Stage 2, Day 10: Mid-Life, Mid-Race, and Adventurous Prudence

On the 10th day after the start in Victoria, the front was finished by nearly a week, the tip of the regular boat spear was days deep into the soft underbelly of mid-race finishes, and that hard scrabble fleet of the everyman that served as the rear guard of the R2AK was beginning to give in to entropy and the divergent call of further and home. The race was getting long, and then longer. The harrowing days of big winds were looking more like duck and cover, and the brutally slow days of beating heat and rowing blisters were blurring together into a single sunburnt memory demarcated solely by the mounting number of empty sunblock tubes clattering around in the bilge; fallen soldiers of SPF, lying face down in the muck of saltwater and the bloated remains of trail mix raisins gone M.I.A. Never forget. 

As the race rolls on and the remaining boats get smaller, there will be more truth, misery, and glory that will come out in the days to come. Today, we ring the bell for another set of fallen comrades. 

The R2AK’s most recent bloodless casualty is Team Nordica, or as they were hoping to rebrand themselves, “Team Mail Order Bread”. Honestly we’re not sure why or what it means but we laughed along with them as they petitioned for the change. The paperwork was allegedly locked up in the patent office when we got the word: they were out, calling it a day after they tagged Cape Caution and flipped the bird and flipped a u-ey back to their homeland of Vancouver Island. Here’s what they texted us:

Team Nordica: We have retired from the race and are back on Vancouver island safe and sound! 

R2AK: Retired? Is all okay. Was it something that happened that made the decision? Glad you are safe. 

Team Nordica: We came, we saw, we conquered! OK not really…Yes it’s true, we have retired from R2AK 2016. The decision did not come easy but our bodies are completely worn down from rowing/exhaustion. As of Wednesday, we were four days behind schedule, we have lost a considerable amount of weight, and for safety reasons decided it was best not to carry on.

We literally rowed (Ryan mostly) 70% of our way up to Cape Caution from Victoria’s inner Harbour. Ryan even rowed us through both Seymour Narrows and Active Pass. Raise your hands if you think that’s nuts! (We raised our hands when we read it, you?)

We had never imagined there would be multiple days of no wind in both Georgia and Johnstone Straits. In fact nor did any other team we spoke to. Mother Nature was simply not on our side. 

As we left our anchorage this morning and said goodbye to our fellow racers— Team Bunny Whaler—we took a minute to look back on the craziness that has been our lives for the past four months. We have so many people to thank (that happens tomorrow).

Suddenly we were surround by porpoises jumping out of the water for 10-15 minutes. It was an amazing experience, watching them surround the boat, and at one point we figured one would end up inside the boat!

It was then that I looked up at the windex on top of the mast and noticed it was severely damaged. Sometime in the night a raven or eagle must have landed on it and fouled it. To fix it we would have to de mast the boat, which meant the use of a dock etc…this made our decision even easier.

And once again, with no wind, Ryan like the champ he is, rowed us to Port Hardy for five plus hours while we exchanged jokes back and forth. Yes, we’re still friends, more so than ever.

We will post more tomorrow but just wanted to let everyone know we are safe and sound and back on Vancouver Island!

Go Bunny Whalers!!! Humble pie…A large helping of that stupid pie!

Team Nordica’s bid for Alaska was undertaken to push their limits. This was their self-declared mid-life crisis moment, where they would plunge deep into their own past to thrust up the inside passage of their youth—measuring their own manliness against this new decade of their lives. Two guys, one boat. 

With the market as volatile as it is, early retirement in any form is an enviable outcome. For those of us who have or hope to turn 40, the act of evoking the spirit of a younger time and then applying the wisdom of the older is the best navigation of the greying temples that any of us could hope for. 40 isn’t old, but it isn’t 20 either, and soreness and prudence are a successful end game to the a midpoint of a race well run—and much cheaper than a fast car, a cheap motel, and an expensive divorce. A grand adventure, pushing boat and body to the brink of no return, then returning with body and soul intact? Nothing but celebration on our end. Well done boys, well done.

Wherever you are, and whenever you read this, let’s raise a glass to old friends renewed and ongoing, and the best kind of adventurous wisdom. Here’s to Team Nordica.