Heading for Halifax, and Kayaking for a Cause


A KAYAKER heading into the last leg of a historic 14-month, 6,800-mile journey for charity made Manchester’s Black Beach his home for the night on Sunday.   At first light the next day, he packed up his tent, pulled his vessel into the water and left Kettle Cove for the cut bridge in Gloucester with a plan to make it to Halifax in Nova Scotia by early August.

This is a full-circle adventure for Mark Ervin Fuhrman of Oslo, Norway, who left Halifax in June 2022.  In 240 days of paddling, he’s covered St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes.  He has made his way down the entirety of the Illinois, Mississippi, Tennessee and Tombigbee Rivers before banging a left at the Gulf of Mexico and, hugging the eastern seaboard of the United States, made it all the way to Cape Ann. 

“The route has been attempted before, but never completed by kayak in its entirety,” he says. “But, as anyone that knows me will attest to, I like a bit of a challenge!  Especially when it’s for such good causes.”

He’s done this all alone in his kayak, surrendering to nature, the limitations of a tiny vessel, and the mercy of others. 

Fuhrman is calling his journey the “Reverse the Bad” tour.  At 65 years old, he believes “99.5 percent of people” are good.  He says regardless of anyone’s history, there’s always tomorrow and the opportunity to do the right thing in one’s life, one’s community, and in one’s environment. 

Well, there’s nothing like a solo trip traversing thousands of miles of waterways to test that theory.

The Greater Loop

Fuhrman looked at a map and decided to tackle a continuous North American waterways loop called “The Great Loop.”  It’s been called “the last great adventure in North America,” popular with pleasure boaters who go up the Atlantic seaboard to the St. Lawrence River, through historic canals, across the Great Lakes, down the inland rivers to the Gulf of Mexico, and around Florida. These “Great Loopers” are a club.

But Fuhrman isn’t a typical Great Looper.  First, Great Loopers are a club of power boats, not paddlers in kayaks.  He started in Canada, not Florida, which is more typical.  In the end, it’s been a greater challenge, which is perhaps why Fuhrman added an “er” to his adventure: “The Greater Loop.”

Fuhrman said he’s met incredible people along the way, and it’s clear people have embraced his adventure, his causes, and Fuhrman himself, who has been regularly posting a video diary of his adventures on YouTube.  He’s paddled in the remotest areas of this country, and he’s paddled past the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.  He has slept outside, in garages, and in guest rooms of wealthy people.

The most challenging portion of the journey came last fall, as Fuhrman passed Chicago.  The river wasn’t frozen, but the air was cold.  Very cold. 

It was hard.  Very hard.  Every day closer to the Gulf of Mexico was a welcome turn in tolerability.

“My favorite ‘s’ word isn’t a curse word,” he said cheekily.  “South.  That is my favorite ‘s’ word.” 

Life Lessons About Now

Originally from Canada, Fuhrman moved to Norway 37 years ago.  He’d followed a girl, an orthopedic surgeon from Oslo.  They married and had two daughters and a son, and Fuhrman has enjoyed a successful career running a maritime industry PR firm.  Ten years ago, Fuhrman’s wife died from brain cancer. 

Fuhrman has raised about a hundred thousand dollars paddling for Doctors Without Borders and another organization, “Captains Without Borders,” a relatively new charity that provides maritime training in large vessel operations to underprivileged young women.  Last year, seven women from Ukraine completed training with the organization.

Fuhrman has paddled nearly every day, and he says that long stretches of being alone has been like medicine.  Last month, however, he took three weeks off for some company, flying from Boston to visit his elderly father in Vancouver.  His 23-year-old son, Phillip, joined him from Oslo, and—perhaps characteristically—the pair embarked on an adventure all their own, a road trip through the Canadian Rockies to Banff in Alberta.

His three grown children miss him.  But also they appreciate their father’s inclination for adventure.  Fuhrman’s eldest daughter has young children.  He misses them all and jokes that perhaps his daughter misses the babysitting support more than anything else.

Besides memories, Fuhrman’s journey has amassed a loose confederation of supporters beyond those who have contributed money to his charities.  One couple from Pennsylvania doing The Loop met Fuhrman near Chicago.  They became friends, and for the next several months, they tracked together down the Mississippi and even leap-frogged each other as he paddled up the East Coast.  In Massachusetts, Fuhrman discovered he couldn’t traverse the Cape Cod Canal (due to federal regulations).  A local kayaker and follower of his YouTube diaries came down with a trailer and helped, hauling Fuhrman and his gear from Bourne to a safe launch south of Boston.

Last week, that same friend on Cape Cod met Fuhrman when he returned from Vancouver at Logan Airport, bringing his kayak and gear to a launch in Winthrop so he could continue north toward Halifax.

Thirty miles or so later, paddling into Kettle Cove in Manchester, Fuhrman met local residents Joan and Bob Lockwood as they sat on Black Beach.  They chatted and learned Fuhrman’s story.  Later, they brought him some fruit and a beer and gave him information on tides and the challenges of the cut bridge at the Gloucester Boulevard. 

“I found him so inspiring,” said Joan. 

Two more folks in the confederation of Fuhrman’s supporters.

In his “day life,” Mark Fuhrman is an accomplished 30-year veteran in PR and marketing in the marine industry.  He’s also an author currently writing two books under a pen name, “Mark Ervin,” that includes a novel and a book of life lessons tentatively titled “Rethinking Life While You Sit.” 

One lesson in the book?  Well, Fuhrman said, so much of ability is based on health, and that has little to do with money.  As a result, people should never wait to do something they’ve always wanted to do, because, if they wait too long then health just might get in the way.

That’s a pretty great lesson.

Follow Mark’s journey on YouTube or at mark-ervin.com

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