Last month, my girlfriend Dell and I took a detour and stopped in at Port Townsend, Washington on our way past during a trip that included Oregon, Washington and BC Canada. It was a little out of the way, but I’m really glad we went. There was a specific reason for this stop that had to do with a much more expansive journey that she has been working on for more than a year and half now and which I have very recently been invited to participate in as support and documentary roles. This is a really big deal and I’m honored to be part of it.
I’ll write more about this journey in a later post, but essentially she will be kayaking the 1,400+ mile water route taken on the 1838 Trail of Tears forced removal of the “five civilized tribes” including the Cherokee, from which she is descended. The route will begin in Cherokee, North Carolina (rather than further along at Chattanooga, Tennessee. This has only been done once since the original removal and even then not from this starting point, or by someone with native blood. Six rivers and more than 90 days continuous hard paddling.
After much research and thought, she decided to undertake this journey in a beautiful wooden kayak that she will construct from a kit supplied by Pygmy Kayaks located in Port Townsend, WA. Hence our pilgrimage to the source as it were. It would be far easier for her to just buy a sturdy ready-to-sail plastic or fiberglass boat, but it wouldn’t have the same deep meaning or aesthetics for her, so wood it is. She wanted to talk to the people at Pygmy and test paddle some of their models to help decide which was right.
Port Townsend is a very cute little place that wouldn’t seem out of place at the turn of the 19th / 20th centuries with wonderful brick buildings, a cool lighthouse and snug harbor. We had coffee at Better Living Through Coffee just off the main street and loved the pour over brews they made there. Later we stopped in at Sirens Pub and sat on the deck upstairs sipping wine and watching the harbor while we waited for the ferry.
Our visit to Pygmy was a key piece of the unraveling puzzle and felt a bit like a trip to see the Oracle. The company was started in 1985 by John Lockwood, a former Harvard student, computer programmer and long-time long-distance kayaker. The people there were incredibly welcoming and helpful. After much discussion and some test paddling, Dell chose the 17.5 foot long Coho sea kayak as the model she will first build and then paddle. Weighing in at only 39 pounds, it’s just gorgeous and as much art as boat.
Since our visit to Pygmy, Canoe and Kayak Magazine has signed on to follow and publish the story and photos of this unique epic voyage. To that end, we will be filming and documenting the process of her building these kayaks (one for me too) over the fall and winter. If you want to read more about it, I highly suggest you read her Blog and stories about all the why’s, where’s and what’s of her journey. It’s pretty flippin’ amazing and she’s a hell of a good writer so you won’t be disappointed. The site is called Going2Water and I think you’ll love the story behind why she named it thus.