[If this is your first visit to the site, you’ll need to start at the beginning…HERE]
There are two kinds of people in this world. There are the ones that know that returning from a trip like this can be exhausting, embarrassing and confusing. They say “thank god you’re alive”, pat you on the back and then they drop it. Some of the ones that most sternly warned us even manage to send words of encouragement as we experienced this strange version of trauma and loss. Then there are the people who say “See! I knew it. They obviously didn’t know what they were doing.” Well, it turns out that the lion’s share of our friends and readers are the former. As most of you know we’ve been back for a while now. I was forced to tell the story retrospectively due to the nature of the terrain and lack of internet…this also gave me the luxury of having some separation and hindsight. I really thought that about half of the comments would be negative and giving us the “coulda-woulda-shoulda” routine. But nope, it turns out that this blog attracts people that know Heath and I probably don’t need to be told that we fucked up, and scolded like an impulsive kid. Of course we know that we bit off more than we could chew. Of course by now we know that our boat was not the right boat for us and that we could have been much more prepared. Pretty obvious at this point! But you know what – if you feel like you need to get something off your chest then let’er rip. Tell us to knock it the fuck off, pack it up, and take it easy. Tell us to do normal things that will bore the pants off 90 percent of people out there. That’s’ fine, as long as you don’t tell us to quit, because Carlo Borreto loves this site and I can’t take that away from him.
We had a Spot GPS device incase of a dire emergency that we called the ‘we’re fucked button’. We had lifejackets and swim fins in case we needed to leave the boat, which is a very important point. We had discussed many times about being totally prepared to leave the boat. We were ok with losing all that ‘stuff’ if the situation dictated we had to. And the fact that we stayed very close to land would be our second layer of our defense. When we left our boat on the last day, we honestly thought we were within range of a long swim. Unfortunately, when you’re navigating so close to shore, you’re going to hit some kelp and that had a bigger effect on our boat than anticipated. But we left the boat with a clear idea of us walking up onto that beach. I’ve swam long distance in the ocean many times and this looked doable. Heath, a guy with no ocean swimming in his history, even said that he would not have hit the button if it was right in front of him when we capsized. Obviously we were wrong, and thank what ever Gods you thank that the lifeguard was there. I used to lifeguard at the beach and I’ve rescued a few people, so I know the feeling from both sides. You can prepare all you want, but sometimes you still get fucked up. Maybe not the case here because we gave the ocean too many chances to take advantage of us, but again, these are the lessons we come home with and learn from.
When we got to that hospital I was pretty devastated…all these months of preparation; all the pictures and video I’d seen in my head for months and wasn’t going to get; all the memories I wasn’t going to get to cram into one short period of my life; all that damn sanding. Yep, let’s take a moment of silence for that beautiful boat we sanded for days [pause for El Ojo Negro]. What in the world was I going to tell everyone who had wished me well and expected me to be gone for over a month? It honestly occurred to us to not do the blog. It was just too embarrassing to come back so damn empty handed. But then Heath said “Well, I wanted an adventure. I didn’t get the one I expected, but I sure as hell got one!” He was right. This was so far from the story I was supposed to tell, but my god was it way more intense and unexpected.
We as people that seek out thrills have been doing stuff like this our entire lives. They span a wide spectrum of stacking up bricks and plywood to jump your first bike in the driveway to rafting the Grand Canyon, but I don’t see them as that different. They both could lead to injury or death. I personally have never been a real skateboarder, but remember that it’s almost a wide spread consensus that skateboarders should wear helmets – Heath has skated handrails his whole life without one. We are NOT going to see the world the same as a lot of people and if this blog was filled with stories about us doing totally safe things it would be boring as shit and no one would care. It is a very fine line to walk when you try and immerse yourself in new experiences but to not sit too close to danger. This time, we sat too close. But after being back home for a week we went from viewing the ocean as a death trap to wanting to get back out there somehow. If my sole intention was to create crazy web content then I think I would have lost interest in these kinds of things a while ago, but that’s not the case. I can’t stop thinking about these trips and now that we’ve experienced failure it seems to have had no effect on neither Heath or I. We may change a few of our methods and how we approach future adventures, but the philosophy of the next voyage will remain. That may sound like I’m tooting my own horn pretty loud, but keep in mind that there are people out there that skate or surf and take huge, life altering slams and get right back up and try again. I on the other hand will dust off the dirt, go home, get a burrito and think about how to pull it off another day.
At the end of our trip we were supposed to sail up to the beach in Todos Santos, an hour north of Cabo, and meet our people for a victory vacation. It didn’t work out precisely the way we wanted, but being in Baja Sur at the point where I was supposed to finish with an unbelievable group of friends, was a nice closer. It was good to be back looking at the Pacific and thinking, “well, at least we tried”.
