By kayak back to the crystal clear waters of home
The first light of pre-dawn appears, but we’ve been up for a while; sleep elusive.
Whether its excitement, adrenaline or ‘pre-journey’ nerves, who knows.
Maybe it’s the realisation that my dream to kayak from my old home, Auckland, to the home now of my father and some of my family, Warkworth–Mahurangi, is about to happen.
Maybe it’s the echo of my wife’s voice saying: ‘You have five days before it’s your daughter’s wedding so if anything happens to you, you’re dead meat!’
Briefing with brother Mike (support boat), wife Val (land support) and brother Chris (boat trailer transport) at 6:00 a.m. begins with smart comments from Mike saying ‘I hope we haven’t got up early for nothing!’ and ‘Don’t even think about quitting!’
Mike radios in details to the Auckland Coastguard as I quietly paddle through the Ōkahu Bay Breakwater and turn right.
North Head, Devonport, comes and goes after 15 minutes. Slight southwesterly; Whew! Most grateful it’s not a northeasterly. Conditions are ideal for my journey. My dream, my training, my planning now turning into reality.
Val is waiting for me to paddle past Takapuna Beach and it is wonderful to hear her encouraging words across the water—well, I think they were encouraging—‘Remember our daughter’s wedding is only five days away!’ Two hours paddling gets me to Torbay; average speed of 8 km–hrs. Paddling rhythm strong and established. Form and stroke rate controlled. Now to maintain a paddle rhythm. My four months of hard training upstream on the Waikato River, the region where we now live, are showing its benefit.
Mike maintains a healthy banter across the water as well as relaying text and phone messages of support from family—not quite sure who just sent the ‘silly bugger’ message.
The Whangaparāoa Passage jolts me out of the comfortable rhythm I have been lulled into. The wind has picked up slightly and is now from the southeast. My enjoyment levels go down as I am paddling at an angle across offshore waves and chop. These waves were coming from all angles—behind me and bouncing off the rocks. Whew! My routine of drinking one litre of electrolyte, eating one protein bar and banana every hour goes out the window as I didn’t dare put my paddle down to reach for anything. At this point I offer a number of apologetic and repentant messages to God. Having Mike in the support boat close by was a prominent reassuring feature in my thoughts. My mental and physical strength is lowering faster than I would like, so Army Bay and lunch is very timely.
An hour later, at 11:48 a.m., I am back out there, refreshed, watered and ‘de-numbed’ in my rear end!
Keeping my eyes firmly on the Dome mountain in the distance I headed in a straight line to the Mahurangi Harbour entrance. I see the end. From Army Bay to the entrance Mike calculates, using his GPS, will take about two hours. A drop in the wind and a change direction to behind me bring back the dreaming, scheming and training I have undertaken in the months prior to this day.
Resisting the urge to charge ahead, I increase my rests to every half hour for five minutes at a time to conserve the energy I have left. At this stage Mike’s earlier comments about quitting are added to: ‘Don’t tell me you’re tired! Just a walk in the park, Steve!’ and other such brotherly love fired across the short distance from his boat. I keep reminding myself: keep your form, keep your form. Energy levels are rising as I paddle the last few kilometres—a wonderful thing, adrenalin! Paddling past Casnell Island I raise my paddle high in love, memory and respect for my mum, Mary Horne, who left all her children with not only a legacy of love and laughter but also of a determination and desire to chase and live your dreams.
Ahead of me is Scotts Landing, the crystal clear waters of home. Memories of family picnics, Mum swimming while Dad fished just offshore in his boat. As I beach the kayak it is 2.05 p.m. I raise my paddle again, so happy, so tired, so satisfied. Total paddling time, excluding rests and lunch: six and a half hours; two and a half hours less than my guesstimate! Distance: 55 kilometres.
For those of you who are not familiar with kayaking, getting out at this point is not an easy thing to do. Finding my land legs takes a wee while but I’m sure the celebratory drink on the beach is helping. My dad, Peter, has a photograph taken with me wearing a nappy on my head and wearing a skirt—what goes on tour stays on tour, Dad. Seeing the smile on Val’s face tells me I’m not dead meat, just very tired flesh.
My brothers say I’m a dreamer. I am. I’m also an ideas person. I really enjoy blending ideas and challenges together. This particular journey is the culmination of my daring to dream, scheme and create an opportunity, all with the support of my family—even though Mike and Chris say they are far too busy for anything like this for the next umpteen years!
I encourage you to challenge yourself to set and attain goals and aspirations you have for yourself. From experience I can tell you it is a most satisfying feeling, which no one can take away from you. It is, I believe, what keeps me 50-years-young.