When I decided to end the 2013 season in Cambridge bay, I was set on the decision as the wisest option.
However, this left me somewhat unsettled inside. I desired some satisfaction at the end of this journey and quite honestly, some purpose.
The claws of life on land, hooked each one of us in a different way. A crew of one became a group of independent minds again. Each with their own agenda and interests.
A call to come home was pressing. But the trip was far from over for me. I was smack dab in the middle of the Canadian Arctic, on a miniscule budget, a sailboat tied to a steel pier, a son starting school and zero points of contact.
I must admit. I love any scenario that pushes me to grow in life skills and humility. This was just such a scene.
This was going to be allot of work, but I was committed to getting it done. But also to enjoying my time, however long that may be.
Of course we got it all done and in reflection, here are some key points that I believe were integral to our logistics as well as personal enjoyment.
Whether on foriegn turf, or visiting your neighbor, there are a few simple guidelines I have for myself. They serve me well, keep me fair, humble and sleeping well. Without guilt, drama or the feeling of looming debt.
Here they are.
1. Be nice. I said nice, not a kiss ass. Anyone can smell the stink of a kiss ass up wind in a gale. I mean genuinely nice.
2. Be giving. All we have in this world to offer, is everything we have at the moment. When you meet people and you see them working. Help them. Feed them. Push them out of a ditch. Whatever it is. Just offer it up. Then ask if they need any more help. You may or may not ever see them again. But the power of the widows might is not forgotten.
3. Be reliable. If you say you will. Do. Period.
4. Be honest. Don’t offer up things beyond your grasp. If your broke, scared, hurt, confused. Whatever. Just be real.
5. Return any favors that come your way, to your best ability.
6. Work. Work hard at everything you touch.
7. Enjoy the people you meet. Not what you think they have to offer. Truly enjoy them. Regardless of your overall situation, failing to enjoy your company would be tragic.
Try this and see what happens. Heres a loose run down of what happened in Cambridge Bay.
We stepped off the dock and surveyed the town. A few hours later we split a hotel to clean up and use wi fi internet. The internet did not work. So I went scouting.
I met with the construction company who had the crane. The crane was broken, with an unknown repair date.
The haul would be expensive and working to trade for the haul out was not a legal option. But in the end, it looked possible, with an un defined date.
I shook the foreman’s hand and left it at that. Its a start anyway… I thought.
Now I needed to contact home and check my resourses, money, plane ticketts etc.
I went to the library, but there was poor service. So I went to the school and spoke with a very nice teacher, who was helpful beyond belief. we tried all ways you could imagine, but the internet was just cranky. So even though I could not get online, I had met a very giving person.
This urged me to give back (See rule 5). So in discussing our voyage, I hatched an idea. Then promptly oferred to give a presentation to her students.
3 days later and no closer to a crane solution or affordable plane fares. Isaac, Jason and myself gave 3 presentations to various grades at the high school, with fantastic results.
I will write about the message we gave another time. But the theme was “Enjoy the process” When life throws you a curve ball, embrace it as the opportunity it is. Reson being that the young people in this town have a suicide problem. We wanted to inspire and pass on tools for living well… We did our best.
The talks went great and it seemed the message was well recieved! We had a blast and for the rest of our time in Cambridge we were treated and accepted well by the young people. We even got in some lunch time football with the kids, a few days later.
It turned out that one of the teachers had some connections and put Isaac on a charter flight to Yellowknife. Then a super cool airline agent, read our blog and gave his own airline miles to help Isaac get home affordably. That was humbling and wonderful.
Now Isaac was back in Alaska. Only Jason and I remained. This same process contunued. a woman gave us a ride, which became a tour of town and historical sites. We visited shipwrecks and learned much about the Inuit people who have been here so long. So we fed her and her son dinner. what great people we were meeting, in this very unique way.
We were not tourists. Just neighboring people of the North. At home with our own kind.
By the end of the first week, we were being oferred vehicles to drive and more food than you can imagine! We ate seal fat, seal meat, dried Beluga Whale and all sorts of traditional foods.
We returned the favors, by loaning books out, doing plumbing, electrical, drywall and automotive work when people had a need.
we made friends with fellow sailors and adventurers whom we took dinghy sailing, adventuring and even flying over the tundra aboard thier airplane. People included us in thier work, thier lives and thier dreams as well. We oferred the boat as a hang out place and even had a sleepover, popcorn movie night for a kid, whos parents had befriended us.
We went to the dump and had a blast! These remote areas are strewn with fantastic stuff. Plus wrecked cars and stuff are like a playground. we rode a sweet hobby horse to complete destruction, which brough us to our knees with laughter! There is fun all around us, waiting to be had!
After Isaac left, Jason and I hiked up a river nearby and pack rafted down, getting some great scenery and footage. It wa fantastic!
But here is the interesting thing. The thing that solidifies my decision to stop here. To slow our roll and explore this magical place and fantastic people.
As other boats came to the dock, we realized more and more. The misery of a break neck itinerary.
Most yachts were in a big hurry. They needed things like water and fuel. Most of them had motored a great deal and were low on supplies. Some were quoted astrinomical prices, for water. Some boats were denied fuel alltogether because the ice had delayed fuel delivery to the community.
The docks were overwhelmed, with somewhat rude and crass, media peoples who wanted a certain story from certain people. It was a rat race.
We enjoyed meeting the crews and met some fantastic people as well. Regardless of the hurried state of them all. One boat bough all our leftover fuel. which was abundant because all the sailing we had done while enjoying the process. This was great. They needed fuel and I needed money. Besides, the chance of on deck fuel jugs not being stolen during winter, were close to zero.
So I stepped back and looked at it all. It felt good to be detached from the motoring mob. The stressful faces. The grinding teeth.
The way I see it, no one gets a medal for making it through the Northwest Passage. The reward is the experience. I cannot imagine this voyage ending, without the experiences, people and places along the way.
I would liken, rushing through the Passage to bicycling across the U.S. to Disney Land. Then not riding any rides, because they are closed for the night and you cant wait till morning, because you have 1500 miles to pedal home and havent a moment to lose.
No Mickey Mouse, no Elephant Ears, No giant sucker, No funny pictures.
I’ve never been to Disney Land. But you get my point.
Eventually we got the boat hauled out. But thats another story! One which I will tell soon.
Today we sit waiting for weather to fly out toward Yellowknife with some friends. We are literally hitchhiking home, trading favors as we can along the way.
When we are close enough to Alaska, to buy an affordable ticket, we will make the final leg home.
This part of the trip is beautiful; different from sailing, but all connected with this grand voyage.
We will leave Cambridge Bay with new friends and memories from the Arctic, well rounded with memories of those who dwell there.