June 2, 2004
Hi, my name is Susan and I have been sea kayaking for
five years now. My paddling partner and I decided we
are ready to do a 5-day trip on our own, sea kayaking
around Peak Island, Maine (and the other nearby
islands). While renting kayaks there is a possibility,
we really would prefer to take our own. I read about
your "Around Baikal" article and you mentioned you
shipped your kayaks to Siberia. How can we get our
sea kayaks to Maine?
Answer By Brandon:
You can take them on a plane, in a boat or on a train, you can take them on a bike, or with a horse, if you'd like.
Just joshin' ya, Susan. Sort of. The truth is, you can get your boats across the continent or around the world in any number of ways, and the means you end up choosing is half the fun. By the time Heather and I had finished building our boats for our 'Canada to Cabo' expedition, we'd been hustling 18 hours a day for nearly three months. I was a walking zombie, and literally counted down the minutes until I could load the boats on my truck and drive them down to my folks' place near the Mexican border. It was one of the greatest solo road trips of my life. I shot over the Sierras and made my way south on the 395 through Mammoth, Bishop, and Lone Pine--some of the prettiest towns in California. This was late-July, so I was hitting every swimming hole I knew of on the way, and passing out for long naps in the shade. Whenever I stopped for gas or grub, the freshly-varnished kayaks drew a small crowd, and I proudly spilled our next six months' plans to each captive audience. By the time I pulled in to Mom and Dad's, I'd been on the road for three days, and was completely rested and ready for the expedition to begin.
Getting two 17-foot long boats to inner Siberia for 'Around Baikal', however, was a different kind of challenge--and might not have happened at all if Heather hadn't stepped in on my "perfect plan." See, our boat sponsor for that trip, Current Designs, has a distributor in Norway. Technically speaking, Norway is practically next door to eastern Russia, at least when you're looking at it on a world map spread across your floor in California. I got the bright idea of flying into Oslo, Norway, catching a cab to the local Current Designs shop to pick up our boats, then hiring a bored, adventure loving trucker to haul us and our cargo across three countries and into the depths of Russia, at least as far as Moscow. "Who wouldn't want to do that?" I argued.
Heather's a gentle sort, so she didn't whack me upside the head, like she probably should've. Instead she rolled her eyes, handed me the phone and said, "Call Scott." I started dialing.
Scott Lindgren had recently gotten home from his history-making Tsangpo expedition in Tibet, having pulled off the first descent of what is hailed as the Everest of rivers. He's arranged for more people, gear, vehicles and god knows what else to be moved around the planet than a thousand other kayakers put together. The phone rang twice, Scott answered, I laid out the Norway scheme, and waited for his reply.
"Dude..." It was the sort of tone you might expect from a grade school teacher, after little Johnny, having gone over "Two plus two equals...?" for the hundredth time, still says "Five!"
"Check your boats as luggage," Scott said.
"Scott, these aren't whitewater boats," I said. "We're talking 17-feet!" Silence on the other end. I could imagine Scott's thoughts: One...last...time, Johnny. Two plus two equals...?
"Brandon," he started, "I checked two Chevy Avalanches to Tibet. I just flew my Honda Element to South Africa. I've checked 14 whitewater boats on my ticket, alone! Trust me, you can fly with your 14-foot sea kayaks!"
"17," I mumbled, missing the point entirely.
"17, then," Scott said, with the continued endurance of Johnny's teacher.
Catching on, I asked who I should contact at the airline to arrange this improbable stunt. After all, if we weren't allowed to bring the boats, our expedition was over.
"Call no one," Scott said. "Just show up with your boats, get in line like everyone else, and..." and this is the point in my life when I realized how Scott Lindgren pulls off being Scott Lindgren, gifted paddler of Earth's sickest rivers, respected leader of major, international expeditions, producer of award-winning films, and the perfect man to call in these exact situations, "get in line like everyone else," he said, "and don't take no for an answer."
Exactly four weeks later, Heather and I fastened our seat belts, put our trays in the upright position, and settled in for the long flight to Moscow. Our boats, plastered with a handful of 'Fragile' stickers, lay in the luggage hold in the belly of the plane. Scott's advice worked to perfection, along with a small stack of 20s stuffed into the hand of Yuri the ticket-taker. From Moscow we loaded in and onto the car of Sergei, whom we'd met on the 'Net. He got us to the Trans-Siberian Railway station, where we passed the next four days en route to south central Siberia, our boats in a box car of their own. Then three hours by truck, then five minutes on a motorcycle sidecar to the waters of Lake Baikal. A lot of work to go for a paddle, sure, but the next 71 days made it all worthwhile.
The bottom line, Susan, is that you can get your boats to Maine in any combination of ways. I didn't catch where you were staring from, but that doesn't matter so much. If you can, make hauling the boats there part of your journey. Every tourist and gas station attendant who looks at and hears about your boats is one more soul who might take up paddling, and change their life forever. And whatever you do, remember Scott's advice, "Don't take no for an answer."
» Back to Expedition Authority Index Page