Category Archives: Canada

Having crossed the Salish Sea

I’ve been unpacking, washing and drying out gear for the last 4 hours since I got home, but that’s sea kayaking for you, and all I can say is the effort is well worth the experience we had over the last 8 days.

Arriving into Secret Cove

We arrived in Secret Cove on Saturday afternoon, after paddling 26kms that day and a total of 166kms over the 8 days we were on the water. Despite the wind warnings we managed to stay on schedule, and decided to spend Saturday night at Dave’s sister’s house after our final campsite was full of people enjoying the long weekend on the Sunshine Coast.

Our final campsite (Friday night) in Boom Bay on Jedediah Island

Yesterday we completed our crossing of the Salish Sea, and even though we did it in stages, we still did it! The experience was a lot more enjoyable than doing it in one hit with no island hopping in-between, and even while it was broken up, some of the 8-10km stretches against waves and wind were still a hard slog!

The final reading on my GPS

I’m definitely one to enjoy my alone time, but I have to say I can’t imagine doing a trip like this without companions. Tyson had to leave after day 4, but even with the three of us left (Dave, Amber and myself), we had such a grand time together, respecting everyone’s highs and lows that we inevitably all experience, and functioning like a super star team. A well-oiled machine doesn’t even cut it, we seemed to function just on instinct.

Tyson, Amber, Dave & me at the Dingy Dock Pub opposite Nanaimo

My favourite memories from the trip were the moments of silent belly laughter or contemplation whilst watching the sun set over the horizon. The worst times were carrying our boats through low tide sludge where the mud would suck my shoes from my feet and force me to step on the sharp barnacles beneath. Or the mosquitos that forced me to abandon cowboy camping on Ballenas Island and set up my tent in the wind on a slant, only to wake up to it collapsing on me.

My tent the next day after being resurrected in the middle of the night

But the challenging times make the good ones even more magnificent, and I wouldn’t trade any of them for a second (except for finding Amber’s car broken into when we returned to Horseshoe Bay today 😦 ).

Sunset on Ballenas Island

I feel alive in a way I sometimes forget to feel when I’m deep in the grind. A week or sometimes even a few days away can press that reset button we should all switch on and off from time to time. Those moments when you watch over the ocean and think about how big the world is are just priceless. I never come to any grand conclusions about this insane world we live in, but at least I have time to think about it, and realise just how small I am in the big scheme of things.

Red moon from all the fires in BC

A small hit of nature can do wonders for the soul, and I feel recharged enough to put my head down for the remainder of August and most of September before I do anything like this again. Thanks for coming along for the adventure and for sharing in the experience. Reflecting on these moments allow me to appreciate them for just a little longer.

Dave and I enjoying ‘Good Times Outside’

Onward to Ballenas Island

We made it to Southey Island yesterday despite the wind warnings, and although there were waves and the paddling was tough, it was nothing like the waves coming into Nanaimo thankfully.

Amber paddling through a cave next to Jesse Island

Southy was the first island that wasn’t an official campsite with outhouses and designated areas to sleep. I think that’s why I liked it so much, I finally felt like we were removed from the rest of the world.

Arriving at Maude Island thinking it was Southey

A lot of these islands are just giant rocks poking their heads out of the ocean with trees sprinkled over the tops. We transitioned from smooth sandstone to granite rocks as we’ve headed north, or so my paddling companions tell me, I’m more focussed on the water and the sky and the beauty of having absolutely nothing to do. It’s amazing how quickly I fill up my days at home and leave zero time to even stare out the window.

Tea & ukulele on Southey Island at sunset

Right now I’m lying on the rocky beach of Ballenas Island feeling as close to heaven as I think life can ever be. The waves are slowly creeping towards my feet and my only concern is ensuring that I and my boat don’t float out to sea. Like me, I need to drag my boat a few feet up the beach every half hour.

