THE ORDEAL – Tsunami Retreat 2016

by Nancy Soares on November 7, 2016

And a good time was had by all!

And a good time was had by all!

Howling wind. Choppy waves. Funky swells. Boomers. Contrary currents. This year the Tsunami Ranger retreat had it all. But we’re a team and we made it! Once again, Rangers and friends overcame all obstacles and had a great time on the annual gathering. Capt. Jim Kakuk and guest Nancy Soares share the story.

Blowhole. Conditions made it good for play.

Blowhole. Conditions made it good for play. TRs (L to R) Dandy Don, Jeff Laxier, and Scott Becklund

Nancy: Jim and I were the first to get to the put in. Right after he got out of his truck we talked conditions. They were the worst they were going to be all week. “I just don’t want an ordeal,” I said. “I don’t want an ordeal either,” Jim replied. As everyone else showed up the talk continued.

Jim: On the drive, I felt anxious, too much coffee and the conditions were a mix of wind, waves and fog. Not looking good, not feeling gorgeous.

At the meeting place Nancy and I talked about hanging back for a day as conditions were projected to improve overnight. The others arrived and Michael wanted to go, of course, but the two guests with him were the real concern. When the rest of the gang arrived we decided to wait and spent the day up a river, with a paddle.

Upriver, TR Michael Powers and guest Jon Wittenberg check out a floating house

Upriver, TR Michael Powers and guest Jon Wittenberg check out a floating house

Nancy: We found a nifty little campsite on the river. The river had a lot of surprises for us, and it was nice to warm up the old paddling muscles before the big trip next day.

TR Scott Becklund surfing at the take-out

TRs Scott Becklund (on the wave) Jeff Laxier (in the red helmet) and Steve King (you can see his paddle) playing at the take-out

The next day conditions still sucked but we went anyway. Two parties launched at 10:00 from two different put-ins, one south and one north. Jim, Michael, Don, Jeff, Jon, Bob and I came in from the north. The overall swell from the northwest should have helped us but the waves were choppy and coming from all directions. Huge boomers were going off all over and there was a lot of refraction against the cliffs.

Two days later it looked like this...

Two days later the take-out looked like this…

There was no stopping to rest because right away you felt sick. And you went backwards. Jim said that in all the years the Rangers have been going to this spot conditions were the worst. But we put our heads down and paddled the six long tortuous miles to our beach campsite. Actually, after we looked at Don’s GPS we discovered we had paddled more like eight miles, probably because we had to go so far outside to avoid the boomers.

Deb and Cate mix it up in the cove

Deb and Cate mix it up in the cove

Jim: On the water we had wind and due to the big tide change, the current was against us. With laden boats the big waves coming from behind did not afford any push, just annoying wash over. Past the half way point one of the guests became sea sick and wanted to land. But we were a ways past the last safe landing beach and there were only cliffs and a rocky shore shrouded in fog with big waves. At that point there was no Plan B, it was either go or don’t go. We continued on with Jeff and Don towing two slow paddlers. I have never been a proponent of towing but it shows strength in a unit and kept us together. We trudged on for another hour or more, a long time when conditions suck. We were all tired but being familiar with the route I felt confident that we would make it. Time for some mind numbing metronome paddling as Nancy said.

Home at last!Home at last!

Home Sweet Home!

Nancy: We beached after nearly four hours of hard, solid paddling and landed without incident. Yep. Almost four hours to get eight miles. Deb, Scott, Steve, and Cate had arrived hours earlier, having only a short paddle from the south. Jim and I were supposed to observe Cate’s Tsunami Ranger test; however after waiting so long they decided to start without us. But they took a break long enough to render aid. Michael and Jim went down for naps. I walked on Jeff’s and Don’s arms and taught Jeff how to walk on mine. This technique is part of the massage I practice as part of my martial arts training. Arms, necks, and backs were addressed. We all needed some TLC.

