Obit of the Day: World Record Canoer
Don Starkell wanted some quality family time with his teenage sons Jeff and Dana. Starkell was divorced and his sons had recently returned to live with him. Family bonding was paramount to Starkell but instead of heading to a ball game or grabbing a couple of ice cream cones, Starkell decided the family would paddle a canoe from Winnipeg to Brazil.
They began their adventure in the spring of 1980. The three started on Winnipeg’s Red River of the North, down to the Mississippi, to the Gulf of Mexico, along the coasts of Central and South America, then onto the Orinoco in Colombia, before arriving in Brazil along the Amazon. Along the way Jeff abandoned the trip in Mexico which left Don and Dana to deal with 15 foot waves, Sandanistas, Honduran criminals, as well as fatigue, muscle loss, and hunger. They eventually were able to document that they had traveled over 12,000 miles (19,500 km) in their 21-foot red fiberglass canoe. The Skarkells are listed in the Guiness Book of World Records for the world’s longest canoe trip
Less than ten years later Starkell, who had canoed since he was a teenager, decided to paddle from Churchill, Manitoba to the Arctic Circle and back. He traveled over 3100 miles (5000 km) during a three-year period before his canoe became encased in ice and failed to reach his destination by only a few miles. He was rescued and lost his fingertips and some toes to frostbite.
Don Starkel, canoe adventurer, died at the age of 79.
(Image of Dana playing guitar in the famous canoe that traveled from Canada to Brazil is copyright Don Starkell and courtesy of The National Post .)