the first person to cross the North Sea in a kayak

Derek Hutchinson died October 10th. He is regarded as a pioneer of the sport of sea kayaking, and was often referred to as “…our Sea Daddy. He is also a supreme example of individuals who risk their lives in the pursuit of sporting activity and wanting to be the first to achieve certain amazing goals. No guts, no glory. Trailblazers like Derek are our heroes. Here is an excerpt from his obituary:

Mr. Hutchinson entered kayaking lore in August 1975 with a spectacular failure. He was leading five kayakers in one-person kayaks in an attempt to cross the capriciously perilous North Sea from England to Belgium, a distance of more than 100 miles, when things began to go wrong.

They found they had to paddle continuously to maintain control of the kayaks. They could not sleep, because unattended kayaks could easily flip and they could drown. But with only primitive navigation equipment and a rough sea, they ultimately had no idea where they were. They hallucinated, vomited and suffered hypothermia and dehydration.

gone at 79 after a spectacular and varied life

After 34 grueling hours in which they veered eight miles off course, a passing ferry spotted their last remaining signal flare and picked them up.

But redemption came the next June, when Mr. Hutchinson and two companions, Tom Catsky and Dave Hellywell, completed the crossing in 31 hours, setting a world record for distance traveled in a kayak. They succeeded by recognizing the surging, dangerous currents that had thwarted them the first time and tying up to a giant buoy until the tide changed.

The expedition proved the seaworthiness of kayaks Mr. Hutchinson had designed. “The North Sea crossing was a milestone,” Mr. Hutchinson said years later. “It took the kayak out of the toy-boat class and put it into the serious deep-sea craft category.”

…His gift for the colorful phrase was indisputable. “Hold your paddle like a fairy holds her wand, not how a witch holds her broomstick!” he exhorted his pupils.