Marinating abalone - oh yeahhhhhh...

Marinating abalone – oh yeahhhhhh…that works!

Jim: We finally made it to our haven on the coast, all feeling a bit wasted and sick when we got to the beach. It is hard to overstate the comfort of a familiar and safe spot to land. Entering the cove we were greeted by the first landing party, the A-Team, and they all looked real good. It was a relief that we all made it. The A-Team continued with the test while our F Troop rested and set up camp. After a few hours the test team returned and all was good. Later on the paddle ordeal seemed like a dream as we made dinner and partied.

Cate. Such a boss!

Cate. Such a boss!

Nancy: Cate passed her test with flying colors. By the time the testing group returned the rest of us had recovered from our ordeal. We took photos of the test group surfing the waves breaking into the cove. After the feast Cate was rewarded with the rank of lieutenant and received some really cool swag for her efforts. And she and Jeff presented the Rangers with scary cool face masks.

Awesome masks!

Awesome masks!

Jim: The next day we watched from the beach as Michael and guests left and then we lazied in the warm sun and talked until noon. When the next pod left we paddled along with them for a while and on the way back we played in the waves and shopped on the beaches for cool stuff. Don, entering a fringe beach, discovered a whale bone yard. Later, Steve identified it as a right whale.

We did get some cave action!

Cave action!

Nancy: The next day conditions had diminished. We chilled in camp for a while, playing target sports and playing with knives. Then it was time for Deb, Scott, Steve, Jeff, and Cate to depart too. We hit a blow hole and some little play spots around the caves, and then it was time to say good-bye.

A great beach to find shells


Jim: On the last night it was just the three of us, and it was quite nice. When we left the next day after gathering some of the whale bones we paddled in favorable conditions all the way back, ending our 31st Tsunami Ranger retreat with smiles and some take home booty.

More booty!

More booty!

Nancy: We had a quiet evening around the fire. The paddle home was uneventful except for one small incident. There was one point at which, lulled by the easy conditions, I chose a route between two large rocks. I had watched that spot for about twenty minutes as we approached and wanted to take the shorter route on the inside. Bad idea. I was just about to enter when the swell reared up and a cascade of whitewater roared over the rock to my left. “No!” said Jim, who was right behind me. I swung left and paddled hard to the outside as more rocks revealed themselves in the suck and boom of the waves. But that was the only incident in an otherwise smooth return. In fact, Don and I almost overshot the take out because we couldn’t believe we had arrived so soon. The paddle that took us nearly four hours two days ago had taken us less than two hours today.

Campfire classic

Campfire classic

It’s so great to be with a tight team like the Rangers. It’s been four years since I went along, and I’m really glad I did. I’m even glad it was an ordeal. A) I know I can push through in a tough situation and B) it makes a good story. And congratulations to Cate Hawthorne on becoming the newest, and youngest, Tsunami Ranger! I’d talk about her test except that I MISSED IT! All I can say is, Well done Cate!

TR Dob Volturno congratulates the newest Ranger Cate Hawthorne

TR Dob Volturno congratulates the newest Ranger Cate Hawthorne

Be sure to check out Cate’s blog Woman on Water at and the Liquid Fusion Kayak website at

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by Nancy Soares on October 3, 2016

To me, it’s all about connection and compassion…Once we lose one or the other, or both, the world becomes a much less pleasant place, and a more dangerous place, to live in. – Jon Turk

After reading this book the first thing I thought was Wow. This book should be read.

Why? For one thing, it’s a really good read. But as I started to write this review I looked at my notes and then at the blurb on the back of the book. One word caught my eye: sanity.

I’ve thought I was crazy. I’ve thought the world was crazy and the only sane one was me. Crocodiles and Ice made me realize that yes, I’m crazy, and so are we all. But Nature, or the Universe if you will, is eminently sane, and if sanity is to be found anywhere it is in the few remaining wild places of the earth. When wilderness is gone, then we will truly be mad. There is nothing more insane than an entire species in collusion, destroying the very thing that gives it life.

