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Helping the children of Baja California, mile by mile...

A Letter from Herman

The Arctic Passage Paddle Update

I want to take this opportunity to thank all contributors, sponsors, followers and supporters who combined efforts last year to make the paddle possible. Your contributions were, and still are, greatly appreciated.

The 2014 portion of The Paddle was a unique life experience; without question, the most interesting aspect was the people I met along the way. I was able to sample a little of life up north by interacting with the Inuit and all the others who have made it their home.

It was also physically challenging; from the long drive up Baja, Mexico to the Northern Territories in Canada, to the unseasonably hot weather along the southern part of the route, to an inflamed hamstring frequently causing me to get out of the kayak to stretch and relax the muscle. The pain was finally unbearable. I was able to reach the hospital in Inuvik and the attending physician advised that it would be irresponsible to try to continue paddling, especially since the next section would be on the Arctic Ocean where the paddling conditions are much more challenging than on the river.

I started a period of rehabilitation in Inuvik while waiting for my wife to make an early return from visiting relatives in Europe. The healing of my hamstring has been a slow and laborious process, but with steady improvement, I am now close to full recovery.

Leaving in the middle of August, we visited the Feathercraft factory in Vancouver, Canada and I tested their latest designs in improved seating options (Feathercraft is the recognized leader of designers and builders of folding kayaks). Since returning to Baja in early September 2014, I was preparing for the 2015 Arctic Ocean paddle and adapting my kayak seat for my hamstring issues.

In November 2014, a devastating occurrence completely changed my life, and with it my plans for the paddle in 2015; my wife, Marijke, suffered a stroke. She is recuperating very well but it will be at least 12 months before she will be completely recovered and we may face some remaining deficiencies. As a result, I have to cancel the continuation of my Arctic paddle for 2015. It hurts me to cut the paddle short and disappoint everyone, but I am sure that you will understand that my wife's return to full health is my priority for the foreseeable future. 

My special thanks and appreciation go to the team of the Baja Blues Fest Organization. These people have selflessly and with a great effort created and maintained this KayakforKids.org web site. They also have very actively propagated the paddle for the benefit of the various charities that they support and been instrumental in obtaining sponsorships and contributions.  Please continue to support the children of Baja via the Baja Blues Fest.

Again, a big THANK YOU to everyone for your support.

Herman Stiphout

Logbook Entries

Herman will be sending us his coordinates and logbook entries as he progresses along his journey.

We will be showing the location of each entry on a map, with photos and videos as Herman is able to send to us.

Logbook Entry 1

Although still 4 months to go until the planned departure date, things are starting to heat up somewhat.

Marijke and I have started looking at the list of food that is required for the paddle.

As with the previous expeditions, we will be making lists of food items, identifying which ones can be dehydrated, pre-mixed and pre-packaged into meal-size portions. 

This time I will try to add more spicy items such as biltong and jerky, in addition to all the sweet stuff which I was craving during the Inside Passage paddle.

The equipment list is as complete as is possible at this stage and the team from the Baja Blues Fest is actively engaging with potential gear sponsors. Most of the gear that we are looking for is to replace worn out equipment from the previous expeditions, although there are certain new items on the electronics list, and these are mainly for safety. We are also looking for a waterproof wide angle camera for video recording.

At the end of each section we hope to put together a movie with the highlights of the trip, possibly for downloading for a small fee to generate additional contributions to the charitable activities of the Baja Blues Fest Organization.

I have also started making some equipment, in addition to the kayak, and will in future posts explain what I made, how and why. I am happy to report that we have the first sponsors on board.

Ventana Surfboard & Woodworking have contributed one of their best selling surfing hand planes, to be sold to the benefit of the Baja Blues Fest Organization.

NiteRider has graciously offered one of their lighting systems and Sebastian Stiphout Photography has committed to create a movie from the video clips that I will be taking along the way.

Seals Sprayskirts has very generously committed to contribute some essential paddling gear, i.e. spray skirt; cockpit seal; paddle leash, gear pocket and safety flag.

Please, check out their websites. 

To these sponsors, a big “thank you” for their generosity.

With regard to sponsorships in general, I would like to say the following: we are especially grateful to all organizations and individuals who will contribute to make my paddle possible. At the same time, though, I want to stress that my activity is a means to an end; the end being to provide funds to the Baja Blues Fest Organization for their ongoing and increasing activities to give local children a chance in life, through education and guidance, which they would not have otherwise.

 

Logbook Entry 2

The initial testing of the new kayak “Qiviuq”, took a few weeks . After a number of test paddles, I decided that it needed some modifications to make the seat and backrest more comfortable. 

I also had a mishap when the kayak was swept away from me  while trying a re-entry in the surf, and it landed on the rocks. The crash had opened a hole in the deck, which in itself was no big deal; I have had damages before and fixing them “on the road” so to speak is a no big deal.

What worried me, though, was that I noticed that the middle layer of the plywood I had used appeared to be very water absorbent. Drying it out was quick and simple but I had lost confidence in the structural stability of the plywood and decided to replace it.

One week later I had put a new deck on the boat, marine-grade mahogany ply.

  

At this time, Marijke had finished the art work and we put “qiviuq” on the front deck, near the bow. In this depiction he is shown  disguised as a bird of prey, with a human face. Qiviuq traveled often with fish and some of those are shown on the the sides of the bow. The stern is decorated with a stylized version of an Eskimo ULU.


I spent time on the internet and the phone with people living in Hay River and Inuvik, NT, Canada in order to get some first-hand opinions and insights into the local conditions in the summer season.

I learned that the ice break up on the Great Slave Lake  and the Mackenzie River is generally 4 – 5 weeks ahead of the break up in Inuvik and the Arctic Ocean at the mouth of the Mackenzie River. This info is making me consider to also paddle the Mackenzie River from the top of the Great Slave Lake to Inuvik, a distance of about 1,100 miles. Since I would be paddling with the current, this distance can be covered in approx. 5 weeks, just in time to get to the Arctic Ocean when the ice is breaking up there.

Although I have not yet taken a final decision on this I am very tempted to give it a go for a few reasons. First of all, I would not have to sit at home waiting for the ice to break at Inuvik. Secondly, it would save me the drive to Inuvik and thirdly, it would be a very good tune up to the paddle on the ocean.

The final decision on this will only be taken sometime in May when I will be talking to the local people again to find out how their spring is progressing.

In the attached map you can see the Mackenzie River highlighted.

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