A bit beyond ordinary
A tale of five extraordinary Australians who braved Bass Strait to raise money to save children from sex exploitation
Craig Jorgensen lives a full Life. Married with two children, he works as Head of Business and IT for an architectural firm. When he is not there, he is taking students out on outdoor education adventures. Also, he is currently studying to be a high school teacher. This eclectic work schedule reflects his outlook on life: “Things that are seemly insurmountable: you can get over them.”
“Uncomfortable, life threatening and risky … but we loved every day of it!” This is how Craig describes the adventure of Sea Kayaking, with his team (Sam, Adam, Brent, Kylie) across Bass Strait. Their purpose was to raise awareness of the work done by Destiny Rescue. Over 18 months of careful planning and training to spend two weeks rowing across the 200 plus kilometres of treacherous stretch of ocean between the Australian mainland and Tasmania. They had no support vessels, compelling themselves to depend on each other.
Why do this?
“We wanted to show it may seem like an impossible task trying to stop sexual slavery (talking about the work of Destiny Rescue), but if you don’t try, you will never get there. We can affect change.” Prior to this, Craig had walked the Kokoda Trail to “truly understand this part of our nation’s history and the sacrifices made by people who were willing to live for something bigger than themselves”. While it may seem like simply completing a bucket list, Craig takes a different view: “I do these things either for a significant purpose or to experience the location/culture … I don’t believe you’re just ticking a box on a list. You have to have a mindset to just keep going and to endure, physically and mentally, no matter what – even if there is nothing left to give.”
Before they could actually attempt such a crossing, Craig mentions some of the initial conditions that had to be met.
“To do this, you have to be able to know how to self-rescue back into your own kayak. If you can’t paddle through five metre breaking waves or through 60 – 100 kph winds, don’t bother doing this.” Also, they had to be upfront with their strengths as well as their weakness/limitations.
Craig explains it this way:
“We thought it was important to own where we are not strong – this was more important than identifying strengths – we could then support each other or help, so it would not become such a big issue.” This would prove to be invaluable throughout the trip.
Each part of the trip was done from one fixed point to another; the smaller islands that are within the Strait. The crew also had to row according to weather conditions.
The first challenge came just after two days, while they were still paddling close to the shoreline. They were introduced to ‘wind bullets’: when high winds travelling along coastal land meet a cliff, the wind goes up in circular motions and suddenly darts straight down – at gusts of 100 kph plus. It was a wind bullet that snapped their sails, forcing them to spend three days making repairs.
Craig was obliged to swap from the back to the front end of the double kayak they were using on day three. This meant that he was now sitting in an even smaller compartment, making him even more cramped. Craig joked that he was spending six hours rowing and not feeling his legs at all.
Further on they became stranded at Refuge Cove due to a massive low-pressure system; however, as luck would have it, they were stuck there with some yachts that had just finished the Sydney to Hobart yacht race and were making their way back home.
Craig describes this provident encounter:
“It was amazing to see the supportive culture of these teams – even though they were on low rations, they still shared so that we could preserve our food supplies for the actual crossing. We also had a chance to look at some their bigger charts of the strait and they even suggested better stopover points.”
It was during the longest rowing stretch that Craig’s kayak capsized. Both he and Adam initially struggled to turn the kayak upright and get back in it.
“The water was about ten degrees and hypothermia was setting in fast. The other two kayaks had kept rowing, so we were by ourselves in the middle of Bass Strait. We were exhausted, but we just had to keep going.” Even though they saw the odd shark – Craig mentions that he saw a large shape glide under his kayak: “It was either a small whale or a large Great White Shark. It was the cold water and the threat of hypothermia that was their greatest challenge.”
Yet through all of the challenges they faced, they learnt that just because you think you should give up, you don’t have to listen to that voice; you just keep going. If your determination is truly strong enough, you find ways to work through whatever is stopping you from success. Secondly, they took the advice offered by the crews of the yachts when they were at Refuge Cove: “Along the way, make sure you stop and smell the roses.” While it can be easy to dismiss this metaphor, Craig and his team did in fact take the time to enjoy the beautiful scenery. These moments allowed them to put everything in perspective: that the purpose is worth the endurance.
Read more about the work of Destiny Rescue.
Photos: © Craig Jorgensen