Most lead up weeks to an expedition are big, in that something pivotal happens. Naturally, the week before is the most full. Surprises, often via stupid assumptions or previous half-fixes crop up in spades. Things break, go missing, or get lost in translation (someone else’s shed, or kit bag). People, stuff, dates, stuff up. The more ingredients that fit under these headings, the more that can wobble loose in the face of departure. All very dramatic, but not really. Most things just need a little oil, a quiet place to think (about where I left that…), a little money, or sideways thinking. Replacing a person a week or two out is a little trickier…
Dear Tim, a crosser in 2015 can no longer come along. In one swift, sincere, early morning email, our party of four was reduced to three. I sat at Helens red table and mused. Bugger. Really bugger. As genuine, curious and strong as they come, having Tim as peripheral presence when paddling will be sincerely missed. Avid ‘doer’, his type are a rare breed of saying yes to almost all that life puts throws at them, cancer and all. Oddly enough, I can only really assume he’s this kind of character, having walked, half a dozen years ago, with Tim for only a few days. The walk was no great challenge. One side of an island to the other. No yawning void or turret of landscape to be overcome. The 12m high island, 20km in length, was almost bland in nature. Sulky types would head for grand National parks and never return. Tim, amidst the sandy, beachy, similar days, was excellent company. A talkative bugger that asked great questions and gave better answers. The kind of lad I thought I’d be happy to go into tricky terrain with. What the trip lost, in one email, was a great young man who was there for the right reasons. Not for a notch in a belt, or to be the quickest or most daring, but because he gets it.
Looking back at Tim, Matt and Beau’s first planning session.
Three emails later and Craig sends though a note. I’ve never met Craig, but we share the same sea kayak fix-it man, Neil. If you’re a mobser and want to get rid of a body, you ring a certain kind of fella to deal with it. If you’re a sea kayaker and want a sail fitted overnight, or a custom seat made that maps your half-peach bum with the accuracy of a Melways, then Neil is your man. Getting boats ready to cross the Strait in late summer is a Neilism. Having worked on Craig’s boat a few weeks earlier, then mine, then charged with outfitting Dan’s prawn cocktail (Mirage 580 with a story or two to tell), he joined the dots and got our chins wagging. And so, within 15 minutes of hearing about Tim not being able to join us, I return Craig’s email with something alone the lines of “…mate, we’re heading a week after you guys… What would you say if myself and two other beggars head out a week earlier and cross with you and your paddling buddy?” Craig replies with something along the lines of “…yeah righto. We would have drank all the beer dry at Whitemark, so share and share alike”.
Meeting the new fellas.
And so, as quickly our 4 became 3, our 3 became a 5. The wheels were in motion; Dan arrived from Hong Kong, and within 12 hours we were on a training paddle together. A few days later, we met the new fellas at Flinders. Shared a yarn, discussed our different boats, Dan saw his first penguin – and we then turned our attention to the sea kayakers best friend and worst enemy, the wind. This would most effect departure. The if’s, but’s and maybe’s of when and where to depart from. I’ll have to live by the weather for the next few weeks…
…I’m writing this on the eve of departure. We have yet again changed things. Our original window is still 10 days away. It was bought forward to leave with Craig and Paul, but on looking at the wind – always the wind, the best hopping days are Thursday 9th of March through to Saturday 11th. So we have at the last minute, brought our dates forward again. Dates our new friends cant make. And so it is, Dan, Matt and myself will push out tomorrow at around 1pm from port Welshpool. From there we will paddle to Refuge Cove (the prom), then Refuge to Hogan, Hogan to Erith… and so it will go until we hit Tasmania. I have to continue packing and down some food. Bloody hell, so much to do in the hours till water slides under my kayaks bow.