Using simple hand tools, Allen Farrell designed and built more than 40 boats on the coast, often out of driftwood, with the help of his wife Sharie, whom he met in Pender Harbour in 1945. The bohemian pair built their first sailboat, the 36-foot Wind Song, in 1949, and sailed to the South Pacific in the early 1950s. When they reached their eighties, they sold most of their possessions and flew to Mexico to live on the beach. She was the favourite subject for his many paintings until she died in 1996.

One year earlier, in 1995, in a refitted dory called Luna Moth, powered by sail and sculling oar, Maria Coffey and her photographer husband Dag Goering completed a three-month journey around Georgia Strait with the Farrells, tagging behind the couple's fourth hand-built cruising boat, the 42-foot China Cloud, designed to resemble a Chinese junk. To complement Goering's 65 photos, Coffey recorded the Farrells' memories and observations for Sailing Back in Time: A Nostalgic Voyage on Canada's West Coast (1996), a visually stunning tribute to two highly original and inspiring characters.

An affectionate biographical tribute by Dan Rubin, Salt on the Wind (1996), also traces the octogenarians' lives from Allen's birth in Vancouver in 1912, and Sharie's birth in Ontario in 1908, including some of the technical details for Farrell's ingenuity as a boat-builder. Sharie Farrell was introduced to the wayfaring life at sea in the 1930s and early 1940s by the German-born sailor and author George Dibbern, after he arrived in Vancouver aboard his sailboat Te Rapunga, disavowing citizenship to any country.

Allen Farrell's reputation as a craftsman, painter, scrounge artist, recycler and nomad has made him one of the coast's most famous characters, on a par with the inventor and entrepreneur Jim Spilsbury. "But it is the Farrells' humility and humanity that makes them such endearing characters," Alan Haig-Brown wrote. "After building a dream boat, the Farrells sail it to the South Pacific, grow homesick for the Pacific Coast and then either sell or sail the boat home. It they still have the boat when they return, they will sell it shortly after. With complete freedom from materialism, the boat is sold to the "right person" rather than the highest bidder. In between sailing trips, the Farrells lived on land, in houses they built themselves, occasionally squatting."


Born in Wolverhampton, England in 1952, Maria Coffey fell in love with British mountain climber Joe Tasker in 1979. He and a fellow climber disappeared while climbing the north-east face of Mt. Everest in 1982. She received the news from a mountaineer who arrived on her doorstep just as Coffey was hosting a party to celebrate the completion of some home decorating. To resolve her grief, Coffey retraced Tasker's journey as high as 21,000 feet on the mountain's North East Ridge. Since its original publication in Britain in 1989, her memoir called Fragile Edge (London: Chatto & Windus, 1989) has appeared in new editions in Canada, the U.S. and Italy where in 2002 it won the Premio Letterrario Nazionale "Leggimontagna' prize, and was awarded a Special Jury Prize in the Premio ITAS Mountain Film and Book Award.

She now has triple citizenship - English, Irish and Canadian. She received a degree in Geography from the University of Liverpool and a post-graduate degree in Education. After teaching in England and Peru, she moved to British Columbia in 1985. There she met her husband, Dag Goering, a veterinarian, kayak guide and photographer. As of 1987, their home base was Protection Island, from where they worked and travelled in far-flung corners of the world, from the Solomon Islands to Vietnam to Co. Kerry, Ireland, resulting in a variety of books. They have also worked as professional sea-kayaking and trekking guides, leading trips in Vietnam, the Solomon Islands, Ireland and Canada. In 2006 they sold their home on Protection Island and began to reside on Lasqueti Island and Victoria.

Coffey is the author of a number of internationally published books about their travels, including A Boat in Our Baggage, Three Moons in Vietnam, Sailing Back in Time, plus children's books. Her work has also appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, Globe and Mail, The Guardian, Outdoors Illustrated, Action Asia and Sea Kayaker Magazine. She revisited the emotional terrain of her first book in Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow: The Dark Side of Extreme Adventure (St. Martin's Press, 2003), an examination of mountaineering's emotional toll on family members. During the research and interviews for this second book about mountain climbers, she gained a fuller understanding of her own attraction to men who were risk-takers. Where the Mountain Casts its Shadow: The Dark Side of Extreme Adventure was awarded the Jon Whyte Award for Mountain Literature at the 2003 Banff Mountain Book and Film Festival. Where the Mountain Cast its Shadow has been published in Canada, the U.S., Britain, Germany and Italy.

[Photo: From Fragile Edge.]

DATE OF BIRTH: 26/02/1952



AWARDS: The 2003 Jon Whyte Mountain Literature Prize, awarded at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival, for Where the Mountain Casts its Shadow.

