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This is an attempt to consolidate numerous records and accounts of sea kayak expeditions throughout the history of the sport of sea kayaking. The qayaq or qajaq or kayak is the skin covered sea-going craft used by the Eskimos of the Arctic – dating back to before AD500 there is speculation that they were used as far back as 2000BC. The Inuit continued to build and use kayaks until the mid-nineteenth century, when cultural disruption and the availability of commercially made canoes and other boats took the place of traditional skin-covered kayaks. Most modern kayaks are produced in a mould, from plastic, or laminated in fibreglass and diolen and polyester resin or the more expensive hybrids of Kevlar and carbon fibre using vinylester or epoxy resins. The British can probably legitimately claim to have invented the ‘sport’ of expedition kayaking in the Victorian era with the journeying of John MacGregor (3) in his beloved Rob Roy, a craft far removed in design from the Eskimo kayak. In 1865 he began by paddling down the Thames, ferrying across the English Channel, and then paddling the rivers and lakes of Europe. On March 31, 1928, German-born Franz Romer (3) set out alone from Lisbon, Portugal, to make the first recorded crossing of the Atlantic in a sea kayak.
Romer filled Deutscher Sport, his 21’6″ modified Klepper, end-to-end with food and slept in his seated position under a homemade spray skirt that covered everything except for a small breathing tube. When he set off, without a farewell from anyone, down the River Danube towards the Mediterranean, his original goal was Cyprus where he hoped to find work in the copper mines. The legendary trip by which all open-water expedition kayakers measure themselves is probably Hannes Lindemann’s Atlantic crossing of the Atlantic in 1956. Lindemann subsisted mostly on evaporated milk, cans of beer, rainwater and the sea life he could spear from his seat.
In 1969,  John Dowd, the New Zealand-born founder of Sea Kayaker magazine and author of the classic instructional book Sea Kayaking; A Manual For Long Distance Touring attempted to retrace the escape route of some of the commandos involved in Operation Rimau.
Dowd and a friend paddled a Klepper across the South China and Java seas and down the Sumatran coast in the wake of those early fugitives.
While Dowd only made it 500 of his target 3,000 miles in the six weeks of his expedition before becoming side tracked by other adventures, it remains an important trip for its effect on subsequent paddlers. The first person to document an attempt to circumnavigate the mainland of Great Britain was Geoffrey Hunter (4) in 1970 in a home-made wooden sea kayak. In 1975, Derek Hutchinson (1) and a crew of friends including John Ramwell made a first and failed attempt to cross the North Sea between England and Belgium. Without electronic navigating equipment, Hutchinson and his team got so lost they ended up eight miles off the coast of Dunkirk, France, rather than the small coastal town they had originally targeted in Belgium.
Founded in 1970 by Frank Goodman, Valley Canoe Products became one of the very first companies to commercially produce a specialist sea kayak in glass fiber when it launched the Anas Acuta in 1972. The first successful circumnavigation of Cape Horn was made by Goodman (3), who led three others on a successful 1977 mission.
Despite 16-foot swells and 50-foot-high spray blocking visibility, Goodman became the first to paddle one of the most infamous and feared stretches of water on the planet. The stormy Caribbean Sea was crossed by John Dowd and his wife Beatrice in a Klepper double in 1977-78. New Zealander Paul Caffyn has become a true expedition sea kayaking legend in his own lifetime. The summer of 1978 also saw Derek Hutchinson’s Aleutian Islands expedition from Dutch Harbor on Unalaska 250-miles to Nikolski on Umnak. In Paul Caffyn’s second book ‘Cresting the Restless Wave’ he describes his 1,700mile circumnavigation of New Zealand’s North Island in 1979 which finished with a solo crossing of Cook Strait. Still down under, the first sea kayak circumnavigation of Tasmania was undertaken by John Brewster and Earle Bloomfield in 1978(9). In 1980 the Scottish Kayak Expedition to North West Norway was the first formal and sponsored Sottish sea kayak expedition supported by the Scottish Canoe Association and a very large number of suppliers and bodies. Paul Caffyn joined Englishman Nigel Dennis in a first complete circumnavigation of Great Britain in 1980 after just 85 days of paddling. In 1981, Nigel Foster paddled a Vyneck kayak of his own design from Baffin Island to Labrador, a solo expedition that nearly killed him and left him with minor frostbite after a crossing of Hudson Strait. In 1985, Paul Caffyn completed a solo, 4,400 mile 112 day paddle around the four main islands of Japan.
