Don Starkell article

AM

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The CBC is running an article that looks back at Don Starkell’s canoe trip from Winnipeg to the Amazon in 1980. If you’ve read Don’s own account of the trip, Paddle to the Amazon, you’ll be familiar with the details, but the article offers a good overview:


Don also wrote Paddle to the Arctic about his kayak journey from Hudson’s Bay to the Northwest Passage. His companion on the first stage of that trip, Victoria Jason, comes in for some intense criticism. Victoria wrote her own account, Kabloona in the Yellow Kayak, in which she returns the favour, painting Don as a pretty difficult paddling companion. Experienced trippers know that, without laying blame one way or the other, some people just aren’t meant to paddle together.

Cheers,
Andrew
 

kayakwriter

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I met both Don and Victoria before they passed on. (I appear very briefly in her book Kabloona in the Yellow Kayak.)

My paddling partner from that abortive trip and I met Don a bit before that at an outdoor show where he was selling the Paddle To The Amazon book and promoting his upcoming Arctic paddle. My buddy and I were there showing off rolls and trick strokes in the pool. Between shows, we chatted with Don about his upcoming trip. It came up that he didn't know how to roll or even do a re-entry, so we offered to take him out in local Vancouver waters and show him the basics. Our offer was spurned because he was convinced he would never capsize. Those who've read the book know how that worked out.

It's been years since I've read Paddle To The Arctic but as I recall there's a scene in it where Don is just outside Tuktoyaktuk and the ice is closing in for the season. He reluctantly concludes he must finish paddling for the year and accepts a plane lift back to Tuk. In 1993, the year I was up there (the trip with the Polar bear attack for those who know me), I had a chance to chat to that plane pilot. He described a gibbering, resistant and half-mad Don being more or less manhandled into the plane by a local mountie.

I think the kindest word you could use to describe Don would be "driven." And it's true that's often the key to achieving great things. But I think it's telling that neither Victoria nor his own son would paddle with him again. It's one thing to put yourself at risk with your adventures, quite another to endanger others. I remember Victoria being quite angry in retrospect at how close he'd come to killing them both.
 

nootka

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The telling part about Don's arctic trip is where he convinces himself that the sun is rising in the west; he couldn't possibly be paddling in the wrong direction. As I recall, this went on for three days.
 

JohnAbercrombie

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The telling part about Don's arctic trip is where he convinces himself that the sun is rising in the west; he couldn't possibly be paddling in the wrong direction. As I recall, this went on for three days.
Depending on the latitude and month, it can be less than obvious since the sun can seem to "rise" and "set" - i.e. get higher or lower - from the same general area of the horizon.
So perhaps there is some excuse...
But, I've read The Starkell books and I wouldn't want to be on a trip with a person exactly like him!
:)
 

RobertNPruden

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I have read both of Don's books and I have read Kabloona...I believe Victoria. In fact, my kayak, the VJ Guardian Spirit, is named, in part, for Victoria Jason. I did the same thing she did: headed off into the unknown (at least unknown in our heads) and did what I wanted to do to get through the journey...Victoria's journey was far more dangerous than mine but mine had its own risks...if you know me then you know what I mean. I thought Don was irrationally headstrong and sometimes downright dangerous to himself. I did like the ideas he had about doing interesting trips.

Robert N Pruden
 

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nootka

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Depending on the latitude and month, it can be less than obvious since the sun can seem to "rise" and "set" - i.e. get higher or lower - from the same general area of the horizon.
So perhaps there is some excuse...
But, I've read The Starkell books and I wouldn't want to be on a trip with a person exactly like him!
:)
Victoria knew they were paddling in the wrong direction, but was unable to convince Don.
 

dr_penner

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I live in Starkell's hometown of Winnipeg. A local sea kayak instructor knew Don and said he would never under any circumstances paddle with him. Said he would never think to rescue another in need.
 
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