Two West Coast brothers are in the midst of the paddling trip of a lifetime, designed to test their mettle. Russell and Graham Henry departed in late-July on a 4,000-mile, seven-month kayaking journey from Brazil to Florida, through the North Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.
“The most obvious danger of the trip is the big open water crossings in the Caribbean,” says Russell. The brothers face two 90-mile crossings that, though they admit will be daunting and challenging, they don’t view it as the biggest challenge they’ll face.
“The biggest challenge we’ve run into again and again in logistical planning is the one main thing we can’t plan for: the human factor. A huge portion of the trip is going to rely on the kindness of strangers,” adds Russell.
The brothers left after a lengthy stopover in Belem, Brazil, where they waited for several weeks to be reunited with their kayaks, Current Designs’ Nomad GTS, which were delayed.
Once reunited with their boats, the brothers began their journey by heading northwest. They’ll paddle 1,500 miles up the South American coast through French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana and Venezuela until finally reaching Trinidad. There they plan to restock necessities and spirits. Then they’ll begin the second half of the trip and island hop northwards, up the Lesser Antilles to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos Islands, the Bahamas, and then cross on over to Florida. They estimate they’ll complete their journey in January.
Russell gets the credit for this wild idea. “We both had been itching to get out there and push ourselves on a big expedition, but the kick in the pants came from an expedition planning class Russell was taking at Thompson Rivers University last year,” says Graham. “He was asked to plan a dream expedition. From there he called me about the possibility of a Caribbean crossing for his class project and hell, why not do it in real life too?” In doing research the brothers learned about previous Caribbean crossings. “We realized that we had an extra two months and decided to add the relatively unknown, wild and very different South American section through the Guyanas,” adds Graham.
While the two have paddled all their lives, this is the first serious personal expedition they’ve undertaken. Their preparation grounds have been Canada’s West Coast and Vancouver Island. Though they’ve both led plenty of five to seven day trips they are quick to acknowledge that this expedition is a pretty massive step up. “But, that’s what we’re after and we are confident we have the skills and determination to finish this monster,” says Russell.
“We have both been paddling all our lives and guiding for the last few years. We want this trip to beat us down and give us something seemingly insurmountable to overcome. We want this to be the hardest thing we have ever done—and it’s certainly shaping up to be just that,” says Graham.
This article appeared in Paddling Magazine, August 2013. Download our free iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch App or Android App or read it here.