of substance

Somehow I spoke —
the enchantment broke
I rubbed my eyes open wide
like a dream she was gone
All that remained was a song
borne on the ebbing tide
-the waterboys

At 4am our time the news that Andrew McAuley was returning to Tasmania had begun to spread around the web. The kink in the plan had been risk of hypothermia. After paddling more than 24 hours and 80km with a helpful wind and big swells he decided it was time to nap. Although his cockpit canopy worked well, and did keep the weather out he had problems getting warmed up. A standard kayak hull does not retain heat well. This was going to be a problem. And this is one of the things that distinguishes Andrew from so many others. He realized then and there that this could get dangerous. Sure he could paddle on. He could get the testosterone going and “muscle it out” and let the chips fall. But no. He made the wise and I’d say bravest choice of all, he turned back. Living to fight another day, as they say.

It’s hard for anyone to really imagine what energy and emotion go into planning such endeavors. From the day you first decide you will tell one other person of your plans you truly are committed. Sure, you’ve decided, but telling others makes it real. Then for months on end you imagine and plan, you raise money, you market yourself, you build, you test, you talk, you argue, you sweat, you have nightmares, you ride the rollercoaster, you become single minded. Other concerns of life must pause. At least for a time. Friends become team members. Family becomes pillars. You rely on them. Volunteers and well wishers come out to help in anyway they can. Often adding important information and guidance you’d have never imagined. So many faces want you to succeed. For a moment in time, they attach their personal goals to yours. By the time you slip out into the water it must almost seem as if you’ve lived no other life for as far back as you can remember. In some way you must feel the hopes and expectations of everyone you’ve known and interacted with in the last few months are now firmly wrapped around you like a second PFD.

Some 80km from anywhere, wrapped in a fiberglass tube and at the mercy of a big sea, what do you do when you realize you may have a problem? What goes through your mind when you think going forward may be dangerous? How long is the pause before turning back? Do you see all those faces, do you imagine the press, do you wonder if the sponsors will be miffed? Will the second guessing start? What about that one idiot who keep saying it couldn’t be done? Boy will he be all over you!! Do you battle with ego and pride? The mind is a funny place to live all by yourself. It does have strange priorities sometimes. . .This is where wisdom and bravery take over. You realize that everyone that matters to you just wants you home safe. They will be proud of you. They know that just by trying. . anything. . you’ve done more than most. Everyone else can get stuffed.

Andrew will have another go. I know he will. He’s a man of substance.

14 Responses

  1. Silbs

    Congradulations to you, Derrick, on an excellent post of wisdom and to Andrew for his courage to go and to be his own man when the time came to turn back. We can all do well to learn from his lesson on digression and how it relates to valor.

  2. Michael

    Thanks for this post, Derrick. Odd in a way that the cold is what forced him to turn back. It will be interesting to learn more of the details when he has a chance to report them. Seems to be that he ought to be able to overcome this set-back and try again at some point. Let’s cheer him for his courageous decision in the meantime!

  3. derrick

    So I see Team Zero has moved from obscurity to Paddler net “You know you’re a member of ________ When__________” status. Another 3 years and you’ll have to work out some bi-laws. . . 5 years from there, official memberships, then fees. . Next then you know Team Zero will offer classes, then insurance. . . Oh NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! :)

  4. Michael

    Hey, Derrick, that’s may very well come to pass, but all of Team Zero’s by-laws, memberships, fees, etc ought to be worthless! LOL BTW, I hope you’ve got a pair of their shorts by now…

  5. Anonymous

    Derrick, that’s an amazing post that sums up the situation perfectly. Thanks to all the other folk out there for your support. You’re right, I will be out there for another crack at it soon.
    Cheers, Andrew McAuley

  6. John H.

    Derric, prudent post. Thank you. As mountaineers may say “It is not about just getting to the peak, but returning alive.” Namaste.
    John Santa Rosa, CA USA

  7. Andrew Clifton

    He’s over half way to NewZealnd now. Three cheers for Andrew McAuley. He’s constantly tossed in the Roaring Forties. Has anyone ever tied sleeping in a kayak with no propect of even standing on one’s feet for a month at a time? Amazing!

  8. derrick

    Hey Guys,

    Thanks for keeping this post up to date too. As of the moment it sounds like Andrew’s been getting a hell of a ride!

  9. Andrew Clifton

    Surely, he is mentally head and shoulders above us all now.
    Having subordinated bodily suffering, what mental realms has he explored in the turbulent solitude of these past weeks? I sincerely hope that he will write up the experience to give us an insight as to what drives and sustains mankind in an intelligently designed assault on the barriers of conventional limitations.
    Hang in there Andrew; you are making history in the annals of adventure! Move over Houdini.