Tsunami Retreat 2017 Part 3 – Holy Shibooty! I Become a Tsunami Ranger

by Nancy Soares on April 2, 2018

Leading the Rangers on an adventure

Leading the Rangers on an adventure

Capt. Kuk: It has been a long progression for Nancy over the last 22 years and even though she was always capable of gaining the skills to be a Ranger, she chose to keep some separation to give Eric space. Starting with her martial arts and fancy foot work playing hacky sack, Nancy has since added the necessary kayaking skills needed to be a full Ranger. Nancy is also the keeper of the Tsunami Ranger blog started by Eric, and it continues to keep the Rangers’ stories alive.

Nancy is the first new Ranger under Captain Tortuga and she bridges the generations. There have been many stories since her first retreat and becoming a Ranger is another one. After her test the party that night was like the old days. Congratulations Nancy, it has been a long and interesting time.

Working the blow hole

Working the blow hole

Nancy Soares LTJG: Over the years I taught myself to surf and went on a couple of Tsunami Retreats. I developed fair kayaking skills, but never trained very hard until 2004 when I decided to race in the upcoming Sea Gypsy Extreme Sea Kayaking Race. After eight months going out to Pillar Point once a week regardless of conditions (gak!) by the time the race rolled around I’d developed into a pretty strong paddler. But then Eric and I moved to Oregon and Eric died and I didn’t do much paddling after that.

Slippin' into darkness... cave exploration: check!

Slippin’ into darkness… cave exploration: check!

When Jim asked me to go on the Tsunami Retreat in 2016 I was incredibly grateful to be included. I love the Rangers; they are my Sea Tribe, and I missed the camaraderie. Plus these guys probably knew Eric best of anyone and it’s comforting to be around them. And I did well. I could tell that I was being eyeballed. Oh shit, I thought, they’re going to ask me to test.

Dandy Don works a pourover

Dandy Don works a pour over 

Sure enough, next year Jim asked me to test. Of course I said yes, but 2017 was the worst year of my life health-wise. Early in the year I was hospitalized with two potentially fatal conditions. Yep. It took months to recover and then the smoke rolled into the valley and took me back down a few notches. When I headed off to the retreat for the test I felt diminished. Actually, whiny would be a good word!

Becklund works the zipper - am I up for this?

Becklund works the zipper 

I went to see my friends Connie and Andy Taylor in Elk the day before we launched. I told Connie my tale of woe and she gave me the greatest pep talk. She told me to stand up. Then she tossed me an imaginary tennis ball and said, “Slow that down!” I went into tai chi mode, dropped my weight, and put out my hand. The imaginary tennis ball slowed down. “I know you know what I mean,” Connie said smiling. “Just slow everything down, the waves, everything. You can do it.” 

All right, guys, here's what we're gonna do...

The test begins. All right, guys, here’s what we’re gonna do…

The first day when we embarked on the journey to our hidden spot I went into slow-mo. I don’t mean I was paddling slowly so much as focusing on my breath, my movements, the waves, my companions, willing everything to Just. Slow. Down. This helped, because when The Wave in the Cave happened I was calm, relaxed, and unafraid.

Weapons training

Weapons training

The rest of the time I continued in slow-mo. When everyone went paddling the next day I opted to stay on the beach and rest. I stayed on the beach the second day too. Jim gave me the job of setting up a target for our knife-throwing games and I slowly and thoughtfully put together a nice big target. It took a long time to find suitable boards and driftwood and construct the target but it was a fun project and when it was done someone said it was the best target they ever had. Mission accomplished!

Go forth!

Rangers, go forth!

The test wasn’t till day four of the retreat so I continued to conserve energy. When it came time to test I felt pretty good but I still slowed everything down. Jim wanted me to lead an expedition, so after clearing it with him I chose to make Cate my second-in-command. As I explained to the team, good leaders don’t lead alone – they gather the best people they can find to advise and assist. Since I didn’t really know the area and Cate knows it well, I intended to run my intentions by her before making final decisions. Jim wanted to check out pocket beaches for abalone shells, so I set our course and off we went. Michael had a minor incident with a reef, but as Jim said at the debriefing, it wasn’t my fault. It just added spice to the day and Deb got a great photo.

TR Michael Powers works the reef. Photo by Capt. Tortuga, captioned by Michael himself.

TR Michael Powers works the reef. Photo by Capt. Tortuga, captioned by Michael himself.

We landed on beaches, played with a blow hole and a pour over, messed around in some caves, and then returned to camp for lunch. I kept the group together, made sure everyone got on and off the beaches safely, and headed back when it was time. Cate was invaluable for her experience working with groups. It was probably the most boring test ever, but that’s how I wanted it. It’s not often things are that calm during a Tsunami Retreat and I was keeping Connie’s advice in mind.

Cate in a sublime moment on the water

Cate in a sublime moment on the water

After lunch it was time to perform a rescue. Jeff volunteered to be “victim”. Deb yelled, “Swimmer!” and there he was, swimming out to sea and scrambling onto a big offshore rock. I pulled my kayak down to the water, made a quick scan and launched. I paddled up to Jeff, who was doing a great imitation of a panicked paddler who’d lost his boat, and started trying to talk him off the rock. No dice. I paddled around the rock speaking calmly but he wouldn’t budge. I realized he was going to make me get drastic. We’d had a previous conversation about an incident back in the day when Eric had threatened to throw a stranded paddler off a rock and I knew Jeff was going to make me do that very thing.

