Distance: Approximately 4500-5000 miles
Who: Hadas Feldman, Jeff Allen
What: After a brief meeting of souls at the Anglesey sea and surf centre, Hadas Feldman and I entered into a Karmic agreement and after just three months of preparation set off to circumnavigate the four main islands of Japan. The journey really was a karmic experience, on many levels, from support of sponsors, coming out of the blue, just when we needed it, the people we met along the journey, offering advice and at times shelter from the many storms to which we would be exposed.
The journey started in the first week of January 2004, not the best time of year, because of the cold, Tokyo Bay, can be pretty chilly in January and we headed southwards, the Pacific coastline of Japan, is battered by Typhoon driven swells during the summer months, but during the winter, it is the Monsoon winds which would affect us, and these were in the main, blowing offshore. Later in the year the Typhoons would make them selves felt, in all of their anger and devastation.
The first three months saw us battling daily with the wind, so much so, that after three months of paddling, we had only made it as far as Tsuruga Wan, some 2500 kilometers from where we had started in Yokusuka Shi. We now had to leave Japan and head home, our Visa’s had expired and so too had our finances. Hadas went back to Israel and I returned to train and save, working on the west coast of Scotland for a few months, writing up my memories of the journey and teaching some of the locals how to paddle. We returned at the height of the Typhoon season, was instantly transported by Marina Casa Zima, back to our start position, and recommenced our journey northwards. We had left Shikoku and Kyushu in our wake, ahead of us lay the west coast of Honshu, the whole of Hokkaido and then the final run down the east Pacific coast of Honshu and back into Marina Casa Zima, to be greated by Otake San and Ed Phillips San, who had been stalwart supporters of our project from the start.
Six Typhoons, one earth quake and a few hundred friends, picked up along the way, were all the memories I would need to make this the expedition by which I would judge all others by…
South Georgia: On a wing and a prayer
Who: Hadas Feldman, Jeff Allen, Peter Bray, Nigel Dennis
What: The first British Circumnavigation of South Georgia
It was whilst in Japan that the seeds of our next adventure would be sown. Hadas asked that fateful question, ‘Where’s next Jeff?’
South Georgia,’ I replied.
An ‘Antarctic Oasis’
South Georgia is known as an Antarctic Oasis, with several different species of Penguin, Seals and Cetacean and a very unique environment where flora and fauna is concerned. It also happens to be one of the most remote islands in the world, laying deep down in the screaming fifties, sandwiched between Cape Horn and the Antarctic Peninsular, the island is reputed to have one of the most inhospitable lee shores on the planet. Not surprising that it had earned the nickname of being the K2 of sea kayaking.
Shortly after returning from Japan, I contacted Peter Bray and asked him if he fancied giving it a crack, the rest is history as they say, for not only did we complete the mission, but we also managed to establish a world speed record in completing the circumnavigation in 13 days, ten hours and so many minutes.
The journey just to get to Grytviken was an adventure in itself, numerous flights and stop overs to reach Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands, followed by a 4-5 day sail across the 1000 mile gap which separates the Falkland Islands from South Georgia deep in the Southern Ocean. We set off from Port Stanley, rounding Cape Pembroke in a solid, though decreasing storm F10, deep ocean swells, 15meters from trough to crest had us surfing down towards this lee shore, but by the time we arrived, it was as calm as calm could be. We took advantage of the fine weather, setting off almost the same day and although we had some pretty horrendous weather on the north eastern side of the island, the southern, more exposed aspect remained calm and in our favour, we managed to make it down to Cape Disappointment before the weather started to turn once more.
South Georgia was a truly memorable expedition and one that has left some very deeply engrained memories on my soul.
After returning from South Georgia, an indelible imprint had been left upon my soul, ever since taking to the sea in a kayak, the area where the sea meets the land had enthralled me. Especially where the mountains meet the sea, where else could I go to experience the same vista – Norway.
Norway has an enormous coastline, which is deeply scarred by Fjords, cutting deep into its mountainous interior. Along its coast there are many islands and areas of shallow water, hazardous to deeper drafted vessels, but perfect for a kayak to meander through. The other thing which attracted me about Norway was it’s size, although South Georgia had been spectacular, it had been too short for me, I had cut my teeth on a journey around Japan, and now I wanted something to which I could really sink my teeth into.
The coastline of Norway, combined with Sweden, makes up the Scandinavian Peninsular, and that is where I would venture next. Starting in Goteborg and paddling North, the journey would become a series of smaller expeditions, all connected, certainly connected geographically, but also on this expedition, I was to encounter so many personal, life changing events, that my journey along the coast of Scandinavia, was truly a life changing experience.
But this doesn’t have to be the case, its all about perception, changing your mind set, your perception is the first step in positive action, bur remember positive thought is only positive when followed by positive action. So after a string of occurrences on my Scandinavia expedition, which some could view as being negative, such as losing my home and property in a devastating fire and the loss of my father to heart attack. I decided to change my direction, I was starting to feel old, as if I had crossed a peak and was on the slippery slope down, I decided to set myself a challenge and along with Harry Whelan, set out to break a long established speed kayaking record ‘Around Ireland’.
The 33 day record, established by a team of men from the Emerald Isle, led by Mick Omeara, had stood the test of time and at 49 years old, was I really going to have what it takes to paddle 1000 miles in record time, against the elements?
Well first of all, you never take on the elements, as Tim Carr (Round the world sailor) once said to me, sometimes Mother nature lets you pass, sometimes you have to wait. In many ways Mother Nature was cruel, because Ireland is all about the weather. We coined the phrase ‘Weather we can, or weather we can’t, it’s all about the weather’. We were granted a boon from the God of the Wind, and although it blew like a screaming banshee, it did allow us to pass and 25 days later we returned to the sounds of Gaelic Pipes and a warm welcome from family and friends. For me this really did prove, your never to old, and the only real failure in life is when you fail to try –
(The word Oss is taken from the saying “Osu no Seishin” which means to persevere whilst being pushed, to endure)