Kayakers unable to make Fogo Island but find meaning in the journey
Veterans, business leaders say Cabot Expedition was the experience of a lifetime
The wind was blowing from the north, pushing the thick fields of ice closer to shore and effectively ending any hopes of the Cabot Expedition making Fogo Island by kayak.
The news should have been devastating; members of the True Patriot Love (TPL) expedition, a mix of military veterans and business leaders, had prepared for this journey for months.
However, as TPL chair Mike Durland explained, the team still felt accomplished.
“Sometimes life is not about the destination,” said Durland. “We were the luckiest people in the world to be together with one another.”
After what Durland described as a “brief moment of disappointment”, the narrative quickly changed as the team took a moment to appreciate their surroundings.
“We found ourselves paddling around this quiet, protected little field of ice, drifting, with not a wave on the ocean,” he said.
The water was so clean that at 20 feet you could see the bottom like you were looking through a sheet of glass.”
Durland said that by the time the team headed home, he felt like each had experienced a moment of peace that would change them forever.
Donald Hookey, a military veteran from Port Rexton, said the experience was unparalleled.
“It was physically demanding, it was mentally demanding but because of the group we were with, it worked out in the end,” said Hookey.
Throughout the expedition, the elements posed a challenge.
The initial launch from Birchy Bay on June 10 was delayed due to high winds, forcing the team to make up the lost time by paddling 22 kilometers the next day to Dildo Run Provincial Park.
In an attempt to circumvent the ice, the team jumped around and paddled another 24 kilometers but was ultimately forced back to the park due to weather conditions.
For Hookey, he said he learned a lot about himself and the civilian participants.
“I’m stronger than what I thought I was,” he said. “(The civilians) aren’t as intimidating as we thought. They are truly dedicated to every thing they said they were going to do.”
Durland highlighted that TPL expeditions focus on providing participants with an opportunity to experience something
unique in their lives.
“In many ways, we thought conquering the challenge was going to be what sparked that moment. What really sparked that moment was the realization that there’s something a whole lot more powerful than us,” said Durland.
Kristina Schreiber, director of TPL’s Expeditions and Events, highlighted the obstacles the team faced.
“This year, they are seeing more ice than in the last 42 years,” wrote Schreiber via email. “Battling the elements each step of the way, the Cabot team faced whipping winds, rain, tides, icebergs and open water off the coast.”
Despite the harsh conditions, Hookey said the expedition gave him a sense of the camaraderie he missed from his military days.
Durland, who’s been involved with TPL since 2012, said that he expects to return to Newfoundland.
“I think there’s a really good chance that we’ll come back and try and conquer this mission one more time.”
Kayakers from the True Patriot Love (TPL) expedition were unable to make Fogo Island and forced to abandon the expedition as a result of unusual amounts of pack ice.