Adventure is Bad Planning


It is commonly held that excitement is the goal of adventuring. But in truth, excitement is adventure’s potentially enjoyable but often unwieldy result, too much of which can be the death of you.

Professionals know this as a matter of course. The sentiment reflected in the title of this post is an aphorism widely attributed to Roald Amundsen, first explorer to sail the entirety of the Northwest Passage in 1905 and 1906. He is often compared to Captain James Cook, not just for his unprecedented successes but also his famously thorough preparations.

Sadly, two clues suggest the remark is apocryphal: 1) no citations attend its many instances online; 2) Amundsen’s prose, though clean and energetic, did not easily submit to such concision.

But the thought is reflective of his philosophy. By way of illustration, the following quote from his book, The South Pole, which carries the same meaning within a more typically capacious vessel:

AmundsenI may say that this is the greatest factor — the way in which the expedition is equipped — the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order — luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.”

Point being, the only way to play the many variables of any big adventure is to have a good plan.

I have been going at Figure 8 planning for some time now, ranking not only what must be researched, learned, resolved; bought, tested, and abandoned; relearned, rebought, retested, etc., but also its order in time prior to departure. The Project Plan is up to eleven pages; supporting documents extend as long as my arm and promise to grow by many fold as things progress.

Two big-ticket items have absorbed my focus of late:

  1. Route Planning: Mileages, Waypoints and Seasonal Timings
  2. Boat Requirements: Strength, Speed and Payload

There are several reasons to consider these two together. For one, it has been important to prove to myself the expedition is, in fact, possible. Remember the goal: to circumnavigate the Americas and Antarctica solo and in one season. How far is that really? Can a sailboat go fast enough? Can I time the passages so as to be in the dangerous high latitude areas at the best times?

Apart from proof of concept, these items are related because the route, its timing requirements, and the extremes of demand upon the boat (stormy open ocean vs stormy rocky, icy ocean) all work to define the type of boat I’ll need.

In the next two posts, I’ll explore these items in more detail.

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