Beautiful warm rocks on Ballenas Island

As a kid I always wondered what it would be like to be stranded on a desert island. I had no idea that it was even possible to paddle to an island in the middle of the ocean and stay for the night or longer. We weren’t a camping family, I spent holidays on a farm exploring the paddocks and river and sometimes went bush bashing with my sister, but I didn’t develop a real appreciation for nature and the outdoors until I hiked the PCT. I know it always comes back to the trail, but in the same way kids grow up camping or paddling and that lifestyle just becomes engrained into who they are, the trail cemented nature into my veins. It’s like an addiction now. I just can’t live without it.

Watching sunset from Southey Island

We had a half day of paddling today, only going 10km from Southey to Ballenas Island via a marina that was under renovation. It’s been a treat to come across at least one marina on this trip, and it’s not something I ever expected, but when you are expecting it and it’s not there the disappointment can be enourmous. I dreamt of cinemon buns all night but paddled away empty handed.

Reaching the 100km mark yesterday

We’ve paddled a total of 116km and have three more days to go. It’s funny how the first half of a trip you feel like it will last forever, and then once you’re beyond half way you have to conciously keep your mind in the present and not allow it to slip back to all the things you need to do when you get home. Like all good things it’s sad to think of it being over, but at the same time I’m grateful to even feel this way.

View from our campsite on Ballenas Island

Soon it’ll be time to warm up the jetboils and get dinner cooking. We’re hoping to see phosphorescence this evening like we did on Day 2, and hopefully we’ll be able to stay up late enough to swim in them. We’ll be cowboy camping right by the water’s edge tonight so we can literally roll out, dry off and fall asleep. It’ll all depend on the moon, but we’re facing north east so hopefully we’re in for a good show!

At the mercy of the wind

The moon is shining like a spotlight through my tent this evening and it’s not even full. It’s probably also the first night in a while when I’ve camped and it’s been too hot to wear my sleeping bag! I love these nights. It’s the kind of night that I wish I didn’t have a single walled tent!

Sunset at Pirate’s Cove – Day 3

It’s day four, and we’ve had some incredibly eventful days already. Today in particular was quite hairy. We were paddling against 30 knot headwinds (approx 55km) into 5-8 foot waves attempting to reach Nanaimo. If my boat wasn’t fully loaded I’m sure I would have flipped, but instead we were just pelted in the face by salt water as we did our best to stay together during the 4km crossing. I didn’t get any video or photos of the experience. I was hanging onto dear life to my paddle which was being blown out of my hands. It was that kind of exhilarating experience you wish would be over while you’re in it, but you know you’ll look back on and be proud you survived.

Dave’s wind umbrella (would not have been helpful today)
Paddling through a shallow channel – Day 3

There are severe wind warnings in affect tomorrow (like today believe it or not), so having reached our day 4 campsite by the hair of our teeth we’re contemplating what the next few days will look like. We’ve paddled over 80km already, and like Dave continues to remind me, sea kayaking is entirely weather dependant, so we’ll see what tomorrow and the next few days bring. The wind warning is in effect until Thursday afternoon, so it might stop us from crossing Georgia Straight entirely, but whatever, I’ve laughed so hard on this trip my ribs hurt, and the only reason I think any of us are out here is for a chance to escape reality and to have a bit of fun.

Ice cream on Newcastle Island (before a hilarious game of horseshoe)
Red = severe winds (we’re surrounded)

On this trip I’ve learned a lot about island life and boating life in general. Sea kayakers and sailboats/yachts move in similar circles location wise (beaches, marinas, island pubs), but certainly behave very differently when it comes to cooking and sleeping. It’s been fun getting a glimpse into their world and to realise that although their boat costs about a bajillion times more than mine, I’d much prefer to be paddling my boat with my soggy tortillas and hummus in the hatches, than be on their fancy crafts. It’s quite a liberating realisation I must say.

