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It’s that time of year; the flowers are emerging and spring is just around the corner. We`ve been waxing down our rowboats (figuratively, that is), and will be getting back into training shortly. Some of you may remember I was considering entering one of the world`s most gruelling rowing races - a non-stop unsupported row around the 4000 km perimeter of Britain. Due to time constraints (we`ve got a lot of projects on the go), I`ve decided to embark on a smaller, but equally exciting quest.
This June, Steve Price (62) from Oklahoma, and I will be attempting to break the speed record for the fastest time anyone has ever paddled the 715 km distance from Whitehorse to Dawson City. We will use a two-person rowboat, rowing 24 hours a day in two hour shifts. If all goes well, we`ll complete our voyage in just under two days. Steve may be a sexagenarian, but that doesn’t make him any less of a formidable force. At the age of 58 he broke the world record for the most pull-ups completed in a 24-hour period (several thousand pull-ups) and at 61 he broke the 24 hour stationary rowing record for his age category. Now Steve is raring to show the young bucks that grey power can prevail on the rivers too.
We`ll use an open canoe-shaped rowing boat that I designed and built with a sliding seat rowing system. One person will always be rowing while the other rests in the forward part of the boat. All food and supplies that we`ll need for the trip will be stowed on board. And while we`ll be pressing ourselves pretty hard, the Yukon River’s gorgeous scenery won`t go unnoticed. This stretch of river was one of the highlights from our round-the-world expedition, and I have fond recollections of grazing moose, wild flowers, and remnants of the Yukon Gold rush era around every corner. It should be an exciting challenge, and will fit nicely into our busy schedule. We’ll be using a Spot tracking beacon so people can follow our progress live.
So what are we so busy with? Julie and I have a multitude of projects on the go, not the least of which is marvelling and assisting with the development of Leif, who will be two and a half on St. Paddy’s day. Leif seems to have inherited the wild untamed streak of his mother and loves leaping off high places, chasing the cat, and disobeying his daddy with a broad mischievous smile.
We’re also writing a column, aptly titled Angus Adventures, for Explore magazine. Our first article, in the current spring issue, is on clandestine camping (camping outside of campgrounds). So if you’re interested in checking it out and don’t yet have a subscription, copies are available in newsstands. It’s also worth seeing some of the great new changes with Explore magazine now that it’s under new ownership.
This last year has also been our busiest yet for professional speaking. Most often, it’s companies and organizations that invite us to share expedition anecdotes and strategies on motivation, risk management and teamwork. But we also speak at public events and this weekend we’ll be in Ottawa at the Outdoor and Adventure Travel Show. Ottawites, if you’re free this weekend, come check it out.
Today, Julie finished the second draft of her book, Olive Odyssey detailing our sailing journey researching the olive tree. This has been a multi-year project and it’s exciting to see it so close to completion. Our next project is to complete the Olive Odyssey trailer from our video footage, which we plan on doing in two months time. In the meantime, for those of you interesting in hearing more about the journey you can listen to a radio interview Julie did this week with National Geographic Weekend.
Another area we are forging ahead with is Angus Rowboats. We’ve designed and built a number of boats over the years for our various expeditions and have been selling plans and manuals for these boats with great success. We’re now taking it to the next level and are launching a line of kits to make construction even easier for the home builder. Last week we had our first run of robotically-cut panels created for our open wherry rowboat (the same boat Steve and I will be voyaging the Yukon River in) and will have the complete kits available at angusrowboats.com by early April. Kits will include everything required to build the boat including pre-cut wood panels, fibreglass and epoxy resin. Over the next four months we will be developing full kits for all our models (the Expedition is next), along with full kits for our sliding seat rowing systems.
Speaking of rowing boats, a good friend of ours Kevin Vallely is organizing an expedition to be the first to row through the Northwest Passage called The Last First. He, along with three other seasoned adventurers, will be rowing a four person boat through the treacherous waters off Canada’s north coast. Their objective is to draw attention to the diminishing ice in the far north. Indeed, the very quest they are planning is only possible because of the significantly reduced ice in the Northwest Passage. A few weeks ago we were invited to view progress of their custom boat being built by designer/builder Robin Thwacker in Nanaimo, BC. The hull has beautiful lines, created with bullet-proof composite construction designed to withstand heavy impact with ice.
