Monday, February 8, 2010

Kabloona in a yellow kayak

I really don't even know where to start with this one. I hated this book, I liked this book,and hated it again. And overall I closed the cover on the ending relieved I was finished. This was the hardest book about kayaking I have ever tried to read.

The good:

Victoria rolled with the weather and treated the Inuit very well. She listened to their advice and took it very seriously. Her descriptions of the land, weather, and surroundings, were so good I could picture it. She seemed very in tune to her surroundings. I like her laid back approach to extended tripping.

The bad:

The persistent need to shit all over Don Starkell in what seemed to be every paragraph.....even when she was writing about journeying on her own years later! It honestly ruined the book for me. As you know paddle to the arctic written by Don Starkell covers part of Kabloona in a yellow kayak, as Don took her on his expedition as a novice kayaker.

Don does not disagree that there was conflict, however he also doesn't reference it over and over and over and over and over and over and over...(that should illustrate how frustrating it was to read). MY GOD!!! I was honestly going to put the book down and not even bother finishing it. I was really hoping after the first half of the book where her and Don part ways that the constant jabs at Don Starkell would stop. No such luck. It continued throughout the book.

Personal conflict is going to happen. However I really wished she took Don approach and left the constant little bickering out,but still conveyed that there were arguments.

There were a few arguments that bugged me after reading Paddle to the amazon,Paddle to the Arctic first then this book.

-Victoria exploding about her father yelling at her when Don yelled at her. Don didn't have parents. Don didn't mention this to her, but it was the first thing that came to my mind.

-Bitching about Don not wanting to set up in the sand. He was sick and tired of sand from his South America trip. I can sympathize with him, as we all make our decisions on things we have learned to love and to hate in life. And sand in everything really does suck.

-An argument about her jumping around playing with the kids and running around prior to their big pull of the kayaks on the ice. Don told her to save the energy...she came back with a snippy response. Later Don was hauling her puk on the ice.

-Her argument with Don about handing stuff out to the Inuit that they had paid to take them across the ice on snowmobiles. What she doesn't mention in her book (or Don in his) is that Don noticed she also gave away his knife to the Inuit.

In a interview with Che-Mun Don shows a clearer picture.

"I respect her for her first year but the second year something went to her head. . . I didn't read her book entirely but there's one thing that really bugs me. I gave her a presentation knife that the Russell knife people gave to me. Victoria didn't have a decent knife so I gave her this knife and told her to respect it and take care of it 'cause it means a lot to me. I was up there two days with her and after we had to take the snowmobile lift I noticed that the Inuk who was driving had the same exact knife. She had given it to him as a gift. I couldn't believe it."

Don doesn't go into argument details in his book like Victoria does, so it's very easy for some to write Don off as a cruel mean person that no one would want to travel with. However once Don explains this it provides a clearer picture of his "cruelty" doesn't it? I think so anyway.

After paying the men; then Vicky giving away his valued knife...I would be pissed off and not in a very giving mood either.

Now don't get me wrong there was things that Don did that I woulda snapped at. However Victoria painted her self as flawless and Don as a monster. I didn't like it. There are two sides to every story. Just so happens Don doesn't focus his book around their arguments. He does admit fault in some arguments in his own book.

Personally I think the details of all the arguments took away from her journey's story. This was a very strong woman who came quite a ways in a short amount of time. However the constant shitting on Don made the book feel like a vendetta a ex girlfriend would publish after a really bad break up. I think if she stayed to just mentioning it here and there and not rambling on forever about it;the book would have been amazing.

Things like wet kotext pad's, running out of pads, threat of rape, missing grand kids is somethings I have not seen in a kayaking book before. And it was something I never really thought about for obvious reasons. Interesting to see a totally different view point.

On some discussions reference this book I see people commenting on this as a guide for "how not to kayak trip" etc. I wonder how many of these people have as many KM in dangerous waters behind them as Vicky does? No she wasn't a level 4 paddle Canada coach, she didn't know what a brace was (I enjoyed the fact those guys got mauled by a griz =0) I won't ruin it for you) and is still more accomplished than many Canadian paddlers today.

Victoria Jason was a wonderful woman. I sure do share her passion for the wild places, her belief of going with nature and not against it, and absolute respect and awe for others cultures.A wonderful woman who accomplished quite a feat.

Unfortunately Victoria Jason passed away in 2000 with family by her side. No matter how far north she was paddling she was always thinking of them.

A great paddler and a great Canadian.


  1. Interesting. I read Paddle to the Amazon, then Paddle the Artic then Kabloona in the Yellow kayak, and after reading 2 of don's books, i thought he was superman. Then i read Kabloona and thought, well maybe this guy may not be someone i'd want on a paddling trip, and thought it was interesting to get a different view of things. My wife read the books in the opposite order, and had the opposite view, she enjoyed Kabloona, but wasn't fussy on Don's two books because she had Vicks view of him stuck in her head. its very interesting how your first perceptions of something or someone are formed, and how they are hard to break from.

  2. Thank you for that posting. I loved the book when I read it quite some years ago now. We have a copy that she signed with the words, "Live, laugh and dream - much luck and love! Victoria Jason". As you say, a great Canadian. She was a deeply inspiring woman, a great paddler, and a model of courage.


  3. It's funny Brian as when I was reading it I wondered if my perception would have been the same had I read her book first.

    Her book is also a good example of taking a step to be the best you can be in both skill and attitude on long expeditions with people....cause you know their gonna write something!

    Glad you enjoyed the post Duncan and Joan!

  4. I loved the fact that she had good outdoor skills, but craved getting to a drugstore to buy hair dye so she could dye her hair:-)

    I do feel that she may not have been treated with much respect by Don. Remember him and his two sons were constantly fist fighting on their trip to the Amazon and I suspect he is the stubborn/tyrant that he and Victoria both implied.

    I did go back and re-read parts of the book and I do like it, especially the last third after she went solo.

    I rate this book high and respect her gripes as it shows the frustrations required to share an adventure with other people. It makes it more real for me.

  5. Thanks for the comment Stevie.
    Glad you enjoyed the book, the negativity really ruined it for me.

    I have huge respect for both The late Victoria and Don.And would paddle with both if I had the chance for sure.


  6. I know this is an "old" post already, but Don's been burned in a house fire that just happened at his house. Saw it on the news... I haven't read his books, only Victoria's book, so I guess my perception of him is skewed by her point of view. My Dad knew her, and I think he said his friend was formerly related to her by marriage, which is how I got a copy of her wonderful book.

    I don't wish anyone ill will, so I hope he's ok. At 77, I'm sure he's done more in his life than I might ever do.

    RIP Victoria, and good luck Don.

  7. Thanks for the comment, I hope Don a speedy recovery. both his books are well worth reading.

  8. With the passing of Mr. Starkell today I happened across your post quite by accident. As a Winnipegger who is well aware of Mr. Starkell's adventures and a fan of Victoria Jason's book, you have done a brilliant job highlighting the positive and negative aspects of "Kabloona in the Yellow Kayak".

    Today, I choose to remember Don Starkell as a person who rose from adversity, a person who did things that most people can't imagine and lived an extraordinary life.

    While I will always enjoy the descriptions of solitude, uncertainty and fear about her trips, Ms. Jason's negativity towards Mr Starkell will have to be put aside for another day.

  9. Amen to that Anon. I am glad you found the post done this excellent man Justice. Mr Starkell was and still is a huge inspiration in my life.

    It's a sad day for Canadians, Adventurers, and modern day explorers and paddlers.

    He was truly an amazing man.

    Thanks for the comment!