Coming out of our first marina having purchased fresh water and cinnamon buns
Tea on the beach (I cut all my hair off the day before the trip!)
Our boats docked at the Dinghy Dock Pub, Protection Island

We’ve seen some incredible scenery, stunning beaches, beautiful sandstones cliffs with amazing shapes carved into them from the sea. We’ve seen bald eagles swooping down to catch fish, gulls attempting to swallow star fish, racoons surrounding our tents at night, and hoards of spider crabs that brought out the arachnophobe in me.

Groovy patterns in the sandstone
Dave measuring distance on the map using a green bean
Dave and Amber pumping water at Pirates Cove

I could safely say if I left tomorrow I’d still be satisfied with the trip we’ve had, but we still have 5 more days to go, so undoubtedly there will be more adventures to come. Sometimes straying off course presents an entirely new possibility you never bargained for. We’ll see what happens tomorrow!

Sunset at Chivres Point, Wallace Island – Day 2
Sunset tonight under the haze of BC’s forest fires

Time moves slower out here

I haven’t lay in a tent and typed on my phone for years it seems. The months I spent tapping on this tiny screen on the PCT seems crazy to me now. How did I do it? Why did I do it? I guess it’s human nature to want to share your story when you’re riding a high. Like coming home from a great day at work or receiving a phone call that has the potential to be life changing. All you want to do is tell someone! I think that’s what this blog was to me back then. A vehicle to share those highs and lows. It’s what it still is I guess, though I question it a lot more now, like all social media. There’s just so much content out there, I can’t help but question why it is we do this.

Packing our boats at the ferry terminal in Tsawwassen

 

What I wanted to share though this evening was my very best discovery of the day. It’s something I’d forgotten about being in nature, and one of the key reasons we should all get back to it from time to time. What I was reminded of is that time slows down. There is nothing to do out here except be out here. To watch the sun slowly slip behind the horizon and leave radiant colours in its path. To watch the tide slowly creeping up the sand until it’s lapping at your toes. Every microsecond the world around us is changing, but when you watch it change, it moves so much slower than you think.

Dinner with the crew: Tyson, Dave, Amber and me

 

We have been blessed with good weather for this trip, and a tail wind that had Dave moving around 5km/h just by holding up his giant umbrella. (Photos on my waterproof camera will have to be posted later). It was pretty choppy out there, but the waves were at least moving us forward.

Mt Baker in the background

 

We’re camping at a spot called James Bay on Prevost Island. It’s glorious, not the most secluded but private enough that we had our own beach front kitchen space and some flat grassy spots under a grouping of apple trees to pitch our tents.

View from our beach kitchen

 

Tomorrow we’re aiming to be on the water by 7am. I’m so looking forward to coffee and oatmeal in the  morning. Mainly for old times sake. I’ll be tired of oatmeal by day three, but it’s the routine of making it and the cooking of breakfast on the beach that will make up for the flavour!

Goodnight from James Bay!

Return to the Salish Sea

Well hi there, yes it’s been a long time, and with time comes a big responsibility to satisfy whatever expectations you have of what prevented me from writing all this time. If I wasn’t fighting crocodiles or scaling glaciers or walking across the god damn universe, what excuse do I have for leaving you hanging in the balance, tapping the refresh button, waiting for this update to finally arrive? You were waiting for it though, right?

Unfortunately I don’t have any real excuses or a lot to report. I spend about 90 hours a week in front of my laptop, and the remaining time is spent paddling or lying horizontal. I see this year as my ‘head down get shit done year’, and if it doesn’t kill me I’m hoping next year will be my ‘let’s get as far away from my laptop as possible year’.

But until then, my next adventure is a 9-day sea-kayaking trip along the Salish Sea Marine Trail. For those of you who followed some of my paddling adventures last year, you may recall my failed attempt to cross the Salish Sea from Nanaimo to Vancouver in one hit. This trip is not that! We’re taking 9 days to go double that distance. It’s a vacation, and it’s meant to be fun!

Watching the sun set from the Copeland Islands – Desolation Sound trip in May 2017

So in addition to the story of my sedentary-soon-to-become-active-life for 9 days, I’m documenting my trip preparations for those of you who may also want to jump in a boat and go on a multi-day trip, or on an overnight trip, or at least just start dreaming about it!

