Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hayley Shephard off to South Georgia

I said a difficult farewell to Hayley Shephard and Beth-Anne Masselink at Victoria International last Friday. Hayley is off to attempt a solo circumnavigation of South Georgia Island. Beth-Anne is her backup rescue kayaker who will launch from the support vessel and come to Hayley's aid should it be needed.

The circumnavigation of South Georgia is perhaps the most difficult paddle in the world. Although it's not long by many expedition standards there are no days when you are not at extreme risk. It's 400 miles of deadly risk.

Saying good bye to someone who you may never see again is troubling. All sorts of conflicting thoughts run through your head. I took some comfort in knowing that well known and trusted west coast quide Beth-Anne Masselink would at least be near by.

The island lies at 54 15 S and 36 45 W. Look it up on a globe and you'll see how one could strike out sailing east from South Georgia and your first land fall would be the west shore of the island you left from. There would be nothing but wind waves and the odd iceberg on your journey. There is an old mariners saying "in the forties there is no law - in the fifties there is no god"

The follow link takes you to a 2009 Christmas Day photo of a sheltered port on the east shore. Nothing landed on Christmas Day.


The island has twice been circumnavigated by kayakers. Once by British paddlers Nigel Denis, Jeff Allen, Peter Bray and Israeli Hadas Feldman. Just prior to their trip the circumnavigation was completed by Kiwi's Graham Charles, Marcus Waters and Mark Jones.

Jeff Allen wrote: "Fur seals are very aggressive, as is the weather, very unpredictable, went from a force 4 to a force 8 in seconds today, took Pete by surprise and capsized him, water is freezing, after ten minutes hands and feet are freezing. Feet especially lost all feeling, my cockpit leaks and I am sat in 2" of freezing water most of the time.

He concluded that blog entry with a clear sign that he was becoming delusional. "All is well, spirits high, best wishes to everyone following the team."

Nigel Dennis speaking about the trip said, two would beat back the Fur Seals and Sea Lions with paddles while the others pitched tents or ate.

You can follow Hayley's trip at


Dennis, Allen and Bray are giants in the kayaking community. I know little about the Kiwi's. Hayley Shephard is a diminutive Kiwi ex pat living in Alert Bay BC who guides in Churchil Bay in the summer and sometimes works as a school teacher. Oh, and she's one very brave woman.