Why Do All the Locals Think We’re Crazy? is the true story of three firemen from the Midwest who decided to break out of their mid-life routine and take their mischievous senses of humor and their inability to back down from a challenge to new limits. Their love for postcard pitureque tropical locations, along with a very big desire to be anywhere but Kansas, led them to the Carribean. They formed a grand plan to construct their own kayaks and paddle them among the picturesque U.S. and British Virgin Islands. The “grandness” of the plan became quickly clear as together they had a combined total of zero boat building experience and zero sea kayaking experience. However they went onward with it (as every real kickass story goes) and from day one twists, turns, setbacks, and obstacles.
Here is their kickass story
You would think the life of a firefighter would contain enough excitement for any man. But, I would venture to say that most men, regardless of occupation, still fantasize like they did as kids, about climbing mountains, exploring jungles, and crossing oceans. It’s not our fault, it’s a genetic predisposition that is out of our control. At least that’s the case for Scott Finazzo: a father, firefighter, author, and professional daydreamer. And one of the main protagonists in this kickass ‘Virgin’ adventure.
Several years ago he took a vacation to the US and British Virgin Islands. Finazzo was completely taken by their picturesque beauty and laid back lifestyle of the islanders. He fell in love with them and vowed to return. As fate would have it, he later read the book On Island Time by Scott B. Williams detailing a solo kayak trip down through the Caribbean. An idea was born. Finazzo, along with two co-workers, decided that they would travel to the Virgin Islands and kayak from shore to shore combining exploration and relaxation.
It wasn’t enough to simply explore the islands. They decided to build their own boats to do it. They would construct them in a garage, ship them down, and trek by way of self-built kayaks. The idea was perfect! …except for a few minor details: none of them had ever been sea kayaking before, none of them had ever built a boat before, and one of them had never even been in a kayak before.
In a garage in Shawnee, Kansas (US) Finazzo, Eric Gifford, and John Heffernon built three folding kayaks. The frame was made from aircraft aluminum, braced by high density polyethylene, and wrapped in a PVC coated nylon skin. The kayaks were 18′ long when assembled and folded down into a standard military canvas duffel bag.
The three of them had separate flights into St. Thomas, and by the time they all arrived, the itinerary had already been changed. The initial plan was to make their way, via ferry boats and taxis, to the eastern coast of Virgin Gorda, in the British Virgin Islands, and then paddle away from shore stopping at uninhabited islands on the way back to the US islands. They ended up stopping on Tortola (about halfway to their initial destination of Virgin Gorda) and set up camp.
When they were constructing the kayaks at Brewer’s Bay Tortola a few local men came down to the shore to fish and asked them what they were doing. Finazzo explained that they were putting together their kayaks and were going to kayak the islands. One of the locals simply replied, “You take ‘dem out ‘dere?”, pointing at the sea. “You crazy?”
From there they paddled north to Jost Van Dyke to test their boats and abilities.
It all went ‘reasonably’ well so with a newfound confidence in both boats and abilities they decided to keep on moving. Just before they set off from Jost Van Dyke (BVI) one of the locals came down to check out the kayaks and told them that they weren’t allowed to go out there, that it was too dangerous. He jokingly said, “I’m police. I will arrest you if you try to go.” They laughed it off, but he too, said, “you’re crazy”. Nonetheless they shoved off towards Great Thatch (just hours before everything ended up going wrong).
The tropical scenery was every bit as magnificent as they imagined and the water, although beautiful, proved to be more challenging than they had anticipated. Somehow, over the course of the following days they became separated when Heffernon’s boat sustained a rip in the hull. Finazzo paddled ahead to scout out a safe place to go ashore for repairs and ended up alone on an uninhabited island while Heffernon and Gifford were plucked from the sea by a yacht full of altruistic but drunk Dutch airline pilots. The pilots welcomed them aboard, fed them tuna steaks and Heineken, and allowed them to stay the night on their catamaran while Finazzo endured tropical storms alone in his tent on an small island.
They ended up rendezvousing on St. John the next night and became completely drunk as they toasted their trip and triumph over a boring life. The adventure was over but they had built their kayaks, paddled the ocean, and were going to return to the US with the story of a kick ass trip to tell!