Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bitter Sweet - the end of a dream - The Best Odyssey comes to an end - GREY GOOSE underway in 2012 - All Aboard!

We all have dreams... not many of us make them come true.... Captain Gavin McClurg is one who has succeeded - KUDOS! - my hat goes off to you!


Looks something like this: As "Discovery" sails around the world you fly in to meet up with her. There you are sailing through crystal blue seas with a group of great friends, exploring remote tropical islands and discovering pristine anchorages. The day begins with a lazy cup of coffee while you focus on the perfect waves you have all to yourself, yet again. The first decision of the day is what board to ride. After an epic early surf session it's time to think about breakfast, maybe a quick freedive to get the blood pumping. Maybe it's the adrenaline, or the coffee, or a combination of both; but the conversation is animated and smiles abound. Slowly the glass outside picks up small wrinkles as the morning breeze strokes the surface of the water. Like clockwork our private bay is slowly transformed into a festival of action and color as first one kite and then another is launched into the sky...


The yacht you wanted and the one you could afford meant a few compromises. She's not exactly luxury, a bit rough around the edges, but hey, she's yours! It's not really big enough for all your friends and their gear but that's okay, a small crew is better anyway. With the demands of your job, family and other responsibilities it's difficult to get the time to go sailing but if you stay close to home you might get out most weekends and then there's holidays. So the round the world thing is a bit unrealistic but hey, there's probably lots of undiscovered places right where you live. So it's not tropical where you live. You can stay warm in just about any weather, and don't get me started on the benefits of layering! Besides, the sun does irreparable damage to your skin anyway. Your friends really seem to enjoy those early surfs but someone has to stay onboard and get breakfast going.

It really is surprising how much maintenance boats require. More to fit into those weekends and holidays. But you love your little yacht and enjoy working on her.


People who have owned a yacht know this- without unlimited time and very deep pockets sailing beyond the home marina can rarely be realized. Today it is becoming more and more difficult to justify sole ownership of a yacht when you compare the cost to actual use. A more economical but equally limiting alternative is to charter a boat- in places where hundreds of others can do the same, on boats that can't compare to the luxury and itinerary of The Best Odyssey.


As a corporate body the substantial risks involved in such an endeavor are minimized and distributed between all the owners while the rewards are maximized for each individual. Our owners consistently tell us they are thrilled to own a yacht many times over what can be offered by a charter company, with an experienced, proven professional crew and professional chef, which operates in a new remote paradise year after year. Offshore Odysseys is not a charter company. The Best Odyssey is being offered to serious explorers who are willing to make an investment to participate in a world sailing expedition that has never been done. We'll sail to wild places, kitesurf where no one has, spearfish and freedive pristine coral gardens, paraglide over mindblowing lagoons, surf breaks Kelly Slater hasn't even found. But we won't cater to stiff upper lips and won't baby whiners. Take a look at all we have to offer and if what you find is exactly what you've been looking for, contact us. An incredible Odyssey began in February 2007 and ends in 2012- time is running out!


The Best Odyssey Yacht Share, Dream to Reality:
By: Gavin McClurg, CEO and Captain

The blueprint for Offshore Odysseys started in 1998 when we went offshore for the first time. Over the next 7 years we sailed half way around the world, over 45,000 blue water miles. Our clients loved our trips, we learned what works and what doesn't at sea, and we had some amazing life changing adventures. I haven't drafted a balance sheet since business school, but I've learned to hold my breath to hunt for fish and lobster, sail a boat safely in violent weather, use the stars for navigation and the sun to gauge the time. Though I didn't realize it at the time, those past voyages were more than an education, they were the foundation for an extraordinary future journey.

That journey is The Best Odyssey. We've taken what works, thrown out what doesn't, added everything we would want to make for an expedition that is as close to perfect as we can create for our owner's, for our sponsors, and our crew. Kitesurfing expeditions to the last frontiers on earth; spearfishing and surfing adventures that no magazine has ever published; sailing itineraries the cruising guides could never envision.


My goal in life is to live from one series of moments to another. To stay out of the future and stay out of the past, and concentrate on the NOW. The Best Odyssey allows us to spend time and create trips with people who are as passionate about exploration and enjoying life as we are.

Other than sailing, my hobbies and passions include spearfishing, kiteboarding, surfing, paragliding, cooking, reading, writing and planning incredible trips. I'm passionate about protecting the environment and always seek ways of contributing positively to the places we visit. I grew up in Lake Tahoe, Nevada and spent my youth ski racing before getting an international business degree at the University of Colorado.

I have the following licenses and training's: USCG 100 tonne Master Captain's License. New Zealand Launch Master. Wilderness First Aid Responder, Swiftwater Rescue Technician, Celestial Navigation, CPR, First Aid. Alpine Intensive, River Intensive, Alpine Site Management, and River Site Management training's for Outward Bound, who I instructed for for three seasons.


