Archive for June, 2014

Mending body and mind

Posted: June 23, 2014 by jcarinha in Uncategorized

Over two weeks have passed since I returned from my shortened journey. My first week back was for lack of a better word, a mental hell. Emotions were many and high. My desire to be back in routine and the flow of life felt like taking a fish out of water and watching it flip flop on land. So much felt unfamiliar and wrong. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

I never saw this coming, the feel of failure and defeat and at the hands of myself, my body, my genetics. As the days passed I came out of the clouds and grounded myself. Routine became the norm and I conceded to the fact that I had work to do to understand and better myself physically, but that there was equally unfinished business north of here.

To many, my return was a welcome that shelved their worry and concern and celebrated my safety and well being. I know that group (hello mom!) would love me to park this adventure and seek other ways to create the same awareness and funds and perhaps that day may come, but I am nowhere near that today. There were many voices of reason who shared their love, concerns and well wishes with me in the following weeks after I returned. I was touched and left speechless when my close cousin Maria greeted me with a loonie. She mentioned she kept this loonie with her everyday and hoped to give it to me at some point. I didn’t initially understand the significance of it until she pointed out who was embossed on the loonies face. As I studied it closely I realized it was Terry Fox, a man who attempted to run a marathon a day until he got himself across the whole of Canada to raise funds for cancer research. Unfortunately, Terry’s cancer forced him to end his quest prematurely and ultimately cost him his life. I felt my eyes well up and realized that even with Terry’s efforts which were on a scale I cannot fathom, he too had not been able to finish what he started. But it didn’t matter, because it was never about the running. His legacy has become annual runs held in his name across the country that have to date raised over 600 million dollars.


Since my return consultations have been many. Between two chiropractors, a massage therapist, and physiotherapist plans are being made, physical health and limitations assessed and hopefully a resolve over the next year will be had.

In the meantime, some decisions were necessary. For both myself and what’s been invested physically and equally from a project stand point in terms of our next steps with the Canucks Autism Network and building our resource.

As previously mentioned, the resource creation has begun. We are well on our way to building this over the next several months and as much as we have more funds to raise, for the short term we are through our first steps with this.

From an adventure perspective, I have had to come to a couple of difficult realizations. Completing the circumnavigation will not happen this year. It would be truly foolish to put myself through even bigger seas and a lot more distance knowing what it took to go as far as I did. A revisit to the training, prep and logistics will be necessary before reconsidering a second attempt. And it may even include creating and building a 2+ person team to create an added level of safety. I say this purely because I have come to accept that should a physical limitation present itself again, having a teammate vs having to summon or call for assistance is a much better scenario and a lesser poor use of our great professional resources that are better focused on larger scale issues and incidents. To put myself out there again without a slice of redundancy built in would be selfish now that I’ve truly taxed and tested myself physically.

That said, I have also decided to consider returning to the waters of Johnstone Strait later this summer in late July. I will pick up where I stopped, in Sayward, and continue another 125km to Port Hardy to complete the Inside Passage in its entirety and put it and the Strait behind me. From that point forward lies Goletas Channel and the open sea. I have given this great thought and I am confident I will have a decent enough recovery to put my back through three more days of rowing. From an awareness perspective it allows me to reach out to the towns of Telegraph Cove, Port McNeill and Port Hardy. Equally for my own mettle and adventuring desires it gives me some form of closure on knowing I will have gotten the inside coast completed. All of this of course hinges on two things; the first being the marine forecast for the week I am planning to go. If conditions are going to be similar to what they were when I was forced to stop, gale force winds blowing from the northwest, then I will most likely give this a pass. Secondly, how I fare the week prior in the STP Cycling Race which will span 320km taking me and my two wheels from Seattle to Portland. I have no desire to hurt myself any further but I cannot simply pass on the opportunity to cover a little more distance.


I have invested a lot of time and finances since my return to better understand my body, my posture and all the elements that when exposed to repetitive, arduous motion are going to be stressed and strained. Knowing how to endure this, sustain my efforts and use my strength effectively and efficiently is what I hope to get out of the next several months. Working with Rob Williams of Exceed Athletic Performance this past week has brought new light into how to approach and understand my own physics. I look forward to continuing to better myself through his program and seeing where this takes me over the balance of the year.

