BY CONOR MIHELL
How do you follow up on a 4,000-mile journey along the South American coast and across the Caribbean Sea to Florida? If you’re Russell Henry, you set off to set a new speed record for making a self-propelled lap of the 750-mile perimeter of your island home. Henry, a native of Victoria, B.C., plans to leave from there mid-day tomorrow (Friday, May 30) after waiting for a solid weather window to attempt to shatter Colin Angus’s 15-day, 11-hour, 47-minute record for circumnavigating Vancouver Island by rowboat in 2011. Henry will make the journey in a Stellar S18R sea kayak.
After skiing for the past two months, Henry admits he lost most of the muscle and fitness he developed in making the 207-day trans-Caribbean epic with his brother, Graham. But the expedition prepared him in other ways, “like being able to push through hard times and tell my body to push the aches and pains aside and keep going, being comfortable paddling through the night, and being able to wake up every morning ready to rock out another huge day,” says Henry.
Henry settled on the Stellar after toying with the idea of making the trip in a surfski. His goal is to paddle 11 hours per day, averaging 38 nautical miles. Vancouver Island serves up numerous challenges, from powerful currents along the inside passage to big water conditions on its west side. Henry says he’ll follow a 24-hour clock to make the most of the tidal currents and is anticipating unpredictable weather. “The crux of the trip is definitely from Port Hardy around to the south side of the Brooks Peninsula,” he says. “It’s going to be the most exposed paddling of the trip, the most isolated, and has the most potential for some monster seas.”
Angus took ownership of the self-propelled speed record by toppling the time of Joe O’Blenis, an Ontario-based paddle-maker who sea kayaked around Vancouver Island in 16 days, 12 hours and 14 minutes in 2010.
Follow Henry’s progress on his website and watch CanoeKayak.com for updates.