How did August sneak up on us so fast? Hard to believe how much time has passed since row4autism came off the water so to speak.
The past month or so has seen more of the same work and rehab in getting my back to a better place. Working with Elign Chiro out of Burnaby has proved very successful and educational. I will resume full on activities this week enabling me to go back to the regular workouts in the gym, push the same weight and carry out the same exercises less the overhead compression work. Its been trying at the worst of times and promising at the best of them.
My trip to the north island last week was a window of opportunity and the only one left over the balance of this summer. I had a planned fishing trip in Port Hardy and thought it best to continue a portion of this journey since I was already destined to be up there. Due to logistics and some further concerns with health, it was decided I would keep all rowing limited to the immediate waters of Hardy Bay and use the time to reconnect with the boat, the stroke and more importantly the people that helped me along the way. I was able to visit with Gary, the fellow who helped me out in Bear Bight. Seeing him again was hard to put into words. I took no pictures or video as I wanted the moment for me, for my family and to be etched in my mind forever. A simple act of humanity on his part, one human being helping another without agenda or expectation. It was great to be back to see him and give him both an official Row4Autism shirt and some fresh fish.
Perhaps a sign perhaps just bad luck, on my first few strokes just outside Scotia Bay, my foot plate snapped. Rowing was still possible but felt off given I was having to compensate with more heel and less of my overall foot. The winds that day were a reminder of what I left behind back in June. I welcomed them, the whitecaps and felt elated to be on the water albeit with a heavy heart.
I had earlier received news that a solo rower, Paul Clark, was lost at sea and missing since July 11th. Last seen 220km north of Port Hardy, he was rowing from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy and then reportedly down the west coast of Vancouver Island. Just this past weekend his rowboat was found, over turned off of Ocean Shores in Washington State; 700km from his last known point. It defies explanation and initially I was lost for words.
I fished well north of Cape Scott in flat seas last week and occasionally spotted search and rescue efforts overhead and I wondered silently what had become of Paul. Its so hard not to recollect my own ambitions and efforts, from boat construction through to that final day when I conceded to my own issues and wonder how he must have shared parallel experiences during the process of his own build and creating his planned journey. To not know him yet feel like I knew a small sliver of the man that made the commitment to embark on an adventure like that which he chose, just made the entire news of his story that much closer to mind and heart. I pray for his family and I pray that closure is found in whatever form it must take.
I have faced many questions since my return and in the wake of Paul’s story and others such as the Great Pacific Race, it always garners a comment on how ‘dangerous’ the ocean is. Even with my climbing trips I’ve heard much the same, that the mountains are dangerous. Its upsetting at times because sometimes ignorance or perhaps a lack of knowledge or understanding fuels this easy label. Inherently all things in life have forms of risk associated with them; some more than others. However I would argue that the decision(s) pertaining to i.e the ocean or mountains are where the door opens on danger and risk becoming less a thought and more an actual moment or happening. A decision to head out to sea when conditions are less than desirable or beyond one’s limitations is what becomes the first link in a chain of events that could result in an incident of sorts. Deciding to put oneself in a situation or series of elements above one’s level of experience does not render the sport dangerous. The individuals decision process is where the threshold of risk is crossed, at least when it comes to all things that are less objective.
Last month, families gathered in Mill Bay for a ‘BBQ in the Bay’ afternoon that was sponsored by Bridgeman’s Bistro and the wonderful crew at Mill Bay Marina to celebrate Row4Autism and the projects success to date. My initial vision would see me completing the circumnavigation on this day. For every day I was on the water I always thought of the proverbial ‘finish’ line and how the day would play out. It was bittersweet to be there, knowing it wasn’t to be exactly as planned, but an amazing celebration nonetheless. Great food was paired with great company and I send my most sincere gratitude to Duane Shaw and Andrew Purdey of Mill Bay Marina and equally Noah Morantz, Stephanie Jull, Emily Stuible and their crew of the Canucks Autism Network for their continued support of this project. With the funds raised at this event our grand project total sits at $28,000!
Upon my return from my trip, I had stashed most of my gear as it was left, not having the desire or heart to actually put it away. My camera’s were one piece of kit I left alone. Their SD cards were copied to a hard drive for safe keeping but I was not ready to view the footage as I knew some of what it contained and I knew it would be difficult to watch for the moment that was those initial weeks. Two weeks ago I finally sat down to view some of the footage and as much as it captured the realities of the journey, it equally captured the hardships. It was difficult to watch but motivating at the same time.
Knowing the weight and pressure I put on myself, stopping as already mentioned, felt impossible but necessary. I’ve learned a hard lesson in adventuring, in that the script no matter how many times rehearsed is never really left up to the individual. This in itself is what makes adventure so alluring; the unknown, the risk, the reward, the solitude…it’s all part of being in the moment and living the experience to its true fullest potential. I was buoyed by encouraging words from many, but none stood out as much as those shared by Colin Angus, a global adventurer who has been a mentor to me and shared this with me via an email:
“…I know you’ve found it challenging having to pull out early, but the most important thing is you dared to think big, and you’ve made a huge contribution, both in funds and raising awareness, in the realm of autism. Although it was tough for you to call off the expedition, that is perhaps the bravest thing you did. To continue on with a bad back is just asking for trouble. It simply isn’t worth taking so much risk when you have a loving family waiting for you to return…”
So, this begs the question…what next? Row4Autism will continue and for the time being the goals and events will focus on awareness by way of participating in local rowing events where distances are more manageable and doable over a day or weekend. Bringing awareness to autism by way of engaging people with the boat, myself or both will allow the project to grow. If and when my original plan is resumed is not to be decided anytime soon. It will take a back seat until the new year once I can truly assess my recovery and progress over a larger block of time. I plan to join Colin and Sound Rowers for the Bainbridge Island Marathon and enter into the short course next month. Visit http://soundrowers.org/BainbridgeIslandMarathon.aspx for more details.
Until then, I will be just a little bit busy making fish and chips 😉
Wishing you all the very best this summer!