December 16th was my 100th day on the Chesapeake Bay in 2019. One hundred days sounds easy for a person that spends as much time on the water as I do. I took on the challenge thinking it wouldn't be a challenge at all. It wasn't until I started logging days and actually paying attention to the amount of time I was spending on the water that I realized this is something I have to consciously put effort into.
The year started off strong. My first day on the water was January 1st. By January 13th, I had braved snow and ice to log six days. At this rate, I figured if I could log at least ten days a month I would be at 100 by October. Surely, I was getting on the water at least ten days every month without even trying. Right?
It wasn't until August 1st that reality hit me. That's when I realized I was only at day 25. My major setback occurred early in the year on January 13th when a ball from a Sweet Gum tree lodged itself in the Sea Doo's impeller (see the video here). This was the first time I had experienced a clogged impeller, so I was intimidated by the prospect of taking the jet pump apart to dislodge the obstruction. Intimidation combined with a lack of willingness to perform an endoscopy on the ski when it was 20 degrees outside and the fact I still had 339 days left in the year to get 94 more days on the water left me with little desire to play outside. Especially on the water.
A whopping 125 days later, warmer weather motivated me to face my fears and work on the ski. I spent hours trying to get the impeller cover off the bottom of the ski so I could have free access to the ball lodged in its bowels. The screws came out easily, but it was like the metal sphincter that protects the impeller from this type of mess was glued on. No matter how much prying, banging, and wiggling I did, it wouldn't budge. Finally, I remembered a cool set of pliers I had purchased a month prior. They are long needle nose pliers that are designed to fit in tight spaces. Come to think of it, they were designed perfectly for applications such as this. I easily poked the pliers through the grate, grabbed the Sweet Gum ball, and it fell right out. I could have blown on it and would have achieved the same results.
Not completely convinced that was my only problem since it came out so easily, I put the ski in the water and logged day 14 with a flawless ride on May 18th. Dang. That's all it took!? Now I was rocking and ready to knock out some adventures on the Chesapeake Bay.
Most people that join the SpinSheet Century Club do so on a sailboat (it is SpinSheet). In addition to being sailors, they freaking live for sailing. Most of the Century Club members, it seems, make extended voyages on sailboats, like across oceans, or are serious competitors that travel the country for a class. I'm not yucking their yum, at all! I'm just pointing out that 100 days on the water isn't really a challenge for people like that. But, that isn't me or 99% of others that enjoy the water just as much as anyone else does. We didn't even get on a sailboat this year, much less own one.
So I wanted to join the Century Club, but I didn't have a sailboat, I don't race seriously year round, and I wasn't planning any deliveries to Annapolis from Europe. What I DO have is a full time job that keeps me off the water most days and I have a busy life outside boating. To top it all off, I'm lazy. Seriously lazy. If I can do this, I have good news for you: YOU can do it!
Getting out on the water for 100 days is a monumental task for anyone, and even more so for those with full time jobs, families, and other obligations. It's surely obvious at this point that I had to get creative. I logged days on my paddle board, Sea Doo, and other people's boats. I even logged a water taxi ride at the Annapolis Boat Show. My biggest obstacle to overcome was, ultimately, myself.
Step 1: Stop making excuses. I don't have children, but almost everyone I work with does. A few of those with children want to go sailing, but they use their kids as an excuse to not do it. When I'm talking to my coworkers about my dream, luckily my wife's dream, too, to travel the world via our own sailboat, I can see the longing look come over their face that proves they share my dream. Yet, I don't care to count how many times I've heard people say they will go on extended cruises after their kids are off to college. On the contrary, I know plenty of families that are out there cruising as you are reading this! Here's one example of a cruising family that I know personally, and it's incredibly easy to find many more examples of traveling families on YouTube.
If they can cruise the world on a sailboat full time with three young kids, anyone can find time to get on the water 100 days this year!
I work full time. Just like any normal person, I'm tired when I get home. I refused to allow that to be my excuse, though. It's unreasonable that our society expects us to give everything we have to our jobs, when in return, our jobs give us little more than a paycheck. For most of the year I worked ten hours a day, Monday through Thursday. The last three months I worked eight hours, five days a week. Through both schedules, I forced myself to get on the water after work. This is not a challenge that can be completed taking the boat out for a few hours when the weather is nice on weekends during boating season. I figured I would have to go out, at a minimum, 2 days a week, or 9 days a month, through the entire year.
Step 2: Find motivation. Initially, my motivation was to post all of my water days on Instagram. Every task is easier accomplished with a team than by a lone individual. I'm a competitive person by nature, and very proud. Failing to accomplish this goal would have been quite embarrassing to me if everyone on Instagram, my friends, family, and strangers, saw me boasting about a goal, then not accomplish it. Few things are as motivating to get off the couch as having an audience of 1200 people on Instagram.
Most of my time on the Chesapeake Bay was after work, paddling after dark, and riding the Sea Doo when there was enough daylight left. Around August, although the exercise was good, I was getting bored of paddle boarding in circles. Eventually, I became bored with riding the Sea Doo because I had seen all the same places within fifteen minutes of the boat ramp. I only had a fifteen minute radius after work because I normally only had thirty minutes of daylight left and would have to ride fifteen minutes back to the dock before sunset.
