Trip dynamics are a difficult relationship to manage. When selecting a paddling partner you’re sort of looking for that sibling/spouse/wing man vibe from the person you may have to share a tent with. I’ve been relatively lucky on my trips to have really good vibes from my tent mates. We comprise separate elements of the Aubrey/Maturin dynamic. For those not in the know, Captain Jack Aubrey of the Royal Navy and his particular friend, (no don’t read gay lover) Doctor and Natural Philosopher Stephen Maturin are the protagonists of author Patrick O’Brian’s wildly popular Napoleonic naval warfare novel series. 21 Books in all.
Captain Aubrey of whom I’ve written before is at sea, a leader of the James T Kirk variety. His presence commands respect among both the officer gentleman class, as well as the foremast jacks. He is a gifted navigator and seaman. He is blessed with a keen tactical sense that has provided his crews and his career with bountiful wealth in prize money. He is friendly, open, and eager. On land, though he is a bit of a buffoon. Incapable of managing his money, or political maneuvering against his best interests. He is his own worst enemy on *terra firma*.
Dr. Stephen Maturin on the other hand is an Irish Catalan who signed on as a ship’s surgeon in Jack’s first command, the _Sophie_. His temperament is moodier, more introspective, and mercurial. He knows nothing about the sea. Even after years aboard a square rigged man of war, he is deeply ignorant of the mechanics of sailing. He is however deeply interested in natural philosophy in the vein of Darwin. Because of his natural hatred of tyranny in any form he has swallowed his Irish pride and decided to work against the common enemy of Napoleon. But his linguistic gifts, Latin, Greek, Catalan, French, Gaelic, and Portuguese have provided him with a natural inclination towards clandestine work. He is a keeper of secrets and confidences by nature. And as the popular author, Daniel Silva has said, “to speak another language is to possess another soul”. His various souls have allowed him to thwart intelligence activities of the French and her allies in many countries during the HMS Surprises voyages across the world.
The relationship between Stephen and Jack is rooted in their love of music. And they encourage and entertain one another through cello and violin duets while at sea. The relationship has weathered many storms and come back to some basis of respect because of music.
No one person is really all Stephen, or all Jack. But possess traits in kind with each. We recognize parts of ourself in each. And certainly I identify with Jack deeply at times. Feeling ungainly on land, unnecessary and lost. But while at sea, alive and finally whole. But I also see a great empathy with Stephen in his need to understand every thing that walks and breathes, and what they mean to one another. His intellect serves him well in most ways, but makes other things both unavailable and impossible at times.
Jim Svensson and myself form our own Aubrey and Maturin in this way. Each of us in our own way both inept and competent. Certainly I can’t explain why we as two men apart in years and temperament choose to continually go to sea together and put up with cold, rain, danger, confined living quarters, sub-standard food, and lots of insect bites.
Suffering is just part of the joy I think, one is intrinsically linked to the other. So we venture out again on the premise that there is more joy to be had on Lake Superior, more beauty, and to paddle because it is hard, and slow. We leave family and comfort at home to have something to miss. So we can feel that longing for home at the end.
I can’t figure out all the reasons why it’s necessary to go, but I can say I know why we go together. The dynamic just works. And it’s a good thing. Having seen Derrick’s post on Kayak Quixotica, I feel for him. I’ve had a bad trip dynamic vibe myself. All I can say is from my minimal “expedition” tripping whatever experience, you do not want bad mojo at sea. Anyone can tell you that. The sooner you get that bad black voodoo in the open the better. It may seem ugly on land, but I guarantee it will be f#@!ing ugly at sea.
I don’t know Wendy, I do know Derrick. So I wish him the best of luck on his trip and hope the bad vibes run their course on land and are quickly forgotten once at sea. I hope he finds his Aubrey/Maturin voodoo soon.