Recently a lot of friends and family have asked us if we’re looking forward to starting the expedition. We haven’t really had time to think about it – there’s simply been too much to do. The perception some might have is that we are four madmen heading off on a wild adventure. The reality is actually quite different, yes there is obviously an element of adventure but for all four of us, there is an enormous amount of meticulous planning that has to be done to just get to the start line.
The past 6 weeks have been very busy on this front. I was in London and Jersey for some speaking engagements in early June, then back to Ireland to see my family, attend a friend’s wedding and do some work with our expedition sponsor Mainstream Renewable Power. All the while trying to get a million things done back in Canada before our departure. I feel so fortunate to be part of such an amazing team of people doing this expedition.
Kevin has been brilliant in getting all of our communication systems set up and liaising with various people and organizations who are helping us with our weather planning. Our communication system is very important as it will enable us to receive forecasts from the Canadian Ice Service. Our system which includes 2 Satellite phones, 1 laptop and an i pad as back up will also allow us to share all aspects of this trip with the outside world over the next 2 to 3 months.
Denis has played an absolute blinder in getting all the finishing touches done on the boat. The final 10% here is so critical as it really does involve a tremendous amount of fine tuning. We have spent a number of weeks altering our rowing set up to try and make it as efficient and as ergonomic as possible. We’ve also added in a back up steering system as well as another solar panel to power our batteries on board. We decided to bring two batteries instead of one which gives us the ability to run our charging system off either battery. Although this means a little extra weight, we felt it more important to prioritize safety over weight. This is a balancing act with everything we have on board, the more weight we have, the heavier the boat is to pull. For example our life raft weighs 135 lbs, that’s a huge amount of additional weight for something we hope to never use but going without one wasn’t an option……better to be looking at it then looking for it!!
Frank has been looking after all the food supplies, equipment, clothing and as an experienced film maker has taken care of everything on that side of things as we’re making a documentary so he has been fantastic too. Amongst our food supply is 960 freeze dried meals, 700 power and chocolate bars, 600 tea bags and a few bottles of good single malt.
So the lads have been very busy over the past few weeks, come to think of it I’m not entirely sure what I’ve been doing but whatever it is time as flown. Training has taken a back seat for the past 2 weeks, we’re not too fused about this as we’ll each be rowing 12 hours a day for the next 2 to 3 months so having a break from training right now is not exactly a bad thing.
The first leg of this journey has now begun, we’re driving our boat 3,700km from Vancouver to our starting point at Inuvik. We shrink wrapped the boat to protect it as 750km of the drive is on the Dempster Highway which isn’t a paved road. We’ve packed multiple spare wheels for both the truck and the boat trailer as we expect to blow a few along the way.
I’m writing this from the back seat of our truck, we’ve just crossed into the Yukon Teritory so we’ve done about 2,000km so far. The landscape up here is incredible and already today we’ve been greeted on our way by Black Bears, Moose and Buffalo. It’s 26 degrees out, CCR are banging out the tunes, Frank is driving, Denis is sleeping and Kevin is taking some photos.
So the scene is set for what will be one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. It’s not necessarily the physical challenge that makes this so difficult but more the cloud of uncertainty that Mother Nature will cast over us on this expedition. We can prepare and train all we like but ultimately she will decide if we make it across the North West Passage or not. How this all plays out we don’t know but I suppose there in lies part of the attraction in attempting something like this. There’s an expression I read many years ago that comes to mind at this moment – “If you wait till your sure, you’ll never do anything……are we sure we’ll pull this off, absolutely not but there’s only one way to find out.