Thursday, December 31, 2015

Books I Read in 2015

The Twilight Zone - Volume Two: The Way In by J.Michael Straczynski ***
The Twilight Zone - Volume Three: The Way Back by J.Michael Straczynski ***
Terminator Salvation: The Final Battle Volume One by J.Michael Straczynski and Pete Woods **
Batman: Earth One by Geoff Jones and Gary Frank ****
The Abominable by Dan Simmons ****
Terminator Salvation: The Final Battle Volume Two by J.Michael Straczynski and Pete Woods **;
The Quantuum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi ***1/2
The Edge of Reason by Melinda Snodgrass *** 1/2
Harlan Ellison's The City on the Edge of Forever by Harlan Ellison, Juan Ortiz, Scott Tipton, David Tipton and J.K.Woodward ****
Cat Sense by John Bradshaw ***1/2
Ten Grand Volume 2 by J.Michael Straczynski, C.P. Smith and Mathew Dow Smith ***
Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson ***
Star Trek: The Newspaper Strips: The Complete Comics 1979-1981 by Thomas Wartenkin, Sharman DiVono and Ron Harris ***
Star Trek: The Newspaper Strips: The Complete Comics 1981-1983 by Sharman DiVono, Ron Harris, Thomas Wartenkin, Larry Niven, Padaric Shigetani, Martin Pasko, Gerry Conway, Bob Myers, Ernie Colon and Dick Kulpa **1/2
Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey ***
Tecumseh and Brock: The War of 1812 by James Laxer ***1/2
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King ***
Dead Wake by Erik Larson ****
Empire of Dust by Jacey Bedford **
Star Trek: Creating the Enterprise by Paul Olsen **
The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It by John W. Dean ***
Return to Tomorrow: The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Preston Neal Jones ****
Puget Sound Whales For Sale: The Fight to End Orca Hunting by Sandra Pollard ***1/2
Star Trek: New Visions Volume 2 by John Byrne ***1/2
Dark Lightning by John Varley ***1/2
We Don't Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy by Caseen Gaines ***
The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson ****
Burning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson ****
Lock In by John Scalzi ***1/2
The Longer I'm Prime Minister by Paul Wells ***1/2
The Martian by Andy Weir ***1/2
The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu ***1/2
Party of One by Michael Harris ***1/2
V-S Day by Allen Steele ***1/2
Teen Titans: Earth One: Volume One by Jeff Lemire, Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, Cam Smith and Brad Anderson ***
Space Chronicles by Neil DeGrasse Tyson **
Destroyermen: Into the Storm by Taylor Anderson ***
Destroyermen: Crusade by Taylor Anderson ***
Destroyermen: Maelstrom by Taylor Anderson ***
Destroyermen: Distant Thunders by Taylor Anderson ***
Destroyermen: Rising Tides by Taylor Anderson ***
Destroyermen: Firestorm by Taylor Anderson ***
Destroyermen: Iron Gray Sea by Taylor Anderson ***
Destroyermen: Storm Surge by Taylor Anderson ***
Destroyermen: Deadly Shores by Taylor Anderson ***
Superman - Earth One: Volume Three by J. Michael Stracynski, Ardian Syhf, Sandra Hope and Barbara Ciardo ***
Trumbo by Bruce Cook ***1/2
Don't Panic: ISIS, Terror and Today's Middle East by Gwynne Dyer ***
Hockey Night Fever by Stephen Cole ***
The Humbug Murders by L. J. Oliver **
Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest **1/2

Movies I Watched in 2015

Birdman ****1/2
Jupiter Ascending *1/2
Kingsman **1/2
Avengers: Age of Ultron ***
Mad Max: Fury Road ***
Inside Out *****
Mr. Holmes ****
The Martian ****
Crimson Peak ****
Star Wars: The Force Awakens ****

DVDs I Watched in 2015

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire **1/2
Senna ***
Twenty Feet From Stardom ****
Forks Over Knives ***
The Book Thief ***
Being There ***1/2
Game of Thrones Season 4 ****
Kayaking the Aleutians ****
The Boys From Brazil ***
The History of The Eagles ***
Grace and Frankie Season One ****
Gone Girl ***
The Who Live at Shea Stadium 1982 ***1/2
I am Evel Knievel ***1/2
Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries Season One ***
Searching for Sugarman ****
The Candidate ****
Queen: A Night at the Odeon ***
The Who Live at Hyde Park ***
For Your Consideration ***
Gorillas in the Mist ****

