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Apr. 28th, 2005 @ 11:08 am Book Review: Chris Duff's On Celtic Tides
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Note: Erstwhile Roomies, as I inched closer and closer to my latest literary triumph, a bold new use for this our high-minded forum sprung to mind. As we all are accomplished scholars and avid readers, why not provide each other with reviews of books we finish, recommending those deemed worthy and warning each other of not-quite-page-turning pitfalls? I'll offer this entry as a model and hope y'all follow suit.

Title: On Celtic Tides: One Man's Journey Around Ireland by Sea Kayak
Author: Chris Duff
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, 1999
Pages: 269

There really are only two ways into Chris Duff's On Celtic Tides. The first is if you are a sea kayaker yourself, in which case you will no doubt take great interest in Duff's exhaustive explanations of winds, tides and surfs he conquered and the techniques he used to do so. At times, this book reads like little more than a "How To" for sea kayaking, using - without accompanying layman's translation - all the special verbiage and vocabulary of that activity. It is clear Duff is an avid kayaker, one with whom seamen will surely sympathize.

The other point of entry is Celtic heritage. Irish citizens and descendants alike will much enjoy Duff's effusive praise of the Emerald Isle and its inhabitants. Time and again, Duff is treated to a brand of hospitality that is peculiar to the Irish. The people who call him "mad" to his face are the same people who then take him into their homes for tea and scones. Repeated experiences of this phenomenon leads the author to conclude, "if it's one thing the Irish are famous for, it's their hospitality - even to madmen."

Sprinkled intermittently throughout the account of his travels, Duff leaves refreshingly honest accounts of his own innermost emotions. Particularly moving are his accounts of the mixed feelings all adventurers feel when they are far from home: the desire to live a life long on good stories while short on regret and the ever-distressing pain caused by the separation from family and friends. The author documents his need to hear a familiar voice in the depths of his despair as well as "the rush that world travelers are familiar with as a stranger slips their mail through the clerk's grid at a post office." Duff is certainly aware of the decidedly mixed bag travel can be.

If you are not a kayaker and not a Celt, odds are you would have a hard time finishing this book. But for seamen, Irishmen, and - most of all - Irish seamen, there is much to discover in Chris Duff's traveling tales.