Dealing with the mental effects of this trip and not being able to continue has been helped with following others who are very much on their own journeys to circumnavigate Vancouver Island as we speak. Celebrating in their success has felt right, it has felt good and this past week I was able to help out a fellow adventurer in her efforts to complete the task of getting herself 1,100km around the island. Tara Mulvany is an adventurer who has traveled the world and engaged in many kayaking trips through serene waters and equally turbulent seas and rivers. A seasoned kayaker, she finds herself through the Broken Group Islands and near Bamfield as of this writing. I had contacted her through her website and offered her my food cache which was being held in Tofino. As it turned out, she was doing a pit stop there to fuel up and hitched herself into town and collected the bulk of my food. She was ecstatic at the offering and the contents and it truly brought a massive smile to my face to know that someone was doing what I was not able to, and in the process I was able to support her in some way, shape or form. Through email, we both learned that she was actually about two days behind me when I reached Sayward. I wish her well on her journey as she rounds the south of the island over the following days!

It still amazes me how the idea of this project to benefit the autism community has brought me to so many new places, people and experiences. I have a lot to be thankful for and I truly hope that the rowing aside, you continue to gain more knowledge and understanding of what autism is, equally what it isn’t and why it is so important to see that our resource project is fully funded and seen through to fruition.

Stay tuned for future posts…



Posted: June 5, 2014 by jcarinha in Uncategorized

Just a reminder that all cash donations received while enroute and from our t-shirt sales will be posted to the account early next week. I will enter these giving credit to the donors by name, but in some cases where addresses were not provided, formal tax receipts will be generated but not mailed out unless I hear from those people directly. I will keep the receipts here for the balance of 90 days.

If you are interested in a row4autism shirt, they are made by Sports Science and are a dri-fit hybrid poly/cotton blend in charcoal grey. Excellent odour resiliency (trust me, I know ;)) and a great workout shirt. Contact me direct at or by commenting here.

Thank you.

Day 9 – Kelsey Bay, Sayward

Posted: June 5, 2014 by jcarinha in Uncategorized

The day started with an early rise and a glance outside the tent. Winds were well over 20kts and due to increase. I turned and decided to do some reading and awaited my sisters arrival later that day. Its amazing how many thoughts run through ones mind and how on one hand I figured if I could push on, I’d be waiting out this wind and possibly sitting in Sayward the balance of the week. I argued within myself with the notion of getting a little further up the coast. Perhaps even make it past Telegraph Cove and into Port McNeill. My back had other ideas and in my most conscious of minds knew I had made the correct decision for the given moment.

The short of it is simply that my sister Cindy and brother in law Nelson, God love them, met me, we collected my gear, loaded the boat and drove back to Nanaimo eventually arriving home in Burnaby later that evening. Seeing my family and parents was nice, don’t get me wrong, but so much felt unfinished and so much felt completely numb and raw. Only when you experience something at this level do you truly understand how much there is to process. Not just the dissatisfaction of not being able to continue, but processing the many moments of connection and the contacts made, places been and seen and truly sorting through the appreciation for the world we live in. It has been overwhelming to be back when so much of me wants to resume things and be on the island.

To bring closure and understanding to what is happening, I had appointments with my RMT, my Chiropractor and Orthopedist yesterday. My gene pool contains history of De-generative Disc Disease (DDD) which is a form of spinal arthritis. I knew about a year ago that spurs on my facet joints had set in already and that although irreversible, it was possible to slow down its effects. The subsequent days of rowing and the abuse and pressures on the body were such that I aggravated my condition to a point where my lumbar joints locked up. When this happens, the surrounding muscles, those big bad erectors, go into protective mode and begin to spasm to compensate for the loss of movement. Its one ugly chain of happenings and they each need attention in one form or another. It will take time to re-gain that fluid mobility and work towards preventative measures, but for now that equates to no substantial physical activity.

I also met with Canucks Autism Network (CAN) and Autism Community Training (ACT) yesterday afternoon for what I thought was going to be a one on one conversation detailing things as they were, are and where they will be. It turned out CAN/ACT put on a little gathering of sorts with their entire staff and had a small reception to thank me and row4autism’s efforts. I was humbled, overwhelmed and felt so undeserving but equally appreciative. They are hands down two of the best organizations I have ever had the honor of being associated with. From top to bottom, their staff and collective efforts are a massive net benefit to our local autism community here in BC. I cannot thank them enough for the opportunity to work together and their continued support. Trust that for those of you who made monetary contributions and those considering to do so, I assure you the resource we are building is not only under way, but will be seen through to fruition.

