the Cape Falcon Kayak 2013 winter update

My friend Jon,  an incomplete paraplegic,   paddles his F1 in the moonlight on lake Tahoe

2013 was a tough year.   Beginning with a brutal sports injury that left me barely able to walk for eight months,  just as that started healing I woke up in the middle of the night and shook my fiance awake,  "Somethings wrong,  my heart isn't beating right."   Snapping back into paramedic mode,  this time with myself as the patient,  I tried to determine what exactly I was feeling.   The audible heartbeat in my chest was beating doubletime to the pulse in my wrist,  some sort of weird arrythmia.   Then I sat up,  and it stopped,  and I layed back down,  and it started,  and then the chest pain came,  and then I went to the hospital.

Five months, a half dozen doctors, and every single dime I've ever made later,  the tests are still ongoing.  To quote my cardiologist,  "There is definately something wrong with you, we just don't know what yet."   To which I had to resist the temptation to answer, "Have you met me?  Anyone could tell you that."   I'm pretty sure that if I ever do keel over my final words will be some sort of wise crack.  

One thing they don't tell you about being sick is that life doesn't just stop and play a little violin while you suffer,  you still have to do things.  Pain becomes a companion, molding you, shaping you, compelling changes that you could have never made otherwise.  I've been meditating every day,  cooking every meal,  working on Lee's new restaurant, making instructional videos, broadcasting live webisodes of me building things, designing a brand new website, building commissions, working on a new row boat design, building an outdoor kitchen for the farm, fishing, whitewater kayaking, salvaging wood, and running on the beach.  Every moment of productivity an act of open defiance against the tyranny of this stupid mystery sickness.    I will win.

I normally start these updates rambling on about my personal life, getting to the actual kayak building somewhere between the end and never, so lets start this time by talking shop.   With my organic farm mostly self-sustaining,  I'm taking a hard look at the business and asking: "What next?".   I think the first answer is that we need to modernize.  I've been tapping away at this archaic self-designed html website for twelve years now,  and truthfully,  for all the cool content it is looking kind of shabby.   More to the point,  there are things I just can't do here,  and chief among them is video.   I've spent the better part of a year and a half now teaching myself video production and we are finally filming and editing a whole series of kayak building instructional videos.   To this I plan to add paddling instruction,  and all manner of sustainable living projects.  Simply put,  I love to teach, I'm good at it,  and I want to share that with more people.  

The new site will feature professional photography,  a live shop cam,  and an all around sharper look and feel.

After small boats,  my other passion is small spaces and sustainable architecture.   A few months ago a lady contacted me and wanted to film me talking about the things I build and my off-grid organic farm.   I barely glanced at the email and probably mumbled something like sure,  whatever.   I'm glad I did!  That woman was Kiersten Dirksen,  sustainable living videographer extraordinare.   She travels all over the world making videos about people living smaller and smarter.   She showed up here,  family in tow, and caught me on an exceptionally clear-headed day while I talked about everything I do here from solar, to hydro, to salvage to boatbuilding.   Check it out!

Me talking about the Japanese Forest House click here
Me talking about the off-grid farm,  and building kayaks  click here

Our newest structural addition to the farm,  a kayak-salvaged wood, timber-framed outdoor kitchen in progress.    Gins' (co-owner of the farm) boyfriend Brigham has been using his mad metal working skills to create super efficient wood fired stoves and ovens.   Perfect for class potlucks rain or shine!

Speaking of salvage,  more than a few friends and aquaintances have been shanghai'd into pulling large chunks of wood long distances and thus have learned to accompany me into the wilds at their own risk.   If I see something cool I just have to bring it home.   I'm pretty sure my friends here thought they were completely safe heading out for a coastal paddle and crabbing expedition,  but you can find wood in the darnedest places.

On one of the flattest days I've ever seen on the Pacific ocean,  myself and crew dropped some crab traps and headed out to explore the sea caves of Neah-Kah-Nie mountian.   A death trap at even a small swell,  under these conditions we ventured into passages that I'd never even explored.   Ghosting down a passage in the darkeness "Bang!" my kayak struck an object and I let out a startled yelp.   "What the hell was that?'  my buddy called.   "I don't know,"  I replied,  "I think it's a log."   I pushed the thing and it moved,  and then leaned down and inspected it by braille.   The fuzzy surface spoke of a mighty battering,  but what struck my curiosity was how high it floated,  almost half out of the water.   "It's got to be cedar,  and dry."  I explained in the dim passage.   "I need to see this thing,  lets throw a rope on it."   Very slowly I towed the monolith into the light,  the butt of a log,  about 9 feet long,  24-40 inches around,  about a ton,  cedar.

"Lets see if we can move it."   a proposition that any normal friends would balk at,  but Don possesses a stalwart tenacity that makes me look like a slacker,  which makes us a dangerous pair.   An hour and a half a mile later Don abandoned me to go look for the rest of our friends,  which is when I should have done the same had I not been captivated with two poisionous thoughts:

1)  I found this in a SEA CAVE,  I'll never have a chance like this again.

2)  I'm already a quarter of the way there.