Jody MacDonald grew up in Saudi Arabia to Canadian parents, the youngest of four children. She's traveled the world and excels in any sport she's ever tried (tame sports like paragliding, snowboarding, kiteboarding, skateboarding...). Jody is the co-founder of the expedition and it is her vision and drive for excellence that has made the Best Odyssey a reality. Her images adorn the pages of our web site and are viewed regularly around the world in dozens and dozens of sport and documentary publications. She's recently been published in Outside, Forbes, Outside Go, National Geographic, Kiteboarding, Stance, Cruising World, Kiteworld, Cross Country, Hang Gliding and Paragliding and many others; and was recently awarded on the National Geographic web site.

What does it look like to take a look back after five (5) years of circumnavigating the world on a 2002 Lagoon 570 catamaran while sharing the road-less-traveled with some 20 other adventuring shareholders?

Just the numbers please:
Total miles sailed: 54,000 (the distance of nearly two circumnavigations)
Circumnavigation completed: December 10th, 2010 (near Cape Verde)
Countries visited: 50
Total trips operated: 90
Days with guests on board: 986
Documented virgin kite locations: 148
Dinghies destroyed: 2
Trips cancelled or delayed: 0
Money spent on food: $123,321.00 USD
Approximate bottles of beer consumed: 4,320
Cumulative Staph infections suffered by Jody and me: 23
Pros on board: 37
Reefs I’ve planted us on: 3
Times hitting the reefs caused an emergency haul-out: 2
Number of times rebuilding a toilet has caused me to swear profusely: 24 (the exact number of rebuilds I’ve done)
Number of people I kicked off the boat: 1

So sit back and watch a fantastic video put together by Jody - enjoy.... dream..

'Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you
didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from
the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.'
- Mark Twain 

So here it is, a slideshow that takes us back to the beginning and all the way to the end. From the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, across the South Pacific, Micronesia, Indonesia, across the Indian Ocean to Africa, around the Cape of Good Hope, Namibia, Cape Verdes, Azores, Scotland and Spain:

Slideshow: http://animoto.com/play/0m0w0qHVkVYkQXSUZUaPxQ

People keep asking Jody and I what’s next? To be honest neither of us knows. I’m not sure I want to know, at least for the time being. For these five years and eight years before that I have been charged with keeping a lot of people safe in some seriously tight situations at sea. At times the stress of it was as suffocating as drowning, but to witness the smiles and hear what the expedition meant to those who joined was more payback than I could ever get from a paycheck. Even in the very dark times I knew my office was something I should never take for granted, and hopefully I never did. Neither Jody nor I consider ourselves planners, but somehow we planned what is certainly one of the most complex expeditions that has ever happened. If someone died, or got hurt, or got sick the show had to carry on. No calling in sick, no taking a day off. At times I felt like I was living inside a pressure cooker that had no relief valve. More than once Jody and I had long, tearful, serious talks about pulling the plug. But always these times would pass and be replaced with some of the most precious and happiest moments I’ve ever lived. I’m humbly proud of what we’ve achieved and at the same time scared that what we’ve achieved is only human, which succumbs like everything…to history.

We owe much of our success and all of our most incredible moments to our owners and sponsors, who dedicated much of their own lives (and no small amount of their hard-earned money!) to The Best Odyssey.  Each of you took a huge gamble on us, two people you had never met before and to you we say THANK YOU. Thank you for making this absurd, crazy, impossible dream come true. We hope it has also been a dream realized for you.

Because it certainly was for us.

Many thanks to each and every one of you, all those thousands of people who I’ve never even met who have followed our trials and tribulations in the form of the Captain’s Logs for these past five years. As most of you know, writing these logs is always hard for me and without your continued support I would have given it up long ago. But again and again you have reached out to me with your own stories, sorrows, joys, hopes, and fears and blessedly- your encouragement, which always makes penning the next story possible.

I hope we’ve kept you entertained.

But now we have reached a point that five years ago I couldn’t even imagine, and I still can’t believe has come. This is the final log of The Best Odyssey. An era has come to an end.

But really, somehow I think it’s just the beginning.

As always, I leave you with a quote. It’s one I’ve used before but it remains my favorite. Someday I hope to be as cranky, profound and important as Edward Abbey, who fought his entire life to preserve wild places. Unfortunately it’s a fight that will continue to be lost to the Corporations unless we get seriously pissed off and do something about it. Seems like now is a pretty good time.

