One Man’s Journey Around Ireland With A Sea Kayak
Chris Duff has always been a man more at home in the water than out of it. He was working with the US Navy in Holy Loch, Scotland in 1982 when his enlistment interval ended. Confronted with the troublesome resolution of whether or not or to not re-enlist, he opted to return to civilian life. Quickly the dream of stone island new balance for sale an Irish journey would be born.
Chris tried a number of trades, at one level working in upstate New York as a butcher’s assistant to an previous couple from Eire. When he requested the place the previous man was from he was informed the Aran Islands. For these of us who love Eire it brings delightful visions of stone cottages and late night music sessions into our heads. The couple pulled a coffee table book off a shelf and opened it to some striking photos of the Aran Islands and its individuals – tough seas, steep rock cliffs, stone homes, pores and skin-lined boats referred to as currachs and rugged, wind-worn faces. Our man Chris was captivated by the wild sea surrounding that stunning island and a seed was sown in his mind that will grow and give delivery to a life-altering Celtic journey fourteen years later.
Chris’s resolution to kayak round Eire was not the primary such journey for him. He embodies the spirit of adventure that many of us solely dream about. He had kayaked around the US and Canada – twelve months and 8000 miles. He had also circumnavigated Great Britain – 5 and a half months and 3000 miles. Eire, nonetheless, with its wild seas and unprotected west coast, with highly effective waves assembly the primary landfall of Europe, could be a unique story solely.
The start line is Dublin’s well-known River Liffey on June 1, 1996. The sacred vessel of the journey, an eighteen foot sea kayak loaded with one hundred pounds of food, water and camping gear, a journal wrapped in plastic for safe keeping and a map of the Irish coast rigorously splash-guarded on the helm. As Chris begins his travels he shares with us his blessings – ten years of carpentry work had allowed him to save lots of enough to take this precious time off for this adventure, to “take the time and just be quiet for a few months.” Few of us have ever know that luxury however he has labored onerous for it and appreciates it; fortunate for us he shares each second so we will take pleasure in it vicariously via his words.
What struck me most about Chris’s writing is the thriller and wonder with which he regards the beauties of nature around him, significantly the west coast of Eire, the place stark cliffs are pounded by sturdy seas and winds whip wildly. At occasions he kayaks into sea caves alongside the coast and paddles within the semi-darkness and one feels his reverence for what nature has wrought in our landscape.
Eire’s coastline is simply mad with hen life, particular the islands off the coast. At one level a big-winged fulmar watches him curiously, floating within the air and staring him within the eyes. Chris says to him “You’re so stunning my pal. What have you ever seen and the place have you ever been right this moment ” There is a timelessness within the eyes of such a fowl, that could make us really feel our insignificance within the face of Mom Nature. Chris visits islands wealthy with hen colonies – cormorants, puffins, shags, fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots, gannets, razorbills – by the hundreds. They are all very tolerant of his presence and merely settle for him rather than flying right into a frenzy at his strategy as one would count on. It is a hen watcher’s paradise.
Alongside the journey, Chris visits numerous islands – some with names that sound familiar like Skellig Michael and Clare Island, others that are tiny dots on the ocean landscape. In foul weather he sits out the wind and waves, peering from his tent on the storm outside, ready for a break within the weather. He takes us with him as he sleeps in a beehive hut or paddles under a waterfall near Dingle Bay to take a cold freshwater shower or even goes religiously pub hopping from session to session in the busy pub town of Dingle.
What is remarkable is that unlike many with Irish ancestry, Chris Duff didn’t come to Ireland to seek his previous. He wished to enjoy a challenging kayaking journey and be alone with the winds and the waves. The powerful force of the Irish landscape and the Irish people, however, makes its mark upon him. He begins to really feel not only a sense of belonging however a way of surprise and of loss. As he walks through tangles of wildflowers on a deserted island, he comes across ruins of stone cottages and chapels and the history of the place pours forth to ensnare him as it has achieved to so many others. He muses:
“Across the slim waterway two stone house ruins stood bathed in the final rays of sun. The island, radiant in the evening light, looked as if it was an enchanted fairy tale land. Shadows of stone walls divided green meadows, and the cap of rock that broke by at the top of the island seemed like a spot the place fairies would possibly dance…”
I discovered it a pleasure to journey the circumference of the Emerald Isle with a philosophizing “American canoeist.” His courage in the face of the wild waves of the west coast is mind-boggling to a land lubber like myself. At one point he lands safely on some remote shore only to be greeted by a local emergency crew that was searching for him. Somebody had noticed him “struggling” within the waves and thought he was in distress. In the meantime he had been having the time of his life happily battling the waves!
The names of the landmarks of his journey ring like a cast of famous actors with cameos in a blockbuster film – Mizen Head, Dursey Head, the Skelligs, Dingle Bay, the Blaskets, The River Shannon, Galway Bay, the Cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands, Clare Island – and extra! The record goes on. It really is a solid of outstanding characters and keeps you guessing which one will walk on stage next.
When visiting the Blasket Islands, which were abandoned reluctantly by the villagers in the 1950’s, Chris feedback that in a kayak the paddler at all times sits going through ahead. In the standard Irish currach, nonetheless, the oarsmen face the rear of the boat and watch their wake. This last view of their island must have been quite painful for the villagers as they rowed further and further away from the ancestral house of their kin.
The individuals alongside the way in which are uniquely Irish. Each time Chris emerges from the sea, seemingly out of nowhere, he is met with remarks of disbelief. “You’ve come from Dublin in that ! I think y’er mad.” The kindness to strangers has always been the hallmark of Irish hospitality; thousands of years in the past it was truly mandated by the Brehon legal guidelines of the land. It merely appears second nature to a generous individuals. The fishermen who casually hand him a few lobster claws or some cleaned fish for his dinner, along with advice about his crossing. The housewife who makes him dinner and asks him to join the household by the hearth for a night time of storytelling. The couple who rise at daybreak to see him off on the subsequent leg of his journey. The fellow kayaker in Galway who provides him a place to stay and relax after a spell of bad weather and helps carry his heavy kayak through the crowded streets of the city. It’s only sadly within the north of Eire, the place the troubles have been nonetheless raging, the place his knock at a door is met with suspicion and worry somewhat than a smile and a warm welcome by the fire.
Eire is a revelation to our kayaker pal. He’s awed by the pure magnificence of windswept islands and cliff-lined coasts, drawn to the pleasant individuals, bewildered by the sheer quantity of historical past bursting from the seams of the panorama and humbled by the mysterious sacredness he feels. He has a reward for storytelling, for describing a scene right down to the final rays of the sun, that may properly be proof of his Irish ancestry.
To these who’re faint of coronary heart, there are scenes on this ebook which are truly harrowing. Chris paddles over waves that would frighten the be-jaysus out of you and me and navigates around submerged rocks that could puncture his wee kayak and drown him. However reality be informed, he does end his journey safely. Because the previous saying goes, he “lives to inform the tale.” So enjoy every beautiful and hair raising second of it!
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