I have been in minimal contact with family and friends the past two days as I regroup and let my mind and body settle. There exists a psychological aspect to this that I am struggling with and perhaps warrants explanation here. Some have asked why I am hung up on the fact I didn’t complete what I set out to do. They have indicated how proud they still are and how its about the cause and awareness – all fair and very valid points. But, my inner ‘man’, perhaps ego perhaps adventurous side has always set goals in life and come hell or high water I have always found a way and means to attain them. I say it, I do it. When I took up mountaineering it would have been wise to ease into it, try some smaller mountains and get acclimatized to the sport itself so to speak. Instead, I set my sights on books, gear and opted to climb Mount Rainier as my first summit attempt and then deciding after that experience if it was something I would enjoy. Its not the desire to be different or to go against convention, but rather its about challenge and the unknown. Its putting oneself out there and outside the levels of comfort that so many people stay tied to their entire lives.

The struggle I feel and that I recognize will pass, is one of letting myself down. In preparing for this journey I trained body and mind. To be perfectly honest I truly felt that any setback would have been the result of my fears getting the better of me. The seclusion perhaps, the wild, the animals, the ocean conditions or the boat itself. As much as all of that took up residence in my mind, it never overtook it. I was never in fear or in danger. The very things I thought would become issues, simply weren’t and I relished in the solitude that it was. I would hear the weather pick up or see waves building and it was never a question of what to do or how to get out of it. It was simply, head down and push forward. The boat exceeded my expectations in performance and stability. The very thing I counted on, trained the most and thought would never fail me, indeed did; and that is a lot to wrap my head around.

In the coming days and weeks there will me much that I pull from that took place on this trip. It has already changed my views of how much we mistreat mother Earth. It has shown me above all things to believe and trust again in the human spirit and that unconditional kindness does exist. It has shown me how much we take for granted and how little we appreciate some days.

I slept on beaches, on docks, on front porches, in an RV. I bathed myself in the open ocean and in a public washroom. I drank water from a stream and ate food cooked over an open fire. It was existence and survival in a most simple means rid of all things that truly proved to me, really don’t matter. We flood our lives with things we are convinced we need or that will somehow make life more convenient. Yet when we lose a wifi connection or our cell phones lose power its somehow the end of the world. We have become so reliant on modern convenience and accessorizing our lives with so much shit that we’ve forgotten how to truly ‘live’. We’ve opted to get carried in the societal evolutionary wave that see’s change as financial reward and opportunity; and as the world turns, so do the capitalist minds that run the ‘you really need this’  ideology mills that we frolic to and get lost in.

Row4Autism is about autism, its awareness and the opportunity to collect support to build a legacy resource for all to access and use. As much as the vehicle that was the idea of a complete circumnavigation did not pan out, the mission is by no means done. I will fix myself and focus on building this resource with CAN and ACT from both the funds we already have and those that continue to come in. The success of the project is about empowering others, educating them and creating awareness and understanding. The physical rowing piece will resume, but in what shape or form or when is not an answer I have today – so trust that the site will remain functional and the donation links very much active.

All the extras I or Ivy have shared here through this blog were always with the intention of bringing you along on this journey and hoping that it created an interest and raised your eyebrows to not just autism, but to humanity, to life lessons and to the nature of a simple existence. I want to thank every follower, supporter, those who donated, those who encouraged, for standing behind this project. You were not standing behind me alone, but rather an entire community.

I leave you with two photo’s that have and do speak to me. The first is an inscription that adorns the boats middle bulkhead and came from a special place that reminds me to stay true to myself no matter what life throws my way.


The second, is a frame I saw in Sayward at a small gift shop at the main docks. It sat by itself on the floor, mostly ignored, but with a powerful message, and its a fitting ending to this blog today and hopefully something you can all pull from each and every day.


A million times over, thank you so much for supporting this endeavour thus far and helping make a huge difference in the lives of those living with autism.