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.“ — Edward Abbey



If you're tired of the rat race, been dreaming of sailing around the world and have been waiting for the right opportunity this is IT! Discovery is a spectacular 2002 Lagoon 570, which has proven an awesome luxury catamaran for our expedition. She's just taken us around the world- over 50,000 blue water miles to the most remote corners of the globe. She has been METICULOUSLY maintained and is absolutely show-ready. All new rigging, sails, teak decks, loads of upgrades, newly painted, all newly varnished interior. Ready to leave tomorrow? Discovery is kitted out with everything you need. Thousands of dollars of spares, tools, and of course all the required toys and a LOT more.

She has 4 beautifully appointed private guest cabins and two crew cabins which sleep 11. Flat screens/DVD in each and a generous interior layout. Huge main salon and cockpit, brilliant galley, 2 fridges, 2 freezers, ice maker, beer fridge topside, tons of storage everywhere, laundry machine, A/C and heat, dive compressor, new tender with new 50hp 4 stroke outboard, and a tow winch for paragliding. Of course all system electronics (GPS, radar, SSB, sat phone, broadband internet, etc.).

Maybe you're interesting in funding your dream sail around the world by running a kitesurfing expedition like we did? We'll sell you the boat, and ALL the IP of our company (this website, contracts, financials data, itinerary advice, sponsor contacts, etc.) as well to help get you going! We started from scratch, now we have a proven, working blueprint. Go on, get out there! She's listed at 490,000 Euros- a heartbreaking (for us!) steal!

Send us an email if you are interested.

It's sad to think no more living vicariously through Best Odyssey emails filled with Jody's wonderful pictures and videos... but a new opportunity has unfolded - the 55' steel expedition trawler Motor Vessel (M/V) GREY GOOSE will be underway in 2012 - looking for a slice of your dream to fulfill?  Come join us and capture memories, pictures, videos and friendships that last a lifetime aboard M/V GREY GOOSE ... details are available online at:

Wishing you smooth seas and red sunsets!

VIDEOS - http://www.offshoreodysseys.com/owners/videos.php

Monday, November 21, 2011

COUNTDOWN TO DEADLINE - December 1st for a Northwest Passage 2012

Here is what we have been up to for some time... preparing GREY GOOSE for an extended voyage...

Online painting pictures: http://northwestpassage2012.com/images/greygoose/20111113/index.html

Now we are ready for a long ride... be it North or South ?

December 1st is the deadline to let us know if you would like to join us for a share-a-ride Northwest Passage 2012 Expedition. If there is a good crew we will plan to go North - departure in May 2012. If there is not enough interest to go North we will plan to go South early winter 2012 through the Panama Canal to our home port in Astoria Oregon.

Either way - if you have interest in cruising - consider joining us aboard the MV GREY GOOSE.

Doug & Michelle
Voyage website: http://www.northwestpassage2012.com

Friday, August 19, 2011

New website and blog at northwestpassage2012

Since we are planning a 2012 Northwest Passage (yes, we still have open crew berths available) a new website and blog are in process at:

Website:  http://www.northwestpassage2012.com/
Blog:  http://northwestpassage2012.blogspot.com/

If you would like to join us - full voyage or on a selected portal-to-portal leg - drop me an email with your details - this 10,000 nautical-mile voyage from Mobile Alabama via East to West transit of the Northwest Passage to our home port in Astoria Oregon is a once in a lifetime dream adventure.

Smooth seas,


Friday, April 8, 2011

MUSICAL ROAD: Stan Rogers: songwriter of work, change, & sea

A journey across Canada by a modern day man in search of himself, a trip by an explorer centuries go seeking a northwest passage to the Orient, and a bringing together of the strands of hope, connection, and regret all that implies: those are things Stan Rogers gets at in his song Northwest Passage. It is not surprising then that though Canada has a very fine national anthem already, when the CBC asked a few years back what people would choose for an alternate. Northwest Passage was it. The fact that it has an anthemic chorus helps imagine in that way, as well.

see a video of Stan Rogers singing the chorus of Northwest passage

Rogers was a musician of the land, and of the working person. Though still in his early thirties when he died in an accident, he left a legacy of song which continue to touch people's hearts across the world. 
Sixteen of these are gathered on The Very Best of Stan Rogers.

Rogers shows his lively, jaunty side in Fogarty’s Cove, and handles sadness, the bittersweet nature of aging, and the lasting power of love in the reflective song Lies. Free in the Harbour weaves in whaling and changes in the work of seafaring.  stan rogers coverWork and change, in the sea and on the farm, are frames for the stories Rogers tells in Make and Break Harbour and The Field Behind the Plow. His deep baritone adds color to the stories he tells, and the time he spent in Nova Scotia, summers a a child and returning as an adult is likely one reason you hear elements of Scotland and Cape Breton often in melody and instrumentation on these tracks.