My gear for this trip

Whether it’s a 9-day trip or an overnight excursion, your gear pretty much stays the same, (like hiking, but totally different at the same time). You just need to take a hell of a lot more food, but the nice thing about travelling in a boat is that provided it fits in your hatches, the weight doesn’t make all that much difference!

My food for this trip

When you’re travelling on water (unlike hiking), you also need to keep an eye on currents, tides and the wind. I’ve just downloaded a new app called AyeTides, which I’m excited to test out. There’s nothing worse than waking up to discover the tide is out and you now need to carry your heavy boat 500m to the water, or even worse, waking up to find your boat has been washed away because you didn’t carry it above the high tide line or tie it up!

Arriving at Martin Islands – Desolation Sound May 2017

You can click on the links below to review my:

GEAR LIST

FOOD LIST

ITINERARY

The biggest difference on this trip compared to other multi-day kayak trips I’ve done is that we’re rolling our boats onto the ferry to get from the mainland to Vancouver Island. This means I’ll be taking a set of kayak wheels that I’ll need to strap to the deck of my boat, which won’t be ideal but I’m sure I can manage. I’ve seen my friend paddle with a two-burner stove on their deck so I know it can be done!

Then once we arrive in Swartz Bay we’ll roll our kayaks off the ferry, head to the water, strap the wheels to the deck and start paddling!

Our trip plan (click on the map to view the interactive version)

You can read more about the Salish Sea Marine Trail here. We’re doing a 165km portion of the 260km trail, which goes all the way from Victoria to Vancouver, and when I say trail, I mean there’s official campsites you can pull up to on the islands you paddle past on the way. If we make good time we may even paddle all the way to Squamish to drop off my friend Dave. That would mean one less ferry trip coming home, but we’ll see how we do!

Happy paddling! 🙂

View from the Copeland Islands – Desolation Sound May 2017

Taking ‘that’ step

You know what, I’m cooped up at home on a Friday night, my housemates both in separate rooms, wondering what to do next on my never ending task list.

I’m nearing the end of an 8-week creative non-fiction writing course, that has not only taught me all the things I don’t know about writing, but has worn me down with a mountain of assignments and reading tasks. I should be reviewing the work of my peers and reading about lyrical essays and mixed media. But I can’t. I just want to write without intent, or style, or consideration of a beginning, middle, or an end.

I’m writing tonight because I want to. To rid myself of that feeling of being under-qualified, or as my friend Chrissy so rightly put it, a complete literary fraud. I’m going back to the form I know and the voice I’m familiar with. There’s been a lot on my mind that I’ve wanted to communicate, so I’m writing because it feels liberating.

The writing course, of course, has been incredibly insightful none-the-less. I’ve learned to express myself in eloquent metaphors, but I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process. I’m one of the least creative, creative people I know, and I put it down to a life full of efficiency. I eat the same foods, wear the same combinations of clothing, and try to use every second of every day productively. I don’t take time to soak in the details, use clever language or colourful prose. I want to get my messages across succinctly, so I can move onto the next assignment before the next.

It sounds awful, but even when I’m not doing something it’s because I’ve scheduled time to do nothing – like meditate, or fold laundry, or speak to my housemates because it’s socially required. My life is one calculated move after the next, but it’s essentially what drives me. There’s nothing worse than an unproductive me.

The interesting thing is that I recently found my breaking point. The moment when I realised I’d tied myself in so many knots, I could no longer undo them all.

I experienced this in a number of ways; increased anxiety, inability to focus, moments where I’d burst into unexpected tears wondering what the hell was wrong with me. My life had become a series of tasks, and if I didn’t get them done I was failing.

The problem was overselling myself. There wasn’t enough time to do everything. But instead of prioritising, I just continued to steamroll ahead. Like a deflated balloon in much need of air, I began to sink instead of breathing.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned this year is that I’m not perfect, and that’s okay. Though I’m a strong independent woman, admitting that I need help has made me feel more empowered than I’ve ever been.

