Spring Rowing Adventures

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.


Picture of the partially completed rowboat hull that is being built for the Northwest Passage expedition. In the photo from left to right are, Paul Gleeson, Robin Thwacker, Denis Barnett and Kevin Vallely. Robin is the boat designer and builder, while the other three are the rowers, along with a forth team member, Frank Wolfe.

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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