To sum up my involvement as support crew for Josh’s 1,000km solo kayaking attempt- relief. I spent many hours over a number of days staring out into angry, swollen seas being heaved against vicious tides by unrelenting winds- hoping, hoping to see a small, lone red sail bobbing up and down on the horizon. I was never given that visual relief as Josh made landfall in Stanage on day 6, three days delayed from Josh’s estimated planned arrival.
My emotions would sometimes overtake my logical reasoning as to how to proceed with my positioning along the coast trying to estimate Josh’s whereabouts. When Josh did make landfall at our first contact point I was 360 kilometers north of Josh with camp set at the planned second contact point on day 7- Cape Hillsborough.
I left Stanage mid day on the fourth day since Josh’s departure in Yeppoon. I had no means to contact Josh and debated, reasoned, and estimated his position and where I should best position myself for the best possibility of a line of communication- our mobile phone link. I decided on the middle of the fourth day to set camp 54kms almost due west and slightly north of Stanage, as the crow flies, in a caravan park in Clairview. By setting camp up in Clairview I was positioned on the coast, with mobile service. I spent two days in Clairview again waiting for a visual of Josh or more likely, a mobile phone call. Nothing.
Again my reasoning mind took me to the point where I decided that Josh may well be far enough offshore that mobile contact could be impossible. So on the middle of the 6th day I packed up camp and headed north to our second arranged meet up point, Cape Hillsborough. Josh had left me with the instruction that the second meet up point was the critical one as he had estimated his provisions to last until Cape Hillsborough in case we failed to meet in Stanage.
As a younger man in my 30’s (pre- mobile phone days) I made numerous camping and fishing trips into the remote and very sparsely populated 1,500km long Baja Peninsula in Mexico. On isolated beaches I set up camp and fished for days at a time. While on these trips my wife knew that if she did not hear from me- everything was “ok”. If she did hear from me, I had trouble, because Mexico’s Baja Peninsula in the 70’s to get to a phone to make a call took considerable effort and time. This logic and instruction held up well over many trips over many years.
So, drawing on this past life experience I decided to relax about Josh’s whereabouts and if I did hear from him, perhaps it was because he might have a problem (in the end, this logic proved to be true!).
So, in other words, “no news is good news.”
Josh has experience; Josh has emergency contingency gear and emergency contact methods. Josh was fine, I would tell myself. With this mindset I decided to stick with his original plan and set up camp at Cape Hillsborough where I knew Josh would need re-provisioning on or about day 7 as he stated to me before departure.
Then a new dynamic took over to deal with. People began to contact me through various methods inquiring about Josh’s whereabouts and his welfare. Their concern began to be my concern. At night, in the darkness, my mind would run with other’s concerns and I would struggle to get restful sleep wondering if Josh truly was “ok”. I would look out at the ocean and think- there’s no way I’d put myself out there with my level of kayaking experience- and then of course, once emotionally attached to this thought I would grow concerned, very concerned. Perhaps the worse case scenario did happen. Perhaps Josh was separated from his kayak and his PFD with emergency gear and it was up to me to pull the trigger on an action plan to involve emergency agencies.
As Josh had mentioned, there was a lack of contingent pre-planning between us for dealing with the “what- ifs”. As it turned out, during our drive home, we had both learned we had spent a fair amount of time during week individually thinking about how to deal with “what-if’s and how a better line of communication should have been arranged- like rented satellite phones, perhaps.
Unfortunately, Josh was dealing with the present circumstance of surviving on the ocean, and I was lying comfortably out of the weather, sipping soup in my hammock!
From my prospective, I had to formulate a plan- one that made sense for Josh, for me, and those who were inquiring about his welfare.
I decided that my “freak day” would be day 9. For me, Freak Day is the day you initiate action and involve emergency agencies. Until “freak day”, simply put- I wouldn’t “freak”. This logic would keep me from obsessing about Josh and what was going on with him. I think this logic is also called, “buying a bit of sanity” in a world of “what if’s.”
If I had not heard from Josh by day 9 I was going to proceed to the closest Coast Guard Station and lay out Josh’s planned expedition route and GPS points and let them decide what action to take.
As it fortunately turned out, on my first morning, day 7 in Cape Hillsborough I heard a “bing” on my mobile phone while taking a walk. I had somehow walked into an area that had some 3G signal. I played the voice message, and I heard Josh’s voice!
As I so often quote “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. When your plan meets the real world, the real world wins.”
Lesson learned, once again!