Day 8 – Bear Bight to Kelsey Bay

Posted: June 3, 2014 by jcarinha in Uncategorized

During the very early morning hours while the sun still had a couple hours before it rose, I woke to strong winds outside and the notion that a decision was pending. I knew by this point that it wasn’t a matter of if but when this trip would come to a halt. I shifted in my bed trying to steady my back and equally test my mobility and stretch at the same time. I convinced myself that I would under no circumstance be given a ride to town, as much as I knew the offer was well intended. I could not bring myself to succumbing to having to be ‘taken’ to a haul out point because I couldn’t get myself there under my own power. It would be about 24km to Kelsey Bay in Sayward from where I was and that distance would be rowed no matter how bad the winds were and no matter what sort of pain or discomfort I was in.

In such a short time it amazes me how attached one gets to new norms. Gary, his camp and his dogs were all I knew and all that shared my existence with for that period of time. Ripper, Sammy and Gypsy were such a welcomed distraction and quickly took to me as the new guy. I was already missing them and I hadn’t yet left.


A short time later Gary stirred and within moments the smells of fried bacon and eggs filled the trailer. He made a breakfast to feed an army and I was clearly his army of one 😉 Stuffed with his cooking, I told him my intentions and he simply got on with things. There was no talking me out of anything or encouraging me either. He simply gathered my dry bags and helped me load the boat back up. He offered his home in Sayward for me to stay that night and exchanged contact information. I expressed that as appreciative as I was, that if this was indeed my last stab at this, I needed to do things as I first set off to do and that was to establish a camp and be self sufficient. Gary understood, and with a stiff handshake and a million thank you’s, I set off.


This photo brings tears to me as I recall the feel of the wind on my face, the crisp air surrounding us, the movement of the dock and knowing that this man lives a life that at the very least is defined by at least two of three words I have detailed in characters on my boat, courage and solitude. I felt envious but somehow proud for him and proud to have met him.

Gary waved me off and before I rounded the bight and re-entered Johnstone Strait we shared one last glance and wave. I turned to look west, took my bearing and aligned the boat with a quick glance at my compass and resumed rowing. It was blowing strong and the Strait was a mess of whitecaps, choppy waves and a myriad of water features from boils to swirls to rips. I moved further into the Strait at times and others hugged the shore to make the most of the current and find the smoothest of water to alleviate the necessary force on the oars. It would be three hours or so to get to Sayward and it was time to reflect. I cursed out loud at the wind and at myself. There are fewer worse feelings when it comes to matters of endurance and knowing when the curtain call has come.

My sister and brother in law were already planned to be off for the week to travel the north island and meet me at dedicated stops along the way. We had chatted the night prior and they knew that the trip was now more about collecting me and my gear and that there would be no further travels. We agreed to meet in Sayward the following day.

I passed Helmcken Island through Race Passage and soon had the rusted hulks of the WWII ships that were placed as a breakwater to protect the small marina in Sayward within view. Just past this point was a wharf and floating dock that would be my final stop. Above the wharf laid a small private campground, which was open and had a vacant site for me to pitch on. As I neared the breakwater a small powerboat came out to meet me. The fellow driving slid his window open and greeted me then asked what the hell I was doing out there and where was I headed. He kindly pointed out if I had noticed the conditions and that further up the Strait things would get even gnarlier. I explained my stop was a few hundred yards further, we exchanged pleasantries and we each carried on our respective ways.

IMG_7882Emotions were relentless as I unpacked and set up camp, opened my sleeping bag and laid down to rest. The winds blew with more ferocity and a quick check of my satphone confirmed what I was seeing. Winds were forecast to be gale force for the entire balance of the week.

I made a few calls home got things all square and knew I had one more call to make. It was imperative that I reach out to the Canucks Autism Network (CAN) and advise them of my condition and altered plan. I hesitated as I knew doing so would seal my current fate and I felt the weight of so much hope teetering on my shoulders. Nobody put it there but me and I knew that I would hear all sorts of understanding and well wishes, but still it felt wrong, too soon and very much like failure.

I decided to take a walk into town and as I passed the marina and logging facility I watched as tugs worked the waters sorting, pushing and pulling booms into place. I sat in awe at the level of machinery required to do such laborious work. The tires on the machine below stood taller than me.


