This trip has been a lot of effort to plan and put together. What makes me think I can do it? My skill set (I will find you) is based on the following: My paddling CV. Originally it was white water. I was a reasonable grade 4 paddler and have done a few rivers you might know – Upper Dart, Plym, Lyn Gorge, Fairy Glen, Etieve, Ogwyn to name a few.
My Ocean CV is based mostly on my marine biology work and as a travel guide. I have clocked up thousands of hours driving from small boats and probably an equal amount of time aboard ships, fishing boats, sailing boats and passenger liners. In terms of rescue work I am a fire service boat instructor, Swift water boat operator and swift water rescue technician (Rescue 3) including two trips to train boat operators in the Gambia. You spend a lot of time on the sea in the places I have, or around water rescues, and you’re going to encounter the harsh nature of these environments. And I have. This trip is not one I take lightly.
My boat choice is now resolved. Potential sponsors were struggling with supply issues and availability. The purists would go for a light sleek boat, but I am more concerned about durability. I am not trying to set any records (perhaps in my age category). I also have no idea of what the public reaction will be. I am happy to stop off and give talks etc. It might become a roadshow – with me making lots of stops and bashing the boat around. What I do know is that years of adventure sports have taken their toll on my body. My ambitions never matched my abilities (a fitting epitaph) and so I picked up a lot of injuries.
My big decision has been to use a kayak sail. I call it the deadpool drive. This I hope will give me the flexibility to rest the different aches I anticipate geeting. It may complicate the potential for capsizes and rolling, not so good as a solo paddler. As such, I have been back in the pool to sharpen self recovery skills and get my roll back to a good standard.
In terms of equipment, my main potential sponsor from 2020 wouldn’t take my calls this time around. Thankfully another stepped up and I now have a Kokatat Dry suit and Werner Paddles. The highs and lows. There are a lot of deserving attempts out there. All you can be is grateful for whatever help you can get and understanding if you can’t. In terms of paddles, I am taking 2 different size blades and a bent and straight shaft. The hope is that in mixing and matching I can manage arm and wrist problems, yet still keep up as much speed as my body can maintain.
If you would like to see if my equipment decision pays off, keep an eye out for the GoPro uploads to Youtube. I have also made some alterations to my kit, like my sail. It may seem I am trying too hard to be amusing. The truth is, paddling on your own can be lonely, sometimes boring and sometimes down right scary. You have to keep yourself amused, and sometimes feeling braver and more focused than you are feeling. Pretending to be a superhero or a rebel pilot is what I find works for me.