I’d always viewed help as a sign of weakness. I want to do everything I can on my own. But it’s amazing what happens when you accept vulnerability. Reaching out is often harder than going it alone.

So if I were to extrapolate a theme from this, as my writing coach would insist I do, I’d say it’s about accepting that I’m human. And instead of juggling life’s demands while sitting at my desk on a Friday night, I’m going to celebrate humanity instead, by setting aside time to share this story.

The work-back principle

I’ve been sitting in a lot of meetings at work recently, discussing ideas and creative solutions to problems that often cause me to drift away on my own thoughtful tangents resulting in two columns in my notebook. One for work, the other for my own inspiration.

Friday was one of these aforementioned occurrences and I thought it worthy of sharing, as my notebook weighed more heavily towards the B column.

Sometimes the solutions to a problem can only be found by working back from the desired result. I’ve been applying this principle to the project I’m currently working on, but because I’m equally consumed by thoughts of what to do once this contract is up, I’ve begun applying this philosophy to myself.

In other words, to decide what to do next, I need to start from the end and work back, which as a concept raises some rather interesting questions.

Where am I when I die?

Who is around me and where do I live?

What was I doing before I died?

Was I sitting on a yacht drinking champagne, living in a cottage in the woods nursing squirrels, or did I plummet to my death as a human kite?

What job did I retire from?

What possessions did I own?

What was on the wall of my bedroom?

What languages did I speak?

What was my greatest skill?

Who will remember me?

What was the final chapter in my memoir?

Death is a reality I usually sweep under the carpet and avoid thinking about, but the more I accept it, the more I remind myself to live. And perhaps if I consider these sorts of questions before my mortality catches up, the better I can steer my choices when it comes to making decisions.

Like a lot of people, I don’t have these answers, any of them in fact. I don’t have a five or ten year plan, I feel weighed down by options, I change my mind frequently, and I’m constantly questioning what the hell I’m doing here. But if the decisions I make today shape my tomorrow, perhaps I should start to consider what my tomorrow actually looks like.

I purposely reversed my regular walking route today for a new perspective, while considering the questions above. Though it didn’t result in specific answers, the common themes revolved around simplicity, community and activity. Who knows how this translates over the next five, ten or fifteen years, but for now it feels like a good place to start.

Happy 2017 and beyond!

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A calendar created by my dear friend Myla (aka Bad Seed)

The best of the human spirit

Human kind was blessed with compassion, and although we don’t always exercise this gift, people step up when tragedy strikes.

It’s been said that the worst situations bring out our best, and I can attest to that after witnessing the flood of support for a close friend of mine who lost her home on Monday night.

A group of us were playing trivia when my friend Mikayla received a phone call from her dad saying that her house was sinking. She and her brother live with their dad on an old transport boat from the 1940’s south of Vancouver on the Fraser River. Mikayla jumped out of her seat and fled the restaurant, closely followed by a friend of ours whose immediate reaction was to follow her and help.


The next morning I discovered that at 2am her home had been completely submerged, but thanks to my friend Kieran coaching her through the process, Mikayla was able to salvage her personal items before the boat went under.
I spoke to her that afternoon, and through her desperate tears she told me she was cooped up in her dad’s girlfriend’s two bedroom apartment with five people. Offering up my home was a no brainier, and then setting up a fundraising site to collect donations from those wanting to lend support was the obvious next step.

Since Monday night Mikayla has been inundated with calls from people offering their thoughts and prayers, a place to stay, food and clothing, plus access to a shower and laundry. Over 40 people have collectively donated over $2,500, and most of these people are earning just over minimum wage working two jobs to afford living in Vancouver. With only one week until Christmas and the extortionate costs for retrieving the boat from the bottom of the river, this financial assistance is invaluable to Mikayla and her family, and I’m hoping that over the next few days that total will creep even higher.

