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Part 1 Apr. 15th - 1.5 Months to Departure - Sea kayak Vancouver Island Circumnavigation

Updated: Jan 29

MoveIt came in the morning to pick up the kayak. The day before I had all the gear fitted into the hull and draped the sections in bubble wrap before slipping them into the kayak bags.

Compared to shipping the kayak to Puerto Rico, the process this time was easy. A midsize truck showed up on time, the driver gave me some paperwork to sign, and dropped down the backloading ramp with a pallet. We placed the three sections on the pallet, and then wrapped everything together.

“Please get it there safely,” I said.

“It won’t be a problem. If we can take that without any wrapping we can take the three cotton balls of a kayak you have there,” he said pointing to a motorcycle inside the truck strapped to a wooden base frame.

The driver pressed a red button, and the loading ramp lifted my 3 kayak bags, after which he then dragged the pallet to the back of the truck, closed the hatch, and drove off, to where I don’t know. My hopes and worries were now wrapped and on their way to Seattle. I tried not to think about it too much. There are things beyond my ability to control. I did everything I could.

The same afternoon I got an unexpected message on my Facebook messenger. “Hey, is the red kayak still for sale?”

“Yes it is!” I replied.

The message referred to my other kayak which I had put up for sale about a month before.

Several years ago, I purchased my first expedition kayak. A red polyethylene wilderness system Tempest 170. I had arrived home from a rolling class in Key Largo where I trained on the same boat model. The Tempest 170 hull is rounded and narrow and the back deck is very low and comfortable to lean on, both features that made learning to roll more effortless and forgiving than a hard chinned boat. I immediately began searching for a used Tempest near my home. I found one in Melbourne Florida on CraigsList and drove up the next day to see it. The address was a mobile home park, and the person selling it was an elderly man with a diamond white bead, silvery hair and a face wrinkled like a pug that recounted the story of a life spent outdoors, but which did not seem to be headed for a happy ending. Although he looked long on the tooth, he was slim, fit, with a flat stomach. and a wide frame that gave him an imposing presence as he stood by the door.. He led me into the backyard of his mobile home where he kept the kayak. On the way through the living room I noticed that the TV was propped up on a pile of old books and magazines. It was tuned on Fox News. His sofa was a futon bed that hadn’t been dusted in years, and the carpet was marked with sticky stains that I assumed were either wine or fruit juice. The air in the room also had a very pungent odor of cigarettes which were the scent of the man’s wife.

She was holding a lit cigarette and had the look of hillbilly; discolored teeth, mangled hair, and goosed bumped skin.

“You gonna buy it right?” She said excited after taking a long drag.

I looked at the old man, he did not seem happy to be selling his kayak, and I speculated it was his wife’s idea. It’s possible they were short on money and I doubt he would ever purchase another kayak again. I told him I’d pay his asking price and would give him some gas money as well if he drove the kayak to Miami for me. His wife grinned with happiness, but he showed no emotion and simply said he’d do it.

I think that when I purchased the man’s kayak; I took a little piece of his soul too. The life he would no longer get to live.

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“OK, I’ll be there this afternoon to take a look at it,” came the immediate reply. After a couple hours a white SUV pulled into my driveway. I had the kayak on the dolly with the red sail unfurled. The buyer was a short chubby man wearing a black t-shirt of the grim reaper swinging a scythe and riding a stallion. The caption read, “Too Old to Die Young.”

“So you’re into Heavy Metal?” I asked, pointing at the shirt.

“Oh this? Nah… It’s a crime drama my wife and I are binge watching on Amazon Prime. Well, my wife is binge watching to be more precise. I watch it here and there. If I get too comfortable, I’ll be like her and never leave the house. So, that’s the red beauty. Is it easy to use the sail?”

“Yes, not too bad on moderate wind, I’d be a little careful with it when it’s blowing hard. . You don’t want to lose control. It’s a welcome reprieve, however, if you have to paddle for 10 hours or more in a day.”

“I don’t have any sailing experience.”

“You soon will then.”

I showed him how to hoist the sail and how to stow it on the deck. He inspected the hatches and ran his palm over the hull and deck to feel if the scratches told any stories. “I’ll take it.”

He paid me in cash, we lifted the boat onto his car roof, and he fastened it with a set of black straps. At that moment I asked him if we could take a few photographs. Although I had not paddled the Tempest ever since I had bought the Taran, I felt a pang of nostalgia at the realization that this would be the last time I’d lay eyes on this kayak that over the years had been so generous to me.

“You know, this kayak taught me to roll, and took me on my first expedition, a ten-day trip from Miami to Marco Island through the Everglades. It will give you confidence and you’ll make fond memories with it. Take good care of it.”

He drove off with the boat, took the right bend on the street corner, and soon vanished from view. I stood in the middle of the parking lot for a while as the evening was setting in. A thought then whispered into my head, “You shipped the Taran this morning to Seattle, and now you just sold the Tempest. Technically, you don’t have a kayak anymore. You better hope the shipping company doesn’t mess up.”

Sea kayak Vancouver Island Circumnavigation


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