A Waylaid Story Makes for A Greater Tale

The covers of a book may seem like an opening and a close, a beginning and an end. But the truth is that those bindings represent doorways to entire worlds, where stories intermingle and become a part of something even greater. This blog began as an attempt to share some of those stories. But behind every good story are the characters that make it happen. I often wonder if an author knows the ending of a book before they get there, or if the characters decide the outcome for themselves. I like to think it is the latter, because that is always how it seems to go for me. What, though, is life without a good, long, winding story? So excuse the interruption as I stray from the story of the intrepid Team WNA and their journey through Irma to discuss another grand Florida adventure. 

Pablo Picasso once said, "Every act of creation is first an act of destruction." The hurricane that ravaged the Florida Keys this year was most certainly an act of destruction. But from it came endless possibilities of creation and new beginnings. From newly paved roads and re-shingles roofs to fresh growth in the sea grass beds and nighttime bioluminescence like I have never seen before, all that devastation brought a chance for different stories to unfold. Like writing on a blank piece of paper. The energy that came along with this new leaf was contagious to everyone involved, including us. And that is the story of how the WNA Rescue Team found themselves back in Florida once more to begin a new chapter in the What's Next Adventures story- A boat in the Islamorada SeaBase Fleet. 

After much searching and many failed attempts, or rather, finding 10,000 ways NOT to buy a boat, the team stepped aboard Silver Crow, a 41ft Morgan Out Island that had been in the SeaBase program under Captain George for almost 20 years. This was a boat with a legacy. We knew right then it would be the boat for us! She had a story even more epic than our own, and we knew that we could pick right up where that story left off. The first step- getting her back to SeaBase. A true old salt, Captain George wouldn't let her go without one last sail. The WNA Crew, Captain George, and Captain Jeff (Silver Crow's would be new Captain) boarded the boat in Placida, Florida and began the 72 hour trek down to Key West.

We navigated under the stars and listened to Captain George tell tales of his years spent behind the helm of "the Crow" as he affectionately called her. This was a story that truly went beyond what was spoken. Captain George and his wife had spent 20 years oiling woodwork and repairing cushions. So much so that to our eyes, Silver Crow looked like a brand new boat, despite every Boy Scout that ever spent a week on board Silver Crow leaving their mark (figuratively AND literally). She had weathered storms, won races, had monstrous fish (stories) land on her decks; Silver Crow navigated on the power of her past. She was not just a boat, and by the time we pulled into the dock in Marathon, we were beginning to understand the amazing legacy that we would now be in charge of upholding. 

Upon her arrival in Islamorada a few weeks later, the other SeaBase Captains gave her a warm welcome, having thought her gone from the program forever. The Captain running her today remembers the boat from his time at Sea Base as a boy. Today, Silver Crow has just finished her third week of Boy Scout charter for this season, marking her second decade of running SeaBase trips. We are so proud to be continuing the legacy of such an amazing boat in such a wonderful program.

By taking the time to pause our story, we ended up being a part of a much greater one. The story of Silver Crow will continue for many more years to come, and to all the future scouts who get a chance to go out on Silver Crow, I leave you a message. I wish you blue skies and full sails, and the most beautiful sunsets you can imagine. But most importantly, and in the immortal words of Captain George, Do NOT Fall off this boat!!

See you out there!

Dolphins playing at Silver Crow's bow as we traveled across the Gulf to Key West!

Dolphins playing at Silver Crow's bow as we traveled across the Gulf to Key West!

Expedition Irma - The Arrival

We felt like storm chasers, driving down the coast trying to dodge the hurricane that was still holding on to its last rotations of wind and rain. It was almost surreal- to be driving through the same blankets of wind and rain that had devastated so much of Florida. By now of course it was little more than sheeting rain. So we drove, careful to avoid sharp turns in such a fully laden vehicle. Our last stop before leaving Pennsylvania had been to a truck stop with a scale. We asked the attendant if we could weigh the truck- just to see exactly how loaded up we were. The truck had weighed around 12,000 pounds. With that much gear, and the three of us, we continued to make our way to Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irma. 

