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Best Odyssey: After Five Years at Sea, Gavin Pens his Final Captain’s Log
Posted on December 16, 2011

On October 18, Be First recipients Gavin McClurg and Jody MacDonald—The Best Odyssey Team—successfully became the first expedition to kiteboard, surf, stand up paddleboard and paraglide some of the most remote places on earth, accessed by sail on their 60-foot catamaran, Discovery. Are you in pursuit of your own “first?” Our Be First program is an opportunity to get sponsored when you go for your own summit, whatever that may be. To learn more, visit Be First. -EB Editor

by Gavin McClurg. Photos by Jody MacDonald

Weeks before we ended the expedition, which happened on a warm, still day in Ibiza, Spain, on October 18, I asked Jody to begin working on a slideshow. I asked her to do this because I knew I wouldn’t have the words to describe, to explain, to illustrate, what the expedition has meant to us, or to those who have joined along the way. Of course photos are only a slice of the picture, a fabulous collage pieced together somewhat magically and very haphazardly as we slowly worked our way around the world. There’s been a plentiful supply of blood, pain, laughter, disappointments, discoveries and, of course, moments that are too special to ever try to represent with words.

So here it is, a slideshow that takes us back to the beginning and all the way to the end. From the Caribbean through the Panama Canal, across the South Pacific, Micronesia, Indonesia, across the Indian Ocean to Africa, around the Cape of Good Hope, Namibia, Cape Verdes, Azores, Scotland and Spain:

When I look back I see images that many of you have shared and many that are mine alone. I also see statistics, and some of them turn out to be figures that I find a bit shocking and, honestly, make me a wee bit proud of what we’ve achieved. For example:

Total miles sailed: 54,000 (the distance of nearly two circumnavigations)
Circumnavigation completed: December 10, 2010 (near Cape Verde)
Countries visited: 50
Total trips operated: 90
Days with guests on board: 986
Documented virgin kite locations: 148
Dinghies destroyed: 2
Trips cancelled or delayed: 0
Money spent on food: $123,321 USD
Approximate bottles of beer consumed: 4,320
Cumulative staph infections suffered by Jody and me: 23
Pros on board: 37
Reefs I’ve planted us on: 3
Times hitting the reefs caused an emergency haul-out: 2
Times rebuilding a toilet has caused me to swear profusely: 24 (the exact number of rebuilds I’ve done)
People I kicked off the boat: 1

We’ve gone places that I could have never dreamed even existed. We’ve gone places that are very close to being totally destroyed, if they aren’t already. The sadness, the beauty, the mistakes, the friendships; the many things we’ve discovered, touched and seen along the way will be with us forever. Memories, of course, have a way of fading, and the many thrills and wonders that took place will be remembered less and less as time streams along faster and faster, rushing us all towards the one true inevitable end. And now that it’s all over, we’re trying to come to terms with what it has meant and what it continues to mean.

No easy task.

People keep asking Jody and me: What’s next? To be honest, neither of us knows. I’m not sure I want to know, at least for the time being. For these five years and eight years before that I have been charged with keeping a lot of people safe in some seriously tight situations at sea. At times, the stress of it was as suffocating as drowning, but to witness the smiles and hear what the expedition meant to those who joined was more payback than I could ever get from a paycheck. Even in the very dark times I knew my office was something I should never take for granted, and hopefully I never did. Neither Jody nor I consider ourselves planners, but somehow we planned what is certainly one of the most complex expeditions that has ever happened. If someone died or got hurt or got sick, the show had to carry on. No calling in sick; no taking a day off. At times I felt like I was living inside a pressure cooker that had no relief valve. More than once Jody and I had long, tearful, serious talks about pulling the plug. But always these times would pass and be replaced with some of the most precious and happiest moments I’ve ever lived. I’m humbly proud of what we’ve achieved and at the same time scared that what we’ve achieved is only human, which succumbs, like everything, to history.

We owe much of our success and all of our most incredible moments to our owners and sponsors, who dedicated much of their own lives (and no small amount of their hard-earned money!) to the Best Odyssey. Each of you took a huge gamble on us, two people you had never met before and to you we say THANK YOU. Thank you for making this absurd, crazy, impossible dream come true. We hope it has also been a dream realized for you.

Because it certainly was for us.

Many thanks to each and every one of you, all those thousands of people who I’ve never even met who have followed our trials and tribulations in the form of the Captain’s Logs for these past five years. As most of you know, writing these logs is always hard for me, and without your continued support I would have given it up long ago. But again and again, you have reached out to me with your own stories, sorrows, joys, hopes, and fears and blessedly—your encouragement, which always makes penning the next story possible.

I hope we’ve kept you entertained.

But now we have reached a point that five years ago I couldn’t even imagine, and I still can’t believe has come. This is the final log of the Best Odyssey. An era has come to an end.

But really, somehow, I think it’s just the beginning.

As always, I leave you with a quote. It’s one I’ve used before but it remains my favorite. Someday I hope to be as cranky, profound and important as Edward Abbey, who fought his entire life to preserve wild places. Unfortunately, it’s a fight that will continue to be lost to the corporations unless we get seriously pissed off and do something about it. Seems like now is a pretty good time.

“One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am—a reluctant enthusiast…a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: You will outlive the bastards.” —Edward Abbey

Author: - Friday, December 16th, 2011
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