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Update on Traci Lynn Martin's Great Lakes Journey

Nov 10, 2017 09:25AM ● By Editor

Update on Traci Lynn Martin's journey to circumnavigate the Great Lakes.  By Ron Leonardi at

You can’t put a price on living your dream.

Traci Lynn Martin, 50, quit her job in March as a neonatal intensive-care unit nurse at a Kansas City, Missouri, hospital.

She cashed out $60,000 from a stock-option retirement fund and, on March 9, after two years of extensive planning, set out from Port Huron, Michigan, on a 4,500-mile journey to become the first person to set a world record by circumnavigating all five Great Lakes in one year on a surf ski.

So far, the competitive endurance kayaker, who suffers from severe rheumatoid arthritis, has paddled 3,500 miles and has put Lakes Michigan, Huron and Superior in her rear-view mirror.

Her journey, which she has dubbed “Just Around The Pointe,″ brought her Thursday to the Lake Erie shoreline near the Elk Creek Access in Girard Township, where she and two members of her support crew hung out and rested. Rough Lake Erie conditions prevented Martin from paddling Thursday.

“Physically, I’m holding up as good as can be expected considering what I am doing,″ Martin said. “I wake up every day and I hurt from my arthritis — my hands, my wrist, my shoulders. Some days I wake up and hurt from the arthritis from the spots that always hurt, and other days I wake up and I feel like I’m having what’s called a rheumatoid flare, where your whole body hurts, every single joint in your body hurts.″

On days when Martin wakes up and is hurting so bad, she doesn’t feel like paddling, what keeps her motivated are scores of inspiring messages she receives daily on Facebook from people urging her to continue her quest.

“I’m doing this because I’m a nurse, and when I used to work in a hospital ICU, a lot of patients would come into the hospital who had given up on life because their chronic illnesses can just be overwhelming,″ Martin said. “It’s hard to get them motivated to move, to keep being active because it hurts to be active, but it hurts when you’re not active, too.″

Her message to those who suffer from chronic illnesses is to never give up activities they love to do and never stop living their lives.

“You can choose to lay in bed and hurt, or you can choose to get up and do the things that you love and hurt,″ Martin said. “For me, at least, when I’m out paddling, and I’m doing activities that I really enjoy, it takes my mind off my physical discomfort, and I feel better and I feel like I have a much more fulfilling life. I’m trying to be a role model because I’ve been there.″

Martin also is trying to set a Guinness world record for the most miles paddled in a surf ski, which resembles a kayak but is typically longer, more narrow and lighter than a kayak. She is just 400 miles from breaking that record, which stands at 3,900 miles.

She has until Dec. 31 to eclipse the Guinness record and until March 9, 2018, to complete the remaining estimated 1,000 miles of her Great Lakes circumnavigation.

Martin’s surf ski is 19 feet in length, 18 1/2 inches wide and weighs about 45 pounds. It is equipped with an under-stern rudder so she can maneuver. The paddler sits on top of a surf ski instead of inside it.

“Originally, these boats were designed to be fast racing boats for the ocean,″ Martin said. “They’re ocean boats. They’re designed for the type of waves you encounter out here on the Great Lakes. You cannot swamp a surf ski, because as long as you’re paddling, the water drains out of the bottom.″

Martin entered Lake Erie on Oct. 19 and admits she has encountered more than her share of bad weather.

“This lake has given me more weather issues than any of the other lakes, but it’s November,″ Martin said. “I expected some weather issues, but I guess I didn’t expect this much.″

She paddled 40 miles from Madison, Ohio, to the Elk Creek Access area on Wednesday. Martin plans to take off Friday, paddle to Erie on Saturday, spend Saturday night in Erie, and continue her trek Sunday across the southern shore of Lake Erie.

Her plans include circumnavigating Lake Ontario clockwise, returning to Lake Erie to paddle across the lake’s northern shoreline and finishing her 4,500-mile journey at Gibraltar, Mich., on the Detroit River.

She circumnavigated Lake Superior in eight weeks, averaging about 35 miles of paddling each day.

Martin, who will return to her nursing job when she finishes her adventure, has spent most of her journey camping on shorelines or in a trailer hauled by support crew member Bill Noble, 68, a Kansas City resident.

“Since we’ve been on Lake Erie, there’s been so many people, now that my trip is more publicized, who are offering to let us stay in their homes,″ Martin said. “We’ve only had to stay in the camper a few times. This is not a mission of one. I’m just out there paddling. I couldn’t be this far without everyone helping me.″

Noble can relate to what Martin is attempting. He paddled 4,500 miles in a canoe across Canada in 1980-81.

“There are some long, slow days and there are stressful days wondering whether she’s all right, ″ Noble said. “I appreciated that experience I did in Canada so much, I wanted to make her experience happen doing the same thing. This has been fun. She’s a great woman to be around and share the experience with.″ 

Ron Leonardi can be reached at 870-1680 or by e-mail. Follow him on twitter at

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