I finally picked up my satphone and dialed my contact at CAN. It went to voicemail and I explained what my situation was and my intended plans. As I pressed the red button to disconnect and end the call I knew as right a decision as it was to make, it was still one of the toughest moments of my life.

I walked and thought back on the past 14 months of preparations and wanted so badly to find a comforting moment, something to sooth the rawness inside but I wasn’t there yet and didn’t figure to be for some time. I continued on until I came across the same diner we had been at the night prior when Gary drove me into town. I sat again, this time alone, and ordered the same fish and chips meal. Mar as she’s known, served up her very own self line caught rock cod fillets that were as large as my hands. Essentially she plated before me an entire fish, both sides, along with some fries and slaw. It was delicious.


I returned to camp later that night, built a fire and sat and read. Every so often I would pull my hood back to feel the wind and glance across the water. I knew that my efforts were my best and that I left all that I had out on those waterways. I thought I could will myself through anything, and have so many times prior. But sadly it was not in the cards this time around and I knew I had to do some work to understand what exactly was happening with my physical well being. The next day would bring warm hugs and smiles from my sister and brother in law and I fell asleep knowing I would soon be in good familiar company.

Day 7 – Quadra Island to Bear Bight

Posted: June 3, 2014 by jcarinha in Uncategorized

As some of you are already aware, my expedition came to an abrupt end yesterday. I will explain over the next two blogs so as to keep my travels detailed but also explain what transpired.

During the crossing from Savary Island to Quadra Island, the first two hours were in rough water and a strong NW wind. I should have made good time to Mitlenatch Island, a bird sanctuary to Savary’s west but was still a ways away after a couple hours in. Most of my ailments to this point were actually improving, namely my hands and my knee. My back however, was progressively giving me more trouble.

Rowing as a whole is very synchronous, your left side emulates your right and you catch, pull, feather and repeat as you work through the oar stroke. Add headwinds and turbulent waters and now it becomes more of a delicate balancing act. One side powers more than the other, an oar catches nothing but air as you put power to it and quickly it becomes a dance of trying forward progress that taxes your body and mind and no two strokes are the same. It is what it is, and you just go through the motions so long as progress is being made. I thought to turn back, but my stubborness and arguably my ego thought it better to continue. Needless to say it was not a pleasant start to the morning but I knew this was never on any level going to be a walk in the park.

Soon after falling into the lee of Mitlenatch, I stopped. I truly took an inventory of everything I was feeling. Despite a suspect back issue that I was trying to ignore, I felt spent, hopeful and somehow elated. I knew I’d get through the crossing, I just didn’t know what I would feel once I got there. I pacified my mood and pains with thoughts of the ‘finish’ line. I could envision the final few hundred meters and what it would feel like to hit the dock some weeks later knowing I have put 1,100km and a pile of stories behind me. Knowing that my goal was met both as a project and as an adventure. I broke into prayer, speaking to my grandmother and others, asking and willing them to please talk to the Wind Gods and ask them to throw me a bone. It felt helpless, but it was one more thing to occupy the mind and distract me from the arduous task at hand. With these thoughts in mind, I continued.

As Ivy has already explained I made it to Quadra Island and had a wonderful evening at April Point.

The next morning slack tide was slated for 6:40am at Seymour Narrows. This means that the water flowing through this rock venturi would slow, stop and start flowing again in the opposite direction. I wanted an ebbing tide which would flow in my direction of travel, so getting to the start of the narrows on time was paramount to avoid excessively turbulent waters when crossing and the potential for boils, swirls, or confused waters. My mistake was not referring to my charts but rather sighting the distance and asking a local skipper what it was. He stated ‘3 miles’ and I did my math and figured I would need under an hour to get there. I timed my wake up accordingly and got out on the water with what I thought was enough time to get to the narrows, cross them safely and use the ebb current to my favour.

As it was, the actual distance to the narrows was 12km and with a flooding current against me to start, took me two hours to get through putting me at the narrows at 7:25am. By this point the current was moving decently and you could hear the ‘rapids’ that were building through the 3km stretch that the narrows occupy. A tug and barge were going through as were other boats, so this made for tighter quarters. My focus (as Bill Steele eluded to in his comment) was to not look at what was coming, but rather punch through with a tenacious effort and row hard. The boat carved through the waters all the while having the current in my favour but a countering NW wind which made the waters choppy. The cockpit took on water, but there was no time to bail. I needed to get through the short stretch of ‘fun’ and hope for calmer, wider waters ahead.