The collection closes with the song The Mary Ellen Carter. The raising of a sunken ship and finding courage and hope to face obstacles all come into play in this well loved song, but not quite in the way you might think. That’s something Rogers left as a legacy, too: stories and melodies that work well in a straightforward way, yet often contain layers of meaning beyond what is at first apparent as well. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Restored yacht to support 2012 Antarctic expedition

Captain Oates' own boat in role with centenary trek
The current owners of the classic yacht Saunterer, which belonged to doomed Antarctic expedition team member Captain Lawrence Oates, welcomed the Royal Navy aboard at a special ceremony in Dartmouth on Friday.
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, the First Sea Lord, was in town to launch the British Services Antarctica Expedition. The project celebrates the 100th anniversary of the historic attempt on the South Pole by Captain Scott and his colleagues and hopes to raise £10,000 for the Help for Heroes charity.
Chloe and Guy Savage bought the 60ft Saunterer in 2009 and have lived aboard during her extensive restoration. The yacht has been adopted at the expedition's mascot due to her connection with Captain Oates. She will be used to help develop team member's sailing skills and host associated events.
Admiral Stanhope said, 'They have done a massive amount of work to restore Saunterer to its original condition and the result is magnificent.'
Explorer's yacht to play part in Antarctic trip to celebrate anniversary
DARTMOUTH sailors Guy and Chloe Savage welcomed the head of the British Navy, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, on board their yacht, Saunterer, at a special ceremony in the port.
The First Sea Lord travelled to the town on Friday to launch the British Services Antarctica Expedition which will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Captain Robert Scott's heroic efforts to reach the South Pole.
Members of the Royal Dragoon Guards piped Admiral Stanhope onto Saunterer at Britannia Royal Naval College's maintenance yard Sandquay, where she is moored.
The yacht is the inter-forces expedition's mascot as it was originally owned by Captain Lawrence Oates, a member of Scott's exploration team, who famously said the words "I am just going outside and may be some time."
Guy and Chloe, who live on Saunterer, bought the 60foot wooden yacht in 2009 and have lovingly restored her to her former glory .
The couple will be supporting the services expedition, planned for January 2012, by developing the sailing skills of the exploration team as well as hosting sailing trips and corporate events for the expedition sponsors at various sailing festivals and regattas around the South West including Dartmouth, Brixham and Salcombe.
Admiral Stanhope said: "Saunterer is a fantastic historical connection to Captain Oates.
"Her restoration by Guy and Chloe has been a labour of love in every respect.
"They have done a massive amount of work to restore Saunterer to its original condition and the result is magnificent."
The launch was also attended by Captain Oates's great niece and nephew, Muriel Finnis and David Wilson.
The pair had only recently learned about the existence of Saunterer and said they were 'blown away' to lay eyes on the 'beautiful yacht' once owned by their famous relative.
Mrs Finnis said: "It's super to see it and it's absolutely amazing it is supporting this expedition.
"Guy and Chloe's restoration work is fantastic, especially as they lived on the boat as a wreck with water pouring through the decks."
Mr Wilson said: "I read bits and pieces in history books about the yacht but I hadn't realised it still existed.
"I was quite delighted to find out it did, she is beautiful and I can see she has been restored with love as well as hard work."
Saunterer was built in 1900 by Charles Sibbick of Cowes and Captain Oates became her owner in 1905 until his death in 1912.
Later on, the yacht became a charter vessel in Scotland and after the death of its owner, lay neglected in a yard on the River Clyde near Glasgow until she was bought by Guy and Chloe.
Guy described the expedition launch and Admiral Stanhope's visit as a 'great day' and said he was proud to be a part of the Antarctic adventure.
He said: "I loved Saunterer as soon as I saw her and she became even more special when I found out her links to Captain Oates.
"It has been hard work restoring her but worth it and being invited to play a role in the expedition is the icing on the cake for us."
Chloe said: "It was a privilege to welcome the First Sea Lord on board Saunterer and to meet some of the expedition team and the relatives of Captain Oates.
"We are very excited about supporting the expedition and are really looking forward to a busy season ahead."
Expedition leader Paul Hart said the incredible story of Captain Scott and his team is the inspiration behind the British Services Antarctica Expedition 2012.
"Unlike other expeditions seeking to follow in Scott's footsteps, we will travel in the spirit of Scott but not in his tracks.
"Instead, and very much in the ethos of the 1910 to 1913 expedition, our aim will be to conduct the scientific exploration in the Peninsula Arm of Antartica, an area which is warming faster than anywhere else on the planet."
The expedition also aims to raise £10,000 for Help for Heroes charity.
For more information about Saunterer and the festivals it is attending this year visit www.saunterer@hotmail.co.uk.
For information about the 2012 expedition visit www.bsae2012.co.uk


Whyte & Mackay master blender Richard Paterson recreated the 'fresh, delicate and gorgeous' whisky.

