Day 12: Life by the drop; the other you and four-letter weather

Field Report
photo: Team Sockeye Voyages by Jim Meyers

42 years of combined therapy taught us everything to ensure a fulfilling life can be found on the internet. Like on this page—where the curative hand of our beloved bodhisattva Gwyneth Paltrow is obviously felt. However, amidst the mental salve of “Intuition can guide you in a way reason cannot,” and “Everything you want to achieve begins with a single thought,” we find one universal truth mysteriously absent: everyone in the world hates their choices at least once. (Said as we fondle our Chidi Lock Charm.)

At the time of writing, 12 teams have reached Ketchikan nirvana, 11 have given up the chase, and 10 remain in the field. (Any numerology folk out there?) Those remaining teams count differently: miles mean less than reaching points of land. It’s no longer strokes but counting the drops of water that fall from your oar blade during the return of each stroke. Days are broken into a series of rotations that swing between laboring and regenerating, and the mental game of second-guessing your choice to continue in this @%$* race becomes a past time to fill empty hours of repetitive work. 

Unless you’re sharing the time-space vortex with Sockeye Voyages in which the concept of last place, an average speed of a 13-year-old hobbled terrier, and the looming possibility of arriving in Ketchikan after we have all gone home, means absolutely nothing to you. Yesterday, as John, Tara, and Olivia moved into the position to pass Cape Caution—a legendary crux of the race noted for its terror-inducing rides and feelings of deep loneliness and isolation (hold us, Gwyneth!)—we received garbled communication from the team:

      • High Command: “Hey Sockeye. Tried calling and just wanted to check in. Good hunting at Cape Caution!”
      • Sockeye Voyages: “Thanks, we appreciate the attention.”
      • HC: “Okay… Is everyone good? Are you enjoying the plankton, for God’s sake? You are really spending time watching plankton?”
      • SV: “Saw our first two Stellars [sea lions] this morning. There are some rainbow gummy caterpillars we have now and then, but come supper, there is sometimes a moment to take it in, each other, the stunning anchorages, the wildlife, then a hurry to get to sleep.”
      • HC: “What did you say? Did something try to eat you? Are you resorting to cannibalism!!! Is ‘rainbow gummy’ code for ‘hallucinative reaction to sleep deprivation and cannibalism!!? You’re having too much fun!”

Then silence. 

So apart from Sockeye Voyages, who is clearly embracing Rule 10—and maybe excluding the stalwart boys of Team Goldfinch who, at time of writing, are way too close to Ketchikan to remember how hard it was to get to Ketchikan—the teams are entering some crucible moments. 

The stretch of water between Cape Caution and Ketchikan is one of the best places on earth.To quote the incredibly catchy, low-key misogyny of the great Katy Perry, “You change your mind like a girl changes clothes”…with forecasted weather such as “Fog banks becoming patches. Light southerlies becoming northerlies. No rain, then a chance of rain.” The teams in its embrace have spent nigh on two weeks getting there to find themselves blistered, tired, homesick, hungry, and with absolutely no easy way to quit what they have started. This depravity is balanced by the reasons they signed on in the first place; they simply could not find a better place in the world to discover what they are made of. The hope is that some personal homeostasis is found between the competing ego-selves of stay home reading and seek the edge of personal fear.

Team Interstice’s pause in Bella Bella is tellingly long, and we know the summary of her thoughts is, “Why should I want to continue doing something I don’t want to do?” (Rule 7 from the internet homilies, if you’re still referencing.) Other teams north of Bella Bella are past the point where that question can be asked and have a different outcome than, “Well, it doesn’t matter. I am in the middle of emptiness, and only I can get myself home.” (Rule 8, perhaps.)

The truth is, adventure is cloudy. Eons of chroniclers have strived to package adventure for those who cannot or will not seek it themselves. Still, another universal truth is that we cannot fully transcribe the human condition when we barely understand it ourselves, especially when the reason for doing a thing literally changes minute-by-minute with the participant’s mood and the conditions. For today, what we rely on, looking across a blue Race Tracker field of orange laboring symbols, is that we hold each team’s truths to be valuable and valid, and the pain or triumph of their next hours, days, or weeks, while uniquely theirs, is shared in our hearts.

First Team Sockeye Voyages by Rebecca Ross, second Team Don’t Tell Mom by Lynnette Oostmeyer, third Team Bangarang by Julian Laffin

Field Report: Team Oaracle in Bella Bella

By Lynnette Oostmeyer, Field Reporter

Janice Mason and Ian Graeme of Team Oaracle stopped at the docks in Bella Bella, BC, yesterday to fill up their water and figure out where to camp for the night. This year’s race will be Janice’s fourth and Ian’s fifth. They met during the race in 2016 while Ian was on Team Fly and Janice was brought in as an ace in the hole for Team Sistership; they have been doing the race together ever since.

They joked that this year they may be the last, and the oldest, team to make it to Ketchikan, but they still plan to be there by July 4th to catch their ferry home. Janice said that the ferry ride is one of her favorite parts of the race because she gets to leisurely float by all the places she just worked so hard to paddle through.

Ian said that they are having a hard time eating enough fat each day to keep up with the calories they burn paddling, so the first order of business was finding chips for Janice—preferably Ruffles—cheese for Ian, and refilling their water jug… Keep Reading