Canadian Olympic gold rowing medallist Adam Kreek is also undertaking an exciting rowing adventure. He and three others are attempting to be the first to row from Africa to North America. They are currently about one quarter of the way across with a lot of rowing still to go. There’s been some great satellite updates on the National on CBC, and you can track their progress on their website.
Our attention is also on the continuing conflict in Syria, where Julie’s extended family lives. There is little good news to report on the situation except that as far as we know her relatives are still safe. The fundraising campaign and efforts to provide them with basic necessities while working on a more permanent solution have made a big difference, and we want to thank all of you who have expressed your support in various ways.
We hope you enjoy the last week of winter and wish you the luck of the Irish on all your adventures.
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We hope that your holidays were wonderful and that you’re starting the New Year refreshed and energized. To those of you who make New Year’s resolutions, we wish you the best in staying the course; remember it’s just one step at a time. Colin’s not the sort to make resolutions, but mine was to be grateful for what I have and every morning I think of at least one thing I’m thankful for.
That brings me to this note, where I’d like to give a big thank you to so many of you. Just before Christmas we launched a crowdsourcing campaign to help my family in Syria. They live in a war-torn region and have no heat, little food and risk their lives every day. My father (and us to a smaller extent) has been supporting them and making efforts to get them out to Canada, but the cost is growing so I launched the campaign to help. We were overwhelmed by the response, and raised $2,500 within 36 hours.
It seemed likely we would reach our goal of $10,000, but then our campaign page disappeared. The company hosting our fundraiser, Indiegogo, froze it because the money is going to help Syrians. They stated they needed to ensure that use of the funds was in compliance with US sanctions against Syria. Their action effectively took the momentum from our campaign at the most critical period.
Indiegogo has since agreed that we are not contravening sanctions, however, two weeks later our account is still frozen. They now state they are waiting to see if their bank will process the funds. We have been assured that the money will either be released to us eventually (to be used to provide assistance to my family in Syria), or it will be returned to the donors.
Although no one can see campaign while it is frozen, all the generous contributions will reach my family in Syria when it is restarted. To view some of the kind comments passed along by some of the contributors, please visit our website.
This campaign has shown me just how much people care and I’m humbled and grateful for the incredible display of generosity. I also want to thank you for the huge outpouring of support for this blip in our fundraising efforts. The story of our challenge with Indiegogo for raising money for Syrians has been covered by CBC’s As it Happens, the National Post, Sun Media, and the Huffington Post. Indiegogo has since apologized and promised to review their policies.
Since this story has come out, the founder of the Canadian crowdsourcing site FundRazr has contacted us and set up a new campaign for us. Thanks to Daryl Hatton we’ve just relaunched our crowdsourcing campaign with FundRazr. To those of you who asked about making contributions please visit our new campaign. Thank you and Happy 2013.
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In a day and a half we raised $2,500 for my family in Syria! It was an incredible outpouring of support and we’re so grateful. Then our campaign was frozen. The site that we used to host it, Indiegogo, said our campaign might be against US OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) law because of sanctions they have against Syria. Now I can’t log in to my account, donor’s can’t see the campaign they contributed to and people can’t make donations.
Indiegogo says on their website that the first few days after launching a campaign are the most important for building momentum and getting promotion through their avenues. Instead of helping us, they’ve destroyed that momentum and likely taken thousands of dollars away from an innocent Syrian family struggling to survive.
Thanks to all of you who donated. We want you to know how grateful we are and we’ll keep you updated on the situation. We’re looking into alternatives and waiting to hear back from Indiegogo.
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We’ve started a fundraising campaign to help my family in Syria. It’s been online for just over 12 hours and we’ve already raised over $1,600! We’re so grateful for the outpouring of kindness and generosity. Thank you! Please help spread the word and find out more online.
Jasmine, Essam and Anna lve in a war ravaged area of Aleppo Syria with their mom Abeer and dad Ahmed, my uncle.
They have no heat, little food and worry for their lives every day. Bullets have shattered their windows, bombs have exploded nearby and people have been murdered in front of their home. My uncle hasn’t been able to work for over a year and his children can’t go to school. Their city is at the epicenter of the violence that has killed more than 40,000 Syrians since the civil war began nearly 2 years ago.
