Happy 2016 to all! It’s amazing how quickly time is slipping on by. I remember as a kid the year 2000 seemed an eternity away. Once again, the arrival of the new millennium seems a distant concept, only this time it’s in the rearview mirror. While there’s nothing we can do to slow down time, our goal here has always been to make the most of each day we’re given. For Julie and me, 2015 was no exception, and it was a year full of adventure, positive challenges and new beginnings. While we didn’t do any expeditions to the scale of rowing an ocean, last year’s endeavors were every bit as fulfilling. We’re devoting this newsletter to summarizing our activities of 2015, and our plans for the year ahead.
A Review of 2015
Syrian Refugee Sponsorship Fundraiser: Perhaps the most rewarding initiative we were involved in was forming a private sponsorship group to bring two Syrian refugee families to Canada, including Julie’s uncle, aunt and 3 cousins. As we detailed in a previous newsletter, almost a year ago Julie’s Syrian family was granted refugee status for Germany, however, Turkish airport authorities confiscated their passports and German visas, ending their opportunity to begin a new life in Europe. Since then they have been living in limbo in Turkey, unable to get new visas for Germany. At first when our group formed, we were daunted by the magnitude of the undertaking, especially the $56,000 that we needed to raise to sponsor one family. But soon our group grew to 16 people and thanks to the generosity and hard work of so many, we raised almost double the required amount, which allowed us to sponsor a second Syrian refugee family.
The application for Julie’s family has been processed in Canada and is now in Turkey, where the next steps include a medical examination and interview. The second family is a single mother and two children under the age of 5, as well as her two brothers. We are currently working on the application and hope to submit it in January. We do not yet know when the families will be arriving. Unfortunately, the bureaucracy in Turkey with respect to processing refugees for relocation is somewhat challenging. In fact, the Canadian government has completely abandoned its own efforts in bringing refugees from Turkey due to the bureaucratic hurdles, and has refocused its efforts entirely in Lebanon and Jordan. While this doesn’t mean that privately sponsored refugees can’t come from Turkey, it does speak of the challenges at hand. Our fingers are crossed that it will happen some time in the next six months, and we will keep you updated when Julie’s family finally does arrive, and share their experiences of arriving in a new land.
And a huge thank you to all of you who contributed to our campaign with donations and encouragement. Together we have given hope to two families and the opportunity for a future.
Parenting Adventures: At the start of 2015, our son Oliver was only seven months old and his brother, Leif, was four. As all parents know, the transformative stage as babies learn to engage in the world is a magical period. Just like rowing across an ocean, parenting involves a lot of discomfort, toil, monotony, sleeplessness, and absolute filth, however, upon reflection you realize it is a priceless experience. Oliver is getting a taste for travel and adventure. He went on his first camping trip to nearby Discovery Island this summer, and travelled to Scotland and Germany this summer. Leif is proving to be a natural big brother, at least if you consider continual quarreling to be a good thing. But that’s what all loving siblings do, right?
Race to Alaska: My big project/adventure for 2015 was supposed to be participating in the inaugural R2AK race. The rules are simple: no motors, anything else goes. The 1,200 km race starts in Port Townsend, Washington and ends in Ketchikan, AK. As per usual, I tend to get a little too involved in these kinds of things. Not only did I sign on to the challenge of rowing and sailing non-stop for 1,200 km, but I also decided to design and build the boat specifically for the race. The result was a 19’ sailing trimaran that could also be rowed efficiently using a sliding seat rowing system with ten-foot carbon fiber oars. It is a unique boat, and I was thrilled with its performance, but not so thrilled with the 200-300 hours it took to design and build. And I was even less thrilled when it fell off the trailer two days before the race (after forgetting to strap it down after chatting with someone in the parking lot) splintering my dream of participating in R2AK 2015.
Angus Rowboats: Our overall business isn’t so much about doing adventures as it is about dreaming. Julie and I are always coming up with crazy ideas, some of them involving adventures, many involving other things. And we don’t pursue all our ideas; first we mull them over, research them, and then let them simmer on the backburner for a while. Perhaps one out of every ten is a concept we decide to embrace with all pistons firing. Our sideline business selling boat plans and robotically cut kits started out as one of those unique ideas. Every year Angus Rowboats continues to grow significantly, and 2015 was no exception. Our boats are being built around the world from the Philippines to Dubai, and we’re continually coming up with ideas for new designs.
Lessons in Adventure: With our busy schedule these days, we’re not seeing as much of the world from the saddle of a bicycle, however, we do travel frequently with our busy keynote speaking schedule. Julie and I frequently share our tales with corporate audiences, focusing on skills we’ve honed such as risk management and motivation. Our talks this year have taken us all around North America, from New York to Montreal, however, our favourite took place on a cruise ship going from Vancouver to Los Angeles. The route of this voyage traced the identical route to my very first adventure: sailing from BC to California on the start of a five-year offshore cruising trip. I remember that early voyage very clearly, and how my buddy Dan Audet and I were terrified as we faced the huge waves off the Oregon coast on our first offshore journey. Our decrepit 27’ sloop was devoid of any comforts, and we struggled to stay on course as we spent two weeks sailing non-stop off the U.S coast. It felt strangely surreal to be back on that same stretch of ocean giving a presentation to an audience of Royal LePage agents in the cavernous theatre of a cruise ship. It felt like I’d gone full circle. Heck, two full circles, and a bunch of zigzags.
2016: The Year Ahead
I’m not really one to make New Year’s resolutions. However I do constantly try to challenge myself to be a better person and live more healthfully. One topic that I’m currently focused on is the importance of what we eat, and for my latest Explore article I examined milk, a drink that is surprisingly polarizing, with people praising it as a health food while others view it as a toxin to be avoided at all costs. Check out the article.
Olympic gold medalist rower, Adam Kreek, gave a powerful presentation at TedX on the “Power of Failure”. He emphasized that failure isn’t only beneficial, but is an essential part of growth. Those words certainly resonate now when I think back to the deflating crash as my R2AK boat crashed to the concrete. Now, seven months later, the boat has been fixed and improved, and I’m officially entered in R2AK 2016. A big thanks goes to our partners, Helly Hansen, Aqua Quest and Small Craft Advisor, for their continued support. To be honest, I’m now actually pleased with the turn of events. It turned out that last year’s weather conditions were very unfavourable for the smaller boats, and I’ll get to be at the start again when the die is re-rolled this June.
While R2AK is going to be exciting, I think emotions will be highest when our refugee families finally arrive. We’ve already seen Syrians arriving in Canada on the evening news, and it’s heartwarming to see our citizens welcoming these strangers. While we’ve all heard the arguments from those who believe we shouldn’t bring refugees to Canada, I think Martin Luther King shared the greatest truth when he said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” The actions of Canadians and our government are a beacon of light and hope for people coming from tragic backgrounds.