Whyte & Mackay has successfully recreated the century-old whisky buried under the Antarctic ice by famous explorer Ernest Shackleton.

To view the Multimedia News Release, please click: 

The company's master blender Richard Paterson spent a painstaking eight weeks marrying and blending a range of malts to get an exact replica of the 100-year-old Mackinlay's liquid.

And according to one independent expert, he has got the copy exactly right. 

Renowned whisky writer Dave Broom is the only other person in the world to taste both the original whisky and Whyte & Mackay’s new liquid.

He said: "The Shackleton whisky is not what I expected at all, and not what anyone would have expected. It's so light, so fresh, so delicate and still in one piece – it's a gorgeous whisky.

"It proves that even way back then so much care, attention and thought went into whisky-making. 

"I think the replication is absolutely bang on. Richard has done a great job as it's a very tricky whisky to replicate, because you have this delicacy, subtlety and the smoke just coming through. 

"The sweetness, fragrance and spice, and the subtle smoke, are all there in the replica. I’m blown away."

The Shackleton replica will cost £100, with 5% from every sale being donated back to the Antarctic Heritage Trust, the New Zealand charity responsible for finding and uncovering the original whisky. If all 50,000 bottles sell out the Trust will receive £250,000. 

Trust chief executive Nigel Watson said: “From start to finish it's taken almost four years to safely extract the whisky crate from site and then Antarctica, thaw it in museum conditions, secure permits and complete scientific analysis in Scotland . I am delighted that Whyte & Mackay recognise the hard work and value of the Trust’s conservation mission in Antarctica by making this very generous and welcome donation."

Richard Paterson said that matching the whisky really tested his blending skills, but it was a true labour of love. 

"It was a real privilege getting to handle, nose and taste such a rare and beautiful bottle of whisky. The quality, purity and taste of this 100-year-old spirit was amazing. The biggest surprise was the light flavour and the clear, almost vibrant colour of the liquid. I hope I have done our forefathers and Ernest Shackleton proud with the replica.

"I would like to thank the Trust in particular for their patience, their expertise and their hard work. They fully deserve the substantial funds this special bottle will generate."

The whole replication process has been documented exclusively for National Geographic Channel for a documentary due to air at the end of this year.

Notes to Editor

Tasting Notes

The replica Mackinlay contains whisky from a range of highland malts, including Glen Mhor, which was the original Mackinlay’s distillery before it closed in 1983.

The 47.3% ABV whisky has a light honey and straw gold colour with shimmering highlights.

The nose is soft, elegant and refined with delicate aromas of crushed apple, pear and fresh pineapple. It has a whisper of marmalade, cinnamon and a tease of smoke, ginger and muscovado sugar.

The generous strength of the 47.3% whisky, believed to be high to stop the alcohol freezing, gives plenty of impact, but in a mild and warming way. It has whispers of gentle bonfire smoke slowly giving way to spicy rich toffee, treacle and pecan nuts.

Additional Info

Three bottles of the original Shackleton whisky were flown by private plane from New Zealand to Whyte & Mackay's Glasgow base by the company owner Dr Vijay Mallya. 

There were three cases of whisky and two cases of brandy found on the Antarctic in 2007. One case was removed from the ice and was painstakingly thawed out under laboratory conditions to preserve the bottles and spirit in the best possible way.

That one case was found to have only 11 bottles instead of the usual 12, leading to much speculation about what happened to the missing bottle 

Source: Whyte and Mackay Ltd 

Polish yacht - Northwest Passage and Cape Horn in a single journey

Polish yacht - North West Passage and Cape Horn in a single journey

'Solanus achievement - Polish sailors celebrate their rounding of the Horn'    .

Last year the steel expedition yacht Ocean Watch completed a circumnavigation of the Americas, clockwise, and at the time it was thought they were the first yacht to achieve such a challenge. Now a Polish yacht is on its way to achieving the same challenge, anti-clockwise, and has just rounded Cape Horn.
Solanus route so far -  .. .  

The yacht Solanus has three permanent members of crew, the skipper Bronislaw Radlinski, along with two crew, Nowak and Kantak. Other crew have joined them from time to time. Leaving Dkansk in Poland in May 2010 from their yacht club, the Polish Sports Club Bydgostia, they headed across the Atlantic to tackle the North West Passage from east to west in the summer of 2010, completing it successfully on 20th September.

From there they sailed south, visiting ports in Canada, the USA, Mexico and Chile. Last week, very late in the season, they successfully rounded Cape Horn, and are now berthed in the most southerly city in the world, the remote Ushuaia.

In spite of their yacht being excellently prepared, they have now found problems with some of their shrouds, and must wait in Ushuaia until a repair can be effected. They anticipate making full repairs in Buenos Aires where there are yacht facilities.

