Wanted: Adventurers to embark on a ninemonth small-boat voyage from Nicaragua to Cape Horn at the tip of South America.
Jacques Desjardins is putting together a modern-day Lewis and Clark expedition, streams in little craft, he'll tackle the Pacific Ocean with nine colleagues in four 16-foot outboard boats.
"I come from a little town outside Montreal where we all had little boats before we had cars to impress the girls," said the highspirited Desjardins. "When I was 19 years old I had a 12-foot boat and a 12-horsepower motor. I took it from Montreal to New York. After that I went to study in Europe. I have forgotten many beautiful monuments I was there, but I have never forgotten waking up on the Hudson River on an August morning, with New York in my grasp that day."
Desjardins has a degree in business administration and did postgraduate work at Amiens, France. He has worked as a highlevel bureaucrat in the Canadian government and as a top assistant for four years to the goverment of Caracas, Venezuela.
But the crowning achievement of his 39 years, to date, was the 2 1/2-year small-boat voyage he made in the early 1970s from Montreal to the Nicaraguan border. It is that journey he will be extending with the leg to Cape Horn.
Desjardins made that trip with two colleagues, almost all of it in one 16-foot boat. It took 2 1/2 years becaurse wherever they found an intriguing stop they took as long as they wanted to savor it.
"We had all of our lives to do that trip. We were tpp attracted to the beauty. It is time-consuming."
They had little money, but Desjardins had arranged through merchandisers to supply his food, fuel and the boats.
"If you have that and you live in tents, it is not expensive," he said. "The coast of Yucatan is not famous for ballet or theater. If you have a cold drink at the end of the day you are happy. You can spend hours talking to a fisherman about his octopus business.
"These people are so, how you say, 'frest'?"
Which is fine, as long as Desjardins and Co. don't run fresh out of luck.
The Nicaragua-Cape Horn voyage has expanded to four boats and Desjardins has recruited six stalwarts, including the woman he discovered and married in Mexico, to go along. There is room for two or three more, for whom the search is now on.
Jody Connolly, a blood, bright-eyed, 26-year-old public-school teacher from New London, and David Pessoni, 28, an ex-Navy scruba diver, have already been accepted. They were in Washington last week digging for recruits.
"Jacques' enthusiasm is what gets you," said Connolly. "He's got a lot of spirit. Once he starts talking you get swept up in it. There's things to be scared of, sure, but it's an adventure. There's more to get out of it than the risks. I figure when it's my time I'm going to go and there's nothing I can do about it."
Among things Desjardins has already managed to get out of it are a number of magazine article contracts, a book contract and a movie contract. "We figure when we get to Cape Horn, that's when the work begins," said Connolly.
They are looking for specific talents in the people they select. Needed are a nurse or doctor and a film or TV production specialists, along with anyone else with a specialty that can help. There is also some consideration being given to a land-support party of about three to follow the voyagers' course via Jeep along the South American coast.
It sounds on the surface as if a lot is still to be done before the late-June departure for Nicaragua. Desjardins still hasn't decided what boats and motors he'll select from a number of offrs from manufacturers.
He's sure of one thing. Whatever he selects will be small. Sixteen feet is about his limit.
The economics dictate that, in part, because small aluminum boats don't require a lot of gasoline. But beyond that, he feels that small boats give the group access to places and people they couldn't otherwise approach.
"We want to meet the people of the little villages. When we arrive in a little boat, these people are poor. We are on the same level with them. They feel we are brothers. And we are. We depend on them. We depend on their generosity to guide us to the next port, to share their knowledge - maybe their food."
And, says the fearless Canadian, "it's more adventurous, sure."
There is unlikely to be a more adventurous route anywhere to take a 16-foot boat on than a venture down the length of South America. And the worst will be last.Cape Horn is regarded by all sea captains who have experienced it as the most dangerous water in the world, where storms can spring up unannounced and whip the seas into 40-foot waves.
"The name of the game will be patience," said Desjardins. "It will be to wait for the weather and go when it is good. It is really rare, the parts of the world where there is never a good day. But who can talk of that? No one has ever been there in a small boat. We will do it, and then we will be able to speak.
"I will tell you this: After you have felt as I have once in your life, it is like a drug. You want to go back, eh?"