It was a quiet Sunday morning, August 15, 2016, and a thin fog, lit only by the dim glow of dawn, was lingering over the glassy water of Wisconsin’s St. Croix River. The sun had not yet risen and the only sounds were birds singing in the wooded valley and the whisper of the river. The sun began to lighten the sky as it came above the tall cliffs looming over the river, and its first rays caused the fog to slowly dissipate and reveal bright green trees. My life partner Kyle Hawkins and I had gathered with his parents and mine and his sister at the river’s edge to launch SØLVI, the 20′ faering we’d built in a shed in my parents' side yard.Holding the painter, I waded up to my knees while gliding the boat off the trailer. After we said our goodbyes I hopped aboard, took my position at the oars and Kyle shoved us off. We drifted while waving goodbye to our families, then rowed until they were just specks on the shoreline. Ahead was a long river of unknowns—a journey under oars and sail from Wisconsin to the Gulf of Mexico.We rowed SØLVI downstream together. The water's surface was calm and blue, reflecting the luscious green of trees thick with leaves on the shorelines, yet we were enjoying our new boat as much as the landscape. Building it had consumed hundreds of Western red cedar strips and 1,400 hours of work over three months, and now the endless hours of sanding were paying off as the wood glowed in the midday sun, the varnish glistening, color radiating from each strip.

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