of Maine Expedition Final Journals
Dan's notes on GoMEX
Sue's notes on GoMEX
Natalie's notes on GoMEX
Hurricane Isidore picked up the wind. Our paddles hit the barrage head-on when we rounded the corner of mainland Nova Scotia. Barely moving at less than one nautical mile per hour, the team paddled in silence. We were all too focused on moving forward to talk, but we made progress…stroke by stroke.
At Prospect Point in Shag Harbor a few team-members voiced concern about continuing. One seemed particularly shook by the piercing, cold wind. Another was resolute in his statements he was done, he felt it was time to stop. A quick on-the-water conference ensued, and the Gulf of Maine Expedition came to an end, four nautical miles short of the end.
My goal-oriented gut had a hard time letting go. I wanted to push the final four miles, even if it took our team of six five hours. I wondered aloud about splitting up the team? Fortunately, winds gusting 20 to 25 knots brought me to my senses. Better to go in as a team than split at the final hour.
We had paddled 1,000-1,300 miles (the jury is still out!) over the last five months. We were finally at the southwestern tip of Nova Scotia, the landward end of the Gulf of Maine.
People have asked us what the highlight of the trip was. Not a simple question. So many images come to mind it is hard to narrow down to just one: weird monkfish egg masses; a North Atlantic Right Whale's back surfacing near our kayaks; migrating Semi-palmated Plovers and Least Sandpipers; cliffs and more cliffs; urban wilderness; caves and scoured rock faces; tides the size of my house; currents up to eight knots; the people.
The highlight was total immersion into a seascape, complete acquaintance with the Gulf of Maine.
Some issues were driven home: the Gulf of Maine is wholly intertwined with the humans who inhabit it. Erosion, development, sewage runoff, litter, tourism, recreational impact, resource extraction, fishing, commerce…. They all play an important role in the evolution of this region.
I was struck by the smallness of the Gulf, not in mileage but in politics, history, economics, nature. What is happening at one end of the Gulf does indeed have an affect on what happens across the Bay. In New Brunswick we found floating wood chips that had been milled in Nova Scotia. In Nova Scotia we watched as herring, destined for processing in New Brunswick, were hauled up. In Massachusetts we found that salt-water access to the shore for hand-powered boaters was virtually non-existent. In Maine, where over-use and access becomes a complicated management problem, we ceded our campsite to a Massachusetts group seeking respite from the development back-home. The region's issues are absolutely intertwined.
The mileage kept going, the days kept ticking away, and we kept making progress, slowly, deliberately. I grew a lot, learned about myself, about leadership, consensus, democracy, and team playing. It will take a while for all the lessons to unravel. In the meantime, everyone on the team is back at their respective homes spending time documenting, looking at photos, journals, video footage, and all the memories. It's a time of transition from being amphibious animals to being land-lubbers again. Lets hope the next phase of the journey is as revealing.
Stay tuned for our Expedition wrap-up newsletter (due in November), our final report (early 2003), slideshow announcements, and educational programs listed at www.gomexpedition.org.
Thanks to all the volunteers, sponsors, writers, hosts and many more!
Dan's notes on GoMEX
Great to be Home!
The circumnavigation of the Gulf of Maine was a wonderful and enlightening experience. Over the five months of travel we discovered beautiful coastlines; encountered wonderful, helpful, and enthusiastic people; exchanged ideas on a one-to-one basis with many; had the full support of the media; and learned a great deal about ourselves and working as a team.
The coastline of the Gulf is truly magnificent and varied. Each area, from the sandy shores of Massachusetts and New Hampshire to the granite islands of Maine to the basalt and sandstone cliffs of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, has its own particular character. Out of the geologic base rise distinct plant and animal ecosystems and habitats. Pressures on the coast from development and resource extraction play against the impressive natural land- and seascapes.
We soon realized that although we were on the water paddling we could not have accomplished our mission without the generous support of hundreds of other people. Sponsorships, donations, the moving of and access to our support van, the carrying capacity and stable filming platform of the tandem kayak, arranged campsites, media coverage, and above all, the dedication and work of our local support at each scheduled stop, made it possible for us to accomplish our observation and fact gathering work on the water. This was as much a cultural excursion as a paddling trip.