Did I mention this was my first time in a sea kayak since the injury?   Not exactly tip top conditioning,  even if I wasn't towing this behemouth.   At the 1/2 mark I realized I'd made a terrible mistake.   The wind picked up,  I was desperately hungry and thirsty.  I imagined myself dragging a sarcophagus through desert sands.   I simultaneously knew that I could not do this,  and also that I would.   At hour three my friends passed me, wisely assigning themselves to pulling crab pots and starting the fire,  and I found myself alone again.  I cursed the bastard thing,  trudging bitterly onward.   When I finally released it to let the small surf carry it onto the beach it had been 4 hours,  and 2 very long miles.

You can imagine I was not the most popular person in camp when I stumbled up the beach out of breath,  and commandeered all available hands mid-feast,  to help me pull the damn thing up the beach where the tide wouldn't bury it.   With strained friendliess toward my hairbrained scheme,  some carefully placed roller logs,  and a whole lot of grunt,  we dragged it a hundred yards uphill,  before returning to the feast at sunset.

The next morning I returned with my monstrous Stihl 084 and enjoyed the most scenic chainsaw milling I will ever do.   Working with absolute focus I just barely finished as the tide lapped at my heels.   More friends were recruited to carry the three inch thick slabs up to the truck.   Among salvage schemes this one has to be one of the more ridiculous,  and I want to offer a deep and heartfelt thanks to all the people I tortured to make my dream a reality.   It was a fitting first day back on the water.

photos by Justin Baille

It's hard to describe just how grateful I am to be paddling again, and though I need to be careful with the injury, there are days when having a gorgeous river literally in my back yard is just too much to resist.   My friend Justin caught me sneaking a bit of solo floodstage class IV.   Whitewater or Greenland stick,  it's just a blessing to have a paddle back in my hand.

Among my many aquatic addictions, however, nothing holds sway over my congnition quite like steelhead fishing.   For two months a year approximately 30% of all thinking is devoted to these gorgeous silver seagoing supertrout.  An addiction like any other,  days are wasted with little to show,  responsibilities are neglected,  loved ones abandoned.   There are deep lows filled with cold rainy masochistic depression,  and all of that is forgotten in a moment when a mini tornado slams into the end of your line.   Every steelheader knows the feeling,  and the accompanying bright silver twisting flash.   So hard to catch,  and when you do get one landing it takes finesse as well,  then the reward of some best fish you'll ever eat.  It's a peak experience,  and one that just digs the groove even deeper,  "I need to get another one."  

Hi, my name is Brian,  and I'm a steehead-aholic.

Honestly though,  and I say this with great pain in my heart,  steelheading and whitewater kayaking are going to have to wait for now.   As those of you who follow this site know,  my fiance Lee is opening a local farm-to-table restaurant here in Manzanita.   A remarkable young chef, she went from farmers market booth, to leasing an existing space, to attracting attention and a hundred thousand dollars in investment to open her very own place.   Impressive for a 28yr old.   Such an undertaking really needs about 175,000 to get up and running,  but I've always believed in taking risks and living your dreams,  so I told her I'd build the interior,  for free.

I milled my best kayak-salvaged logs, old bridge timbers, anything beautiful with a story.  The idea is to create an interior as local and unique as the food she serves.  The doors on the space opened today,  giving me exactly 45 days to get it done.   I've never built a restaurant interior before,  but I have this disease called self confidence that gets me into all sorts of trouble.

Still,  a free interior doesn't close the funding gap,  so as my other contribution to the space I made a video and put it on Kickstarter to see if we could raise some money.   Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing grass roots fundraising platform,  meaning if you don't make your goal you don't get anything.   Well,  in one of the rare instances where my characteristic overconfidence didn't pay off,  we didn't make our goal.

All is not lost though.   We've taken the video to another site, this time with a more modest goal,  because to be truthful, even with this money Lee is going to be bootstrapping her way into the business.   I never ever use my website to push or peddle anything,  but in this one instance I'm asking you to consider making a donation to Lee and the restaurant.   A talented young chef serving people healthy local food,  I can't think of a better cause.

View the video here

Apropos of absolutely nothing,  I want to finish this update by showing off the cutest kitten ever created.   This is Bruno,  he's huge for his age, dangerously intelligent, and sadly does not belong to me.   My friend Jen,  professor,  food writer,  and author of the awesome Culinaria Eugenius blog,  rescued this little guy from the shelter where they arbitrarily decided he should cost TWICE AS MUCH as a normal adoption???   Honestly, they were right.   Bruno is the coolest thing in the western hemisphere right now,  and his adorable little face is a reminder of everthing warm and wonderful even when the cold winds of change threaten to blow in gales.  The neat thing about a cat is that they live entirely in the moment, pain is forgotten as soon as it's gone,  and there is no expectation of future pain and all the fear that goes with it.  

 If we can draw wisdom from our furball friends, it would be that our only real job in life is to Be, and to Grow.

...well that, and to bite the shit out of things that upset us, but I wouldn't recommend the last part.

I'll see you all in the new year with a brand new website, videos, and a restaurant completed.   Come join me for another year of food, laughter, and kayaks. 


Back to Cape Falcon Kayak