This post will mainly focus on two often-ignored concepts these days: respect and common sense. One of my favorite quotes, “I’ve never responded well to entrenched negative thinking,” stated by the late David Bowie, comes to mind. When I am on the water or near the water I am happy. So, when I kayak or when I have been the individual behind the wheel of any vessel, I have always taken this responsibility pretty seriously. Why? Because the water has no mercy and the inherent dangers are, in my opinion, greater on the water than on / in other mediums. Experience tends to teach one a thing or two about the respect for nature.
Furthermore, regardless of what anyone tells you, particularly from the naysayers who tell you something cannot be done, don’t pay them any mind and do it anyway. Don’t let anyone ever talk you out of doing something that makes sense to you. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you are stupid for even trying. The following is a very short synopsis of a highly detailed plan to kayak from Virginia to New Jersey. The endless remarks, looks, and outlandish comments I heard in reference to this ocean kayaking expedition could fill a book.
A buddy with whom I kayaked regularly, and, by the way, this was an individual who had far less experience on the water than me, had planned to join me on this ocean kayaking expedition. Even though he had less experience with water, this was not a journey my family wanted me to make – at least without arousing great concern – on my own. I am not the know all, do all, superman of water, but I have had my time card punched with my share of logged water time, so I am confident when I venture out into the big blue. Initially, my buddy wondered why I kayaked so much and why I was training so hard. He had no idea what my ocean kayaking plans entailed, but once he heard the plan, he wanted to go and his mind was set, so I decided why not. He was on board and I put into action the VA to NJ trip; it was no longer a solo trip and I now had to plan for two, but this made my wife happy, because, believe me, she was NOT thrilled I was doing this trip, and even more so because I was going at it alone. So, the training began; like a mako shark eating a yellowfin tuna, I was practicing for this crazy idea of mine and I was determined to make it happen.
Training on all fronts continued at an even faster pace now, mentally and physically. My co-pilot knew I had maps upon maps, charts, tidal maps and times, weather conditions from past to present to analyze the weather and marine patterns, and I had real time feed, gear, and pretty much anything that one could think of to do a trip of this nature. This was no hop on a Ferris wheel, go around and get off-type of ride and so the training and preparation needed to be just as such and it was. It was difficult, but with a purpose of a reward at the end.
The water has no mercy and if you treat water as a joke, then you will die. That is the bottom line when dealing with water in this type of excursion or anytime you venture out in to the water in such a manner. You will die if you do not take it seriously; one should always have respect for the ocean. So, nonstop preparations were underway. I even got my father involved because he is a captain and a damn good one, so I trust his judgements in these matters. At first, though, I was very reluctant on sharing this with him. My dad is the type of man that if you tell him you are going to do something, then you do it or at least try. I like to think I did make him a little proud.
Practice, practice, practice, and more practice. I would watch people on the shore line just watching me practice and then I would hear the commentaries, and, at times, harassment, regarding my ocean kayaking adventure. However, they were watching from the safety of land. Hell, I would have loved if other people wanted to sign up and join in; that would have made the trip even safer in numbers. If anything it would have been interesting to have other kayakers on the water even if it was just to practice with me for the day.
So, one day my co-pilot and I were training; even though I had noticed certain behaviors even before this day, I chose to brush it off until I knew without a doubt something was going on. You see, when you are on the water you need to understand the simplest to the most complex situations that may or could occur. You need to be able to trust that your colleague or co-pilot will be there for you just in case. That notorious “just-in-case” situation always lurks in the back of your mind. That is what keeps you alive – the reality that you know the dangers, but you are prepared for the possibility and will face them with sound judgment. Would you jump into a body of water without a wetsuit/dry suit knowing that you could freeze to death when you have the gear available at hand? Case closed!
As the trip date neared, I made preparations for time off of work and one last practice run before the big trip; I repeatedly received questions from my co-workers about why I wanted to kayak on the ocean across several states. The memory of those repeated questions is what prompted this particular blog post. If anything, my critics just pissed me off to the point where I just pushed myself even harder. I found that people like to talk shit about things they want to be doing themselves, but just don’t, and when they see someone actively pursuing a goal, it brings out the worst in people. I experienced this. I remember this and I will continue to write about this. As Grant Cardone would say, NO NEGATIVITY ALLOWED!
So, the trip was just around the corner and my gut was telling me to cancel the trip, because something was just not right. With a trip such as this you have to take everything into consideration and my gut is and was a major factor in everything I did or do. I just needed to know without a doubt that I could depend on my co-pilot if something went wrong, not just for my safety, but for his as well. We were on our last practice session and before I even unloaded my gear, I noticed my co-pilot was out in the water drunk as a skunk, and high as a kite. I decided to forego the kayaking expedition due to my co-pilot’s pattern of behavior; his thoughts were “let’s just do it and if we need help, we can just contact the Coast Guard for rescue”. I had a different plan of action; after all, I was ready, prepped, and focused on this trip and my number one concern was if this guy would be able to save himself – or me – if necessary. Perfectly rational and honest concerns…
I started from day one with this guy telling him all the dangers involved, what could or would go wrong even in the best of weather conditions, but my gut was telling me he had not heard any of this. I asked him straight out if he was using heroin again and the reply was yes. I had my answer to one, my gut feeling, two his mental state, and three the decision to cancel the trip. Now, I was pissed to no end, because I felt I let down a lot of people and more importantly myself. I knew I would receive “I told you so” from all of the naysayers; in the end, though, I was the one who prevailed. I was the one who acquired indispensable knowledge. I was the one who put into action my idea, one which prompted a lot of criticism from others. In looking back, I realized I made the right decision (that is a “no-brainer” when your colleague is using), and I still kayaked over 400 miles anyway in preparation, an accomplishment no one can take away from me.
The possibility of a future trip still lingers in the recesses of my mind; I haven’t decided if I will make the trip, but it is still on my list of things to check off and chalk up to experience. What is on your “bucket” or “to-do” list? Have you attempted any of your significant goals, or have you received criticism for your goals in life?
Go after what you feel is right, even if it just starts off as a simple idea in your mind. What if you don’t try and ask yourself later, why I didn’t at least start? If it is attainable, then why not try to attain that specific goal. It will be difficult to ignore those who will question every single action, particularly when you are trying to improve yourself as a person, but as long as you stand up for yourself, and know in your eyes that you are doing right, then why not attempt your goals, dreams, that personal “to-do” list, or a long-standing bucket list. I am and I will continue to do so. I hope you will fight for something that means something to you, regardless of whether it is earning a GED, going back to college, quitting drinking or smoking, etc., or standing up for your beliefs, then that is better than nothing. If it is writing or speaking for a living and if millions of dollars are your goal then you will definitely have to start with who is looking at you in the mirror. Something is better than nothing. More of something is better than something. Every day you keep working towards that goal it is a better day.
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. John F. Kennedy
I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. Jimmy Dean
Believe you can and you’re halfway there. Theodore Roosevelt
See you in the next post.