Around America’s Great Loop in a kayak
by Richard Lamb–Advance Editor
For kayaker Rich Brand, adventure comes every day, one paddle stroke at a time. Brand, 42, is attempting to traverse America’s Great Loop, from New Orleans, up the Atlantic, through the Great Lakes and back down the Mississippi River. He made a stop in Rogers City last week, but stayed a bit longer than anticipated, due to the sudden turn in the weather.
In 2014 he kayaked the entire length of the Mississippi River, but prior to that had only three miles of experience in a small craft. A photographer and graphic designer by trade, his 19-foot kayak holds all his gear for the water adventure.
“I was raising money for a children’s hospital and starting to do talks to kids. That was the beginning of this,” Brand said while resting at the Rogers City Marina.
His next adventure came in 2015 when he kayaked the Pacific Ocean from Seattle to San Diego. Rough surf and dangerous conditions were the price paid for experiencing beautiful scenery. That trip took five months, but was delayed for a month, due to bad weather.
His current trip began Jan. 3, 2016 in New Orleans. It took nine months to get to Portland, Maine, where he stopped for the winter.
“I don’t have a house, a marriage or things like that. I am sponsored and do motivational speeches to kids along the way. I do talks all around the country. In the wintertime I work ha
rd, really hard, and save so I can afford to do this,” Brand said.
Brand’s adventurous spirit and the journeys taken are experienced by only a select few with the motivation, determination, and time and funding to make it happen.
“People just don’t do this kind of stuff anymore. The youth don’t have the adventurer to look up to. There is not a lot of people that do expeditions like Jacques Cousteau or what the pioneers did,” he said. His motivation is to be the kind of person he wished he had met as a child, he said.
“I believe in talking to kids, inspiring the younger generation to do big things. It doesn’t matter what it is. I encourage them to go chase their passions. You can’t inspire kids from the couch and so I go out for a little boat ride,” Brand said.
DEPENDING ON conditions, he covers some 20-25 miles per day and expects to get 30 miles per day once he gets to the Mississippi River. So far, his trip has been mostly against the flow of the water. His goal is to make Chicago by the end of October, arrive in New Orleans by Christmas, Key West by April and Jacksonville, Florida by next June.
“I tell kids that everything is possible, you just have to figure out how to do it,” he said.
When talking to groups he aims to inspire people by sharing his experiences.
“I’ve had whales right beside me when I was in California,” he said and tells of other aquatic life that he came across. But the best part of the journey has been the people he has met every day.
“The water is the water and the distance is the distance and it is amazing. But it is the people and the ports along the coastline and the cottages and the yards that are amazing. People never cease to amaze me. They are kind with their time and their energy and knowledge,” Brand said.
He said he usually does not call ahead to marinas in case weather or conditions force him to stop. Or, he may find a great beach that looks like a fine spot to spend time instead of heading to a formal marina setting.
IN HIS journey, he has developed a life philosophy that he shares with conviction.
“Chase and develop your passions, whatever it is that makes you happy. Pursue it at all costs, because the world is going to judge you whether you are the best person in the world or the worst person. You might as well do what makes you happy. And if you can lift other people up or help people along the way, that is perfect,” he summarized his advice.
Nothing comes easily, he said, and he views his adventures as his job.
“People say you must be lucky to have this much time off work. Actually, this is my job, but it is also a passion and I am happy doing what I do. It is just different than an office. If people fall off their chairs in their office they don’t have to worry about getting eaten by sharks or gators, I do sometimes,” Brand said.
His next adventure will be “absolutely be” done with a motor-operated vehicle, likely a motorcycle, he said, even though this kayak trip has made for great experiences.
“It is cool, it is great, I love it, and I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything,” Brand said.
People can follow him at capturedheartbeats.com or on Facebook at Captured Heartbeats.