We are asking for your help in providing them with food, shelter and medicine. My father has been their sole source of financial support for the last year but he can’t keep up with the escalating costs. Our hope is that we can raise enough money to keep them fed, safe and healthy while we work with the immigration authorities to allow them return to Canada. My uncle lived and worked in Canada and became a permanent resisdent, but returned to Syria to care for his ailing mother.
I visited my family in Syria three years ago and wrote about the journey in a book titled Rowed Trip: From Scotland to Syria by Oar. I was so taken by the country and the people that it inspired another book idea, and I planned to return to Syria with my husband and infant son to research the history of the olive tree. But by then the civil war had taken hold of the country and I couldn’t. Since then this war has claimed tens of thousands of innocent lives and ruined millions. Through this project we hope to rescue one family from the daily atrocities and give their children a future of hope and opportunity.
Thank you for taking the time to read about this fundraising project and for caring about Syrians. And if you would like to donate to this cause, I thank you again. As a small token of our appreciation we have some of our books and films to give away. We are also giving away a trip in an Air Canada flight simulator with a flight training manager who will teach you how to fly an airbus passenger plane.
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We’d like to raise a glass of eggnog or glühwein or wassail for you Brits, and wish you all the best for Christmas and the New Year.
This year we’re celebrating a quiet Christmas at home. Our tree is decorated, the lights are up, and Leif even helped bake gingerbread cookies. It snowed on the weekend and for the west coast, it’s looking pretty Christmassy.
As the year wraps up, we find ourself reflecting and realizing just how much we have to be thankful for. Angus Rowboats is thriving and Colin designed two new boats this year to add to the roster. In addition to the rowing scull and expedition boat, which have been built not only in Canada and the US but in faraway places like Africa, Ireland, Australia and Spain, we’ll soon be offering plans for a camping rowboat and an open dory. I completed the first draft of my book Olive Odyssey based on our Mediterranean voyage researching the olive tree and we’ve begun producing the documentary - both will be out in 2013. We’ve zigzagged across Canada and the US speaking at dozens of conferences about strategies for motivation and overcoming challenges, meeting lots of incredible people along the way. We’ve also faced challenges. Colin’s mother passed away after a long battle with breast cancer. My publisher D&M Publishing is under bankruptcy protection, delaying the publication of my book Olive Odyssey. And my family in Syria are engulfed in a deadly civil war.
Many of you know that our last expedition Olive Odyssey was supposed to end in Syria, where my family has an olive farm that inspired this journey. The civil war prevented us from entering the country and since then the violence has escalated. Over 40,000 people have been killed, many of them children and women. Some of my family has left but the rest are trapped in Aleppo where the fighting is extremely intense. My uncle, his wife and three young kids are in one of the worst hit areas. They are struggling to survive and we just set up a fundraising campaign to help them pay for food, medicine and a safe shelter. We’re giving away our books and films to contributors, and one lucky person will get a trip in an Air Canada flight simulator with an instructor who will teach him or her and a friend to fly an airliner. Find out about more about the campaign online.
Our Christmas picture was taken this summer in the Broken Group islands, an amazing place that should be on everyone’s bucket list regardless of age. We hope you’ve had a year full of enchanting and fulfilling adventures and that you never run out of new ones to dream about.
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There is nothing better than getting mail, especially when it includes something handmade. While cleaning up my desk I came across a letter sent to me a few years ago by Nicole Foucault from Gatineau, Quebec. She read Rowboat in a Hurricane and kindly wrote to not only tell me that she enjoyed it, but that she made a word find puzzle based on it. It’s wonderful, and I hope you enjoy it too. Thank you Nicole for sharing your creation with us.
My book Olive Odyssey is slated to come out this spring but earlier today my publisher, Douglas and McIntyre, announced they’re filling for bankruptcy protection. I was in the middle of making dinner when I found out. I peeked at my email after checking an online recipe and before I could get back to the kitchen, my publisher called and delivered the news again. My shock morphed into nausea. How could this be happening? Online I read the proliferating news stories and the reality of the situation started to sink in, consuming me until a burning smell reminded me that I had forgotten about dinner.