Someone hand me a Tecate.
31 thoughts on “At Least We Tried”
Failure is the real inspiration for anyone reading this blog. That is why none of us are doing these trips for the fear of failure and unknown. Its good to see you can come up short on the set goal and it is still an awesome experience in its own. A 75% success rate is something to be proud of. I had friend who set out to bike across the US starting in Oregon, ending in Maine; he didn’t make it to Idaho.
So you guys didn’t make it to the destination you set out for. That is disheartening, but at the same time this story is just as amazing and intense as El Cap, The Grand Canyon, and Biking Across America. For the last five years once a year I make a trip way back in the Eastern Sierra’s for a few nights with my Dad, brother’s, and anyone who says their down for the trip (I’d stay longer, but I’m one of those, “I can’t get a month off work” people). I have never come out of one of those trips without some sort of story. One particular year reminded me of this journey. There are seven or eight different lakes on this particular watershed. On this trip my Dad and I (like we do on all these trips) wanted to fish a different lake than the one we were camping at. In previous years we had made it to our destinations, but this year we failed. We ended up 13,000 feet above sea level on the biggest rocks I had ever seen in my life. And these rocks were stacked on top of each other. I counted six of these giant rocks on top of each other, but who knows how many there were. They were bigger than a suburban house, and as you’d hope from one to the next all you could think was, “If I slip, I’m dead”. It was amazing, except when we thought we lost my Dad’s dog. All I thought was, “Shit. now I have to hike 4 hours with my Dad crying over his damn dog”. Yeah, he loves that dog. I was bummed we didn’t get to where we were going, but I ended up somewhere I never thought I be with a new perspective and a completely different adventure to talk about. You guys are rad! I remember there being some douche bags commenting on the bike blog, but you guys kill it. Even this trip was an awesome read. I don’t see it as a failure, just as something that turned out differently then you planned. I’m looking forward to living vicariously through you guys in the next adventure. Keep it up, because this stuff is amazing to read!
Jeff, your telling of your adventure was captivating. I am just so happy you are here to tell the story.
Another epic tale! RIP El Ojo Negro, viva la adventure.
You gave it a shot, which is more than most people do. You made out alive and learned from your experience. I enjoyed reading every post and look forward to next year’s adventure.
‘A’ for effort!
Jeff & Heath:
I’m giving you both a standing ovation! What guts, I’m very proud of you both. The blog was very exciting just to hear about the struggles that kept me wanting more each day. I say grab that Tecate, a lime and a bigger boat! As Nike says “Just DO IT!!!!” and Larry the Cable Guy “Get Ur Done!”
KAT in Texas
fucking proud of you guys
heath and jeff,
thanks for all the good reading material, after reading about your adventures it sparks my buddies and i to set out on our own adventure, which we have and are planning a new one soon. inspiration from you both.
I can’t wait for the next trip. So stoked you’re survivors.
What a great read. Incredibly inspiring. I personally like this “story” the best. It takes a lot of courage to not only take on the adventure in the first place but also own up to the fact that it didn’t pan out as planned. You two were kept alive for a reason. Make the most of it. Keep on keepin’ on! Look forward to reading about more adventures. xo
I’ve really enjoyed reading these stories and am glad to see you weren’t defeated by this one. I was late to work on a few mornings because these posts were accompanying my morning cup of coffee and I could not stop reading! I can’t wait to see what you guys are up to next! Bravo!
Very cool story, and amazing adventure.. Glad you guys are okay.
Wow, reading your adventure has been emotional tacking! One sentence I’m fearing for your well being then TACK… I’m laughing my ass off. Thank you for sharing your adventures with us and keeping a fresh perspective through all your tacking.
Jeff. Although, I’m sure it didn’t feel that way in the moment, this was the best of your stories yet. With a bigger boat, you guys will kill it next time…”Consider the postage stamp, son. It secures success through its ability to stick to one thing till it gets there.”
You fellas keep it real. Can’t wait to hear about the next adventure.
So awesome! Cannot wait for the next!!!
Congratulations Boys, you did some thing very few would even try. There is no failure in what happened. Move onto the next journey. Anyone hating or talking shit, has never done what you two have attempted. Turn the page, ignore them and let them talk. You guys will do it again or you won’t, you have plenty of loyal fans waiting for you guys to start your next adventure. Chalk it up as experience and thank god you’re alive. I’ve been a U.S. Marine and a City Firefighter, I’ve seen a lot in my life and you guys are not to be taken lightly. You guys are the real deal doing cool shit and taking chances. End of story. You guys have a lot of guts, crack open a beer, relax and bask in the glory of living your dreams. You guys are living your dreams.