Wayne Haack completed a first solo circumnavigation of both the Queen Charlottte Islands of British Columbia in 1984.
The first circumnavigation of the mainland of both the UK and Ireland was accomplished by a team of three paddlers from Gillingham Canoe Club in 1986. On June 25, 1987, Ed Gillet (3) departed alone from Monterey, California in a production Necky Tofino double laden with 600 pounds of food and gear with the intention of mostly sailing his way to Hawaii. Despite advances in technology, Gillet’s 2,200-mile Pacific journey remains so epic none have ever tried to match it. In July 1989 a British Expedition, Kayaks Across The Bering Strait, completed the first sea kayak crossing of the Bering Strait from Wales, in Alaska, to Cape Dezhneva, Siberia. A 12,000 mile canoe trip from Winnipeg to the Amazon won Don Starkell a place in the Guinness Book of Records. The Oregon stretch was the toughest, with 17-foot swells and 28-knot winds caused by a hurricane that had blown through Hawaii several days earlier. The Pacific coast of Baja, Mexico was paddled by Jan Richards and John Reseck in 1993 using double kayaks.
The list of British circumnavigators increased in 1996 when Steve Macdonald and Peter Bray paddled around the mainland of Great Britain in a double kayak.  What makes this achievement truly remarkable is that Steve is partially sighted. In 1997, Scott McGuire and Kurt Rinehart put on the Sea of Cortes at San Felipe and paddled the full length of the East Coast of the Baja Peninsular to Cabo San Lucas. Scott McGuire paddled with Jon Bowermaster, Barry Tessman and Sean Farrell to the Islands of the Four Moutains, in the Aleutian Islands chain in 1999. While the Atlantic had already been crossed in sea kayaks twice, Peter Bray was the first to paddle west to east, without the tropical trade winds to ease his passage, and without the safety of the southerly east-to-west route’s warm waters.
American Lonnie Dupre and Australian John Hoelscher, became the first to circumnavigate Greenland, traversing more than 6,500 miles of coastline using sleds and sea kayaks. Jon Turk’s crowning achievement was his trip from Japan to Alaska which was completed in two legs, over the summers of 1999 and 2000.
From May to September of the following year, Jon joined with Russian adventurer Misha Petrov to paddle their 17-foot Prijon Kodiaks, north along Kamchatka and eventually crossing to St. Down in the southern hemisphere in 2000, Tom Bergh, Stan Chadlek and Nigel Dennis went to the South Shetland Islands, successfully circumnavigating Nelson Island before having their trip cut by a few days due to the logistics of working with the Chilean navy.
Mike Falconeri took the long way from Washington to Maine by following the Pacific, Gulf and Atlantic coastline for over 4500 miles in 2001. The Adventure Philosophy crew of Graham Charles, Mark Jones and Marcus Walters (11) have been pushing the limits of expedition sea kayaking in recent years. In 2004, Sean Morley completed the first solo circumnavigation of the UK and Ireland and picking up the gauntlet thrown down by Bill Taylor, was the first to attempt to include all the inhabited islands of the British Isles. South Georgia Island lying deep in the Southern Ocean was one of the last few unconquered but highly sought after circumnavigations. The ‘British’ team successfully completed their expedition and claimed a record in making a faster circumnavigation than the Kiwis.
Rotem Ron (6) was the first to circumnavigate Iceland solo in 53 days in the summer of 2006. Andrew McCauley (7) has completed three crossings of Australia’s notorious Bass Strait, including the first ever direct, non-stop crossing in 35 hours in 2003. Australian duo James Castrission and Justin James (10) and their kayak Lot 41 designed by renowned kayak designer Rob Feloy (designer of the kayak used in Peter Bray’s second and successful Atlantic crossing) departed Forster, Australia on November 13 2007.

After a failed attempt in 2008, Patrick Winterton and Mick Berwick paddled unsupported from the Butt of Lewis on the west coast of Scotland to the Faroes in 2009.
Marcus Demuth completed the first recorded circumnavigation of the Falkland Islands in 2009.
