(Pub. By St. Martin’s Press, NY, NY, 1999, 269pp.)
We just got back from a week with the granddaughters at Kaw Lake, near Ponca City, OK. More on that later, but between no TV and two days of rain, I got to enjoy some overdue reading
By the time Chris Duff wrote On Celtic Tides, he had paddled 14,000 miles, including The Great Loop, and around England, Wales and Scotland. Here, he returns to become the first person to circumnavigate Ireland by paddle. It is not only a story of managing some of the worst storms, rips, overfalls, and other sea hazards that the earth has to offer, but a chance to visit the cradle of his own family’s heritage.
The trip takes him 1,200 miles and 13 weeks to complete. The account of the passage that he sets forth in the book is some of the finest writings about such an undertaking that I’ve read. The reader gets to visit 4,000 year old castles, crofter cottages, monasteries, and the stone beehive huts that had been the homes of monks at the dawn of Christianity. These un-mortared stone structures are so well constructed that they still stand intact. The author even slept one night in a monk’s hut to share the experience of sleeping on a stone ledge protruding from the wall. The reader follows as Chris paddles around bold and threatening headlands, makes his way along 15-mile long unbroken cliffs that rise 600-feet straight from the sea, and meets some of the most interesting people who share their equally interesting stories of lives on Ireland and some of its remote off-lying islands. This is a trip narrative that reads with the intensity of a murder or spy mystery.