Needless to say, I needed another motivator. I was starting to dread coming home and getting on the water, just to do the same old crap day after day. The extra motivation that worked for me? Beer! If there was enough daylight, I would ride the Sea Doo over to Stan and Joe's Riverside for a beer, then go back home. When I got off work late and there wasn't enough time before sunset to take the jet ski out, I would paddle over to the dock bar and stay for two beers! Win, win!
November came around and I was close to 80 days. I could finally see the end in sight, but the weather was getting colder. Now, instead of throwing on a pair of shorts and hitting the water, I had to squeeze into a wetsuit, and later, a drysuit. It was taking me longer to get ready to go out than time I was actually spending on the water. Although it was a fun conversation piece when I'd show up at Stan and Joe's on the paddle board wearing a drysuit in pouring rain, I was losing motivation again.
So I turned to Instagram and asked the people that had been following my journey to 100 for motivation. I asked them to send me DM's to keep me going if they didn't see me post for a while. Immediately after making that post, my heart sank. I had just done something that I have completely despised my entire life.
I've been kayaking for about fifteen years, and picked up paddle boarding about ten years ago. I'm in love with paddlesports. I follow it closely through books, I subscribe to the magazines, and watch all the films I can get my eyes on. Over the years I've seen many people accomplish amazing feats through human power on the water. I've watched Freya Hoffmeister break records, I've seen people row across oceans, paddle the Nile (and get eaten by a crocodile in the process), and recently I watched a movie about a guy kayaking around Madagascar. I've even accomplished some pretty amazing things on a kayak, myself. As outstanding as these feats are, and as extraordinary as it is to watch people push the boundaries of human endurance, it always bothered me that they did it for personal gain and to break records without doing it for something more important.*
By asking Instagram for support, I was no different than anyone else that has ever asked for money or attention in order to fulfill a personal achievement. The same night I made the thoughtless Instagram post, I emailed Oyster Recovery Partnership to see if they would be interested in allowing me to turn the last twenty days of my challenge into a fundraiser for them. Surprisingly, they emailed back the next day and were more than excited to hear from me!
After working out some details, the deal was made. My next motivation was bigger than me, and much bigger than a personal challenge. I was asking our Instagram followers to pledge to ORP if I completed not 20 days, but 25 days on the water between November 21 and December 31st. Pledges poured in! In the first four days, we met our pledge goal of $200. I had promised $200 out of my own pocket if we hit the $200 goal. I was now committed to do 105 days on the water.
Beginning on December 11th, I was on the water every day until I completed my 105th day on December 22. I had asked for an additional $500 in pledges for a promise that I would go out on the water every day for the rest of December. We didn't meet that goal, but we ultimately raised $425 for Oyster Recovery Partnership, which will help plant 42,500 oysters in the Chesapeake Bay.
I'm very proud that I completed this challenge, especially since I was only at day 25 on August 1st. I had to motivate myself to cram in days whenever I could, even when I honestly felt like going to bed after a long day at work. Headaches, head colds, rain, wind, 20 degree weather, icy water, and under the moon, I got out there and accomplished something for myself and for others. The success of the ORP fundraiser has led me to thrive for bigger things in 2020. I'll keep track of my days on the water, just in case I make it to 100 again this year, but my real goal will be partnerships with non-profits, artists, and influencers that are doing good things for the Chesapeake Bay.
I have some pretty ambitious goals to accomplish in 2020. I want to do more videos and blogging about exploring the Chesapeake Bay on the cheap. Since most of my 100 days on the water were on my Sea Doo and a stand up paddle board, I've become a sort of expert at navigating the Chesapeake without a million dollar yacht.
Perhaps the most ambitious of my goals for 2020 is a Sea Doo ride from Annapolis, MD. to Richmond, VA., about 250 miles one way. I'm going to do the trip alone, but the goal is to map out a trail where, in the future, others can follow in my tracks. It would be really cool if I could make this into an annual fundraising ride with a group of people. We'll see.
The next most ambitious goal is to circumnavigate the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay. Due to logistics, mostly because there aren't enough towns close enough together where I can stay overnight on the Eastern Shore, I will circumnavigate the Bay in sections, rather than all at once. A similar trail has already been formed, so I'll follow it, and I hope to promote it, but I want to see if I need to improvise any portions to make it work for smaller vessels, like PWCs and kayaks.
I've already sewed the seeds to participate in Chesapeake Bay beach cleanups this year, so keep an eye on Instagram, Twitter, and the blog if you want to participate. We will be promoting cleanups all over the Chesapeake Bay as we hear about them, whether we are able to participate or not.
Other than the beach cleanups, I haven't chosen a cause to benefit from these endeavors yet, but I have some in mind. Please, leave a comment or contact us if you want to partner with us, or if you would like to join me on a kayak, SUP, or PWC in 2020!
Let's do this!
*I'll concede here that many people are doing these crazy things for good causes.
We are an adventurous couple exploring the Chesapeake Bay by boat, paddle board, jet ski, and whatever other means necessary!
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