Monday, January 30, 2012

A Legend Passes On

One of Canada's most famous, most determined, and possibly most crazy, paddlers died of cancer this weekend. Don Starkell of Winnipeg was famous for several paddling achievements in his lifetime.  He was a marathon paddler at a time when racing canoes was a big deal and you could even make a living at it.  He paddled across Canada in 1967 as a member of Manitoba's team in the Centennial Canoe Pageant and features prominently in the book Journals of the New Voyageurs.  In 1980-82 he paddled with his son Dana (initially paddling with both sons in their custom-made canoe) from Winnipeg to the mouth of the Amazon, an incredible journey documented in his captivating book, Paddle to the Amazon.  A decade later he undertook another mammoth expedition, this time sea kayaking the Northwest Passage.  Again the journey was documented in his book Paddle to the Arctic, as well as in the book Kabloona in a Yellow Kayak written by the late Victoria Jason who joined him for much of the journey.

Each of the books mentioned are among the most interesting and captivating paddling-related books that I own.  If you read Paddle to the Arctic, you really need to read Jason's account (a rebuttal of sorts) as well.

Had I ever met Don in person, I am not sure that we would have gotten along.  However, despite his quirks and foibles (or more likely, because of them), it cannot be denied that Don was an amazing man.  His determination and ambition meant that he accomplished in his lifetime what very few would ever be able to undertake let alone complete.  He made the paddling world a more interesting and exciting place, and I thank him for allowing me to experience his adventures vicariously through his books.

Here is the link to the Winnipeg Free Press article about Don's death.

Edit: Here is a link to an article from Canoe & Kayak Magazine, it's a good one.