Thanks Dan, that rad to hear from a Marine and firefighter.
Naysayers abound. The same Naysayers that are sitting on their couch writing about things instead of BEING about things. You guys have undertaken some Ballsy excursions. I read all of the blog in one sitting. A) because I’m still abusing my body skating in my 40s and B) because as a kid and an adult i have been lucky enough to see a lot of the world that most people don’t. There is more in this world than your own backyard and you guys are out there showing it to people.
I shall continue to check in….
waiting to follow your next great adventure!
I really do love this site! I hit Refresh so many times hoping to see an update. It never disappoints.
Don’t quit. Anyone who tells you to needs something else to do.
You guys built a fucking boat.
Thanks for being the guys who have ideas and actually do them. “That would be cool” doesn’t cut it and that’s the way it should be.
You rowed. You sailed. You conquered. You inspired.
Jeff, you are ao amazing!!! Heath you are too, although I have not had the pleasure to meet you in real life. Jeff, thank you so much as always for writing in a way that makes me feel I was there with you. Your passion for life is inspiring. Please keep it up.
“It’s not the critic who counts. It’s not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled. Credit belongs to the man who really was in the arena, his face marred by dust, sweat, and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs to come short and short again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming. It is the man who actually strives to do the deeds, who knows the great enthusiasm and knows the great devotion, who spends himself on a worthy cause, who at best, knows in the end the triumph of great achievement. And, who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and cruel souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
I’ll put this is surfing context… the near-total lack preparation going into your row/sail expedition was the equivalent of someone who’s never been in the ocean before, just buying a board and paddling out to surf 20′ Mavericks.
It wasn’t ballsy or adventurous, it was hubris.
I’d encourage you to try it again, but this time put some effort into it. Learn how to row, learn how to handle a small boat. Figure out flotation and dry secure gear storage so that you can self-recover from a capsize. Practice and test everything and take some shorter trips to work things out.
There is nothing wrong with the Northeaster Dory and this trip would be totally achievable, but first you need to develop the required skill set.
“No matter, try again, fail again, fail better” Samuel Beckett
Biking across America isn’t much harder than riding a bike, you can finish it if you want to and your fitness will increase as the trip goes on. You just kinda do it, sore taint and all. El Cap people can clip in with carabiners the whole way up and not really risk falling to their death. The ocean is a totally different story, there is no safety net no matter the size of your boat. Next time take a sailing course at the Mission Bay Aquatic Center followed by a navigation course followed by a whole lot of practice. I applaud your spirit but the ocean demands much more respect. Funny but the most experienced sailors are always the most cautious.
You guys have been very inspirational over the years and I’m stoked you’re still here to tell the story of this trip. You’ve honestly been one of the motivating factors in preparing to quit my job and seek adventure until it kills me or I just get sick of it (hopefully the latter.) Hopefully we can cross paths and share stories one day. Long live ojo negro!
I know you’d rather read glowing praises from people telling you how brave you were for just daring to try, but sorry, that’s bullshit. There’s plenty of us who also get up to some wicked cool shit, but do it competently, by taking the time to test and practice and learn how to use our gear before setting out. I have a hard time making sense of the fact that you didn’t take the time to learn how to row, learn how to sail, or even take the new boat for a test cruise BEFORE setting off into the open Pacific Ocean on a 40-day voyage.
This trip is totally achievable by someone with the proper equipment, skills and training. Try not to be so half-assed about your preparations next time, and then that will be something actually praiseworthy. You were *this* close to being a couple of waterlogged corpses through your own ignorance. Make it a learning moment and do a better job next time.
Incredible journey reading through these, and while the words on defeat were very true you have to wonder if Heath ever felt defeat especially after just one try.
This is a guy who has spent years dedicating his life to something with success rates that make 75% seem like an unachievable dream. He spent the majority of his life taking failure after failure consecutively, eating total shit and having to take away a tiny positive about maybe locking in a little better or catching a trick closer to the point where the concept of a total defeat has probably long been trained out of his consciousness.
To me there is no more fitting end to this story than Heath sending you a picture of another boat. While to the majority of people this would be an indication of defeat, to Heath making a boat and getting pretty far out to sea is probably just a really promising first attempt.
May 2014 – Inspired by this very blog, I cycled from London to Barcelona.
July 2014 – Almost died after crashing my bike 500 yards from my house in Vancouver. Life support, neurosurgery, 60 metal pins holding my head and jaw together (temporarily), the whole nine yards.
Summer 2015 – Riding the length of Britain with my sister + Canoeing a stretch of the Yukon with my Canadian buddies.
WE’RE REALLY DOING IT.
Holy shit man! Glad you lived to tell the tale. And glad to hear you’ve still got the lust.