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Kayaking the Aleutians

Last year, Sarah Outen was rowing across the Pacific Ocean from Japan to British Columbia as part of her London2London human-powered global circumnavigation adventure. She had already kayaked from London across the English Channel, rode a bike across Europe and Russia, and had kayaked from Russia to Japan. Now, she was making her second attempt to row across the Pacific; her first attempt failed when her specially-designed row boat started leaking and she had to be rescued. Her second attempt was faring better, but the weather gods were not cooperating. After weeks on the water, she realized that the winds and currents were making eastward progress almost impossible. In fact, they were pushing her north towards Alaska. And that's when she improvised Plan B. Enlisting the aid of adventure kayaker and filmmaker Justine Curgenven, Sarah decided to put her rowboat ashore at the western tip of Alaska's Aleutian Islands, and kayak the length of the archipelago, up the Alaska panhandle to the nearest road so she could continue her human-powered adventure by bicycle. She and Justine spent 101 days kayaking 2500 kilometers in one of the most remote places on earth. Fortunately for the rest of us, Justine took along her cameras. Highlighted by the incredible and magnificent scenery of the Aleutian Island chain, Justine's new DVD, Kayaking the Aleutians, simply proves again what the kayaking community already knows: she is a marvelous filmmaker. Not only does she deftly capture the astounding natural environment such as the wild storms, the bear encounters, and the sea lions encroaching on their camp, she is equally adept and bringing out the human side of the story: her friendship with Sarah, the charming encounters with the locals, the joy at the end of a day of successful paddling, and the anxiety when the paddling day is on the brink of going seriously sideways. There were many such days, as Justine and Sarah had to deal with uncooperative currents, raging winds, and equipment failures, but, buoyed along by Sarah's seemingly unfailing optimism, the two friends completed a journey that the rest of us can only dream about. The DVD also contains four short bonus films; a windy paddle in Wales, kayaking in the Bay of Fundy with whales, and two films about kayaking in the waves at Tofino with The Hurricane Riders. Don't hesitate to check it out if you have a chance.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Books I Read 2014

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson***1/2
The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson ****
Among the Truthers by Jonathan Kay **
Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis ***
Ten Grand Volume 1 by J.Michael Straczynski, Ben Templesmtih and C.P. Smith ***1/2
Sidekick Volume 1 by J. Michael Straczynski, Tom Mandrake and HiFi ***1/2
Superman: Earth One Volume Two by J.Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis *** 1/2
The Adventures of Apocalypse Al by J. Michael Straczynski, Sid Kotian and Bill Farmer ***
Protectors Inc by J. Michael Straczynski, Gordon Purcell, Andrew Pepoy and Michael Atiyeh ***
Between Man and Beast by Monte Reel ***
The Fifth Assassin by Brad Meltzer ***
The Lost Whale by Michael Parfitt and Suzanne Chisholm *****
The Human Division by John Scalzi ****
Existence by David Brin ***
These Are The Voyages Volume 2 by Marc Cushman *****
Moonfire by Norman Mailer *****
Cockpit Confidential by Patrick Smith ***
The Year Without Summer: 1816 and the Volcano That Darkened the World and Changed History by William K. Klingman and Nicholas P. Klingman ***
The Point Man by Steve Englehart ***
The Further Adventures of an Idiot Abroad by Karl Pilkington ***1/2
Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour by David Bianculli ***1/2
The Twilight Zone Volume One: The Way Out by J.Michael Straczynski ***
Before Watchmen: The Nite Owl/Dr. Manhattan by J.Michael Straczynski, Adam Hughes, Andy Kubert, Joe Kubert, Bill Sienkiewicz and Eduardo Risso ***1/2
Nation Maker: Sir John A. MacDonald: His Life, Our Times by Richard Gwyn ****
Canada in the Great Power Game 1914-2014 by Gwynne Dyer *****
Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser ****
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie ****
Ice Storm: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Vancouver Canucks Team Ever by Bruce Dowbiggin ***
The Morning After: The 1995 Quebec Referendum and the Day that Almost Was by Chantel Hébert with Jean Lapierre ***
God, No! by Penn Jillette *1/2
Star Trek: New Visions by John Byrne ***
The Star Wars by J.W. Rinzler, Mike Mayhew, Rain Beredo, Michael Heisler, Nick Runge and George Lucas ****
Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story by Robyn Doolittle *** 1/2
The Lost Fleet: Dauntless by Jack Cambell ***1/2
Supervolcano: Eruption by Harry Turtledove ***
These Are The Voyages Volume 3 by Marc Cushman *****