Douglas and McIntyre, or D&M as they’re called, has been around for forty years. They’re Canada’s biggest independent publisher. They’ve been amazing to work with; everyone’s talented, from their editors to their designers and publicists. It’s thanks to them that my first book, Rowboat in a Hurricane, became a national bestseller. I had hoped the same would happen with Olive Odyssey.
I’ve been working on this book for nearly three years. I travelled throughout the Middle East and Europe to research the olive tree and was awarded a grant from National Geographic for the project. And finally, finally the book is done, well almost. It’s been written and edited, and with just a little more tweaking it’ll be ready to go. Until today, I thought I was on the home stretch. Now I’m not so sure.
I feel sick at the thought of another Canadian publisher facing bankruptcy and I’m shocked that’s it’s my publisher. I’m hoping for the best, but there’s a chance that this unwritten ending may not be a happy one.
A few weeks ago I came across details of an expedition with one of the most intriguing concepts I’ve see in a while. American couple Caroline Van Hemert and Patrick Farrell are travelling by human power entirely off road from Bellingham, Washington 5000 km to the Arctic Ocean. It is the route they have chosen that makes their expedition so unique.
The couple has rowed almost 1800 km up the Inside Passage to Haines, Alaska. From here they are traversing the coastal mountain range by ski over the glaciers and linking up with the headwaters of the Yukon River. They will then voyage by Packraft down the Yukon past Whitehorse and on to Dawson City. Near Dawson another mountain traverse will bring the team to a tributary leading into the Mackenzie River which will take them all the way to the Arctic Ocean. The expedition doesn’t end here, but will continue along the coast and into Alaska.
At this point Caroline and Pat have completed their row up the Inside Passage and are currently on their glacier traverse near the Canadian/American border. Within a few days they will be launching their Packrafts into the headwaters of the Yukon River.
Julie and I noticed, as we looked through their website that the couple used two Expedition Rowboats (the boats we designed and sell plans for on our website www.angusrowboats.com) for their leg up the Inside Passage, and felt proud that these boats were such a fundamental part of this remarkable journey.
You can follow Pat and Caroline’s Journey here.
In other expedition news, Sarah Outen has launched her rowboat from Japan and has rowed about 500 km towards her destination of Vancouver Island as she continues her journey around the word (www.sarahouten.com). Circumnavigator Dimitri Keifer is also continuing on his journey, picking up where he left on in Siberia and heading westwards. You can follow his journey here. Unfortunately, Ocean Rower Roz Savage and her expedition partner Andrew Morris have had to postpone their plans to row across the North Atlantic starting from Newfoundland due to an unusually high concentration of sea ice (www.rozsavage.com)
Our own adventures this summer won’t be as spectacular as the ones above, but we do plan on spending a lot of time lapping up the beautiful BC landscapes, paddling, hiking and cycling in some of the local areas.
I will also be doing a three day non-stop rowing session in early July with Steve Price (world record holder for 24 hour stationary rowing and 24 hour pull-ups) to see what kind of speed we can average together. If our speed is sufficient we will be entering what is labeled by Richard Branson as the world’s most grueling race, a non-stop unsupported row 3000 km around Great Britain. The current record is just under 27 days, and the largest purse in rowing history (for both flat water and open water)of 100,000 pounds has been offered for any team that can break this record. If things go well on our trial row, we will be attempting the race in June 2013.
Julie and I will also be doing a couple of public events – one in Lindsay Ontario as part of the Adventure Travel Film Festival (details at www.adventuretravelfestival.com) and the other will be in Camrose Alberta hosted by Magnet Signs (tickets available at Camrose Kodiaks office at the Edgeworth Centre.
Have a great summer!
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If you’re a MEC member, come out to their AGM this Wednesday. We’re going to be there to talk about our adventures and it’s a great way to find out what your co-op has been doing and tell them what you think. There are also door prizes and appetizers (who can say no to free food).
If you’re not in Vancouver, you can see it online. Go to their website for the details.
And for you Vancouverites, it begins at 6 pm on Weds, April 25th at the Roundhouse (181 Roundhouse Mews).
To wish you a belated Happy Earth Day, we’d like to share this poem by Wendy Cope.
We hugged a tree last night
And all of us enjoyed it.
Ecstatic, by moonlight,
We hugged a tree last night.
Trees can’t put up a fight -
That oak could not avoid it.
We hugged it good and tight -
I hope the tree enjoyed it.
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