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River runner

B.C. man the first to Seadoo down the Mackenzie

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Aug 02/02) - The North draws adventurers of all sorts, but since the Northwest Passage was navigated the new explorers have sought other ways to be 'first.'

Adventurer Henry Nierychlo waves in triumph after successfully navigating his Seadoo from Hay River to Inuvik. - Terry Halifax/NNSL photo

Henry Nierychlo is one such explorer and on Monday he became the first to complete a trip from Hay River to Tuk aboard a Seadoo.

Like any adventurer, Nierychlo's reason for doing it was simple.

"Because it was here," he laughs.

"I wanted to get away from the home and office and just experience the Northwest Territories."

He began the voyage in Hay River and travelled across the lake to Yellowknife where he visited with "some outlaws."

"They all thought I was crazy for taking this thing across the lake," he said.

He rested a few days in Yellowknife and pointed the craft to Fort Providence and then North.

"I've had a couple of rough days where the wind would come up and I got rained on, but for the most part it was hot and sunny," he said.

He's camped along the way, usually where there was a gas station, or just where it made the most sense.

"If I saw a big storm coming, I'd pull over and set up camp and wait for morning, and hopefully, things would pass and get better," he said.

His machine of choice is a 1997 Seadoo GTI with a 720 cc engine that produces about 85 horsepower.

Fully loaded, he says, his speed tops out about 48 miles-per-hour, but he gets the best fuel economy at 38 miles-per-hour.

"If the water's fairly calm, I cruise about 38 and it doesn't take me very long to get where I'm going," he said.

In case of emergency, he brought a marine UHF radio and flare guns along with his camping gear, a two-week supply of dried meat and other provisions that surprisingly pack away inside the fibreglass hull and under the seat of the machine.

Upgrades galore

He's made some modifications to the watercraft with a GPS unit to plot his course, a windshield and two custom auxiliary fuel tanks.

He says he makes about two miles per litre, but the 220 miles from Fort Good Hope to Tsiigehtchic worried him a bit, so he filled two extra jerry cans in Good Hope, giving him 190 litres of fuel, that proved more than enough for that leg.

"I didn't need it all, but it was nice to have that buffer, just in case," he said.

While the trip is unique, he's no stranger to a long voyage. Two years ago, he and his 16-year-old son took their Seadoos from Vancouver to Skagway, Alaska.

"The ocean's quite a bit different than riding on the river and it was pretty exciting," he said. "It was a lot of fun and some good adventure."

"Everybody thought I was crazy out there, just like everybody thinks I'm crazy out here," he laughed.

He said it doesn't take long before he ties up at shore before the community flocks around to examine his Seadoo and ask where he came from and why he's doing it.

He had originally planned to run the river back to Hay, but his holiday time has run short, so he's decided to have the sled trucked home and he'll fly back to the hub to pick up his car.