Movies I Watched 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier ***1/2
The Grand Budapest Hotel ****
X-Men: Days of Future Past ***1/2
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ****
Guardians of the Galaxy *****
Lucy ***
St. Vincent ***1/2
The Imitation Game ****
The Hobbit: The Battles of the Five Armies ***1/2

DVDs I Watched 2014

The World's End ****
Blackfish *****
Game of Thrones: Season Three ****
Iron Man Three ***
Thor: The Dark World ***
The Tooth Fairy *
Philomena ****
X-Men: First Class ****
The Who: Quadrophenia Live in London 2013 *****
Jodorowsky's Dune ****
Queen Live at the Rainbow '74 ****
Iron Sky ***
Rush ***1/2
Sensation: The Story of The Who's Tommy ***1/2
Godzilla (1954) ****
Frozen ***

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Blackfish

It's difficult to watch Blackfish, the recent film concerning the continued captvity of orcas, and of one orca in particular, Tilikum, whose life in captivity, and the tragedies that have occured since, began here in Victoria. As noted in my review of the book Death at SeaWorld, Tilikum was involved in the first death of an orca trainer, which occured at the local Sealand of the Pacific attraction in 1991. When Sealand closed the next year, Tilikum and the other orcas were sold to SeaWorld. In 1999, a dead man was found sprawled across Tilikum's back -- apparently the man snuck into SeaWorld after hours and climbed into Tilikum's pool -- and in 2010 Tilikum dragged a trainer into water and killed her. Using interviews with former SeaWorld trainers, orca experts and others, as well as footage of SeaWorld performances -- some that went well, others not -- the film traces the history of capturing orcas for display and performance with particular attention to Tilikum, and explores whether it is even possible to safely keep orcas in captivity and whether we should even try. Blackfish is a sad and mesmerizing film with no easy answers, but is well worth your time and attention.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sea Kayak With Gordon Brown Volume 3

Film-maker and podcaster Simon Willis and kayaking coach Gordon Brown round out their trilogy of kayaking coaching films with their latest offering, Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown Volume 3. This third chapter differs from the previous two which consisted of an expedition film intertwined with coaching segments. This third volume does away with the expedition segment, and instead presents three films and and a rolling coaching segment. The first film is on Emergency Situations, and presents two scenarios where emergency personnel have to be called to perform a rescue. Much of this film is presented from the point of view of rescue personnel and I've never seen anything quite like this in a kayaking video. This is a terrific segment, with lots of important tips and information presented. This segment alone is worth the price of admission. For those of us who have been lucky enough to not have needed rescue, it was certainly eye-opening to hear the thoughts of rescue personnel, many of them also kayakers, of what kayakers can do to assist rescuers in emergency situations. Equally informative was a short scene near the end when the rescue personnel displayed their own emergency kayaking kits. A shorter but related film has a member of the Wilderness Emergency Medical Services Institute display the first aid gear he carries, as well as a couple of demonstrations of first aid situations. Some of the gear displayed is intended only for trained personnel, and a DVD is not going to replace actual first aid certification, but it is interesting to see what gear other people carry and the techniques they use. I'm certainly going to add some electrical tape to our first aid kit after watching this. In the third film Gordon is joined by Franco Ferrero for a segment on navigation. A DVD is not going to replace a proper sea kayak navigation course, but the information regarding navigation concepts and tides are well-presented here. Finally, the rolling segment is structured very differently. After a few exercises and roll demonstrations, the premise behind this segment is that the viewer will practice rolling with a spotter, as well as someone with a video-camera who will record the practice session. The viewer will then compare his own videos to the videos on the the DVD, using the troubleshooting section to identify mistakes, and then try to incorporate the fixes suggested. For instance, your roll might be failing, but why? Comparing your video to the common mistakes illustrated on the DVD, you may discover that your paddle is not at the correct angle and is diving down into the water instead of the staying at the service. You move to the fixes section and some tips are provided for you to try on keeping your paddle at surface level. At the risk of repeating myself, no DVD will ever replace having a certified instructor coaching you live and in the flesh, but the approach taken here is unique. Is it effective? We have yet to try it as designed by filming ourselves, but it seems like it should be a benefit to troubleshooting your roll (or lack of it). This is another winning DVD from Gordon and Simon and, taken as a set, the three Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown DVDs are as comprehensive a set of kayaking video tutorials as you are ever likely to find.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Death at SeaWorld

