From a reader drawn to the Arctic
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One of the joys of being a writer is hearing from readers around the world – and learning a little about their lives.
William de Vaney, a marine historical artist, now living in the States, was raised as a bush Alaskan in the twilight of her days as a territory. He has an enduring connection with Neptune’s Realm and first put his hands on the wheel of a 32 foot wooden limit seiner when he was seven, and wore through his first storm with his father when he was eight.
William also has a special appreciation of ‘the wonderful, sacred expanse of wilderness’ that is the Arctic and spent three years living there, including a couple of seasons kayaqing the Passage.
The Arctic, William says, ‘cares not a whit for human concerns.’ Encountering an ice storm east of the Prudhoe Bay area a few years back he found himself battling a closing ice pack for over twelve hours. Desperate to find shelter he struggled through cul-de-sacs of shifting, grinding pan ice amidst misting ice-fog and wind before finally coming upon a floe with a small lagoon to shelter in. Later that same trip he had to weather 35 knots+ winds off his port quarter to get to the village of Kaktovik on Barter Island.
William has built a number of native frame kayaqs and is currently working on one now for himself so he and his wife Kim can explore some of the Maine coastal waters together.
William told me: ‘I’ve always been a fan of the very sea that I worked upon (and on occasion has tried to take me out), and I appreciate the hardships of the days of sail. Working a longliner with the decks awash over your knees is a real wake up call (as I’m sure with your time at sea, you understand) – though, I confess, working a small gaff rig sloop to weather in a gale is nothing compared to being aloft in the Age of Sail! I don’t mind heights, but that would be tough. I don’t think anything sailors endure today can compare to it, especially in their type of warfare. What a brutal business.’
I was especially tickled with one photograph William sent me – it was taken at West Quoddy Head Light, which holds the distinction of being the easternmost lighthouse in the US. Look what books he’s holding!
The de Vaneys are not just a couple with a deep appreciation of the natural world. Kim is a talented artist in her own right and William has recently had a novel, ‘Lightship’, published.
He also has his own blog.