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Travel Western Provinces

A Complex Coast

A Kayak Journey from Vancouver Island to Alaska

by (author) David Norwell

Heritage House Publishing
Initial publish date
May 2023
Western Provinces, Adventure, Pacific
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    May 2023
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


A soul-searching personal account of a young man’s 1,700-kilometre kayak journey from Victoria, BC, to Gustavas, Alaska, illustrated with whimsical watercolour maps and illustrations of local flora, fauna, and landscapes.

In 2014, twenty-four-year-old geography student David Norwell set off on a daunting kayak journey in search of purpose in his life. A jigsaw puzzle of jagged mainland and over 50,000 islands—stretching from southern Vancouver Island to Alaska—lay in front of him. A self-described ordinary kid from small-to-medium-town, British Columbia, David had paddled through the Gulf Islands and guided youth groups on a nine-day journey from Nanaimo to Victoria. But nothing could prepare him for this.


For the next several months, David navigated the waters off the coastal British Columbia, recording his observations, musings, and daily activities in a notebook. The result is this one-of-a-kind travelogue, filled with more than 700 whimsical watercolour illustrations of coastlines, local plant and animal species, camping supplies, and portraits of people he met along the way. He wrote about the nature of solitude, the search for meaning and adventure, the wildlife he encountered, the survival skills he acquired, and the existence of his own privilege. A Complex Coast is an unforgettable coming-of-age story that will appeal to kayakers, naturalists, and anyone looking for adventure.

About the author

David Norwell is an author, illustrator, and world traveller. He holds a BSc in Geography from the University of Victoria, and has worked for six seasons conducting biological and geological surveys In BC, Alberta, and the Yukon. His passion is communicating science in a way that accesses the human heart. David has visited thirty-three countries, sailed across the Atlantic and Indian Ocean, trekked over the Himalayas with a kitten, and hitchhiked over two hundred rides. He is dedicated to understanding the human experience and sharing his findings. When not working on books, he is volunteering at schools, studying Buddhism, and practising meditation.

David Norwell's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“One of the most uniquely told adventure tales I’ve ever read. A beautiful book.”
—Kevin Callan, award-winning author of Another Bend in the River: The Happy Camper’s Memoir

“David Norwell's A Complex Coast is a smorgasbord for the senses. Beautiful watercolour paintings combined with thoughtful musings bring the West Coast to life. As someone who has travelled some of the same waters, it was a particular treat for me to savour Norwell's work. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who loves the ocean, is interested in adventure, or just enjoys evocative art. A must read!”
—Colin Angus, award-winning author of Beyond the Horizon: The Great Race to Finish the First Human-Powered Circumnavigation of the Planet

"David Norwell has painted an intimately personal portrait of a journey as much about personal growth as the voyage itself. Through art, observations, and natural science, he shares his youthful evolution of spirit in the indomitable setting of the Pacific Northwest coast. What a perfect place to blend those elements and create something much larger."
—John Kimantas, author of the Wild Coast series

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