Is there a benefit to keeping orcas in captivity? From a very narrow point of view, there probably is, as thousands of people can see these magnificent creatures who probably would never get the chance to. But what they are seeing is not typical orca behaviour in the wild; there are seeing glorified circus animals doing tricks and stunts far removed from their normal behaviours. And though the risk to trainers is now abundantly obvious, what of the risk to the physical, and perhaps more important, the mental health of the whales? Can intelligent, social and vocal animals with huge natural ranges be housed in what are essentially giant bathtubs, either in isolation or with unfamilliar orcas from different lineages with whom they can't communicate, without going a little nuts? As a child growing up here in Victoria, one of the most popular tourist attractions in city was Sealand of the Pacific. And perhaps the Sealand experience is a microcosm of the story of orcas in capitivity. Nowhere is that question of captivity more relevant than in the history of Sealand, and in the deaths of Miracle, and Keltie Byrne. Miracle was a young juvenile orca found alone, shot, and starving on the east coast of Vancouver Island in 1977. She was captured and moved to Sealand, a six hour drive on the back of a flat bed truck. She survived the trip, but when she was released into a tank at Sealand, she sank to the bottom of the pool. Rescuers pulled her to the surface, and she began a long and difficult road to return to health, but she beats the odds. A Miracle. She eventually became a star attraction at Sealand, but in January, 1982, she somehow became entangled in the nets of her sea pen and drowned. Keltie Byrne was a trainer at Sealand. In late 1991, she slipped and fell into a tank with Tilikum and two other orcas. Sealand, unlike SeaWorld, did not do any water training -- the trainers never went in the water with the whales -- so having a trainer in the water was a new situation for the whales. Tilikum took her under the water and held her there, blocking her escape from the tank. Eventually all three whales began playing with their visitor. It took hours to retrieve Keltie's body from the pool. She was the first trainer ever killed by a captice orca. Sealand closed within a year. Tilikum was sold to SeaWorld. This is a heck of a lot of back story to get into for a book review, but David Kirby's Death at SeaWorld opens with Keltie's death, and Tilikum would go to even greater infamy, causing two more deaths at SeaWorld, including the title incident of the book. These are astonishingly intelligent creatures, as evidenced by a chapter when the author relates the story of a scientist running visual and aural training on two recently captured orcas and it quickly became apparent that in actuality the orcas were running tests on the scientist. Equally astonishing is the utter ignorance with which orca trappers went about their work in the 1960s and 1970s. Working under the mistaken assumption that the local waters contained hundreds if not thousands of orcas, on one memorable day trappers netted almost all of the local resident orcas in one net. Some they let go, some they took away to transport to interested aquariums, some they killed, tying concrete blocks to their bodies so they would sink. They conceivably could have sold or killed all of them, not realizing that it indeed would have been all of them, all of the local residents. It wasn't until a few years later in the the mid-1970s that scientists actually counted the local orcas, and were surprised to discover how few of them there really are. For anyone interested in the history of humanity's relationship with a fellow mammal, this should be required reading. The book tends to get bogged down with the legal ramifications of Tilikum's behaviour in its last third, but is utterly fascinating with its twin tales of modern orca research and the history of orcas in captivity. Here's some bonus content. These are pictures my father took at a show at Victoria's Sealand of the Pacific in the fall of 1971. I'm not positive which whale is pictured. It's not Tilikum, and my guess is it's probably Haida.

1971 Sealand Oak Bay 1971 Sealand Oak Bay (3) 1971 Sealand Oak Bay (2)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Kayak Across the Atlantic

In June of 2000, Pete Bray launched from St. John's. Newfoundland in an attempt to be the first person to kayak solo and unsupported across the Atlantic Ocean. Within a few hours, his kayak cabin was flooding, the cockpit was leaking, all his electronics including his communications gear was wrecked, and he was forced to take to his life raft, whose bottom was ripped and also leaking. And that's just the first eight pages of his book. Fortunately, [SPOILER ALERT] Pete was quickly rescued and tried a second and [SPOILER ALERT] more successful attempt in 2001. His memoir of his crossing is a short but enjoyable read, describing the preparations for both attempts, as well as the lessons learned from the aborted first attempt. He tells the tale of his 76-day crossing in a breezy and relaxed fashion, from the solar-powered gear that had trouble recharging because the sun never shined, to the publicist who had a strange aversion to seeking publicity. His tome is light and slim, but if you enjoy expedition stories, this is worth checking out.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Books I Read in 2013