The balance of Discovery Passage was bumpy for sure, and as I neared Chatham Point and the opposite shores of Sonora Island, I saw that the waters were flattening out. I made the left and entered the infamous Johnstone Strait. I was truly in a wild place now with much less obvious habitation around me. Soon after getting past Rock Bay, the wind picked up and was blowing strong. This is where things came apart for me. The efforts of the days prior and never having a favourable wind, the hard push to make the narrows on time and now yet another strong headwind made for some difficult rowing. I caught myself in a counter current and as I tried to muscle through it my back went into intense spasms. I can only explain them like an electric charge of sorts and you feel like a bit of a contortionist without the ability to control your movements fully. I arched my back, shifted in my limited space trying everything to alleviate the pain. During this process I could not pull on the oars and as a result the boat would turn broadside to the waves. More water came over the side and I used one oar to try and straighten myself out, all the while telling myself the spasms would subside; and they did.

I took a shallow angle and began to cut to shore. By this point I didn’t care about my planned stop at Palmer Bay, I was looking for anything that could host a tent and boat. Between recurring spasms, keeping the boat on track and trying to inch forward, I found a spot on my chart that was only a few km’s away. I eventually made my way to Bear Bight.

Upon arrival I noticed a logging camp of sorts, log booms and what appeared to be an RV on shore. To my surprise I heard the barking of dogs and saw a figure appear from the trailer and motion for me to come ashore.


As I approached the makeshift dock, I was met by Gary. He was the full time on site watchman for Mike Hamilton Logging, tasked with managing the camp and keeping all the equipment safe. Gary was shirtless, wearing a pair of jeans and surrounded by his dogs. I asked if I could pitch camp on shore and he replied I’d best stay with him in the trailer or the first aid shack as a resident bear was in the area and would probably pay me a visit, purely out of curiousity but not worth the hassle or encounter.

After securing the boat, unloading necessities and negotiating a 30ft log to walk across to get to shore (thankfully my balance was oddly intact) I crumpled after a 54km slog. I had my moment. I reached out to home on my satphone and came apart and knew that my days on the water were truly numbered. My back was done and no matter the stretching I attempted something was just way off and not right. All of the foreshadowing I had created in my own mind of what lay ahead was erased in a dark moment of realization that the expedition was in grave danger of being over.

Gary and I sat and chewed the fat for the balance of the afternoon. We watched as bluejays, squirrels, hummingbirds and crows all shared the same feeder and co-existed. I couldn’t help but think of all the unrest in so many countries and how we as a human race couldn’t figure out how to live harmoniously yet here before me were wild animals without masters degree’s or formal components of communication but able to play nice and exist as one.

As supper hour approached, Gary offered to drive me into town for a stop over at his main home where his wife lived and a quick bite at a local diner in Sayward. Along the drive on the Rock Bay forest service road, he explained how logging once was and even pointed out the remnants of old trestles that once supported rail cars for transporting fallen tree’s. He explained what the wildlife was like and told me about true stories of survival he was a part of. I could have listened to him for hours.


His wife Donna and their helper Tim, joined us for dinner. Tim was described to me as different and having some issues. After engaging him in conversation it was clear that he had some form of ASD trait(s) but regardless, he was perhaps not fully understood at a societal level, but loved and cared for by his family and friends. He worked feverishly for Gary and Donna and always with a smile on his face and a mouthful of good conversation to share. I have never seen someone eat fish with so much tarter sauce or make short work of a blueberry pie slice draped in whip cream – but it was undoubtedly well earned.

I learned through Gary about the town of Sayward and along the drive back I shared with him my concerns regarding my trip and did my best to conceal my emotions. He offered to drive me and my boat into Sayward or Campbell River. He was so nonchalant about things that it had a calming effect. A truly ‘so what?’ mentality to the idea that this might be it. It wasn’t a disregard for anything in particular but rather, looking at the whole thing subjectively and breaking it into what was the journey really all about? This question stayed with me all night and into the next day.