Sleeping at truck stops and brushing our teeth in Walmart bathrooms, subsisting on very little sleep and McDonald's coffee, we made it to Jacksonville just as the last bands of Hurricane Irma made their way north into Georgia. As we passed over the bridge to downtown Jacksonville, the sun was just coming up and we could see standing water filling the streets and neighborhoods below. We pulled over to the side of the bridge and surveyed the damage that we could see. Just then a Coast Guard helicopter swooped low over the bridge heading for the flooded neighborhoods below. We turned on our VHF radio and made contact with the Coast Guard helicopter. They informed us that they were searching for the source of a reported red flare that had gone up from one of the roofs in the area. So far, no follow up flare or call had been made. Excited to help, we offered to launch the boat and commence a search by water in the area. The coast guard was beginning to think that the 'red flare' had simply been a firework or a prank since there  was no sign of distress or people signalling from the roofs. They asked us to keep our radios on as we searched for a place to launch the boat in case we were needed. By the time we found a launch site, the Coast Guard had ended their search. 

We continued to seek out people that needed help in Jacksonville, but aside from that first interaction with the Coast Guard, no one seemed willing to work with us or even tell us what was needed. We began feeling dejected. We had travelled all this way, had all this equipment, and had finally reached an area that needed our help- yet we were being turned away. Would we be able to help at all or had all this work been for nothing? After some consideration, we decided to press on and travel further south to the areas that were worse off. We were tired and disheartened, but we were determined to keep going and not give up.

The next day we found ourselves in the Ft. Meyers area following up on a wellness check. A woman with some health issues and her young daughter had weathered the storm alone and a relative from further away hadn't been able to reach them since the storm. Worried, she had contacted CrowdSource Rescue looking for someone who could check on them. We were in the area when the request came through and decided to take the call. All was well with both of them, and we were able to let the family know they were safe. Finally, we felt like we had begun to do what we came here to do. And then we got the call that there were no more open tickets in Ft. Meyers. We found ourselves again trying to help but with nothing to do. This process was going to be more difficult than we originally thought. It was time to keep going. 

We next headed across Alligator Alley and towards Homestead, FL and the Keys. This area was supposed to be the worst hit of anywhere. We arrived in Homestead and learned that there was a blockade preventing anyone except law enforcement and rescue/relief personnel from getting to the Keys at all. After explaining to the officers at the blockade why we were there, they directed us to wait with the other official vehicles for the bridges to be cleared. 

As we sat there, waiting for an escort to take us across the bridge into the keys, the truck began to overheat. Realising we were out of coolant, Ian got out and began to fill the tank with cold water. The electrician in front of us immediately jumped out of his vehicle and gave us a spare bottle of coolant with a second thought. Even here, this close to the devastation of Irma, people were lending a hand and making sure that everyone had what they needed. The flashing lights arrived and we followed a line of police, first responders, and electricians over the bridge and into the Florida Keys. What awaited us on the other side of that bridge is another story altogether. Driving over that bridge in the dark, not knowing was to come, was the moment our adventure truly began. We had arrived.

On our way!

On our way!

First Stop- Flooded Jacksonville

First Stop- Flooded Jacksonville

Waiting in line to be escorted across the bridge and into the Florida Keys.

Waiting in line to be escorted across the bridge and into the Florida Keys.

Expedition Irma - Give and Take

It all started with a rainy day. The kind where you decide that your greatest adventure of the day will be to curl up on the couch with some sail repair and a warm tea. Then we turned on the news and saw people in need. We decided to go. That decision was the easiest part of the whole adventure! From there it was a whirlwind of planing and packing, excitement and nervous anticipation. What would we find? Would we be able to help or just in over our heads? We didn't know, but we kept going. Determined to do whatever we could. We reached out to our community for help. Knowing that the more supplies we could bring, the more good we would be able to do. So we asked the What's Next Adventures community for help. And you answered. 

We received over $3,000 in aid from our GoFundMe page and various other monetary donations. We gathered over 30 cases of water and 12 boxes of non-perishable foods from local grocery stores. When we painted our destination in chalk on the back of the truck, a woman ran up to us in traffic just to hand over a donation. When we went into Tractor Supply for new trailer tires a man asked who we were and where we were going, left the store, and then returned with a donation that looked to be more than he could afford. He gave it anyway. When we parked out front of the local grocery store to pick up several cases of donated water, a woman opened her purse and handed us cash before even knowing our names. We stopped for food at a fast food joint on the way out of town and returned to find a note with cash folded up under our windshield wipers. "" it said. 

