Editor’s note: Although the torch, or rather the cutlass, has passed to TR Captain Tortuga, Captain Kuk retains the ultimate right of veto, to stay or to go. We may have to make him an Admiral, heh, heh, heh. Also, a big thank you to all the Rangers who provided photos for this retreat series – we got a lot of good ones. You can read Part One, The Wave in the Cave, about the 2017 retreat at   https://tsunamirangers.com/2017/11/06/tsunami-retreat-2017-part-one-the-wave-in-a-cave/   

Newly minted Capt. Tortuga celebrates in a blowhole

Newly minted Capt. Tortuga celebrates in a blowhole

CAPTAIN KUK: After our Dark Dance in the cave, we gathered at our secret spot for the annual Tsunami Ranger retreat in the fall of 2017. One of the reasons for our annual retreat, in addition to having a good time, is to award rank to officers. This year in addition to a new Ranger, there was also a promotion to the top position. 

TR Dandy Don, Capt. Tortuga, and Capt. Kuk on the beach at Thunder Cove

TR Dandy Don, Capt. Tortuga, and Capt. Kuk on the beach at Thunder Cove

In 1984 when Eric Soares and I started the Tsunami Rangers I chose the title of captain because I liked Captain Cook, so I became Captain Kuk. In the beginning it was just a fun idea and it took me a long time to fulfill the actual responsibilities of a captain. Having been the only Captain since 1984 it was time for me to pass the trident along to a fellow Ranger. 

Captains Kuk and Tortuga on the move

Captains Kuk and Tortuga on the move

Captain Tortuga Deb Volturno has been part of the Tsunami Rangers since the early days and is now assuming the leadership role. In the more than 23 years that she has been in the Rangers, Deb has shown a wide range of comprehensive skill sets, has good on water decision making and most importantly, is fun to be around. As a Commander in the Rangers for the last 10 years Deb has demonstrated excellent situational awareness and flexibility in difficult situations with an eclectic mob like the Rangers. Keeping unit cohesion takes more than a swashbuckling Jack Sparrow to muster the troops and lead the charge; it takes an understanding of the conditions and limitations of the team and keeping a keen eye on the horizon for unexpected events in a luridly exposed coast.

Cathedral Cave - TR John Lull and Deb in the God Zone

Cathedral Cave – TR’s John Lull and Deb in the God Zone

The Tsunami Rangers are not a democracy; decisions are made by the highest ranking officer, an important difference than how a group operates by a consensus. Having the most experienced and skilled person in charge keeps order in the squad. Also as an instructor, presenter and writer Deb has added to and helped shape the overall knowledge of sea kayaking. In addition to being a great person Deb has been instrumental in the continuing evolution of the Tsunami Rangers and will be into the future.

Capt. Kuk received a wooden name plate hand cut by TR Michael Powers and inscribed with his rank and name.

Capt. Kuk received a wooden name plate inscribed with his rank and name, hand cut by TR Michael Powers

In honor of her promotion, Deb received a very special cutlass. The cutlass is a slashing saber. It is short, thick and curved. Used at sea by sailors and pirates, the “buccaneer” cutlass has many uses at sea and on land. It is very functional for cutting, thrusting and guarding in close quarters. It is the weapon of a captain and one of the symbols for the Tsunami Rangers (along with Neptune’s trident and the double bladed paddle). 

Keep calm and carry on, Captain Tortuga!

Sunset at Thunder Cove

Sunset at Thunder Cove

CAPTAIN TORTUGA: As the sun disappears beyond the horizon of the Great Sea the light of the flickering campfire casts dancing shadows of the sea revelers on the rock wall. The ritual that marks the beginning of Tsunami Ranger business is signaled by Captain Kuk, standing above the circle of the seated firelight-hued tribal members. He holds his Captain’s cutlass in one hand and a bottle of fine sipping tequila in the other. “Ahoy, you scurvy swine!”

The scurvy swine

The scurvy swine

This night Tsunami Ranger history is made with a promotion to the rank of Captain in the Tsunami Rangers. It is awarded for the first time since Captain Jim Kakuk assumed the rank when the Tsunami Rangers began exploring the chaotic coastal zones in kayaks as a team over 34 years ago. Tonight, it is me accepting the leadership rank of Captain in the Tsunami Rangers, along with being presented with the highly coveted Captain’s cutlass. The ceremony is fueled by words of support from my TR tribal members, and I am truly humbled. The lump in my throat highlights the upwelling of emotions as I accept this responsibility before my tribe. It is with immense honor and pride that I stand before them, as a Captain of the Tsunami Rangers!

