By: Captain Jim Kakuk and Dandy Don Kiesling
In 1985 Eric and I were on our way to the Port Townsend Sea Kayaking Symposium to do our first presentation, ‘Ocean Survival Swimming‘. On the way we stopped in Southern Oregon at Boardman State Park, and went on a mini expedition to explore a new area and discovered a wild and enchanting place. We decided to make it an annual event for the Tsunami Rangers to work on skills and get new photos for our slide show presentations. Arriving to do our talk we were always fresh with new adventure stories and charged with the power of the ‘Ocean White Water’, our second presentation at Port Townsend.
FAT CIGARS AND BIG STORIES
The tradition continued over the years and with the addition of new Rangers it has always been the best time to discuss the year past and make plans for the future. Getting together at least once a year has been at the source of keeping the team challenged. Camping on the beach, gathering food, sharing meals, drink and blending into the environment is the Tsunami Ranger way.
There are daily doses of exciting rock garden kayaking to be had, surfing, exploring caves and taking photos and video. Always a memorable time with close friends and some of our most important decisions have been made about the future of the team.
We talk about the past and discuss new Tsunami Ranger events, articles, videos, and work on skill sets and team building. We also decide when and where to meet next year and, of course, who brought the best “snake bite medicine“.
We have moved the location of the retreat around from the Channel Islands in Southern California to Cape Flattery in Washington but usually we meet on the Northern California coast of Big Sur and Mendocino. We have returned to Boardman many times and during our last time there in 2012 we sprinkled some of Eric’s ashes at our site of recognition.
This year we returned to one of our favorite spots along the Mendocino coast of California. We have been here many times over the last 13 years. Thunder Cove has all the qualifications of being isolated and wildly beautiful with interesting rocks, caves and surf. We call it “Thunder Cove” because the first time we landed there were big seas and the concave cliff made a thundering sound all night.
On the first day right after leaving our launch beach we lost Michael in the fog … yes, again. Jeff and I turned back and located him, happy as a lost puppy to see us, and we headed to our beach where we started the event with an early dinner of lobster tacos and shots of tequila.
Fall is the changing of the season. A good time to discuss the past and to make plans for the next year. Our Indian summer starts in September and is usually the best weather with the fewest Herberts. There is no cell phone reception, no TV or Internet and no newspapers to distract from the environment. We become immersed in the wild and become tribal like. We also abalone dive and fish to supplement our food, fresh caught and eaten on the beach after a day on the water is the best!
We always toast the other Rangers that are gone or not present and congratulate each other on the exciting moments from the day, reliving it with each person’s perspective. Often the retreat has been the time to introduce new people to the team and the best opportunity to test candidates for ranking in the Rangers. This year was both, with Michael bringing two guests and Jeff, the rock garden poet, becoming a Ranger. Usually we have to know the candidate for several years, paddled with and camped with them to make sure they are suited to be part of the team. Most important is compatibility and adding to the team spirit.
There was also the awarding of new rank to Scott Becklund, now a Lt. Commander. This promotion was long overdue as Scott has always been a strong paddler, diver and a major part of the Rangers, a leader on the water.
JEFF’S TEST: REPORT
by Don Kiesling
We met Jeff and Cate of Liquid Fusion Kayaking several years ago, and were immediately impressed with both their skills and their enthusiasm for ocean paddling. Some of the Rangers have had the opportunity to paddle, camp, and instruct with them on several occasions since. Very recently, Jim schemed to invite Jeff to take the Ranger test at this year’s retreat, and only had time to convene a few Rangers for their consent. So to the surprise of many in attendance, and especially to Jeff, he was invited to take his test the following day (less than 12 hours notice!) Unsurprisingly, Jeff accepted the challenge, and plans were hatched and nerves were stimulated.
Don and Steve were to adminster the test, their first time. The group gathered on the beach and peppered Jeff with questions about kayaking and general knowledge, e.g., “What is your name? What is your quest? What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?!” Jeff’s explanations of the local conditions and hazards were outstanding. Before long, kayaks were launched so Jeff could lead us on a rock garden adventure. Conditions were ideal for probing some of the nearby pour-overs and suckholes. Jeff quickly realized the difficulty of leading a large group of ornery Rangers, but used his leadership skills and delegation to keep us organized and out of too much trouble.
After a couple hours of play, we found a secluded beach for lunch. Typically the testee provides lunch, but due to the short notice, Jeff was off the hook and we had a potluck of tasty snacks instead. A few small flasks may have appeared, too! In lieu of the traditional challenge of making lunch for everyone, Jeff was asked for evidence of storytelling skills, and the one he told was a doosey!! After lunch we explored some caves and tubes and other features. Jeff was on the spot with one assisted rescue, so staging a fake one wasn’t necessary.
After a few more hours we returned to Thunder Cove with huge grins, but asked Jeff to execute a few more skills in the bay before landing. That evening the senior Rangers reviewed Jeff’s performance and agreed to award him the rank of Lieutenant. Gathered around a small campfire, Jeff accepted the rank, and several small gifts, and gave a rousing acceptance speech.
back to Capt. Kuk
Keep relaxed and keep moving. Next year we are most likely returning to the far north.
Questions? Comments? Wanna be a Ranger??? Please comment below!