Slow Apocalypse by John Varley ****
Supergods by Grant Morrison **1/2
The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer ***
The Inexplicables by Cherie Priest ***
Redshirts by John Scalzi ***1/2
Vortex by Robert Charles Wilson ***
Paddle by Jasper Winn ****
Escape From Hell by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle *1/2
Without Warning by John Birmingham ***
The Wind Through The Keyhole by Stephen King ***1/2
Gandhi & Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age by Arthur Herman ***1/2
Life Itself by Roger Ebert *****
Empire State by Adam Christopher **1/2
The Map of Time by Fekix J. Palma ****
This Crazy Time by Tzeporah Berman ***
Saving Cascadia by John J. Nance *1/2
Blockade Billy by Stephen King ***
Superman Earth One - Volume One by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis ***
Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre ***
Emperor: Time's Tapestry Book One by Stephen Baxter ***
Conqueror: Time's Tapestry Book Two by Stephen Baxter ***
Navigator: Time's Tapestry Book Three by Stephen Baxter ***
Weaver: Time's Tapestry Book Four by Stephen Baxter ****
Searching for the Finmen by Norman Rogers ***1/2
2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson **
Death at SeaWorld by David Kirby ****
Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris by Ian Kershaw ****
Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis by Ian Kershaw ****
Strap Hanger by Taras Grescoe ****
Kayak Across the Atlantic by Pete Bray ***
The Casandra Project by Jack McDevitt and Mike Resnick **
These are the Voyages - Volume 1 by Marc Cushman *****
Orr: My Story by Bobby Orr ***
Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie ****

Movies I Watched in 2013

The Great and Powerful Oz ***
Oblivion **
Star Trek Into Darkness *** 1/2
Man of Steel ***1/2
The Lone Ranger *
Gravity *****
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug ***

DVDs I Watched in 2013

Doctor Who: Season Five ***
Game of Thrones: Season Two ****
This is the Sea 5 ****
The King's Speech ****
Pacific Rim ****
Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown Volume 3 ***
The Right Stuff *****
Despicable Me 2 ***1/2

Thursday, December 05, 2013

A Dip in the Ocean

In April 2009, Susan Outen began a four-month solo paddling odyssey across the Indian Ocean from Australia to Mauritius. Mourning the death of her father, she paddled in his honour, raising money for charity. And she wrote a pretty fine book, too. Through her charm and self-deprecating wit, Sarah writes of her preparations, her rocky start, her customs troubles, her 500 chocolate bars, the long lonely voyage and the voyage's rocky but [SPOILER ALERT] successful conclusion. Her spirit and determination shine through the pages of her story. So what does the first woman and youngest person to paddle across the Indian Ocean do for an encore? Currently she's making her way around the world on human power. Follow her adventure on Twitter, or at her London2London web site.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Paddle to the Amazon

In June of 1980, Don Starkell and his teenaged-son Dana embarked on an adventure they had been planning for years: to canoe from Winnipeg, in the middle of the Canadian prairie, to the mouth of the Amazon River in Brazil. Even after finishing Don's book, it still sounds like a crazy idea. Paddle the Red River upstream from Winnipeg, portage to the Mississippi River system, down the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico, around the Gulf and down the coast of Central and south America, then up the Orinoco River into the heart of Venezuela, then back down the Rio Negro and the Amazon to the sea. 2 years. 12,000 miles. 20,000,000 paddle strokes. Yet somehow, they pulled it off. Between the arduous paddling, the over-zealous soldiers and policía, terrible weather, and bouts of near-starvation and intestinal upsets, Don and Dana somehow survive, not always because of Don's skill as an expedition leader (or some may say lack thereof), but often only thanks to the kindness and generosity of some of the poorest people on the planet. Don's diary is a classic story of adventure and survival against insane odds. Well worth checking out.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown - Volume 2