My Captains, my Captains! Tortuga and Kuk cross cutlasses

My Captains, my Captains! Tortuga and Kuk cross cutlasses

Captain Kuk and I, Captain Tortuga, stand facing each other in our most daring and undaunted pirate posture, and raise our cutlasses to cross blades. The metal clang of the two blades meeting affirms the commitment to the next chapter of the Tsunami Rangers! Soon the flowing of fine tequila relieves the lump in my throat, and the celebrating commences!

And there was much rejoicing...

And there was much rejoicing…

The twinkling celestial sky stretches and curves overhead, while the black night sea sends audible messages of its dance with the rocky reefs. It is an especially good night for a celebration! “Yo ho ho, Mateys”, Captain says, “Pass the tequila!” I am struck by how exciting it is to have my very own cutlass, with “Captain Tortuga” inscribed on the blade! I am moved by its significance of course, and caught a little by surprise. I could never have known how awesome it is to have my own cutlass! Fortunately for the Tsunami Rangers one of our esteemed officers, Lt. JG Nancy Soares is a trained knife fighter. Through her tutelage, my dismal cutlass wielding skills can only improve – which of course is an important expectation of being a cutlass-carrying swashbuckling pirate kayaker Captain of the Tsunami Rangers!

Capt. Tortuga and the team, Don and Steve

Capt. Tortuga and the team, Don and Steve

LT. JG NANCY SOARES: Wow, a new Captain! When Jim told me about Deb’s impending promotion it felt so right. Deb is one of those unusual and gifted leaders who lead without seeming to. If I needed one word to describe our new Tsunami Ranger Captain it would be “gracious”. Deb has so much grace. She’s gracious in both word and deed and she is the most graceful kayaker! At her promotion celebration when it was my turn to say something all I could come up with was, “Oh, Deb! You’re so good… and I’m so not!!!” Yeah, I’d had a fair amount of tequila, but I was seriously overwhelmed. This time I’d like to be a little more coherent and say some words about Deb. She’s super independent and yet she’s a supreme team mate.

The best team mate(s)! TR Cate Hawthorne and Capt. Tortuga

The best team mate(s)! TR Cate Hawthorne and Capt. Tortuga

She’s an outstanding paddler but she’s humble and always willing to coach less skilled people. She’s incredibly competent but always willing to learn something new. She’s both firm and compassionate. She is one of the most honorable people I’ve ever met. If I were to add one more word to describe Deb it would be “integrity”. You can trust her with your life. I’ve been reading Frank Herbert’s Dune series, and the Fremen (if you’ve read Dune you know who I’m talking about) have a saying: “Never be in the company of someone you wouldn’t be willing to die with”. That’s how I feel about Deb. I’m so happy for her and so honored to call her friend. Congratulations, Deb, on your promotion to Captain of the Tsunami Rangers! So well-deserved. Eric would have been proud.  

Tsunami Gal

Show me the booty!

Questions? Comments? Or just congratulate Captain Tortuga on her promotion and new leadership role in the Tsunami Rangers by clicking below! 

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Eric “Red Dog” Soares RIP

This photo kind of says it all. Impressive, a little scary, even a bit ridiculous. That was Eric. This photo was taken before one of the Sea Gypsy Extreme Sea Kayak Races in front of Michael Powers’ house at Miramar Beach in Half Moon Bay. Will Nordby, one of the editors of the Tsunami Ranger videos back in the day, worked it up to its present manifestation. Eric, as usual, was directing the show. 

I’m not sure what else to say. When Eric died, I wrote one of my first blog posts, The Quest for the Magical Healing Pool, about that experience and that’s all the grieving I’m going to do in public. But every year on or around the anniversary of his death, February 1, 2012, I’ve published some kind of memorial post. This year marks the 6th year since he was translated.

Eric aroused strong emotions in people. You either loved him or hated him. Rarely were people indifferent. He was a genius; he was an idiot. I can say that. I was his wife and I know. He was generous; he was stingy, especially with food. He was compassionate; he was cruel. He was a gifted athlete and kayaker but give the man a hammer and he’d put it through a wall. He could be incredibly patient but he had the most explosive temper of anyone I ever met. He was calm; he was violent. He was sacred; he was profane. He was hysterically funny and kept me in stitches much of the time. He could tell the best story! He was the most interesting person I ever knew and yet he talked so much sometimes I literally stopped listening and he’d start to babble a bunch of nonsense sounds to see how long it took before I noticed.  When I didn’t notice he’d let out a loud “Beeeeyotch!” and I’d go, “Huh?” and snap back to the present. “You weren’t listening to me!” he’d accuse. I wasn’t, but I will miss him as long as I live. 

Feel free to share your memories of Eric below. They’re always welcome.  

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