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An Extraordinary Woman, An Extraordinary Adventure
From Ketchikan To Fairhaven, An 800-Mile Journey


July 09, 2004

Ketchikan, Alaska - There are women and then there are Women. This story is about one in particular, who, on Friday, June 18th, began an extraordinary journey. Her name is Dale McKinnon. There have been a few articles written about her lately, and with good reason.

jpg Dale McKinnon before leaving  Ketchikan, Alaska

Dale McKinnon chats with the Sitnews' editor the day before she begins her 800-Mile rowing adventure from Ketchikan, Alaska to Fairhaven, Washington.
Photo by Dick Kauffman

Nearly three weeks ago, 58-year old McKinnon started her 800-mile mission to bring a small measure of financial help and attention to the plight of Northwest Youth Services, an organization in Washington State that aids troubled teens. She has watched the local, State, and Federal funding dry up over time, and as Ms McKinnon had not had an easy youth herself, she wanted to help. Dale McKinnon is rowing a small wooden boat on a two month long voyage, from Ketchikan, Alaska to her home of the last 7 years, Fairhaven, Washington. Pledges per mile are her inspiration to continue on through bad weather, rough seas, bloody blisters, and the strong tides of Southeast Alaskan and Canadian waters.

She built the boat herself, and this is not her first. McKinnon has built 3 boats to date, even entering an exhibit at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Show last year. She began building the Bella (named after her granddaughter, Isabella) early May and finished it just six weeks later. It is, thanks to advice from other rowers and some creative modifications, a one of a kind.

McKinnon is not the typical sportswoman, having rowed a total of 4 hours in her life before three years ago. In the 55 years before that, she hadn't rowed anything anywhere. She now attempts to cover as many miles a day as the weather, her dory (the boat) and her own strength will allow.

She laughingly said that rowing is a great way to stay in shape, as it works three different muscle groups. McKinnon said, "Rowing is wonderful. I can drink anything I want, as much beer as I want, all the wine I want; I can eat anything I want, all the cheesecake I like, anything, and rowing keeps the weight off." This is most likely, the biggest workout of her life to date.

The dory is a style of rowboat that brought back memories of conversations with her father. McKinnon's father was a Glosterman - raised in Gloster, Massachusetts. He told her of dorys and how seaworthy they were - that they could handle big seas and carry a lot of weight. This knowledge and the fact that she'd broken her back twice and shattered her leg once, were the reasons for eliminating the kayak as an option for such a daunting voyage. She needs to be able to move her legs while rowing.

She sleeps in the boat at night, on a slat bed that rolls out, with a tent for shelter. The boat is equipped with a solar panel to run the small electrical bilge pump. McKinnon carries six one-gallon jugs of water, for drinking and for balance- individual jugs can easily be moved from one side to another, weighing about 9 pounds each. She has a Global Positioning System to log her miles and uses a cell phone to call in her latitude and longitude every night. Thanks to supporters, her trip progress and distance traveled is tracked, with regular reports and updates online.

According to the Dale McKinnon Row web site, McKinnon is now in the most remote section of her journey. The Ketchikan and Prince Rupert areas, near the beginning of her journey, had many small towns. In another 200 miles she will reach the northern tip of Vancouver Island which will have many cities and towns. But for now she is in a very remote area off the northern tip of Princess Royal Island.

Dale McKinnon would like to raise about $10,000.00 and as of this date, still has a way to go. More information about this worthy cause can be found on the Northwest Youth Services web site. You can join her friends and interested onlookers as we follow her journey and daily adventures on the Dale McKinnon Row web site.



Related story & photograph:

58-year-old embarks on an 800-mile row to help charity....
Anchorage Daily News - June 24, 2004



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