When I told Mikayla about the donations, she fell to her hands and knees on my kitchen floor and wept, saying her heart isn’t big enough to accept all the love she’s receiving. I bent down and held her hands, and explained that we are the ones who have been blessed with the opportunity to help her. People thrive on being good, on the satisfaction of contributing to something greater than themselves. I said that her challenge, above everything else, is to accept the generosity from those who want to help, who are as grateful as I am to be able to make her life just that little bit easier.

Though you may not know Mikayla personally, if you’d like to make a donation, your contribution would be greatly appreciated. For most of us it’s hard to imagine what being homeless really feels like, especially one week before Christmas during one of Vancouver’s coldest recorded Decembers.

This time last year I went searching for a way to lend support to others over Christmas. This year the opportunity found me.

The 34-year-old me

I looked in the mirror today and thought… ‘Huh, I’m actually starting to look my age’. It’s not just the lines on my face or the sprouting grey hair. It seems that my general appearance and body language is saying, ‘This is who I am, take it or leave it,’ and I can really tell I mean it.

The older I get the less I give a shit about what others think. Everyone’s so wrapped up in their own lives it’s ridiculous to think they even care. But it’s taken years to realise that I’m not the centre of the universe. I’m only as important to people as they are to me, and the world doesn’t owe me or anyone any favours. Make the best of what you have. It’s so simple and true, and for once I understand it.

Tomorrow is my 34th birthday, and as I wandered the cemetery this afternoon on another of Vancouver’s grey and drizzly days, I thought about how damn lucky I am to have so many wonderful people in my life. I’ve literally hit the jackpot with a sense of community and a stimulating job, and even though I feel like the most ordinary and uninspiring version of myself right now, I actually feel the happiest.

I spent many of my nomadic years craving a community. Longing for the ability to round up a group of people at the drop of a hat for dinner, a party, or to hang out with in someone’s lounge room on a lazy Sunday morning. So for my 34th birthday I decided my celebration of life would involve just that, bringing together 34 people for Sunday breakfast in one of the most casual settings possible: my kitchen and lounge room. Not all 34 could make it, but those who came are some of my favourite friends that span the past nine years of my life.

The Breakfast Club

It was the first time I’ve felt comfortable combining my different worlds, and I realised this afternoon it’s because I’m finally comfortable with who I am. I can be the same person around my 25-year-old friends as I am around my 35-year-old friends. I behave the same, I dress the same, and I have the same conversations, because I’ve fully embraced the 34-year-old me.

This may not sound like a big deal, but I used to feel like many different people: The Australian Rozanne, the Middle East Rozanne, the Canadian Rozanne, the PCT Rozanne, and the family Rozanne. My life seemed so incredibly different in all of these scenarios because I lacked my own setting. I was immersed in the culture of other people’s lives, living experience-to-experience, and fitting in with other’s routines and schedules in-between. I was a real-life serial nomad, and I’ve come to realise that existence lacks an important sense of belonging.

When I walked the Camino in 2014 in the wake of the PCT and four months of working in Abu Dhabi, I realised what I craved the most was a permanent address, full time friends, and a community of people who share the same interests.

For the past 1.5 years I’ve been building that life, and today I realised it’s slowly coming together. It’s probably one of my most satisfying achievements, because it’s grown so organically and because it’s not an easy thing to find.

So on the eve of yet another year on this planet, I’m so grateful for my friends and family, for those who still listen to me ramble on, and for each new line of wisdom that appears on my aging face. If I can feel this good every birthday, I’ll know I’m doing something right.

How I completed the Yukon River Quest

Registrations for the 2017 Yukon River Quest open tomorrow – Nov 1, 2016. Though I am not planning to paddle in the race next year, mainly because of work commitments (yes I got a new job), I do know people who are planning to take on the epic adventure (in a kayak and on a SUP). To celebrate their decision I have put together a quick breakdown of what I believe contributed to my success in crossing the finish line in under 63 hours in a solo kayak (despite my broken rudder and foot pedal).

