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R.W. Hand Makes Second Attempt: Paddling from California to Hawaii

Published on 6/7/2014
Source: Canoe and Kayak Magazine by Dave Shively

A humble character is trying to reopen a hallowed page of paddling history that was written by one.

Twenty-seven years ago, Ed Gillet made a self-described “low-key” departure from Monterey, Calif., embarking on what he would later call “the most difficult trip I could conceive of surviving.” Well over 2,200 miles and 63 days later, Gillet landed in Maui and set a new benchmark for sea kayak expeditions.

Five days ago, R.W. Hand set out to replicate Gillet’s voyage, leaving from the same harbor, in the essentially the same kayak from the same manufacturer.

Hand also took the same low-profile approach to his launch, with barely a digital trace or notification of his plans. At 5:11 p.m., Friday, May 30, Hand launched his fully loaded, 22-foot, stock Necky Nootka-plus tandem and started paddling west.

The silent plans came as no surprise to those closest to the stoic and towering 57-year-old.

“If you gave [R.W.] a mission and a choice between paddling from Monterey to Hawaii, or to learn texting and Facebook, he’d choose to paddle to Hawaii,” said David White, a friend who drove Hand out from Canon City, Colo., and assisted him at Friday’s launch.

With help from Hand’s mother and daughter, White also built and is maintaining a Facebook profile where they are relaying news as they receive it from Hand’s DeLorme two-way satellite communicator/GPS device.

“The first 12 hours, to get out, it was critical to hear from him,” said White, who nervously awaited Hand’s first position on Saturday, which was relayed to the Coast Guard. “Then he sent a text Monday that said, ‘Wet and hungry but having a good time.’”

White relayed Hand’s latest message, which stated, “Storms all day and all night took a nap this morning hope to make progress.” The message was sent early this morning, reporting Hand’s position from 35 degrees 26 minutes north latitude, 122 degrees 62 minutes west longitude, roughly 80 miles off the California coast (a latitude comparable to San Luis Obispo).

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