Joachim Kreuzer and Manfred Schroter are back in Whitehorse, one year after they tried to row and sail a replica York boat from Whitehorse to the Bering Sea.
Their York boat, the kind fur traders used to travel throughout Canada during the 18th and 19th centuries, has rested in Whitehorse for the past year.
The pair will travel wearing leather boots, canvas trousers, long-sleeved linen shirts, vests and scarfs; clothes made to resemble the era. They will also have historic guns, including a musket.
Last year’s adventure came to an unfortunate end just three days into the journey, when they got caught on two sandbars in Lake Laberge. With their boat stuck, the weather worsened and each wave brought more water aboard. They had been filming their journey and eventually the water destroyed their generator, battery box, transformers and cameras.
With an inflatable raft they made 20 trips between the boat and shore, getting their equipment and supplies onto land.
Days before, the two had met local resident Roy Pawluk at Mom’s Bakery and over a cigarette Pawluk had told them if they run into any problems to give him a call.
Pawluk came through for them, and with his truck he helped the duo pack their equipment up and get off the lake. They stayed at Pawluk’s property for a week before eventually flying back to Germany.
On Wednesday afternoon this week, Pawluk was there again, leaning up against the side of his truck as Kreuzer and Schroter worked on the boat, a generator whirring in the background.
They had been up past 1 a.m. the previous night, taking the keel off the boat, in hopes of avoiding another snag on a sandbar. Trouble with their tools led to them spending most of the night working on the boat with a handsaw and a Leatherman.
They are hoping to be back on the water by Friday afternoon, heading back out from the spot they came off the lake last year.
The dream is still to reach the Bering Sea, but they know now how quickly plans can change.
Their first stop, if they get there, will be Dawson City. They will pick up more food and supplies and, if all is well, the adventure will go on.
“The journey is what is important,” Kreuzer says, packing his pipe with tobacco slung around his neck in a leather pouch.
They will embark on their voyage in traditional dress, historic clothing and accessories – a central element to the journey.
Their boat is 6.7 metres long and just under two metres wide – smaller than a full York boat, but large enough for their purposes. They spent more than five months building it, doing everything by hand, including sewing the sail.
When they arrived in Whitehorse last week, many residents recognized them from last year.
“We heard people say, ‘Look – there go the pirates,’” laughs Kreuzer, smoke escaping his smile and billowing up in the air. “We’re York men – but pirates, too.”
The two aren’t strangers to living in the past. They are both members of New Historical Adventure, a historical re-enactment group in Germany.
Kreuzer, who goes by the moniker Red Badger, owns his own company making traditional boats and metal tools, and Schroter works in security. Despite often travelling into the past, this trip represents something more for the pair.
“If we start a plan, we can’t give up. That’s one of our problems,” Kreuzer says.
Initially, Schroter, who is visiting Yukon for the fourth time, had planned to paddle himself to the Bering Sea, following a route a friend had previously taken.
When he mentioned his plan to Kreuzer, he wanted in, but under different conditions – he wanted them to experience the journey the way the fur traders had.
From there the two began the process of funding the trip, building and purchasing supplies and trying to find sponsorship. They were able to recoup some costs but most, an expense of more than $130,000, came from their own pockets.
“We’re not soccer players,” Kreuzer says, explaining the difficulties obtaining sponsorship, “just two crazy Germans.”
Beside Kreuzer, Schroter handles a musket, one of several historic weapons and knives they will be travelling with. “This is for when the bear comes,” Schroter says, with a smile.
The two will camp in a yurt they are traveling with, and build shelter with a tarp and the boat’s oars.
On Pawluck’s property, they’ve set up a base camp. A fire crackles behind them as they speak, their supplies and tools strewn around, the mid-day sun shining off the pine of the boat.
The boat is named Confiance, a name that came in their dreams, they say.
“We have the confidence to build our boat and to make this trip happen, Kreuzer says.
“If you have a dream, you hang on it it – and in our dreams there was this boat.”
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