• 28th October 2009 - By adventuresofben

    I’m sitting in Victoria waiting for the Clipper to take me back to Seattle. Something I expected to do, but not so soon on this trip. The boat broke, or more specifically a pin that held the gear to the drive shaft. Second to the boats a

    PA240030That morning began with a boat shaped game of Tetris using our equipment as the pieces. Everything in the boat had to be evaluated and placed according to its safety value in an extreme unlikely situation vs. the simple bits of gear and equipment that would be used several times a day. It always seems to take longer than it should, but approaching it with a “slow is smooth and smooth is fast” mentality gets it done with the care the task deserves. Even so it takes a bit of living in any space to find out the best place for things to go. We left by two, an hour before I expected and for the better part of the afternoon we hummed along to the sound of the human powered gearbox while seals and harbor porpoises materialized through shimmering water. I read comfortably in the back, yawning incessantly as the sun warmed the cabin and a fresh breeze wafted through the small open portholes.

    PA240033Three hours into our cruise we switched positions from the tiny cabin to the small pedal station, a process with a set of maneuvers reminiscent of a giraffe’s birth in one of those African wildlife documentaries narrated by Sir David Attenborough. Confident in the alterations we had done to make me fit back in Calgary I settled into the rhythm of pedaling and ask Greg to hand me up some snacks. Expecting a lot of work ahead of me I swallowed half a box of chips ahoy, beef jerky and was settling into my 5th piece of mini rye when I spotted the Denman Island ferry ahead of me. I stopped peddling trying to gauge the ferries next movements before realizing the sleek nature and momentum of the boat might take it too close to the ferry and promptly began to reverse. My feet felt a quick increase in pressure on the pedals followed by an audible pop. The pressure of the water on the propeller, normally light and consistent, went completely limp.

    PA240049This was not the time to contemplate what the chances were or a possible lack of cosmic favor that might be inferred of a week of bent rudders, other drive train problems and garbage truck snafus. More pressing issues were at hand such as the small but still considerably large ferry whose path we were drifting powerlessly into. It had docked to take its load of cars but would be leaving shortly. After a quick call to the coast guard informing them of our predicament I called out across the water to the ferry captain asking him permission to tie up to one of the pontoon moorings on the other side of the ferry terminal as no regular docks were in practical paddle range of our boat. He consented and we tied up.

    PA240057Safely moored we could assess our situation. The boat broke, that was bad. We were close to a ferry dock without regular moorage – also bad. However, the ferry had an accommodating captain willing to let us tie up to there private dock – this was good. Greg’s dear friend, “ironman” Bryan serendipitously happened to be out that weekend on Denman island with friends and was kayaking around to meet us under more propelling circumstances. This was very good. What was downright deliciously over the top was that the good folks Brian was staying with the special breed of people who choose to look after strangers and were happy to lay down two extra places at there table that night. I like to think fortune looks after this caliber of person. Our host was a Calgary pathologist of polish origin named Stephan. He, his daughter Basia, and son in law Steve created a culinary masterpiece including a leg of lamb garnished with beets peppered with flecks of fresh mint, mashed potatoes, asparagus, and mushrooms washed down with Greg’s contribution of wine and beer. We dined, still grimy from the day with their guest Peter (a anesthesiologist friend of Stephans from Calgary), “Ironman Bryan,” and a lovely and spritely older couple whose names unfortunately escape my memory.

    It was a dinner to remember, indulgent, unexpected and welcome and completely surreal in comparison to the pedaling Greg and I expected to be doing late into the night. This was obviously not in store for us. The drive train design was going to break, and on the trip we planned it could have happened in many places not nearly as safe, accommodating, or downright pleasant as Stephan’s hearth on Denman Island.

    Greg’s ultimate goal is to get to Hawaii from Canada by pedal power. This trip, and my reason for accompanying him were to help him along towards that goal. Circumnavigating around Vancouver Island was a path towards that goal. Fate had other lessons we needed to learn first and choose a kind way to deal them to us. You can’t cover all your bases, but you can go about things in a way that will create the most likely chance of success. Any path to success is going to be filled with the unexpected, disappointing and hard. Especially when what is being tried is new and different. Greg, Ken and I came out with a lot of questions, and we left the island with many more in my opinion it means he’s on the right track, and ultimately he’s closer to Hawaii by pedal boat than he’s ever been before.


    Here is a little slide show for all of you…

  • 4 Comments to “The best worst luck.”

    • Skip Walker on October 28, 2009

      may the wind be at your back,
      your gears be strong and have no slack.
      if your trials show you the weakness,
      your true journey will be the preakness.
      this trial run is when you will think,
      the final version is on the brink.
      to push the boundries for human kind-
      we all pray you both Hawaii to find.

    • Jim ("Jordan's Dad") Wood on October 28, 2009

      Sounds like a successful test. It flushed out a problem that could have quite literally been ‘a killer’ later. Chin up! Carry on! Tally ho, and all that. Good luck.

    • Bryon Howard on October 30, 2009

      Nicely written.

      We all had soo much fun at supper on Sat night with you and Greg on Denman Island. What an amazing fluke I was there.

      Greg is a planner … and has taken great steps towards the ‘funny’ goals of Most Possible distance traveled on a bicyle in 24 hrs … and crossing the ocean by Human Pedal Power.

      It’s amazing watching him progress towards these Human Powered goals.

      The first time I met Greg was after The Calgary Police Half Marathon in 2006 – we were enjoying coffee and donuts at the food table. I told him I was doing Ironman Canada … and eventually shared with him that I wanted to qualify for the World Championships in Kona.

      He immediately perked up … and started assisting me in obtaining that goal. (It took two more years!)

      “It’s simple … but just not easy.”

      I think Greg would like that quote.

    • Lee on October 30, 2009

      Sorry about the problems, Jordan,..but as previously noted, if it had to break it was a godd place and time to do it! this also suggests some consideration of emergency repairs of this mechanism ( and others) should failures occur (when failures occur? : )

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