Paddling in croc-infested waters is risky business

Paddling in croc-infested waters is risky business, but not if you propitiate them.

Crocodiles and Ice is a sane book. It’s about what we can do to recapture our collective sanity. Crocodiles and Ice is the story of how Jon Turk came to understand what it is to be sane through travel and adventure, loss and healing, and the guides and sign posts along the way that pointed him toward the goal. Civilization is like a cocoon that protects us from the Outside. For Turk, it was necessary to strip off nearly everything about that cocoon in order to connect intimately with Deep Wild. Outside, about as far away from civilization as you can get these days, he received a gift. And that’s what this book is about.



In Crocodiles and Ice Turk talks about what happened when people started farming. I’ve always heard this was like the greatest moment in human history because agriculture allowed humans to build cities, protect themselves, and have leisure to develop art, music, and everything we think is good about civilization. But Turk quotes Jared Diamond, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who wrote an essay entitled “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race”. Modern hunter-gatherers don’t work that hard. For example, African Bushmen devote only 12 to 19 hours a week to gathering food. Compare that to the normal modern work week. Skeletal remains from Greece and Turkey show that people were taller, and healthier, before they started farming: “The combination of hard work, reliance on a few starchy crops, risk or starvation when these crops failed, and concentration of pathogens caused by the aggregation of people into crowded societies all combined to cause skyrocketing prevalence of tooth decay, malnutrition, iron-deficiency anemia, infectious disease and degenerative conditions of the spine” (p. 122). Even today, in those Mediterranean countries people have not regained their previous stature.

This is a paradox: though farming brought on all these bad things, the non-nomadic lifestyle was conducive to producing lots of babies. Sounds like a good thing, right? But it seems we can thank the development of agriculture for over-population, for plagues (remember the Bible?), and for war as farmers organized armies to conquer nomadic people in order to take their land. I think most people would agree that if anything is going to take us out as a species, overpopulation with its attendant plague, war, and starvation, will do it. We could avoid this madness if we reclaim our sanity and begin to live in harmony with our environment.

You can't do this kind of shit if you're not in harmony with your environment.

You can’t do this kind of shit if you’re not in harmony with your environment.

What does all this have to do with reptiles and frozen water? The crocodiles and the ice helped Jon Turk find sanity. This book is the story of one man’s awakening consciousness, of a scientist’s introduction to magic, of the ecstasy that can be found in the Deep Wild and how it can connect us with God, or Nature, or what you will – that which gave us birth and to which we return when we die. It’s a series of adventures as Turk travels to the Solomon Islands, to Ellesmere Island, to China and to British Colombia. It’s about a crocodile, a bear, a wolf, and a whole lot of ice, and the wildness and sanity they represent. It’s about the connection that’s possible between us and our environment when we drop our arrogance and our fear and see ourselves as one with instead of separate from Planet Earth. It’s about finding a place in our hearts where even death becomes harmonious and proper; where there is no fear, only the ecstasy of being alive.

Spirit Guide

Spirit Guide

We can’t return to our hunting-gathering past. We need farms to feed the burgeoning population. But we can heal our self-inflicted wounds and live with compassion for ourselves, for others, for our home planet and all the wild things, crocodiles, bears, wolves, and ice included, that form the web of Life. When we connect with Nature we connect with our deeper selves and thus find meaning and healing.

We all want happiness. What we are not told by our schools, our religions, or our governments is what Turk discovered: “the search for ecstasy is the only sane, valid, career choice” (p. 289). We seek happiness from the most ridiculous things: money, cars, clothes, houses, furniture, drugs, alcohol, relationships. Nothing lasts. But the happiness we gain from experiencing connection with the Universe comes from within, and is eternal. And it is in connection that we find sanity.

To purchase Crocodiles and Ice, go to

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