Training:

I suggest scheduling your training sessions in your calendar each week. If you can maintain a routine that’s the best, but if you have to go week by week, ensure you’ve locked down a rough plan the week before. Ensure you allow sufficient time for recovery. My friend Jerome could never stress this enough!

This was my rough training schedule:

  • Gym sessions: 30-60 minutes on the rowing machine (twice a week)
  • Swimming: 1.25km in an indoor pool (twice a week)
  • Running: 5-10km (1-2 times a week)
  • Cycling: 8 – 10km (daily commuting)
  • Paddling: 2 x shorter paddles (1-2 hours) & 1 x longer paddle (2-6 hours) each week
  • 2-3 very long paddles up to 12 hours to test all systems (one in May and one early June)

You can review my training videos here.

Preparation:

  • Read the rules and preparation page on the website (at least twice): https://www.yukonriverquest.com/information-for-racers-support-crews/ (There’s a heap of great advice and information you will need to know.)
  • Talk to people who have completed the race. Everyone has his or her own systems and opinions, but theirs will give you a good place to start.
  • Train with all the gear you will use that isn’t stored in your hatches (if kayaking). You want to test your gear and systems as much as possible. Hopefully what’s in your hatch you won’t need.
  • Train in the clothing you plan to wear. Use the cold winter training sessions to prepare for those cold nights.
  • Test out the food you plan to eat, especially on your longer paddles to make sure it’s digestible. Store the food as you would on the race so you know how to access it.
  • Keep track of all your gear by keeping a list of what you still need and what you’re using. Keep this list updated so when it’s time to head to Whitehorse you know exactly what to pack. Don’t leave anything off this list no matter how small (e.g. ear plugs for Carmacks, dental floss, etc).
  • Make a detailed list of what you want your support crew to do at Carmacks and figure out what you plan to eat there so they’re prepared (see my Carmacks TO DO list for Morgan).
  • Purchase the maps early (Mike Rourke), colour them in to distinguish the river from the islands and banks and write distances and notes on them before laminating.
  • Practise peeing whilst in your boat – many times. I used a female urinal which I attached to the deck behind me.
  • Find someone to train with (if possible). It will help you push your limits and provide additional motivation through the rainy months.
  • Create a playlist of motivating songs that will keep you awake and inspired when the caffeine pills just aren’t enough.
  • Heard the expression ‘beating a dead horse’? If something isn’t working, change it!
  • Get plenty of rest before the race. I was told to take three weeks off but I only took about two. Bank lots of sleep, you’ll need it!
  • Get to Whitehorse early so you can do at least one or preferably two practise paddles, especially if you’re renting your boat and have never paddled it before. I did one from the start point to Burma Rd on the Saturday before the race and another from Burma Rd to Lake Laberge and back to Policeman’s Point on the Sunday. Be aware! The road into Policeman’s Point is seriously rough. Don’t go down without an AWD or 4WD.
  • Plan if you’re going to stop at the end of Lake Laberge or not. I wasn’t planning on it until my rudder broke. It’s up to you, but if you’re going for time then I suggest doing what you need to do in the current of the river after you’ve made it across the lake.
  • Start eating healthy well before the race. I consulted my friend Justin who is a nutritionist and came up with a basic meal plan to ensure I was eating the right foods 80% of the time at least 6 months out.
  • Start taking Glucosamine tablets 2-3 months out for your joints. I recommend reading about it and making your own decision. Turmeric is also good but whether it was mental or not, Glucosamine worked for me.
  • Get your SPOT device or inReach working early. It will stop you getting grief from Peter Coats prior to the race.
  • Be diligent about your first aid kit and prepare it early. Make it easy for the race organisers and label each zip lock bag with the contents so they don’t have to fish through and count everything. The requirements can be found here: https://www.yukonriverquest.com/first-aid-kit/
  • Purchase travel insurance if you’re not from the Yukon.