In 2011 Jon Turk and Erik Boomer successfully completed the first circumnavigation of Ellesmere Island by hauling thier 13ft touring kayaks across sea ice using skis until it became too broken up. In 2011, Jeff Allen and Harry Whelan put the Rockpool Taran on the map as a serious expedition kayak after completing their record breaking 25 day circumnavigation of Ireland. In 2012 John Willacy took this to a new level, paddling his Taran to break the long-standing 80 day record for the circumnavigation of the Great Britain. On Wednesday the 29th February 2012 Tim Taylor finished a 15 month, 5,529km trip around North and South Island of New Zealand. He spent a total of 112 days on the water for the entire expedition, covering an average of 49.4km per day. Turning Safe Search OFF may display content intended for mature audiences.You must be at least 18 years old to continue. Please enter at least one email addressYou are trying to send out more invites than you have remaining. This blog plagiarizes text and uses pictures obtained from various online resources  and does so in the knowledge that permission has not always been sought or obtained but it is hoped that the various authors and photographers recognize the benefit of this website to both themselves and the readers. I have only included sea KAYAK expeditions but it is worth noting that whilst he paddled a canoe not a kayak, Verlen Kruger has his own unique place in expedition sea paddling history.
Eskimo or Esquimaux was the name given to the Indians who occupied the Far North of the American continent by their southern neighbours. Kayak manufacturers have tried to incorporate the lines of the Eskimo kayak into their modern designs. While John MacGregor is also claimed by the canoe crowd, he was the first to take the traditional form of a native kayak and turn it into a recreation tool. The 29-year-old World War I veteran traveled almost 4,000 miles and spent 58 unbroken days at sea between the Canary Islands and St. He progressed with his paddle as needed, but mostly moved under a deck-mounted sail to which he attached a guide line that held his rudder true regardless of whether he was awake, asleep, taking latitude and longitude readings or simply hallucinating.
Thomas and then a brief sail over to San Juan Harbor in Puerto Rico, Romer again took to sea with the goal of making his way up the American coastline to New York. His story went untold for many years but remains one of the longest journeys (30,000miles) ever undertaken by kayak.
While he wasn’t the first to cross the Atlantic by kayak, the German’s expedition has gained the greatest notoriety among contemporary paddlers because he published a written record of his epic crossing (2), Alone at Sea. Being a physician helped him anticipate and treat his ailments, and he approached them with mainstream medicine and a sort of pre-New Age philosophy mind training. Few people know the stories of Operations Jaywick and Rimau, WWII missions of Australian Z-Group commandos who paddled into Singapore to blow up Japanese ships.
Jaywick was a completely successful raid (from the perspective of the Allies), but because there were no survivors of Operation Rimau, the route’s details were sketchy and based upon Japanese interrogation reports.
Geoff was forced to cut short his voyage by going through the Crinan and Caledonian Canals, thus avoiding the most exposed coasts of the West and North of Scotland. Whilst his level of expertise as a paddler is without question, the suitability of his kit and the lack of real planning and experience meant that Geoffrey was perhaps fortunate to get as far as he did and return home safely. After 34 hours of open-sea paddling, they faced hallucinations, vomiting, nausea, hypothermia and dehydration. This kayak was developed from a native Greenland kayak brought back from the Western region. Goodman and crew shipped their Nordkapps to the southern tip of South America and then made their way from the U.K. Ironically, it was his discovery of Cape Horn Island’s unrecorded lake—which had not appeared on any of the maps or charts the team used in their planning-that proved to be the most cherished element of the voyage for Goodman. It was far and away the most serious kayak trip I have done due to the open crossings, strong currents and strong winds”. Again in 1979 he joined up with Max Reynolds to make a crossing of Foveaux Strait and a circumnavigation of Stewart Island off the southern tip of the South Island which led to his third book, ‘Obscured by Waves’. But when he lost his radio on week two, with it went all contact with the outside world for the remaining eight weeks. A few kayakers have achieved greater mileage, but not on an open-water crossing of the Pacific. The four expedition members, Robert Egelstaff, Trevor Potts, Greg Barton and Peter Clark, kayaked from Nome up the Alaskan coast, round Cape Prince of Wales before crossing the Strait via the Diomede Islands.
For an encore he decided to head north on a 3,000-mile journey through the Northwest Passage by kayak and sled during the brief Arctic summers of 1990, 91 & 92. He was met along the way by kayaks paddled by other disabled athletes, including Mark Wellman, a paraplegic who in 1989 scaled Yosemite’s El Capitan. The circumnavigation stretched over three separate visits, from 1997 to 2001, with Dupre and Hoelscher covering 3,442 miles by dogsled and 3,075 miles by kayak. He called it the Sea America Expeditionand his goal was to  was to take an in-depth look at the condition of the country’s oceans and coastline, and to promote their protection.