Get off that rock, you @#$%&!!!

Get off that rock, you @#$%&!!!

I grabbed my paddle and hopped out of the boat, scrambled up onto the rock and one last time tried to talk Jeff into jumping into the water and swimming back to the beach. I even threatened him. Nope. So I punched him (lightly) in the jaw and body checked him and he fell into the water. I jumped in after him and started hauling him in to the beach. I had my arm over his chest so he started acting like I was choking him. Point taken. I grabbed onto his PFD instead and side stroked in, dragging the “unconscious” body and the paddle along.   

Trigger! Rescue achieved - check!

Trigger! Rescue – check!

The coolest thing (aside from the fact I got to punch Jeff in the jaw) was that my kayak followed us in. Just like a little puppy dog, there she was, a few yards away, nose pointed toward the beach. I think it was Cate who said, “Just like Trigger!” Jeff finally “woke up” and went back to being his usual self and we swam over and corralled her. Now the Pacific Princess has a new name. Even cooler was the fact that in scrambling up the rock my dive knife had got scraped off my PFD. At first I thought I’d lost it for good, but there it was, lying right in the cockpit. Trigger had brought it home!

Hangin' with my buds... it doesn't get any better.

Fire with friends… it doesn’t get any better.

That night there was much rejoicing. Everyone said nice stuff and it felt so good. There’s nothing like being part of a team where everyone knows you, loves you, and forgives you for being a squirming hatch-blower. As Jim said, they know what I can do.  

Just chill...

Glad to be alive…

Thanks, guys, for including me and making me a Tsunami Ranger. It’s an honor and a privilege and I will be forever grateful! I love you all!  

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim Kakuk April 2, 2018 at 7:50 am

Really good description of the test Nancy. It is great to have you as on officer in the Rangers.


Nancy Soares April 2, 2018 at 12:48 pm

Thanks, Jim. I loved what you said about the party that night being like the old days. It really did seem like that, and it felt so good. I will do my best to be an asset to the team.


Steen Bondo April 2, 2018 at 12:57 pm

Brilliant. Congratulations 🙂


Nancy Soares April 3, 2018 at 9:38 am

Thanks, Steen!


Loree Christie April 2, 2018 at 2:18 pm

Woohoo! Congrats, Miss Nancy!! Brought tears to my eyes, was very touching to read. So proud of you! Miss you much!


Nancy Soares April 3, 2018 at 9:40 am

Oh, Loree, thank you so much. What a nice thing say and what a sweet thang you are! I miss you too. Love you!


Paula April 2, 2018 at 6:46 pm

Very belated Congratulations dear Nancy. This all seems fitting and right and great fun … wish I had been there for your test! See you this year. Xx paulakiwi LTJG too I think!


Nancy Soares April 3, 2018 at 9:42 am

Thank you, Paula! I look forward to seeing you this year. Tsunami gals rock!


Mike Libolt April 5, 2018 at 6:23 am

Yay Nancy! It sounds like a wonderful time! Congratulations! Mike


Nancy Soares April 5, 2018 at 3:04 pm

Thank you so much, Mike! It was wonderful but kind of harrowing too. But totally worth it ):


Moulton Avery April 12, 2018 at 1:56 pm

I LOVE IT! Kudos to you, dear Nancy! It makes my heart happy to hear about this marvelous adventure and your induction into the tribe of Tsunami Rangers. Moulton


Nancy Soares April 12, 2018 at 2:24 pm

Thank you so much, Moulton! Grateful for my Sea Tribe, yourself included. BTW, I have a friend in Vancouver, WA who is recovering from cancer surgery and I will be going up to see her while she goes through chemo and stuff. I will be giving her all my attention because it has to be all about her right now, but as her recovery progresses I thought I might hit you guys up for a paddle or lunch or dinner or something one of the times I’m up your way. It would be so good to see you. Thanks again for reading and for your comment 🙂


Moulton Avery April 14, 2018 at 11:25 pm

We would love to see you, Nancy! Email me an let me know your plans. Told Angie and she is very excited to meet you in person!


Nancy Soares April 15, 2018 at 7:25 am

Yay! Will do. Thank you!


Tony Moore April 19, 2018 at 12:14 pm

Congratulations, Nancy! Quite an accomplishment!


Nancy Soares April 19, 2018 at 4:59 pm

Thank you, Tony! I never thought I’d see the day; I never craved the recognition, but now I’m a Ranger! Who’d’a thunk? I’m really happy and grateful 🙂


Rainer Lang April 21, 2018 at 6:24 pm

Congrats Nancy! I love the part where you “Just slow everything down, the waves, everything. You can do it.” Very Carlos Castaneda 🙂 Also triggered a RUSH flashback: https://youtu.be/t0YwbAmCwz8


Nancy Soares May 4, 2018 at 2:47 pm

Thank you, Rainer. Always good to hear from you. Thanks for reading and commenting and especially for the link! Much appreciated 🙂


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