Al Force ~ October 2013

Posted at 2:10 am on 06/30/2014
​Al Force

1) Where are you from?  Your profession? I was born on a tugboat in Elliot Bay (Seattle), Washington.  I changed professions like most men change their underwear.  I've spent most of my working life at sea or under it.  Probably my most interesting job was as a commercial submarine pilot.  (Yes, there really is such a thing and no, I was not in the Navy submarine service.)  My big claim to fame is being the first person to earn a captain's license for power, sail, and submarines.  I returned after living outside the US for 30 years and became an IT guy until I retired. 

2) When and how did you become interested in paddling? When we moved to Florida, it just seemed like such a perfect place for it. I rented kayaks a few times before buying my first and soon got completely out of control with it.

3) Where is your favorite place to paddle? In Florida, how can you choose among so many great places?  My wife Betsy's favorite is the Weeki Wachi and Smokey thinks the river camps along the Suwannee are really sweet.  Outside Florida, it would be the Green River in Utah, Baja, and Clayoquot Sound off Vancouver Island.

4) What's the most interesting thing that ever happened to you on a paddling trip? Smokey thinks it was being chosen as Miss Congeniality on Paddle Florida's first Peace River trip.  I lean toward a night spent on a chickee in the Everglades with a big bull gator under the floorboards during mating season.  Sounded like someone trying to start a generator every five minutes all night long. 

5) Tell us more about this 'Smokey' character and his introduction to paddling.  I wanted a dog as a companion for an active retirement and it was love at first sight.  I saw him at six weeks when he was just a ball of fluff with the eyes of a mischievious little 8-year-old boy looking back at me and I was hooked.  We brought him home two weeks later and put him in a Greenland II in the backyard a couple times before moving to the water.  Within a week he was feeling at home.  Two weeks after that we left Betsy behind and went on a three-month trip out west with light hiking and a lot of paddling.  A year later we hiked our first section of the Appalachian Trail together and haven't looked back since.

6) How many Paddle Florida trips have you gone on and to where? We've been on every trip Paddle Florida does, at least once, although Betsy got the flu on the Withlacoochee and we couldn't finish.  The one exception for Smokey (and Betsy) was the Keys Challenge, which might have been a bit much for them. 

7) What keeps you coming back? Are you kidding?  I was born on the water. 

8) Can you describe a particular paddling trip highlight? Camping with Smokey on an island off the west coast of Vancouver Island and listening to the wolves howling at night was definitely a "National G" moment.

9) What advice do you have for folks considering a Paddle Florida trip? Just do it (with apologies to Nike)!  It's the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

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