When we watched the news that fateful morning and learned of the impending Hurricane, it wasn't the only storm brewing in our Country. So much violence, hate, and discord are paraded across headlines and ticker tapes. All we see these days is the fighting and the anger. But there is something out there that speaks so much louder than all of that. It is the power of compassion and selfless giving that we experienced in so many ways before we even left to begin this journey. A trip like this isn't easy. We encountered much hardship and saw things that I know we all wish we never had. But during those moments, we had something amazing to fall back on. The knowledge that our actions were not just our own. They were supported by an entire community of people that cared for others they would never meet and went out of their way (and into traffic in some cases) to give. 

So from all of us at What's Next Adventures, and from all the amazing individuals that we were able to help along the way, THANK YOU. We could never have done it without you.

Check back in a few days for more of our Expedition Irma story. There is ALOT to tell, and it is quite the adventure. 

- Nancy S.


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Expedition Irma - The Calm Before the Storm

As many of you know, Captain Ian, Nick Pritchett, and myself journeyed to the Florida Keys recently to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. We packed up a truck full of supplies and good intentions and drove through ten states to make it there the day after the storm. What began with 20 hour days of wellness checks, road clearing, and tagging submerged vessels ended with rakes, shovels, and cleaning supplies. We were ultimately there for over 8 weeks, or around 60 days. We experienced life changing moments, witnessed destruction like nothing we have ever seen before and hope to never see again, and participated in moments of healing and restoration that were more powerful than even the strongest storm. We made life-long friendships and saw the strength and resilience in a community that allow it to bend but never to break. Our own responsabilities and the upcoming holiday season brought us home from this adventure, but these stories are still raw and poignant in our hearts. There are so many stories to tell, and I am sure I will forget some things, get some things wrong, and decide that some things are better left only to memory. But for the most part, we wish to share these experiences with you, the WNA Community that gave us the strength and courage to go there in the first place. Check back regularly for each instalment in what I know will be a long but worthwhile saga. We hope you enjoy the tale of Expedition Irma and the WNA Rescue Team!

-Nancy S.

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Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

Every Day is an Adventure...

One of our favorite sayings here at WNA is, "Every day is an adventure, you just have to let it happen."

Well, we try hard to embody that philosophy and find ourselves turning even the smallest task into a great adventure! Trip to the laundry? Let's stop at every roadside stand along the way and try all their free samples! Holiday shopping for the family? Who needs malls, lets go to that one antique shop on main street that always smells like mothballs and try on all the feather hats! (P.S. Mom I got you the one with an entire bird on top- Hope you like it!) But all this doesn't mean that every moment has to be some crazy adventure- we like to curl up on the couch with a hot tea and a good book as much as the next person. (Although in Captain Ian's case that good book is a copy of the Hamilton Marine catalog). 

People always ask us, "whats it like to spend everyday on vacation?" The answer- we don't! This is a job just like any other- well almost. We have to work hard everyday to make sure things go smoothly and see that everyone has an amazing experience. Believe it or not, adventures can be a challenging business. And we didn't always get it right. So how did we manage to create something as cool as What's Next Adventures? Practice. Lot's of Practice. We are now your resident experts in getting lost in the woods long enough to find someplace amazing or practically running aground while exploring the Bay so many times that we know about places no one else does, or spending so much time swinging from the end of the rope after falling on that one climb that we know what it looks like better upside-down than rightside-up. The utensil sacrifices to the Bay when someone forgets to check the wash bin before dumping it over (you know who you are) have become traditional. And we really live for moments like pulling an eddy at lunch rock only to realise that lunch is sitting back at the campsite...along with your car keys.

These experiences and crazy mishaps are what make us who we are, and they are what make every day an adventure. The opportunity to get yourself out of situations you never though you would be in, like being at the end of the river run next to your car and knowing that your keys are a whole day's paddle north of you. Or having to wonder if Chessie the Chesapeake monster likes silverware because she certainly eats a lot of yours. This blog is our attempt to share these moments with you, our friends, followers, fellow adventurers. Perhaps some of you will read them and decide that this page is as close to adventure as you will ever get. But we hope that most of you read a few and decide that your next adventure is awaiting you just around the corner. You just have to let it happen!


-Nancy S.