The second volume of Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown recently arrived in the mailbox, and has been taken for a spin on the DVD player. Like the first volume, the DVD is really two films in one -- one features Gordon taking a group of kayakers around the Scottish Islands of St. Lida, the second features Gordon demonstrating rescue and towing techniques. You can also watch the expedition and the lesson section separately as independent features, or as one long film. The expedition portion takes us to the islands of St. Kilda, a small group of islands forty miles of the coast of northern Scotland. Here, Gordon and his group tour an amazing group of islands and stunning stacks, caves and channels. It’s a stunningly beautiful area, and clearly made to be explored by kayaks. The lesson portion demonstrates rescue techniques, both solo and assisted, as well as towing techniques and even a few balance exercises, demonstrated in both calm and rough waters. These lessons are excellently presented and easy to follow (although it must be said that Brown’s brogue occasionally left some in our viewing group asking the others “what did he say?” I didn’t have that issue. Your mileage may vary.) The towing lessons were full of ideas that we’re eager to try next time we have a practice session, and the importance of practicing is brought home by a couple of unplanned tip-overs and tows that occured during filming sessions which necessitated some real assisted rescues and tows. If you enjoyed Volume 1, you’ll love this. It’s a terrific display of safety measures that ought to be seen by kayakers of all abilities.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Fat Paddler

Sean Smith and I share a couple of similarities. We both kayak, we both overcame injuries to continue kayaking, and we're both, er, not so thin. But there are some differences as well; the injuries Sean suffered were far more serious than mine, and he's written a great book about his experiences. In The Fat Paddler, Sean recounts the two life-threatening car accidents that curtailed his physical activity and lead him into a spiral of depression. Unable to continue playing rugby after his second accident, he hurt too much, ate too much, drank too much and smoked too much until he rediscovered kayaking. And it quite probably saved his life. Sean tells his story is a breezy and engaging manner, not shying away from the dark moments in his life, but not dwelling on them either, and presents the story of his recovery through kayaking in an entertaining style. He takes us through his accidents and his long recoveries, his being witness to a terrorist bombing, the lingering after-effects of his injuries, and the decline in his health and his spirit, but he also takes us through the to the other side as he re-engages with his family, his life and himself. And there's some yummy recipes in the back of the book. There's no grand adventure here, no deep ocean crossing or a circumnavigation first, just a bloke who re-awakens his soul and rediscovers his zest for life through the sport that he loves.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

South Solo

Three years ago, Hayley Shephard set out on an expedition to paddle solo around South Georgia Island, a remote island in the south Atlantic. Looked at strictly as an expedition, one could make the case that it was an abject failure. A serious injury to a crew member of her support vessel almost scuttled the paddle before it began, and the delay while a replacement was found left Hayley with a reduced weather window. Her primary kayak was smashed up during delivery. Held up by high winds, she was unable to complete her circumnavigation before she had to fly home, and she completed only about one-third of of her expected distance. But, as the old Rush lyric goes, “the point of the journey is not to arrive,” and the point of Hayley’s journey was to publicize the plight of the albatross. In her book South Solo: Kayaking to Save the Albatross, Hayley describes how endangered species of albatross are struggling to survive as increased fishing takes its toll on them as they fatally strike hooked bait fish on longlines, and as we continue to poison our oceans...and theirs. In her book, Hayley takes us through her expedition planning, her travel to the south Atlantic, and the tribulations that almost scuttled the whole expedition before it began. But it’s her encounters with the South Georgia wildlife during her truncated sojourn that stand out for me, as she wonderfully describes encounters with penguins, seals, and, of course, albatross. (And the book has some terrific colour pictures, something I wish more kayaking books would have. But I digress.)

Thursday, September 05, 2013

This is The Sea 5

At the risk of repeating myself and others, there's no one making better kayaking films than Justine Curgenven. And certainly there can't be many kayakers who travel to so many varied places, or have as much fun while doing it. Perhaps that's her secret as a film-maker; she's so effective at showing the joys of her kayaking adventures in her films, but also doesn't shy away from the emotional toll when things go wrong either. Her latest collection, This is The Sea 5, has just been released and should be on every paddler's "must see" list. The eight films are divided evenly between shorter kayaker profiles, and longer expedition pieces. Of the shorter pieces, I really enjoyed the feature on Harry Whelan surfing ferry wakes along the Thames -- what a cool idea! But for me, the highlight is always the expedition films, and there are some great ones featured here, from the beginning legs of Sarah Outen's attempt to circle the world on human power, to Justine and Barry Shaw circumnavigating Sardinia. The highlights are Justine's and Barry's attempt to paddle around the remote island of Tierra del Fuego, a wonderfully told story that is at times as disheartening as it is triumphant. But perhaps the gem of the DVD is a kayaking tour around some volcanic islands in Sicily which is one of the best touring films I've seen in awhile, a great blend of kayaking and sight-seeing, with an ample helping of Sicilian culture. Run, don't walk, to the website and order this dvd. Watch it, and rediscover why you fell in love with kayaking in the first place.