Congratulations to both the crew of Solanus, to their sponsoring organisation the Sports Club Bydgostia, and to Poland, for achieving such a challenging voyage so far.

To follow their journey, go to www.solanus.pl

Solanus - even the dolpins are celebrating -  .. .  

Northwest Passage with Starpath, plus its nav rules app


Twenty-three days on a Russian ice breaker following Roald Amundsen's 1903 route through the Northwest Passage? Hell, yes, especially with David Burch -- navigator extraordinaire, and Starpath founder-- riding along as tutor and guide to the vessel's bridge. If I had the money and the time (heck, it took Amundsen three years), I'd seriously consider this opportunity. For one thing, the venerable Kapitan Khlebnikov is going back into government service, and this may be her last Passage passage. And for another, the high latitudes -- where compasses, celestial navigation, and even many forms of modern communications all get dicey -- are what nav-obsessed gents like Burch live for...
I've never actually met David Burch, but we've corresponded occasionally for years (and I'm a fan of his work). Most recently it was because Starpath just released a professional-level Nav Rules app, and David asked me to try it. It's a seriously data-rich and multifaceted program, and I'm pretty sure it's everything a person needs to study for the critical rules section of a USCG license test (90% correct answers required!). But while I hope to never take one of those GD tests again, it's hard to imagine a resource that will better sharpen me up for the many rules-of-the-road situations I'll encounter on my way South next fall.
   Well, I take that back. It is slightly irritating to run Starpath's Nav Rules on an iPad. Like most all apps designed for the original 320-by-480 iPhone and iPod Touch pixel resolution, it will run on an iPad but without taking advantage of the pad's much bigger screen. Yes, I doubled the pixel count in the screens below, but Nav Rules on the iPad could easily put both the flash card and the question on one 600-by-800 pixel screen. Which would speed up my re-learning process (though of course you want the rule the question is based on to be a link away).
   However, I'm quibbling about an Apple issue, really; I just don't think they're sufficiently upfront about how much better iPad-specific and Universal apps look on the big boy. In fact, Nav Rules will likely be one of the very few iPhone apps I use much on the pad.  And, by the way, if the $30 price tag is a bit much for you, check out the free nav rules resources at the bottom of that product page. Funny thing: If you should happen to book passage on the Kapitan Khlebnikov with David Burch, one of the few navigation issues you won't see much of is rules of the road.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

World's race for economic growth threatens Greenland's pure white wilderness

The ancient way of life of Polar Eskimos faces meltdown from the global population explosion and industrial pollution. Even environmentalists are part of the problem as they suppress a hunting culture

