the Cape Falcon Kayak 2013 winter
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
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
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
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
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.
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