On Celtic Tides: One Man's Journey Around Ireland by Sea KayakOn Celtic Tides is a memoir unlike any you will ever read. It is an intricately woven tapestry of two journeys: one of the sea with its moments of tranquillity and contrasting terror; the other, an inner exploration--a spiritual awakening born of the haunting beauty and rich history that Duff discovers among the store ruins of islands monasteries and coastal cottages.
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Book Review in the December issue|
of Sea Kayaker magazine
Chris Duff has traveled over fourteen thousand miles by sea kayak since 1983, when he paddled eight thousand miles around the eastern third of the United States and Canada. In 1996 he became the first person to solo the entire British Isles and is currently planning a solo circumnavigation of New Zealand's south island.
The dangers and difficulties encountered by Chris on the north coast of Ireland were quite extraordinary as illustrated by this excerpt from On Celtic Tides:
As I crossed the shallow bay off Portballintrae, the land reached further into the sea. The softness of grass-covered hills gave way to ledges of red and gray that climbed steadily to the sea cliffs of which the Irish myth was born. The closer I got to the cliffs, the faster the current flowed. I was two hundred yards offshore, watching the brilliant colors of the rock slide past, and with each passing minute becoming more alarmed by the increasing speed of the tide. The energy of tides and cliff was building as the current pulled me faster and closer to the rocks. I paddled another hundred yards offshore, the tide racing me toward the banded cliffs that towered overhead and plunged into the sea.
I sprinted another fifty yards out. It didn't seem to make any difference. I was still losing the buffer that I wanted as the swells kept exploding beneath the cliffs. Any thought of turning back was useless. I was caught in the power of the tidal stream and being swept toward a line of white water a few hundred yards in front of me. I was committed.
The first rebounding waves broke the rhythmic rise and fall of the swells, slapping the side of the boat and sending a cold splash of water into my eyes. I grabbed the camera and got two pictures of the cliff. In the viewfinder, it looked so innocent, the rich cream, tan, and rust strata glowing in the evening light.
I snapped the bungee cord over the edge of the camera and grabbed the paddle just as the tide swept the boat into the chaotic heaving and twisting of the standing waves. An incoming swell and a rebounding wave collided a few feet in front of me. The boat powered over the shoulder of the waves, was jerked skyward, then suddenly was airborne as the waves split and left a hollow where they had slammed through each other. The bow fell five feet and met the next violent upsurge of peaked wave, crashing through it and struggling to rise as the sea poured over the front half of the boat. As the kayak started to recover, a rebounding wave from behind lifted the stern and drove the bow deeper into the wave. The boat stalled, sluggish from the weight it was trying to shed. Another wave from the left arched overhead. I snapped the paddle into a low brace, tucked into the wave, and felt its cold weight collapse on my back. Seawater flooded my eyes and filled my sinuses. I straightened, spitting and blowing. The rear wave and the sideward slam of the second one had twisted the boat seaward. I was being pushed sideways into the waves, which were getting bigger and steeper the closer I got to the headland. I backpaddled on the right. Another wave tossed the boat high, almost out of the water. When it slammed into the waves again, I was suddenly back on course.