Tonight I went to hear Derek Hutchinson weave a tale about his epic crossing of the North sea, an ocean passage between the British isles and Belgium. His talk was presented at Ocean River, and like a lot of the talks I've had the pleasure of seeing there, this was a top notch bit of storytelling. A bit of background here. For a bit of background, Derek Hutchinson is one of those legendary kayaking types, credited with creating one of the first bulkheaded kayaks, crossing the north sea and getting a Guinness record and being one of the top ranking BCU members.

Derek's story was about a sort of ill planned mission to cross the north sea at it's narrowest point: 100 miles. "100 miles," he said, "4 miles per hour, 100 miles, it'll take 25 hours to cross." Back then, this was not a great idea. No high-tech immersion gear, not enough food or water, no way to sleep in the boat. Needless to say, the first time they did this mission, they didn't make it and got rather sick. They ended up being rescued 8 miles off their destination by a large passenger ship. They were near delirious when they were rescued, and as the boat pulled up along side them, they could hear a megaphone from the deck calling out what sounded like gibberish. "Oh no, it's another language!", he told the other kayakers in his group, "Does anyone aboard speak english?" he asked. Then it dawned on them that the vessel was a ferry between England and Belgium and everyone understood them just fine, " I speak english, so do I," then the megaphone, "r rroo."

It was the second trip a year later that was met with much more success. This time, they realized why they were pushing right near 34 hours of paddling the first time around. the currents whip through the shallows just off the coast of Belgium and they made little progress during a flood tide. The group paddled hard to a giant buoy and then waited out the tremendous current by hooking their tow lines to the buoy. Once the tide changed they whisked right to their destination and realized they had accomplished one of the longest marathon paddles in history. Recently, Hutchinson's boat was added to the British maritime museum right near Shackleton's boat. It was great hearing a kayaking legend just talking about his great tours in humorous retrospect. Next time I might consider going out for some lessons with him.