Nominations: The Roderick Haig-Brown Award for Visions of the Wild
The Publishers Choice Award for Sailing Back in Time


Where the Mountain Casts its Shadow: The Dark Side of Extreme Adventure, (St.Martin's Press and Fenn, Canada 2003)
Visions of the Wild: A Voyage by Kayak around Vancouver Island (Harbour, 2001)
A Lambing Season in Ireland: Tales of a Vet's Wife (McArthur and Co, 2000)
Sailing Back in Time: A Nostalgic Journey on Canada's West Coast (Whitecap 1996)
Three Moons in Vietnam: A Haphazard Journey by Boat and Bicycle (Abacus 1996)
A Boat in our Baggage: Around the World with a Kayak (Abacus 1994)
Fragile Edge: Loss on Everest, (Chatto and Windus 1989, Harbour 1999)

For children:

A Cat in a Kayak (Annick Press 1998)
A Seal in the Family (Annick Press, 1999)
A Cat Adrift (Annick Press 2002)
Jungle Islands (Annick Press 2001)

[For other authors of maritime titles, see abcbookworld entries for Andersen, Doris; Anderson, Hugo; Anderson, Suzanne; Armitage, Doreen; Ashenfelter, Pete; Barnes, Gordon; Barr, James; Beavis, Lancelot; Belyk, Robert; Bendall, Pamela; Bown, Stephen R.; Brevig, Anne E.; Burrows, James; Burtinshaw, Julie; Calhoun, Bruce; Cameron, June; Campbell, John; Carey, Wendy; Chettleburgh, Peter; Converse, Cathy; Copeland, Andy; Cran, George A.; Cummings, Al; Dalton, Anthony; Davidson, George; Dawson, Will; Delgado, James; Dibbern, George; Dook, Catherine; Douglass, Don; Downie, William; Duggan, Barbara; Dyson, George; Eardley, Wilmot; Evans, Clayton; Favelle, Peter; Foster, John; Fukawa, Masako; Gibson, John Frederic; Gleeson, Paul; Goddard, Joan; Golby, Humphrey; Gough, Barry; Graham, Donald; Greene, Ruth; Grundle, Jack; Grundmann, Erika; Hacking, Norman; Hadley, Michael; Hagelund, William A.; Haigh, Val; Harbo, Rick M.; Harvey, Robert; Heal, S.C.; Hewett, Shirley; Hick, W.B.M.; Hill, Beth; Holloway, Godfrey; Howay, F.W.; Hulsizer, Elsie; Imray, James; Innes, Hammond; Irving, William; Jackman, S.W.; James, Rick; Jane, Cecil; Jensen, Vickie; Jupp, Ursula; Keating, Bern; Kelly, William; Koch, Tom; Lamb, W.K.; Lange, Owen; Lawrence, Iain; Leighton, Kenneth Macrae; Levy, Paul; Longstaff, F.V.; Lower, Arthur; Lundy, Derek; Luxton, Norman; MacCrostie, M. Watson; Manby, Thomas; Mansbridge, Francis; Marc, Jacques; Mayne, Richard Charles; McCann, Leonard G.; McCulloch, Tom; McKee, William; McKinney, Sam; McLaren, Keith; Meares, John; Millar, Will; Mofras, Eugene Duflot (de); Morris, Robert; Morris, Wilfred H.; Murray, Peter; Nash, Ronald J.; Neitzel, Michael; Newell, Gordon; Newsome, Eric; Nicolls, Nan; Norris, Pat Wastell; Palmer, Ron; Paterson, T.W.; Portlock, Nathaniel; Proctor, Bill; Ricketts, Ed; Roberts, Harry; Roberts, John E. (Ted); Robson, Peter; Rogers, Fred; Rothery, Agnes; Sager, Eric W.; Sauer, Martin; Schade, Marv; Scott, Robert; Sharcott, Margaret; Skogan, Joan; Smeeton, Miles; Sparham, Adrian; Stone, David Leigh; Struthers, Andrew; Tamm, Eric Enno; Taylor, G.W.; Taylor, Jeanette; Teece, Philip; Theriault, Walter; Tovell, Freeman M.; Twigg, Arthur M.; Van der Ree, Freda; Vancouver, George; Varzeliotis, Tom; Vassilopoulos, Peter; Vipond, Anne; Voss, John; Wahl, Ryan; Wallace, Scott; Watmough, Don; Wells, Martin; Wells, R.E.; Westergaard, Ross; White, Bill; Wilson, James Ted; Winters, Barbara; Witt, Eugene; Wolferstan, Bill; Wright, E.W.; Yeadon-Jones, Anne.] @2010.

[BCBW 2010]