Plans to Build a Sea Kayak and Cirumnavigate Stewart Island
The latest recipients of the Good for Life Scholarship, Cam Bowen and Matt St. Martin plan for their adventure around New Zealand's Stewart Island...
Cam and I met as students and were both keen on outdoor adventures.
Nearing the end of our first semester I proposed a solo trip around the Coromandel Peninsula that would take me around 200km of coastline over 10 days. Cam got wind of the plan and asked if he could come along for the trip citing safety as well as personal interest in the trip. After listening to him and realising his similar passion and interest, and also succumbing to the logic in having a second person on the trip, I agreed and we began altering my original plan and organising everything that is entailed in an extensive kayak trip.
During the planning and organisation for what became a 7 day, 300km trip around the Coromandel Peninsula from Thames to Tauranga, we began formulating our next plan, and subsequently, the goals thereafter. We were aware of the Adventure Philosophy Scholarship and kept asking ourselves; “If you could attempt any expedition, by any means, during any time of the year (given a two week time frame) AND not have to worry about expenses, what trip would you take? And what trip would capture the attention of the seasoned Adventure Philosophy team?"
A couple of unrealistic ideas got thrown around, but the idea that emerged ended up being a Stewart Island circumnavigation, which in itself is a modest “expedition” that was first accomplished over 25 years ago, so to spice it up we started tacking on external factors... I guess we can call them the “take notice” factors. While we were patching the fibreglass bottomed Sea Bears to be used on the 300km Cam looked up at me and said, “why don’t we just build our own kayaks!?”... I cracked a smile and commented “hell, if we’re going to build our own kayak we might as well plan the trip in the middle of winter!”
And that’s how it happened. That night, after getting the epoxy applied and hammering the rudders into shape we went home and wrote up the application over a few beers and looked up information on everything from previous Stewart Island trips to landing spots and distances. Then came the wait....
The application was turned in at the end of November. We knew that our chances were slim. The first few weeks after submitting the application we got together regularly and made plans on how we were going to build the kayak, what shape and by what design... but as time waned we slowly and silently were both coming to the same realization...
Christmas day: I woke up and performed my morning ritual - cup of coffee and banana - check e-mails and read headlines. Right at the top of my inbox was an e-mail from Adventure Philosophy. I opened it up to read that one month prior we had in fact won the Adventure Philosophy Scholarship! What!? We WON!? Are you kidding me!? I read through the e-mail at least half a dozen times to ensure my eyes weren’t misreading the text on the screen. Little can describe the emotion I felt at that moment, and I honestly don’t remember a time that I’ve been more excited. All I could think of was “I need to contact Cam... I HAVE to contact Cam!” I raced downstairs to find my phone listing and raced back upstairs to grab the cordless phone. Frantically I called Cam’s cell-phone knowing full well he was surf life saving on the Coromandel Peninsula several hours away. No answer. I called a second time. No answer. I called a third, fourth and fifth time to no avail. I was panicking with excitement and had no one to vent to... CAMMMM!!!!!
Eventually I got him! I just told him to stop what he was doing and start dancing... he complied and then he asked, “why am I dancing in the middle of the beach right now... I’m supposed to be working?” I told him the news and then as though we had won the lottery we both exploded with words and noises that neither of us could even attempt to repeat to this day. Needless to say that this was a mutual highlight in both of our lives - one of the greatest feelings I can remember having.
Since that phone call we’ve been conceiving, blueprinting and planning everything that is involved in building a sea kayak. We’ve met with several kayak building companies, and had several drinks with many current and past boat builders plotting and deciding on our method and design. We decided to take care of the logistics of the circumnavigation after the completion of the kayak knowing full well that building it would be nearly as difficult and the trip itself.
At this point we have the brunt of the difficult work completed, which is the formation of the shape of the kayak that you lay the ply and fibreglass over. We measured distances and angles on several kayaks and in the end decided that for speed, stability and finance we would build a double sea kayak, but make is slightly larger and faster than the Sea-Bear that we used for the Thames to Tauranga trip last year.
We truly over in the method but decided that instead of building from the outside in that we would construct from the inside out this saving space and timber. Between the periods of logistics and building we’ve spent dozens of hours trying to find external sponsors from marine companies and timber companies to lighten the load even further on our pocket books but have unfortunately had no luck. We even managed to secure a booth at the Auckland International Boat Show which featured our plan, and our past trip.
What the Adventure Philosophy Scholarship means to us:
I think we’re both just flattered that Graham, Jonsey, and Marcus trusted that we not only had the passion, but the ability to pull off what we were suggesting we could pull off. The Adventure Philosophy team has displayed considerable selflessness organizing this scholarship for the past 10 years. I think it says much about them as people, and it makes us strive even harder to fulfill the goals we have laid out for ourselves. There is much youth out there with similar passion and dreams to our own, but because of finance they can’t even begin to think about fulfilling those dreams. Winning this scholarship means more than money; it strengthens our resolve that experienced outdoor expeditioners have the faith they do in us, and right now that means the world to us and could very well become the defining moment in our lives should we accomplish our dream.
[Editor: we will publish Matt and Camm's story and photos when they become available. Good luck guys!]
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