I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a start to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gull crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the mind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
John Masefield (1878-1967)
So why has it taken me ten years to write this book?
The answer: Shame, embarrassment, no desire to cause more hurt than I already have.
After my expedition I returned to work and tried to settle down to a ‘normal’ life. Linda was doing great, home life was good and work was super challenging. But I wasn’t satisfied. The expedition was supposed to have been life-changing. I didn’t want things to go back to being normal. I didn’t know what I wanted to next in my police career. I knew I needed to change roles but didn’t know what that should be. I knew I didn’t want to go for promotion to inspector – the last thing I wanted was more responsibility – more paperwork. I seriously considered asking for a demotion back to constable. I wasn’t even sure it was possible and asked the question of my union. Normally officers get demoted as a result of disciplinary action. No-one had ever been asked to be demoted before! I had got to a point where I had achieved all that I wanted to achieve in the police and I could not see a future for me in the service. Devon and Cornwall Police had been really good to me. I had worked hard, had a lot of help along the way and had developed some wonderful friendships. But I was done. I wanted to get out. I wanted to leave the police and become a kayak instructor and sell kayaks. But everyone I spoke to, including Linda thought that was a very bad idea. Linda did not want me to resign from the police. She had worked incredibly hard herself so that we could enjoy a comfortable standard of living and very understandably, she did not want me to jeopardise that. I hung in there for eighteen months.
I had found a new challenge as far as kayaking was concerned. I had been approached by British manufacturer Valley Sea Kayaks to help them design a new surf kayak. I had been surfing wave skis for many years and had always felt that there was no reason why a surf kayak shouldn’t have similar performance to a wave ski. Valley took a mold from the hull of my waveski, tweaked it a little, then shaped a radical-looking deck and produced the Rush, a ground-breaking design that had the performance of a waveski with all the back support that sitting in a kayak provides. It worked a treat and I was hooked.
Now we needed to tell folk that Valley had produced a new surf kayak (the first for twenty years) and there is no better venue to do that than the Santa Cruz Kayak Surf Festival in California, the largest event of its kind in the world. In March of 2006 I flew to the San Francisco, rented a mini van and drove two hours down Highway 1 to Santa Cruz. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I thought Cornwall had amazing beaches and good surf but this was on another level. It was my first time to the west coast and the Pacific Ocean was putting on quite a display. The whole Santa Cruz / west coast vibe that surrounded the event was contagious and at the welcome party before the start of the competition I met Gina, a world champion surf kayaker. I had come to the event with the sole purpose of introducing the Rush to the market. I had no idea that I was going to meet a woman who would answer all the questions I had about my life and what I going to do with it. I had reached a fork in the road: one way lead back home, to an inevitable clash with Linda if resigned from the police and forced a lifestyle change upon both us. And now there was an entirely new road that seemed to offer infinite possibilities.
Selfishly I chose the latter and in doing so quite literally pulled the rug from under Linda’s feet, turning her world upside down and hurting her in a way that is unforgivable and was totally undeserved. And I feel guilty to this day about the way I treated Linda, the woman who enabled me to achieve my childhood dream of kayaking around Britain.
But guilt is not the same as regret. How can I regret a decision that has led to me sharing my life with Gina and my wonderful family here in California?