His six month 4,500 mile journey remains the longest journey ever undertaken in British waters.
Two teams had made serious attempts; The Royal Anglian South Georgia Expedition in 1991, who reached as far as Cape Disappointment from Brandt Cove in a clockwise route but were unable to re-launch due to poor sea state, and in December 1996 when Wade Fairley and Angus Finney were forced by sea conditions to undertake a portage across the Shackleton Gap.
This was a committing 220km solo paddle across some of Australia’s most treacherous waters.
They completed the 240 mile crossing successfully in 95 hours in single kayaks, using the small island of North Rhona as a stepping stone. Then they would hop from one peice of unstable ice to another dragging the 300lb loads until eventually they were able to paddle.
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In fact there were several diverse Native peoples of the Arctic who went by different names: the Inuit of Canada and Greenland, the Inupiat of Alaska, the Inuvialuit of the Mackenzie River delta and the Aleuts of Northern Siberia.
Many Inuit consider these new ‘plastic’ kayaks to be ugly and for the most part remain loyal to their traditionally built craft. And while MacGregor navigated his famed craft Rob Roy down rivers and open waters alike, the boat’s form influenced modern sea kayaks and their use as a recreational craft. Despite several modifications to his boat’s design, such as sail riggings and a canopy that opened to a mosquito net-covered sleeping bay, the Rob Roy bore measurements common to modern-day sea kayaks: 15 feet long, 28 inches wide, nine inches deep, and 80 pounds in weight. He had to eat his way through his food stores before he could stretch out, and suffered from boils and atrophy. Having survived one hurricane after his departure from Lisbon and another after departing from Las Palmas, he met his fate at the outset of the third and final leg. He left Ulm, Germany in 1932 and paddled to Australia, arriving in September 1939, unbeknown to him two weeks after the start of World War II. He had the kayak shipped from Larnaka to the Syrian coast then took a bus across Syria to Meskene on the Upper Euphrates River thus avoiding the busy Suez Canal. Nonetheless, Lindemann suffered from atrophy in the legs, skin boils and infections from alternating dry and wet conditions, and sleep deprivation.

Nevertheless, following the account in Ronald McKie’s book The Heroes, Dowd was able to locate a cache of the group’s corroded limpet mines in a cave on Pulau Panjang, Z-group’s base for attacking Singapore. After tying themselves together to keep from capsizing in an exhausted stupor, they finally sent up a signal flare and were retrieved by a passing ferry. Paul had to contend with a tropical cyclone which nearly swept him off a small offshore islet in the Coral Sea, raging surf, tiger sharks which frequently bumped into the kayak in the Gulf of Carpentaria, crocodiles, sea snakes and three sections of sheer limestone cliffs. When Gillet failed to appear by his predicted arrival window his family flew into a frenzy.
Having completed the crossing they continued north to Uelen, where they were welcomed by the Soviet Sports Committee and eventually returned to the UK via Moscow.
Instead of a hung keel to make it self-righting, this version used an ingenious system of water tanks to provide the necessary ballast. Whilst he completed a circumnavigation of all the inhabited islands of the UK and Ireland he was unable to include the Channel Islands and thus the whole of the British Isles remains as a record to be attained. The ‘British’ team of Peter Bray, Nigel Dennis, Hadas Feldman (from Israel) and Jeff Allen announced to the world that they would begin their attempt in the month of November. While it was pushing the limit at the time, Andrew took it one step further with an incredible 530km crossing of the Gulf of Carpentaria in 2004, which took almost seven days – sleeping in his kayak on a rough ocean each night.
They had kayaked 3318km, braved 10 metre swells, faced howling winds of over 50 knots, endured severe food and sleep deprivation, wasting muscles and adverse winds and currents to become the first kayak expedition across the Tasman Sea as well as become the longest trans-oceanic kayaking expedition undertaken by two expeditioners. But just two weeks later this record was broken once again, this time by Joe Leach – in an impressive 67 days!
Those who remember the old ways have helped the new generations of Inuit preserve the traditional techniques of construction of kayaks and associated equipment. Ugly or not the modern sea kayak is incredibly sea worthy, and in the right hands is capable of undertaking long voyages in extreme conditions. Remember that in 1928, the only navigation technology available included his compass, sextant, binoculars and a barometer. He had to eat his way through his supplies before he could stretch out comfortably for a reasonable four-hour’s sleep.
