Ocean Hermit – sailing, solitude and stories

My plans to retrace Captain Cook's unfinished voyage have been postponed a year while I work on the next Marine Diesel Basics book and get my new boat SV Oceandrifter ready for sea.


Adventure’s been in my blood since I was a small boy living on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales in northern England. After leaving school, I hitch-hiked alone from Cape Town to Cairo and visited Afghanistan before the Russian invasion. Travelling and writing have always been my ambitions and I’ve been fortunate to be able to indulge them both. Living life as a great adventure and accepting whatever happens are key.

I emigrated to Canada in 1980 and in 1983-84 walked the entire length of the Ganges, India’s holiest river, raising money for Save the Children Fund. The fascinating journey took seven months and was the subject of my first book, “A Walk along The Ganges”. From 1985 to 1991, I travelled extensively in the Amazon in a canoe, carrying little more than a rain canopy, mosquito net and a hammock, and wrote about the experience in “Amazon”. During these travels I was fortunate enough to met and eventually stay with Yanomami Indians in a remote area of the rain forest north of the river Amazon.

At that time their land was being invaded by illegal goldminers, with government sanction. I was able to chronicle their fight to survive in “Savages, The Life and Killing of the Yanomami”. Fortunately, for several different reasons, the Brazilian government eventually agreed to demarcate the land of the Yanomami and declared a reserve.  Real efforts to remove all the goldminers were made. I was intensely involved in their struggle and afterwards it was difficult to find any project equally fascinating and compelling.

Still Life Retreat silent in winter time

So I took a break from travelling and writing and in 1995 built and operated Still Life Retreat in southern Ontario, Canada, offering peace and quiet to the “wilted and the wired”. I also edited and published two editions of the “Canadian Retreat Guide”. Still Life was non-denominational – the idea was to create a comfortable, safe and beautiful place where people could relax and become centred.  A quiet time away from normal routine is a great way to gain a new perspective on troubles big and small.

Kuan Yin leaving Toronto August 2009. Photo by

After four years I left Still Life just before the new millennium and after a stint living in the city of Toronto soon took up sailing. The new hobby was so addicting that I had to stop for a year. But in the end a quest for a cabin by the Atlantic Ocean in Noiva Scotia became a $30,000 sailboat in Thailand. I didn’t actually do much sailing and after two years sold the boat and moved ashore.

Then in 1995, I opted for the sea once more. I now live most of the year on my 32-foot steel sailboat “Kuan Yin”. My current project is retrace the extraordinary voyage in 1811 of an Inuk sea captain and Moravian missionaries along the coast of Labrador into Ungava Bay, in northern Canada.

In preparation for this voyage I completed refitted Kuan Yin over two summers, with help from many friends, then sailed down the St. Lawrence to Newfoundland and the Atlantic Ocean last summer.

2011 was supposed to be the summer when I went north – or “down the Labrador” as they say in Newfoundland. However, I was plagued with mechanical problems all summer and the season passed. it took three months to install a new transmission and a lot of money.  However, there’s always next year.

12 comments on “Biography

  1. Jane Mckenzie
    April 22, 2010

    Hi there!! Remember me? How are you? This looks a fantastic project!

    Been a long time since we last spoke.

    It would be so nice to talk to you.
    Love from



  2. Ken
    April 23, 2010

    Hi Den,

    Thanks for the great time!

    Have a good sail.


  3. Daryl Wood
    July 28, 2010

    Dear Dennison, It was the fall of 1998 when my friends and I filled Still Life Retreat under your gentle guidance. We ate your lovingly prepared meals, we meditated with you, we walked, we laughed, we sang, we talked. Those were magical days and within a year, I moved to my little corner of the world in Tobermory, on the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. I’ve been operating Healing Rock Retreat ever since and while it is small compared to Still Life, I carry on your legacy of loving all who cross my doorstep. You modeled humanity at it’s best. May you be blessed wherever you travel … and if you ever sail to Tobermory I’ll be in the harbour to welcome you. Love Daryl


  4. Simone Marler
    August 23, 2010

    Dennison: Blaine and I just returned from a house exchance vacation in Leeds, spending much of our 3 weeks exploring the lovely and rather-more-rugged-than-you-might-imagine Yorkshire Dales, which set me to thinking about getting back in touch with you. Your latest adventures are intriguing, as always, and I see gray hair has caught up with both of us now.

    You’ll find me these days in Fort McMurray (moved here in January with Shell–longish story), kids almost grown up, and looking forward to planning a permanent move to our home on Pender Island in the next couple of years.

    I have 2 communications students working with my team this summer and I told them how you helped improve my writing back in the day, so have been paying it forward ever since.

    If you can, do let me know your latest email.



  5. Alastair Humphreys
    November 18, 2011

    A fellow Yorkshireman!
    I’ve just written a book about walking the length of the Kaveri river in India. Not as epic as yours, but many similar experiences…


  6. Willie Fox
    December 2, 2011

    I’ve been home for about two weeks now….did you get your transmission repaired?


  7. Chuck Barnes
    December 20, 2011

    I saw you are using wordpress, what plugin are you using for viewing photos? How do you like it? It looks and functions great.


  8. Tony Dandan
    January 4, 2012

    Hi Dennison,

    Great chatting with you during the bus ride from the airport. Have a great and productive time in Asia. I will definitely check out your books. Cheers, Tony


  9. Michele
    February 19, 2012

    Hi! Jut taking a few moments to view and ponder your website, again. Michele


  10. Michael
    December 24, 2012

    Hello Dennison,
    I was also on the Sean Paquito and working in the 4 villages closest to where she was anchored off Paro, but a few weeks after your account.
    I was doing a search for information regarding the Orient Explorer when link after link led me to your essay.
    Thank you for taking the time to write of your experiences.
    Warm regards,


  11. Michele Pippen
    August 20, 2013

    Hi Dennison, Thought it about time to post something here – now that you have the oceannomad.ca site – always keen to read / hear your news and updates on adventures and other. Great stuff, as always. See you again next year! Michele


  12. Jeff Sanger
    August 1, 2014

    Dear Denny
    Thanks for your latest posting at stage number 6.
    Come back safe!
    Much love
    Jeff and Jha


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