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by Rick Landreville - Rosedale, British Columbia, Canada

Part One - Part Two

OR, the "Misery Loves Company Tour"

It is now a couple of weeks removed from completing the event. The sunburns are healed up, my sleep schedule is mostly back to normal, the aches and pains have somewhat subsided. I still have split fingers and heat blister scabs on my lips that are taking forever to heal and my suitcase is still sitting by my dresser. I fear if I put it away, then the trip truly is over, so I procrastinate a few more days.

I have always had the TX200 on my bucket list of things to do since reading about Andrew Linn's experiences in the 2008 event. Then after meeting Andy in Oregon a few times each year, he kept talking it up and encouraging me to go. In his typical style, he would wax poetic about how dangerous it is and you would probably die some gruesome and painful death. Texas is full of people, animals, fish and plants that either want to kill you, eat you, or cause you bodily harm. But no great adventure is complete without some element of danger, and at some point in the trip, you need to question why you ever came and wished you had stayed home.

Maybe I shoulda listened closer.

Over the years, I read in detail every account I could get my hands on. I thought I new every detail, and route. Thought I knew how blistering hot and desolate this trip would be. The hang-up for me that kept me in Canada every year was the drive. I don't travel well at all. I think I had mentioned to Andy that at some point in the trip (probably before we got out of Oregon), I would be whining like a little girl and everyone would want to kill me. He said I wouldn't get out that easy. Plus, until a few years ago, I had never flown on an airplane before.

Well this year, I was personally invited by Chuck Pierce to fly down. St. John of Bastrop (John Wright) was building a bunch of loaner boats so out-of-towner's could fly in to the event, sail the event in one of these boats, and fly home. No 2713 mile each way drive for me. Plus it was a Livestrong event, and a fundraiser for cancer research. Plus the loaner boats would be PDRacers, and seeing as how I was the reigning 2013 PDRacer World Champion, Chuck said I had to come.

I pondered it for a few days, had some correspondence from Chuck back and forth and found out that there were some pretty heavy hitters in the small boating community coming out to do this event in the Ducks along with me. After going through the names, it became obvious that this was my once-in-a-lifetime chance to do this.

It made me wonder about what kind of people would intentionally do this physically and mentally challenging event in a barely seaworthy eight foot boat that was never originally designed to be an expedition boat. Talking with the people about to do this, I was surprised to find a few things out. Most of the entrants had a high level of post-secondary training. I think four or more had at least a masters degree, two were teachers, at least one at a university. Two were magazine editors, and two were organizers of some pretty famous small boating messabouts and a couple were self employed businessmen. All were sportsmen in the true sense of the word. All were veterans in some kind of small boating expeditioning. I knew pretty much all of them by their reputation, which was a good thing because if there had been a few more names of some folks I didn't know, or knew that they didn't have the experience and boat-handling skills, I would probably not have been as enthusiastic about going. This was going to be a every man makes it, no man gets left behind kind of thing. Plus with Chuck being a cancer survivor, this event meant so much to him that we simply could not fail. So I flew in to San Antonio via Seattle after a four hour drive from Canada to get the Sea-Tac airport. Jason Nabors offered to pick me up at the airport, which was very generous because renting a car to drive four and a half hours to Port Mansfield just to have it sit there for nine days was not really something I wanted to do. The temperature at home when I left was a high of 63 degrees and a low of 45. The temp in San Antonio was about 92 degrees.

Getting off the plane was like stepping into a sauna. Jason was there to pick me up, we walked out to his truck that had his Duck on a trailer on the back and then he promptly unrolls the windows. No A/C. Are you kidding me? "Naw, you'll be acclimatized to the heat by the time we get there" was his response. Drove into Port Mansfield well after midnight and find where the ducks are being launched. St. John is still outside working on his own boat, and almost everyone is still up. I managed to get a bed in the beach house where the ducks will be prepared for the event and thankfully it was air-conditioned. Two glorious nights of air conditioned comfort before the event. The next morning we had a duckers captains meeting, then went out to the main meeting with the other bigger boats and had to sign the waiver. I think Andy must have wrote it. 'You will most likely die. There will be no help and no support. You need to be self-sufficient because nobody is going back for you. Blah blah blah.' So I closed my eyes, signed on the dotted line and watched as most headed out to Magnolia Beach to drop off their empty trailers and tow vehicles and took the shuttle bus back.

While they were gone, all the duckers got busy rigging up the boats. Because they were brand new, and had never been on the water before, we had to start from scratch. Chuck Leinweber from Duckworks donated all the hardware and lines, and Andy Linn had sewed up all the sails and we all had to put together the jigsaw puzzle that was the loaner boats. John Goodman and myself had quite a bit of experience with lug rig setups, so we focused on that while the others worked on the spars, rudders, tillers and leeboard setups. By the time the rest of the group got back, we were done and ready for a six a. m. departure Monday morning.

To be continued...

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