Saturday, January 27, 2007

Once more through the Northwest Passage

One of the pleasant surprises of this blog is that it's reconnected me with old friends. It's also occasioned the crossing of paths with people I may not otherwise have met. This happened with this post. If you read the comments, you'll see that Peter Brock's daughter wondered if I had known her father. I had not, but I had been taken by his obituary in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald. He was a man who had lived quite a life, topped perhaps by his sail through the Northwest Passage (a journey, I should think, which at once makes him perfectly Canadian and perfectly heroic). Unfortunately, the article to which I linked is no longer on the CH site. So I've retrieved it, and reprint it here in full. May we all have adventures a tenth the measure of Peter Brock's.

Man who conquered North West Passage dies in bike-car crash; Victim was also an award-winning author and environmental activist

Peter Brock, whose journey through the Northwest Passage earned him distinction as 2006 Nova Scotia Sailor of the Year, died Tuesday when he was struck by a pickup truck while cycling in Bayswater.

The 73-year-old sailor, author, artist and musician was remembered Wednesday as an exceptional man with a passion for the ocean and the solitude it provided.

"He was one of these people who didn't like to be in the spotlight," his wife Margaret Archibald said in an interview from their home in Blandford.

"He had a good year. He got his boat through the Passage, won this award . . . and he was feeling good," she said. "Things were going well for him."

In 1996, Mr. Brock and his wife began a five-year journey onboard their 42-foot sailboat, Minke, the second boat Mr. Brock had built himself.

They left Nova Scotia, sailed down the east coast of the United States, past Cuba, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and through the Panama Canal, eventually ending their voyage at Vancouver Island.

In 2003, Mr. Brock set out to sail through the North West Passage, going as far as he could each summer, before leaving the boat behind to return home. This summer, he completed the adventure and sailed to Labrador, where Minke is expected to remain until next year.

Brother-in-law David Archibald, one of two people who accompanied him on the last leg of his trip, called it "a wonderful experience." "He was only the third person, I think, to ever sail a boat he built himself through the North West Passage."

Barbara Pike, past-president of the Nova Scotia Yachting Association, said Mr. Brock is well respected in the sailing community.

"He was just an amazing person . . . who took on this adventure and shows the sport of sailing is for all ages," she said.

"There have been very few people who have actually sailed through the North West Passage, particularly in the size of boat he sailed. To attempt to do it, then to accomplish it, is just a major feat."

Mr. Archibald said Mr. Brock was also an accomplished pianist, and a "tremendously warm" person, with an interest in many things.

He authored two books, including Variations on a Planet, which won the Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia's Evelyn Richardson Memorial Literary Award for best non-fiction book in 1994.

Mr. Brock was also an environmentalist, particularly troubled by clearcutting, who had once worked with the CBC and was involved in the development of the Discovery Centre when it opened at Scotia Square, Mr. Archibald said.

"He's never been an individual to be involved in anything mainstream, 9-5. He was very much an individual who struck his own way in life and did what his passion led him to do."

Mr. Brock was struck from behind by a half-ton truck while cycling along Highway 329 in Bayswater. The accident happened at 4:10 p.m. RCMP believe the 44-year-old driver was blinded by the sun and did not see him.

The case remains under investigation but police do not believe alcohol was a factor. The road was clear at the time, police said.

Mr. Brock is survived by his wife, Margaret Archibald, children Jeff and Laura, and stepdaughter, Janice. ( 'He had a good year. He got his boat through the Passage, won this award . . . and he was feeling good. Things were going well for him.'

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