off well under blue skies and light winds. We rowed well for 6 hours navigating the twists and turns of the Mackenzie River. After hour six our bodies were beaten and ready for a break so we hoisted the sails and managed to find a somewhat kind, but fickle breeze.
Pretty quickly we discovered the hazards of sailing a river….sandbars. We ran aground numerous times and got quite proficient at extricating ourselves, but the fear of breaking something or get stuck for good never took the scare out of it. At 12:30am after being on the go for 14h ours we came ashore to camp for the night.
But trying to haul 800kg (1800lbs) of boat and gear up a muddy beach after a day like that had other plans for us. The less said about the next few hours the better, they were not kind to either of us.
The realization of this undertaking really took hold in our tents that night and after little to no sleep we started Day 2 in low spirits, and quickly bottomed out, literally and mentally. As we tried to reverse our progress of hauling the boat up the beach the previous night all we seemed to manage to do was drive the keel of the boat deep into the mud…again the less said about the next few hours the better. It seems someone felt we needed more practice, because just spend 6.5 hrs floundering against a falling tide to get the boat back in the water this morning. But we do now have a foolproof, and very well practiced, system of pulleys and rollers that mean we are capable of hauling the boat long distances over mud that could swallow a small child.
And so it has been for the past 4 days. Our constant companions of mosquitoes, anxiety, and each other, interspersed with moments of laughter, tears and serenity.
We’ve just hit the ocean and are headed for Tuk, a small coastal town, for some repairs to ourselves and our boat. Fairmont’s Passion is already in need of a few more modifications if she is going to make it the next few months. Fingers crossed Tuk has what we need.
Stay tuned, Matty is on the tiller as I write and we are getting along at 4 knots, so the fun is just beginning.
Should I stay or should I go now?
Some decisions in life you agonize over and over, flip flopping from yes to no, to wait to go. The very worst ones are when you have the time to sit and watch the ‘correct’ answer ever so slowly unfold before your eyes. So it has been for us today. We have been playing the ‘wait or go’ game all day. After pulling the boat ashore last night to escape some blustery headwinds and incoming cold rain showers we luckily stumbled into an old leaky Blair Witch like hunting cabin, which saved us from our first nervous night sleeping surrounded by a trip wire for bear defense. This morning, based on continued and forecasted blustery winds we elected to stay put, light the fire, and stave off the cold. Our entertainment being arranging pots, cups and pans around to catch the drips or steady downpours inside the cabin.
Now every trip outside to get something from the boat, go to the toilet, or get some fresh air is made with a eye cast out to sea, and either validate or hate our decision to stay put. But early on a trip, when there is so much unknown and so far to go, it is easy to hate a decision not to go, but being so exposed in everything we do up here, erring on the side of safety is the prudent choice…and hoping tomorrow will bring better conditions.
So it’s back to staring longingly out to sea and wondering what if…