BASK General Meeting, July 29th 2015.

I was invited to give a talk at the July General Meeting of BASK (Bay Area Sea Kayakers) and show slides from the Race to Alaska (R2AK). The members of BASK had been very excited during The Race and followed me avidly on the race tracker. I was told that I am personally responsible for a month of poor productivity in the San Francisco Bay Area because all the members of BASK were using up all the bandwidth on the Internet pressing refresh on their browsers every 10 minutes all day long when they were supposed to be working.

My friends in BASK joked about the meeting being a special one that was going to be a "Mike Fest". They did pull out all the stops and gave me several gifts and awards, including a set of steak knives in an engraved box. The Race to Alaska had a $10,000.00 first prize, and a set of steak knives as the second prize. I'm used to this sort of thing, I have participated in the "Sea Gypsy Race" which awarded the first second and third place kayakers a bottle of hot sauce each. Then there is the "Reef Madness Race" that gives Mardi Gras Beads to every participant who survives that race. Of course I had no expectation that I would win the R2AK or even come in second. But the members of BASK felt that I needed some recognition for finishing the R2AK, so they got me a set of steak knives! The inscription on the box says "Team Mike's Kayak – R2AK 2015 / Never again!"

I got back at my friends for all this adoration in the following way. First I told the story about a "team building" exercise done at a BASK Skills Clinic once: Everyone stood in a circle and had to make up a two-word nickname for themselves. Like "Just Joe", "Jumping Jack" and "Dirty Dörte" (the latter was especially clever because it helped us remember her name and pronounce it correctly in German). I chose "Modest Mike" which made everyone in the circle laugh. And everyone at the BASK meeting laughed again when I told the story. Why does that make everyone laugh? Am I not a modest person? Then I brought up my first slide which said:

"Mike Fest" and I said that a modest person like me was a little embarrassed to have everyone saying this. There is nothing special about me. There are plenty of kayakers who could have done this race. For example Sean Morely is a kayaker in the Bay Area who has paddled around Vancouver Island (also a 750 mile trip) in 12 and a half days! He came to a BASK meeting and gave a talk about his expedition. He could have done the R2AK in half my time! There is one thing that does amaze me about myself, something I would not believe if I had not experienced it: I can sit in a kayak and paddle for 10 or more hours every day without getting especially tired. But the reason for this is on the next slide:

"Jean Fest" I took a forward stroke class a long time ago from BASK member Jean Severinghous. So this should be a Jean Fest, not a Mike Fest. And in general all the members of BASK are always reminding each other to use torso rotation (an essential part of the forward stroke).

"Gordon Fest"
"Dave Fest" Gordon Shank and Dave Littlejohn are just the most recent people I recall berating me, I mean giving me constructive criticism about my paddling form. Another skill I used in the R2AK was planning the expedition beforehand: Choosing a path through the islands, looking for places to camp, planning meals that fit in my bear cans, planning for drinking water on the way, choosing the camping equipment and clothes to take in my kayak. The reason that I can easily do this is because:

"Penny Fest" I took a kayak expedition planning class from Penny Wells a long time ago. Of course it is nearly impossible to see good camping spots by looking at the map, you need to be able to scope out beaches from the water as you travel and recognize what makes a good place to camp. I learned this skill by following other kayakers around and learning from them. So this should be a:

"Ken Fest" or a
"Konstantin Fest" Since Ken Kelton and Konstantin Gortinski are two kayakers I learned the most from about finding good places to camp. In general, the best way to learn about the execution of a kayaking expedition is to get invited on trips planed and run by other people, like Penny Wells and:

"Andrea Fest" Andrea Wolf, who lead many trips to Baja but she is unfortunately no longer with us. There are so many people in BASK that I have learned so much from I don't have time to make a slide for each of them. So the only fair thing to do is to call this a:

"BASK Fest" not a Mike Fest and I thank all the members of BASK for making what I have done possible. (Then I showed them pictures taken on the trip, which are all available on this WEB page).

All text and images Copyright © 2015 by Mike Higgins / contact