Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Sea Kayaking: The Beginning of the Adventure

I didn't grow up on the sea coast or even exposed to boating, especially not sailing. But I did have a desire to explore and seek adventure from an early age, beginning with hunting and fishing, then canoeing local rivers and streams in inland Mississippi and trying some backpacking in the nearby Applachian and Ozark mountains. I found real freedom to explore, however, when I bought my first sea kayak, and began taking multi-day trips to the chain of uninhabited barrier islands that lie 10-12 miles off the Mississippi coast.

Those trips taught me how to navigate, negotiate surf, make a comfortable camp on the beach and showed me the special rewards of living for days at a time alone on an island with nothing but sea and sand and solitude all around. I studied maps and began to scheme and plan, and before long I sold most of my possessions and set out on an open-ended quest in my 17-foot sea kayak, heading south with a goal of reaching the islands of the Caribbean.

The journey was a success in everyway and a life-changing event for a 25-year old with a passion for adventure. I found almost everything I dreamed of: perfect island beaches, crystal clear waters, jungles, mountains and plenty of like-minded fellow travelers, some of whom introduced me to my first experiences of living and cruising on a sailing vessel. I saw some advantages to traveling on a comfortable cruising home, but at the time I preferred the utter simplicity and hassel-free lifestyle of paddling and camping. I had practically no expenses other than food - no docking fees, bottom jobs, engine and rigging worries or other repair problems. It seemed to me that most sailors I met spent a lot more time working on their boats than actually sailing. I decided to stick with kayaking. After that trip to the islands, I returned to Mississippi and shortly after began another long kayak journey - a 2600-mile trip from the lakes of Ontario and Manitoba, up the Red River of the North and down the Minnesota and Mississippi River to Vicksburg.

I continued to kayak and still paddle, but a few years after that trip I discovered that I had a talent for woodworking and decided to try building a boat. This was the beginning of a whole new adventure, and a journey with no end in sight as I have now built several boats and will probably build more. In these posts I will describe some of the boats and the reason for my choices and what keeps leading me back to James Wharram's amazing catamaran designs.

For those who are interested in sea kayaking or sailing in the Caribbean, I have written a book about that first journey to the islands that was published last year. The name of it is: On Island Time: Kayaking the Caribbean. You can find out more about it on my main website:

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