Perhaps the most famous expedition kayak design is Valley’s Nordkapp, produced for the British Norway expedition in 1975. Four members of the British Kayak Expedition completed a journey from Bodo to Nordkapp in Northern Norway, Europe’s most northerly point. Patching the kayaks and drying the fiberglass over a stove, Goodman then waited out a two-day gale before starting out from Hershal Island at 5 a.m.
To overcome the three 100+mile plus long sections of cliffs, Paul used Nodoz tablets to stay awake and Lomotil to keep his bowels dormant during these overnight paddles. Reading their separate accounts makes an interesting comparison of their volatile relationship and how the rigors of the journey are not the only challenges a team faces on an expedition.
When I first looked at it I thought it was a strange idea: lots of times these transoceanic things turn out to be just drifting events, riding the currents.
With a sleeping compartment and ultra-high tech systems, including satellite phone and tracking system, GPS, desalinization units and electric bilge pump, all powered by solar panels, the kayak was the most advanced transoceanic kayak ever built. The Adventure Philosophy crew had kept secret their plans to do the same journey later in the same year.
In October 2007 he attempted to be the first to cross the Tasman Sea from Australia to New Zealand but was tragically lost at sea just 40-miles short of his destination. In fact 2012 proved to be an exceptional year for circumnavigations of Great Britain with no less than 12 individuals completing the loop. Dutch whalers, plying the waters around Greenland in the 1600s brought back kayaks along with many other artefacts including hunting equipment, skins and ivory. Historians and scholars from both sides of the Atlantic have sought to preserve and record these skills. Were it not for MacGregor and his Rob Roy, it might not have occurred to anyone to pick up traditionally structured boats and paddle them for fun. Ironically, by the time he created enough sleeping room, the weather turned so sour that he had to remain largely awake.
The next year, with better planning and experience, he and a new team successfully made the crossing from Felizstowe to Ostend in 31 hours.
The 480 mile journey, which took a month to complete, was undertaken through the worst summer in Norway since records began, but the kayaks performed excellently in the difficult conditions.
The longest stint along the awesome Zuytdorp Cliffs in Western Australia, took 34hours of continuous paddling.
Sixty-three days after his departure and four days after he ran out of food, suffering from 40 hours of sleep deprivation and subject to winds and currents driving him north, past the islands, Gillet steered in a hallucinatory dawn into Kahului Harbor and landed on Maui Beach.
21 and celebrated his wedding anniversary at Pismo Beach on the central California coast Sept. When Bray awoke, he found his cockpit three-quarters filled with water and his electronic pumping system inoperable due to a faulty outlet valve. This time, Bray encountered a storm that pushed him 60 miles off course, a broken rudder, a broken hatch, insufficient sun to charge his solar panels, a close call with a killer whale and an Icelandic current that swept him so far north that he risked missing Ireland altogether. In true Kiwi competitive spirit they brought forward their expedition to ensure they would be the first and audaciously set out in October in frigid weather to complete the circumnavigation in great style.
Freya spent a total of 13 nights afloat, she averaged 35 miles a day and successfully completed her solo and largely un-supported journey on December 15th 2009. There are some beautiful examples of replica kayaks, built using wood and canvas (instead of sealskin). Despite his death, and despite no written record of his experience, Franz Romer’s Atlantic crossing remains inarguably the greatest sea kayaking expedition of the modern era.
Lindemann made use of a double sail rig and an outrigger constructed of half an automobile tire tube. Forced to use a hand pump, he was unable to keep the water from rising and was washed out into the open water twice. But after 76 continuous days of paddling, Bray dodged the scattered boats of the Irish fishing fleet and made land at Beldereg, Ireland, on Sept. These early kayaks were made of driftwood and bone pegged and lashed together to make a light rigid frame. It could be argued that such a journey now would be just as challenging for entirely different (political) reasons. The journey was surprisingly smooth for the first month, and Lindemann took advantage of the warming trade winds.
His wife, Due, was able to share those events as a member of the road crew that met him on shore every night to set up camp. Seeing that the boat was lost, he inflated an emergency raft, which was torn by the foundering kayak upon inflation. But in late November things grew tumultuous, and in mid-December he spent a day and a half clinging to the side of his capsized boat. On several occasions, he climbed onto his kayak’s overturned hull, but the air temperature was so much colder, and his drenched wax-cloth attire so un-insulating, that he slipped back into the water to wait out the storm. After being picked up by the Coast Guard, the former British Special Forces soldier spent the next four months learning to walk again.

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