As the announcement of The Cabrinha Quest loomed, Pete Cabrinha asked me to write up the expedition’s mission statement. On the surface, operating a five year kitesurfing expedition should be a pretty easy mission. But chasing the horizon, bagging some waves and moving on is a hollow quest and after doing pretty much just that for the last thirteen years, seeing what we’ve seen out there- well this time, the mission goes a lot deeper. And it’s one we’re taking very seriously.
A mutual desire to seek out the world’s most remote and dynamic kitesurfing and surfing locations, while building awareness and inspiring solutions to the environmental crisis has culminated into a five year agreement between Cabrinha and Offshore Odysseys. The expedition is called The Cabrinha Quest.
Discovery does not hold a lot of fuel. Our range, which is greatly influenced by current, wind and seas, is about 900 miles in perfect conditions, well short of the distance on a standard ocean passage. Our forecast as we left Cape Verde for the 1200 mile trip north showed almost no wind at all. Simple math meant we’d either have to get some wind, or we’d be doing some sitting around in the middle of the ocean. But no wind does have its benefits. For one, Jody actually gets to enjoy being at sea. Usually the passages for her are synonymous with suffering and I too admit that as the years have gone by my indifference to seasickness seems to be wearing off.
A few days before the tsunami hit Japan and the horrors that followed life on board Discovery seemed to be almost on autopilot. Cape Verde had been serving up heaping platters of wind and waves and while my list of projects had grown beyond the boundaries of our “to do” whiteboard, none of them were all that critical. Well, other than replacing a prop, which had mysteriously fallen off. A three thousand dollar rather critical component vanished to the sea floor.
After our 30 day Cargados trip I was looking forward to 8 badly needed days of rest in Reunion with no clients and no guests. I’d researched all the surf waves and paragliding sites over a year ago and couldn’t wait to taste the goods. I should have known better. Maintenace alone took the better part of a week. Continued engine worries, a number of canvas and sail projects, burned out battery charger- the list kept growing. And then 48 hours before our planned departure things went from bad to awful. We’d flown our wonder chef Bobby back to Jakarta for the week so he could meet his new daughter, who was born in February. I’d received a number of emails all week about how good everything was going with his family and how excited he was to return. I drove to the airport to pick him up, but he didn’t show. I assumed he’d just missed a connection, but learned shortly thereafter from his first wife (Bobby has two wives) that he been very badly injured in a car crash en route to the airport in Jakarta on his way back to Discovery. We were told he had a broken back, badly damaged face, hands and one knee; and of course would not be returning to the boat.
This is our last day, the whirlwind is coming to an end. Last night we had our final dinner with everyone present and in my final parting speech I said something that was absolutely true and yet I still find incredible. I said that usually at the end of one of our trips we (meaning the crew) cannot wait for it to be over so we can take a break. Those trips are usually 6 guests at most. For this one, we’ve had in the neighborhood of 20+ every day. The workload has been trebled or more. Quite a few people are sick (me included), and everyone is exhausted. But I almost collapsed into tears last night at the thought of this one ending. This trip has been amazing on so many levels. Each person has contributed to its success, and the success has had nothing to do with what we set out to do, which was kite waves. Sure, we’re hopeful today we’ll get more time on the water, and yes, we’ve had some kiting and some great waves, but what stands out is the adventure and the people who’ve shared in making it.
The weather today turns gray again, and while the mood on board seems forever positive, we’re all feeling the end. Quite a few have succumbed to the long days and short nights to head colds, myself included. Scott thought we might have some luck up near Boca Del Drago as it’s exposed totally to the north and our winds, when they come, usually manifest from this direction.
With 25 people on board an early start is pretty much a given. Erin had the camera out early videoing the people chaos- there were bodies strewn about the galley floor, across the main salon, under and on the cockpit table. We’d had some rain after anchoring, sending everyone off the decks for cover wherever it could be found.
Today we went into serious expedition mode. An early start from the Maccavite hotel, then south to Escudo Veraguas 34 miles with 25 people on board. Escudo has zero population, rarely has a visitor and as it’s offshore some 10 miles we hoped would have more wind. Discovery comfortably sleeps 11. We have 25- 8 pro riders, Rami, 4 film crew, 3 boat crew, one photographer, one owner and his girlfriend, one writer and his wife, Scott (our local guide, guru and surf wave god), and two Panamanian chica friends of Scott to keep the morale high. One of them seems to keep Will’s morale higher than the rest of us, which doesn’t seem fair considering we’ve been catching plenty of fish… We planned to either sleep everyone on board or set up some tents onshore as there’s no way we can go all that way and get home in one day.
Day 4 will probably go down as the best surf day of the trip. With Scott on the Red Bull ski and the swell finally pumping, we pulled out early to head down to Cusapin, where we heard very few people ever reach. Cusapin is 4 hours south of Bocas, across a long channel, through a myriad of mangrove lined islands, across another open water channel and into a long, fully protected bay called Laguna de Bluefield.