At each stop along our route to we had an opportunity to talk with local people. Our face-to-face encounters number over 2,500. I was personally impressed with the enthusiastic welcomes we received in Canada. At each stop here we were met at the dock by our local sponsor, a team of supporters, and the press. Our arrivals provided an opportunity to have an event and focus on an aspect of local interest. The ceremonies with flags, pins, music, and other perks were great fun for us and the organizers. We always felt most honored and welcome and hope that we were able to give back as much as we received.
Working with the media was a new experience for me. It was the first time I have had the opportunity to do live interviews on the radio, interact with a television person doing a story, and provide information to reporters on a regular basis. At first I would worry about what to say but as time went on I found that the interaction became easier. Of course, I should have known that the journalists know what questions to ask and how to make one comfortable in providing information: it really became quite easy. We had a good news message and as we progressed in the trip, had interesting observations and experiences to share.
On a personal level I was ready to come home as we got to the end of the trip. I found that I missed my friends and community groups in Yarmouth more than I thought I would. I missed our house, our neighbors, and our cats. (I didn't miss the chickens!) By the end, I was getting weary of the routine of breaking camp and packing, paddling for a few hours, then unpacking and setting up camp again. Carrying gear up and down the "beaches" was the most dangerous time for injury and I was pleased to have done the trip accident-free. The trip provided the time and experiences that brought Sue and me closer together as a couple - a wonderful and unexpected result of the time on the water.
Our team had great success in organizing the mechanics of the trip. We worked out the food and cooking tasks with rotating cooks and had wonderful meals from beginning to end. Every day we got the gear up the beach, got camp set up, and the next morning got the gear back down to the water in a cooperative way. Given the amount of gear, the weight of the tandem boat, and the steep and rocky shorelines, this was seldom an easy task. Our interface with the public and press went equally as well. Sometimes were interviewed as a group, but more often took turns so we had a diversity of thoughts and information represented. Illustrated public shows were done as a group where we could all share in the presentation and I feel they were interesting and informative.
Being back in Yarmouth does not bring us to the end of the venture. We now have the pleasure of working with our slides, videos, journals, and memories to bring the experience to others. This part of the trip is just starting. Stay tuned...
The phone call which ended my paddling came in mid-September. Harry, the friend who was looking after our home, had to leave the country by September 16th - his visa had run out.
My immediate reaction was "Good, I get to go home!" Dan's response was "Oh good, I get to paddle my single." Thus the decision was made. My time on the water was over.
My intent to continue past Yarmouth was tentative at best, anyway. Having already confessed my difficulty in leaving ports in general, leaving my home port was shaping up to be very hard indeed. I was enjoying being with friends, being in familiar surroundings and looking forward to reuniting with my cats and sleeping in my own bed. I probably would have continued, but the phone call swung the balance.
So when the team returned to Mavillette Beach, where we had pulled out after Hurricane Gustav, the double had been retired. Dan was now paddling his Necky Arluk IV. I watched the team load up and launch without so much as a hint of remorse. I knew I had made the right decision. I waved good-bye then drove away with the expectant air of a teenager being left home alone for the first time.
I did what any teenager would do. I stopped at the video store and picked up three videos and a big bag of popcorn before heading home. That evening the cats and I curled up in front of the television until 3 a.m. We watched all three in a row. (In case you are curious, my choices were Harry Potter, Kate and Leopold, and Vanilla Sky.)
I don't want you to think I would like it to stay this way. I would surely miss Dan . . . eventually. But after five months of being with three other people 24/7, the solitude was absolutely luxurious.
So did I feel like I was no longer "part of the team" for that last leg? Not on your life. I felt like I was doing Bob's job. While the child in me was enjoying the videos and the fast-food restaurants, the adult in me was delivering groceries, answering emails and, most importantly, picking the team up by van when Hurricane Isidore got too strong. The week really gave me a peek into how important a job being land coordinator is. Thanks Bob!
Friends ask me what my next adventure will be. My answer is always the same . . . to explore the adventures that have been started by this one; the writing opportunities, the photographic opportunities, and the relationships. Adventure does not have to be from the seat of a kayak. It can take place in the mind. This journey still has a lot of miles left in it!
©2002-2012 Gulf of Maine Expedition. All rights reserved.