Part of the appeal of coming to the north of Greenland, I have no qualms in saying, was to discover the remnants of a way of life that might be labelled "exotic". However, it would be misleading to suggest that all the Polar Eskimos here belong to a culture which could be called "hunter-gatherer". Nowadays, the majority of the people in Qaanaaq live as we do with more or less the same amenities. Seventy-two people own a hunting licence in the Thule region and most of those are part-time hunters.
The number of hunters travelling by dog-sledge across the frozen sea in search of sea mammals is therefore tiny and represents an insignificant threat to wildlife. Their traditional way of life is vanishing not because of global warming, but because the Self-Rule Government has caved in to the pressure and threats of environmentalist groups.
The Polar Eskimos feel misunderstood, and it is not difficult to see why. Not unreasonably, they feel that environmentalists ought to focus on the world's major polluting countries which pose a real and significant threat, and not on small indigenous groups who live precariously and take the bare minimum from the land and the sea. The only people to exploit the riches of these Arctic seas were the European whalers of the 19th century who drove many species to the point of extinction. Arriving with their infectious epidemics, such as measles and influenza, they nearly wiped out the indigenous population, too.
Despairing about the prospects for hunting, some people have turned to Greenland halibut fishing instead. This seems like a sensible development and I am intrigued to see how good the ice fishing is here.
Curled-up dogs lie in large circles on the hummocky shore ice, their rusty chains leading from a spike frozen into the ice like spokes on an old, buckled wheel. Jaundiced patches of urine and dog faeces decorate the ice, tampering with its aesthetic of purity. Beyond, the newly snow-covered sea ice stretches as far as the eye can see.
The much anticipated nigeq, a strong wind from the east, brought a platonic white carpet of snow and warmer temperatures at the weekend. The appeal of this white wilderness is tangible and I have been exploring it on skis, armed with a rifle and a VHF radio. Today I have the company of a hunter and a full team of 12 frenzied dogs whose fettered anguish is about to be set free. Trying to put harnesses on snarling, hysterical dogs soon degenerates into mayhem, with fights breaking out amid a chorus of high-pitched screams and yelps. The hunters' whip skimming over their cowered heads silences the pandemonium, and then suddenly we are on our way and I am left to sprint after the rapidly disappearingnapariaq (the pair of wooden stanchions at the rear of a sledge).
There is something majestic about the sight of a solitary Polar Eskimo driving a dog team across the frozen sea ice, navigating his way around icebergs, sitting contentedly, listening to the crunch of the runners on the snow and reading the wind from the striae on the ice. The appeal is perhaps its primeval simplicity, but also its timelessness.
Far in the distance sits an i'duaq (a hut built on a sledge where you can escape the cold on fishing trips): a small speck on a landscape of white nothingness. In this part of the bay, the sea ice is about a metre thick and making a hole in the ice with a shovel is hard work. We drop a line from an industrial-sized reel attached to a two-handed winch standing vertically on a metal frame in the ice. Twenty-five hooks are lowered 200 metres down into the fjord. Then, it is time to retreat to the warmth of a Primus stove and a cup of tea in a tiny plaster board hut measuring no more than 7ft square.
Approaching the hut, I hear the creaky voice of a man and offer the traditional greeting of inugguarunai on entering (this is a word used by older people to mean "hello", but means literally "look, there are some people" – an indication perhaps of how language reflects culture). Going inside this diminutive raised room perched on a sledge is a surreal experience and one of those defining moments of a fieldwork trip.
Here, miles from anywhere on the frozen sea in a forgotten place, lies a man asleep on a skin on the sleeping platform. Three men, clad in bearskin trousers and reindeer-skin anoraks, sit huddled together listening to a storyteller regale his company with an account of a polar bear hunt. It is rude to interrupt a story, and thus my greeting is not reciprocated with the conventional ahukiaq.
There is nowhere to sit and even though my head rests awkwardly on the ceiling of the hut and my bulky down coat fills the little remaining space, I feel paradoxically rather invisible. When stories are offered for payment, it is tempting to think of this oral literature as commoditised and in effect dead. But, here on hunting trips, these traditions do just about continue in an unforgettable atmosphere of breathy voices lingering over steaming cups of cha. The story over, it is time to check our lines, leaving the fugitive hospitality behind. We have caught 17 Greenland halibut and one northern wolffish: a splendid return for two hours' tea-drinking.
The Polar Eskimos do not tend to be intellectually curious. Seldom does anybody ask about the place I come from. However, sometimes I am asked how many people live in the United Kingdom. The Greenlanders are well aware that they inhabit the country with the lowest population density on earth, but I always feel embarrassed to admit that over 60 million people are crammed into our little island. Greenland is a country nine times the size of the UK, but the population of the UK is more than a thousand times that of this vast island in the Arctic. The subsequent question, normally, is how I could live in such an overcrowded, multicultural, polluted place where the bond to nature is not only severed, but no longer understood either. The reason for the embarrassment on my part is perhaps because I know that the industrialised country that I come from is a comparatively major polluter whose economy and thirst for economic growth jeopardises indirectly an ancient, simple way of life whose demands on the natural environment are almost zero.
Before coming to the Arctic, I was convinced that we needed a new paradigm for looking at the world. We have reached the point where the pursuit of economic growth at the expense of everything else can only lead to ruin for mankind. We need to develop a system which would turn this model on its head, forcing investors to allocate funds and reward companies, and indeed countries, not solely for their respective growth in earnings or annual percentage increase in GDP, but directly and quantitatively for their progress in having developed green, sustainable products and economies. Having spent much time talking to the Arctic hunters who bear the costs of environmental damage, I am convinced of the need for a new approach to assessing what we consider to be "economic success", and also for the introduction of urgent policies to curtail the world's population growth.
A country with 1.4 billion people and an annual economic growth rate of 10% (China) should not be hailed as a success story if it is building a new coal power station every week and causing untold damage to the environment. That is in effect the view of the Arctic hunters and one which I endorse.
Later on this year, the population of the world will reach seven billion. The pernicious combination of this uncontrolled population growth and the finite mineral resources of the planet are undoubtedly the biggest threats to the environment. Unless we take appropriate action and implement policies on these fronts, the disappearance of a small, isolated culture in the Arctic may be a microcosm for a much more apocalyptic outcome. For many, it may seem irrelevant if we lose a culture numbering fewer than a thousand people, but if the Polar Eskimos come to be the canary in the cultural coalmine, then such a loss may have more relevance than some people feared.
If I were to be asked what it is these Arctic hunters want, I would say "peace". This is a people that have never known war. But, by "peace" I would mean not just an absence of war but a return to what you might call in Rousseauesque terms "harmony". There are people in the Thule region that believe the industrialised, polluting nations are living in a state of disharmony with nature, gambling with the world's future by seeking nothing but material gain for themselves in the short term.
The ice is melting. The melting ice will presumably wipe out the traditional culture of the few remaining Arctic hunters in my lifetime, but ultimately, if not stopped, it will threaten the lives of millions around the world. The politicians keep talking, but the ice just keeps melting and the inescapable conclusion will not go away. The hunters look at the thinning sea ice and their message is simple: the clock is ticking.
Stephen Pax Leonard is an anthropological linguist at the Scott Polar Research Institute and a research fellow at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. His research is funded by the British Academy and the World Oral Literature Project in Cambridge.

