NO MOTOR, NO SUPPORT.
ALL THE WAY TO ALASKA.
The physical endurance, saltwater know-how, and bulldog tenacity to navigate the 750 cold water miles from Port Townsend, Washington, to Ketchikan, Alaska.
Team members: Michael Tolsma, Martin Monsma
Hometown: Hawthorne, NJ, USA
Race vessel: Corsair 24 Mark 2
Human propulsion: Pedal (prop)
Let’s face it. We all love a buddy comedy.
And Mike & Marty’s Big Day Out has all of the reboot wholesomeness of Bill & Ted Face the Music, the reckless adventure of the Hangover 2, and the raging BFF energy of 2002 blockbuster, Crossroads, starring the one and only Britney Spears.
M&M’sBDO is the ultimate sleepover. Mike’s in charge of snacks. Marty’s in charge of bringing the board games. Here’s the gossip: the bears of the Inside Passage get pretty intense when it comes to Truth or Dare. This is your Big Day Out, but we recommend choosing ‘truth.’
There’s going to be that inevitable moment when one of them turns over in the sleeping bag and whispers into the dark, “Hey, are you asleep yet?” But whether it’s to point out the stars, wonder at the Northern Lights, or force the Ouija Board to spell out “Steak Knives” and then scream in the performative of slumber party mysticism remains to be seen.
We sat down with Marty Monsma of Team M&M’sBDO over a bowl of Captain Crunch All Crunchberries to talk about secret handshakes, 90’s video game cheat codes, and the darker qualities of Samwise Gamgee.
What are the necessary components of a good adventure?
Adventure by necessity involves the unknown. It poses a question that hasn’t an answer yet. One of the questions here at Team M&M’sBDO is “Can we get an unfamiliar boat through unfamiliar waters all the way to Alaska? And with a modicum of grace?” Personally, I ask myself, “Will a few summers monkeying around on a Super Porpoise on the inland lakes of Michigan in my teens, a close reading of Chapman’s Piloting and Seamanship, and several rewatchings of 80s classic Summer Rental starring John Candy adequately prepare me to crew this vessel?” We don’t know. It’s an adventure.
What’s a lesson you learned the hard way?
Good communication is the key. In just about everything. I know this and yet have to keep relearning it.
What’s your favorite kind of bracket?
I’m a carpenter, and my first thought was of shelf supports, admittedly. But I am guessing you are talking more about sports brackets, of which I am blissfully ignorant. I do really like the brackets they do on NBC’s Today Show—you know, viewers get to vote on America’s Favorite Thanksgiving Side Dish, or America’s Favorite Halloween Candy, etc. You pretty much know how it’s going to go each time. But it’s good background while you’re drinking coffee in the morning. Al Roker, Carson Daly, Savannah Guthrie—I feel like I know them, but I don’t.
It’s drizzling, freezing cold, and you’ve missed the tide. The cabin is leaky and the stove won’t light. How do you keep the good vibes going?
Really, the only thing for it is to start telling funny stories.
Mike is whiz with stubborn stoves, I should add.
Forget the 10k or the steak knives. What does success look like for you and your team?
My Maslow’s Hierarchy of R2AK Success looks like this (from the bottom of the pyramid, working up): One, do this without loss of life or limb. Two, emerge on the back end still friends with Mike. Three, don’t get DQ’d in Stage 1. Four, make it to Ketchikan. Five, do something noteworthy. Really, it probably all boils down to avoiding embarrassment.
Defend your vessel. What makes it worthy?
It’s light, fast, and trailerable. Also, there is a cabin just big enough that if anyone needs to go below and rock back and forth and cry for a while, they can do that. On deck, of course, we will be calm, resolute, and steely eyed.
Blank space, baby. Share some things:
Sixteen years ago, Mike and I climbed Denali. He showed up in my driveway one fall afternoon on his bike, pulled the iPod earbud out of one ear (remember iPods?), and said, “Do you want to climb Denali next spring?” It was one of those questions you don’t have to think about.
We were on the glacier for 25 days. We worked hard, we met some cool people, we made it to the top. It was a heaping helping of type two fun, in short. Six months later, I am talking with Mike’s grandpa at Mike and Di’s rehearsal dinner, and he says, “Well I’m glad you boys got to climb Denali. It’s going to be different now.” And I was thinking, “Why would we stop now? We’re just getting going!” But he was right, of course. Grandparents often are.
So Mike settled into marriage, home ownership, and took on increasing responsibilities at the family construction business. I gadded about a few more years, but then got married also, had two children, and took on increased work duties as well.
And then came a rough patch for me starting in early 2017 where I sat with and cared for my dad for three weeks of hospice, and then navigated a divorce, and then was downsized from my job—all within a two year period. Since then, I’ve been reclaiming the old me, but a better version. I would call myself “sadder, but wiser, but happier.”
About 18 months ago a text from Mike popped up with a link to the R2AK website. “Hey, you want to do this?” I didn’t have to think.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say that Mike’s wife Di is a key crew member in this whole effort. She won’t be on the boat but she will be driving the trailer up to Ketchikan to scoop us. She is, as my dad used to say of people he particularly liked, “a good egg.”
Mike and Marty, may your friendship be forged by the trials of the Inside Passage and may your Big Day Out be worthy of a montage set to Hoku’s classic, “Perfect Day.”