After rowing 1,150 kilometres around Vancouver Island, Colin Angus came into the boat ramp at Point Holmes at about 3:47 p.m. Tuesday.
Under sunny skies, Angus — who was joined by a handful of local paddlers for the end of his circumnavigation — brought his boat in to shore to a round of applause from family and friends and was offered a bottle of champagne.
The cause for celebration? Not only had Angus made it around the Island, but he’d also just set a new speed record for circumnavigating Vancouver Island.
Angus, who lives in Comox, finished in 15 days, 11 hours and 45 minutes, beating the previous record set by kayaker Joe O’Blenis by a full day.
When he stepped out of the sliding-seat row boat he and his wife Julie designed and built — the same boat Julie rowed during the couple’s Rowed Trip expedition from Scotland to Syria — a tanned and cheerful Angus sprayed champagne before embracing Julie and their nine-month-old son Leif.
“It’s a long way to go,” he said. “It’s 1,150 kilometres. I had to average 70 kilometres a day, which is not too bad on a day like today when it’s calm on the inside (passage), but on the West Coast, it’s tough.”
Angus felt “fantastic” to have made it around the Island and beaten the record.
“It’s just such an excellent feeling to be here again,” he said. “When you are out there, it seems so far away, especially on the West Coast. The last couple of days have been wonderful, and I’ve really enjoyed the rowing.”
During his trip, Angus developed tendinitis in his wrists and forearms and in his legs. He also had many blisters on his hands and a “very sore” bum.
He says his hardest day was around Estevan Point, where there were massive waves, strong headwinds and no shelter.
“I had to keep going because it was all rocky and cliffy, and the day was just going on and on forever,” he said. “That’s the day when my tendinitis started kicking in.”
Angus saw a lot of other boats, particularly sports fishing boats on the northwest coast, but places like the Brooks Peninsula were “pretty lonely.”
He also encountered many marine mammals, including whales, sea otters, porpoises, sea lions and seals, and he saw many bears on land.
Angus would camp at night and leave early in the morning — often around 3 a.m. — in the pitch dark.
Angus, who plans to try to break the 24-hour distance record next summer, says his motivation for doing the circumnavigation was his competitive spirit and also the chance to see parts of the Island that are not accessible by other means.
“I like the idea of challenging myself,” he said. “It’s very different from my previous expeditions, which were at your own speed. I was wondering whether or not I’d have it in me.”
So much of Vancouver Island is inaccessible, he noted.
“I was awestruck by how beautiful it is — beautiful and scary,” he said.
When someone asked him if he would do it again, Angus said, “Once is enough.
“All the way around, I was thinking what a tough guy Joe O’Blenis is,” he said. “To do it twice after knowing what it’s like, knowing all the pain and agony … maybe it’s like pregnancy …”
O’Blenis, who lives in Thunder Bay, followed Angus’s trip closely and was excited to see him finish.
“I think it’s amazing,” he said. “Going into it, I knew it would take an awful lot to stop Colin from accomplishing what he set his mind to. He’s very tough, very determined. I thought one way or another, as long as his body holds out, he’ll get it done, and he did.”
O’Blenis set the record for circumnavigating Vancouver Island twice — in 2007 and again last year in late August and early September when he finished in 16 days, 12 hours and 14 minutes. He recalled that last year, when he finished his trip, within seconds, Angus came up and handed him a beer.
O’Blenis says the mental aspect of racing around Vancouver Island is as tough as the physical aspect.
“You’re racing around what I consider the most beautiful island and missing it,” he said. “I remember running around beaches to take photos on lunch breaks and thinking, ‘This is stupid. What am I doing?’ You’re wearing yourself out day in, day out.
“You sometimes ask yourself why. In the end, it’s what we do. I know Colin’s the same way. He likes to push himself and see what he can accomplish — same with me.”
O’Blenis wants to congratulate Angus on his accomplishment.
“I wish I’d been there to congratulate him in person,” he said. “Both Diane and I are extremely happy for him and proud of him, and we’re happy he got it.”
The Anguses now have a few weeks to prepare for their next expedition, the four-month Olive Odyssey. Beginning in August, they will voyage in a small sailboat from Spain to Syria to research the olive industry and history.