Project Based Learning a success at Northwest Passage Charter High School

Project based learning works for students at Northwest Passage Charter High School, Coon Rapids.
In project based learning (PBL), students go through an extended process of inquiry in response to a complex question, problem or challenge, according to the PBL website.
Rigorous projects help students learn key academic content and practice 21st century skills (such as collaboration, communication and critical thinking) and create high-quality, authentic products and presentations, it states.
But Northwest Passage wanted to find out if PBL has prepared its students for college.
A survey by the school shows that it does, according to James Steckart, director, Northwest Passage Charter High School.
This year staff conducted a longitudinal survey of previous graduates in the 2006-2010 time period.
Staff used phone calls and social network sites to contact the former students.
“The results confirmed what we always suspected,” Steckart said.
Staff were able to contact 85 percent of graduates from 2006-2010 and over 60 percent either attended college or are currently enrolled.
According to the Center for School Change, only 54 percent of Minnesota students enroll in college after completing high school, Steckart said.
“We are very encouraged by this data,” he said.
In addition, Steckart said the school is encouraging more of its students to take advantage of the post-secondary options law, which allows juniors and seniors in high school to go to college at no charge.
“This year 30 percent of our seniors took advantage of this program,” he said.
According to Steckart, the charter school started in 1999 as Coon Rapids Learning Center and for the first five years, students came to school for half the day and participated in a structured work experience program the other half of the day.
“In 2006 we changed the name to Northwest Passage High and completely revamped our program,” Steckart said.
“Our school embraced experiential project based learning and field studies.”
Now students come to school the whole day, Steckart said.
Half the day the students are assigned an advisor who helps individual students and small groups of students design projects to meet state standards, he said.
On completion of their projects, students must defend their learning in front a panel of three judges.
Their final project before graduation is one that students must present at a public exposition.
The second half of the day, staff design six-week long seminars that focus on a multi-disciplinary approach to learning while meeting state standards, Steckart said.
During field studies so far this school year students have been sailing, farming, carving and exploring cities and historic sites all over the country, he said.
“Students have been heavily involved in service projects both locally and abroad, working with Feed Our Starving Children, working with elementary schools and most recently working in Guatemalan communities, building roads, homes and community buildings,” Steckart said.
According to Steckart, Northwest Passage uses a sophisticated software program to track all the learning called Project Foundry.
“When we made the switch our attendance rate went from 67 percent to over 80 percent in one year, Steckart said.
Project Based Learning promotes fundamental adolescent motivational needs – autonomy, self-mastery and purpose – through the promotion of hope and relationships, he said.
“We believe and our students will concur that this type of educational design is what is lacking in traditional course driven educational models,” Steckart said.
“When surveyed our students have a higher sense of engagement, autonomy and purpose than their peers in traditional schools.”
Current enrollment at  Northwest Passage is 190 students.
While there are a large percentage of students that have not been successful in the traditional school that mix is changing, Steckart said.
What attracts them to Northwest Passage is that it maintains a 1:15 student to teacher ratio, he said.
“We provide over 45 expeditions for our students free of charge,” Steckart said.
“We give our students real choice on how they want to learn, every student is given an individualized learning plan.
“We focus on teaching real skills necessary for the 21st century.
“We believe that the way we teach at NWPHS is the future of education for all learners.”
The PBL website details the focus of the learning tool.
• It’s organized around an open-ended driving question or challenge to focus students’ work and deepen their learning by centering on significant issues, debates, questions and/or problems.
• Creates a need to know essential content and skills.
• Requires inquiry to learn and/or create something new.
• Requires critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and various forms of communication.
• Allows some degree of student voice and choice because students learn to work independently and take responsibility when they are asked to make choices.
• Incorporates feedback and revision through peer critique.
• Results in a publicly presented product or performance.
According to its website, through PBL students gain a deeper understanding of the concepts and standards at the heart of a project.
Projects also build vital workplace skills, lifelong habits of learning, allow students to address community issues, explore careers, interact with adult mentors, use technology and present their work to audiences beyond the classroom.
Northwest Passage is a public charter school open to any student in grades nine through 12. It is sponsored by Bethel University.
Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com.