Gear:

  • See my full list of gear and clothing
  • I found a GPS was a must during training and the race to check distance and time. I used a Garmin 62S (version before the 64S). With lithium batteries it lasted all the way to Carmacks (easily) but my support crew Morgan changed the batteries just in case.
  • I used the Seals Sneak spray skirt with a zip down the front so I could access inside my cockpit more easily. My spray skirt leaked like crazy (I should have known this from training). Make sure your spray skirt is water tight. I spent 63 hours soaking wet and cold. Not fun.
  • I used a Therm-a-Rest Z-seat to sit on and an MEC blow up seat cushion as a backrest and my butt and back were comfortable the entire race.
  • Tape a piece of foam under your heels; they will love you for it.
  • Have a light that you can attach to the front of your boat (headlamp is fine or I also used bike lights). You don’t want to wear a headlamp on your head for the sake of comfort and it will destroy your night vision.
  • I used my dry bag with extra clothes as a thigh cushion. Martin who did the race the year before me swears by using a thigh cushion but I found the dry bag was a good alternative.
  • I used a deck net to hold down items I needed quick access to behind me (urinal, water bottles to refill, rain gear). The suction cups were a little inconsistent but I never lost anything (thankfully).

Clothing:

  • Again, see my full list of gear and clothing
  • No neoprene
  • I loved my Gortex rain hat. It didn’t cut my vision or hearing like a hood does. Get one big enough so you can wear a toque/beanie underneath when it’s cold.
  • Have a jacket big enough that you can throw it over your PFD or be smart like my friends Pam and Jim and just use the arms with a thin piece of fabric that connects them (they just bought second hands jackets and butchered them with scissors.) Your PFD will keep your core warm so you only need to worry about your arms, head and hands.

Food & Hydration:

  • See my full list of food
  • Chewable Mentos were awesome for a quick breath refreshment and edible teeth clean. Don’t take chewing gum or you’ll have to dispose of it.
  • Take ginger Gravol chewable tablets or something to settle your stomach. You will likely feel sick and chewing something will keep you awake.
  • I carried a lot of extra weight in water. You definitely don’t need to carry much until the White River comes in and you can’t drink from it anymore. I had a 4L bladder full of fresh water and a 4L bladder with NUUN electrolyte tablets and additional calorie tablets stored behind my seat.
  • Flat Coca-Cola was lifesaving at the end of the race to keep me awake. I also couldn’t get enough of corn chips because of the salt.

Other Random Tips:

  • If you’re feeling cold pee. You waste so much energy heating all that urine you’re storing.
  • I took a sleeping pill and a magnesium tablet the night before the race and at Carmacks and slept like a baby. Test them out first!
  • I took Tylenol every few hours during the race with plenty of water. I can’t imagine the race without it but some people battle through.
  • Have an old piece of carpet or bubble wrap (like Morgan and I did) to slide your boat off at the start of the race. It’s fully loaded and will be heavy and you don’t want wet feet from the get-go.
  • Pick your line early. You don’t want to battle the current so know which side of the islands you want to go and get into position as early as possible. Also pay attention to your maps. It’s very easy to lose where you are (which is when your GPS distance will help).
  • Don’t forget to pack a change of clothes for Coffee Creek.
  • I super glued Velcro to my spray skirt and wrapped Velcro around my paddle shaft so that when I stopped paddling, my paddle would stick to my spray skirt and not slide off into the river.
  • I used a cream called Sore No More on my muscles before and during the race and LOVED it. It’s all natural ingredients and heats up the muscles a bit like Tiger Balm. I highly recommend it. http://www.sorenomore.com/ (and no they don’t sponsor me, but I wish they did!)

And lastly feel free to flip through my blog entries in preparation of the race and afterwards. You can also watch my newly edited version of my race video FLOW. It’s only 18:23 minutes instead of 30:00. And if you want more, the full-length version of all the videos I took during the race can be found here (just don’t get too discouraged – it’s a good reminder to test your boat well ahead of the race if you can!)

Best of luck, but more importantly, enjoy the journey!

Photo taken by Harry Kern
Photo taken by Harry Kern (www.harrykern.com)