Sailor capturing canoe journey up B.C. coast

The Spirit of The Coast canoeists are out of communication range this week, unable to transmit pictures, video, or even texts and phone calls to regale those back home with anecdotes of their exploration.

But with Don Jonasson along for the journey, many of those cherished memories are being recorded for posterity and future education.

Armed with several video cameras and even two drones, Jonasson is a hobbyist videographer who is travelling alongside Langley’s Brandon Gabriel and the rest of the Spirit team in his 22-foot Catalina sailboat and capturing many highlights from the three-month, 1,300-kilometre journey.

Jonasson, a resident of Anacortes, Wash., has adventured with Spirit’s skipper Chris Cooper before – including two paddling trips through Scotland.

“This trip is going to be even more fantastic than Scotland,” Jonasson said, admitting he did hesitate for a moment when Cooper asked him to take part in this journey.

The delay, Jonasson said, was not a question of his desire to be part of this excursion – far from it.

He was just reluctant to approach his wife Ora with the need to delay a three- to six-month trek across the east coast of Canada and the U.S. in their 25-foot Airstream –  a trip that had already been in the works.

“She was incredibly understanding,” Jonasson said. “So, we leave as soon as I get back, close to Sept. 1.”

Jonasson retired as a school teacher in 2005, and took up video as his “retirement passion” almost immediately.

While he’s filmed and created a number of videos, Jonasson said this will without doubt be the most meaningful and difficult.

“This is not only the most exciting, but challenging,” Jonasson said, explaining that he’s expecting it will take the better part of six months (maybe more) to edit together hours upon hours of  five- to 10-second clips he’ll be taking along the Spirit journey.

Thankfully, with detailed ship logs, GPS, and old-fashion note-taking, he hopes to keep it all organized so that, when he does finally sit down to begin the editing process, he’s not going to have to rely on his memory for much.

“I’m anticipating coming back with 15 to 20 hours of film, at least,” he said. “And the drone is going to add a whole new learning curve.”

He expects post-production work will take 500 hours at least, and said it will be about much more than stringing all the footage together – he will have a story to tell. 

His wife will write music to accompany the video.

“The issue in post-production is to present the story of the trip and the story of the land,” and much of that through the eyes of the people he’s travelling with.

Having travelled with Cooper, and having also sailed up the B.C. Coast line before, Jonasson chose not to shoot from a seat in the canoe this time.

He wanted a different, more encompassing perspective to most of the clips. Since he’s owned his sailboat for the past four years, he knew it would offer not only the different vantage point for his cameras, but extra storage for the crew, and a comfortable bed to sleep in each night.

And to add another perspective to the trip, Jonasson took to the air himself for some clips.

On departure day a month back, floating debris in the fast-moving Fraser River posed too great a risk for his sailboat, so he video-taped the blessing services at the Kwantlen First Nation reserve, then jumped in a helicopter and shot footage of the journey’s commencement at the Kwantlen boat launch, the public bon voyage party at the waterfront plaza in Fort Langley, and a little bit of paddling time along the Bedford Channel.

Cooper is optimistic that the varied filming Jonasson endeavours to gather of the entire journey will ultimately be appropriate for a documentary that could air on the likes of Discovery or Knowledge Network when completed.

“Spirit of the Coast is about awareness, education, culture, environment, and most of all, bringing attention to our beautiful B.C. coastline, and to share with Canadians what an amazing place we have,” Cooper said.

“It is not a protest, but about educating all who have never seen it,” which is why he sees Jonasson’s footage as such an integral part of the effort.

“I love this coastline,” Jonasson said. “I think this is on the top of the list of beautiful places to live.”

He is anxious – like Cooper and the other canoeists participating in the trip – to see it safeguarded and protected for future generations.

• Stay tuned for weekly updates on the Spirit of the Coast journey, which departed Fort Langley on June 1, bound for Alaska.

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