Matheson Island (MB) & a canoe incident / April 22 to May 3, 2016
Friday, April 22 to Tuesday May 3, 2016
It has been an emotional week.
First, on Friday April 22, we were able to take a shower, courtesy of Hazel. It made us feel so good! It had been two weeks since our last shower. It's still too cold to venture into the lake (which is still frozen). So, taking a shower is a luxury and one of life's pleasures. We value it every time we have the opportunity.
That afternoon, we received our precious package by mail. Susan came to notify us of its arrival. She offered Pierre transportation to retrieve the box. Finally! We have received our rifle and freeze-dried food from Happy Yak. In addition there was a note from our friends who unveiled the name of their future daughter: Victoria! What a pretty name! :)
The next day, we had the pleasure of spending some time with Beverly and Dennis. Bev prepared a delicious lemon pie that we enjoyed with delight. They gave us some kumquats, a small citrus fruit that you eat with its peel. This fruit comes from a shrub called "Japanese lemon tree", originally from China. They also gave us homemade kumquat marmalade. We met David Carriere and interviewed him about his grandfather, Roger Carriere. It was a very special occasion. David poured out his memories and his feelings. We had heavy hearts at the end of the interview. David, thank you for your beautiful and heart-felt testimony. Thank you for sharing your personal story with us.
Roger Carriere is a canoeing legend, as well as a trapping legend, in Manitoba, but also in Canada. He was, among others thing, a part of the team that won the canoe race (The Centennial Voyageur Canoe Pageant) held as part of the festivities for Canada's centennial in 1967. Eight provinces were represented in this race which started at Rocky Mountain House (Alberta) on May 24 and ended 104 days later in Montreal (Quebec) on September 4, 1967, during Expo 67.
After the interview, Dennis and Bev gave us a private tour of the island. They shared their stories and their knowledge about this amazing place. Thank you both for a beautiful afternoon. We greatly appreciated the time spent with you. In the evening, Pierre met with Susan and Kevin who discussed the life of being a trapper and especially what it represents in these modern times.
The next day, it was time for us to leave. We packed up and put everything into the canoe for a portage. We said goodbye to our new friends before starting our walk towards the ferry. Before we left, we met Ron again. He gave us moose and goose jerky and smoked white fish. Delicious! He also provided us with valuable information about the lake, ice conditions and our best options.
Once at the ferry, we found a natural rock ramp where we could launch. Before we get there though, we met a lot of people along the road who greeted us and with whom we took the time to talk. Considering our late departure, we just paddled to the end of the island to set up our camp
on a small sandy beach, sheltered from the wind. The next day (Monday April 25th), we donned our dry suits (Kokat, Radius model). We were glad to have them, because they were very helpful during this day and the following day. From the small sandy beach, we were able to paddle a little bit before reaching ice. At first, the ice was broken up and we could push through it. Then we had to work hard to join another water vein. The ice was not thick enough to enable us to glide on it and it was not soft enough to break through. Only great effort enabled us to continue to Canoe Island. Finally, a patch of water gave us the opportunity to breath and to resume our paddling. The ice rose again in front of us not long after, but this time, we were able to glide on it. After a while, we could walk while pulling the canoe to Moose Island. During this process of transitioning from the ice to water, we hit a rock with the bottom of our canoe, while the ice gave way under our weight. The result, that we only discovered at Moose Island, was a nice crack under the boat, the gel coat was gone and there was a crack in the fibreglass. Water seeped into the core during the last few kilometres and we could see the Kevlar fibres. If the temperature had been above zero, we could have repaired the canoe with useful and reliable duck tape, until we could make a proper repair. Perhaps that being the case this problem would have never happened in the first place. However, we knew that the situation was not in our favour. We still had a lot of ice to go across and temperatures still fell below zero overnight.
The next day, the damage was greater! The water, now sandwiched in the core, froze and expanded overnight. The crack was bigger and the bottom of the canoe was soft. We thought for a moment what our next move should be, while contacting Clipper Canoes via our inReach (thanks to inReach for just this kind of situation!) We decided to return to Matheson Island, to avoid being stuck on the island for several days or weeks, until the conditions improve enough to deal with a broken canoe.
We left early to take advantage of the cooler weather and to move as quickly as possible on the ice. In just one day, the ice condition had changed so much. Between Canoe Island and Matheson Island, the ice was very thin and we both broke through the ice several times. If we had decided to stay another day on Moose Island, we would not have been able to travel on the ice as it was not hard enough to support our weight yet not quite melted enough to break. It was a good decision! It felt strange while we were "walking on thin ice". Literally! The crackling sounds caused by our weight carried far beyond us. It was a crystal, dry, crackling sound. We knew the ice could give away at any time. We took quick and gentle steps while Jasmine road in the canoe. We sprinted until we found a more solid patch where we could stop and catch our breath. It felt like walking on a carpet of ice in motion. It gave us a feeling of vertigo. We could feel the waves caused by our steps under the moving ice.
As we neared the coast of Matheson Island, we were not yet out of trouble. We fell into the water in several places, as there was ice and snow along the bank. We were able to glide a little and paddle in a water vein. It took us 2 hours to finish the last 3 km of the 20 km we made that day. When we reached the beach, Smitty was waiting for us. He welcomed us with an offer to stay in a house that he normally rents and helped us carry our equipment. It was an easy portage, but after a day of hard work, it was most appreciated. Pierre meanwhile had talked with Lynne, from
Clipper Canoes, and she confirmed there was a canoe waiting for us. It was a huge relief! The only problem that remained was to arrange the transportation back to Winnipeg.
After a wonderful night of rest, thanks to Smitty and his wife Connie, we finalized our arrangements with Clipper Canoes. Then we were able to spend time with Smitty. On Thursday, we gave a presentation at the Matheson Island School. This is a small rural school of only 16 students. We had a lot of fun meeting with the students and answering their questions. In the gym, there is a beautiful mural that speaks to happiness (see photo).
We spent the following days mainly with Smitty, Connie and their extended family.
On Friday afternoon, we went to see the caves near Pine Dock. Smitty guided us and showed us around the place. Beautiful! The soft green of new growth and moss shone in the sunlight that pierced through the woodland. The rays also found their way through the maze of crevasses still frozen.
Pierre also learned to repair fishing nets and how to prepare for the commercial fishing season. The next day we received a nice gift. We were invited to go and see how to fish with nets. We learned a lot and had the opportunity to get hands-on. Pierre was getting pretty good at this!
On Sunday, Connie and Smitty invited us to join their family (brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews) for a "fish fry". We ate so much that we could not eat dinner that night! In addition, we spent a wonderful evening with the whole gang. Smitty and Connie made sure we would experience everything possible on the island and they showed us their beautifully, fantastic region. They were so friendly and generous. For those who are interested to go to the end of Route 234 and live a Nordic adventure, contact Connie and Smitty. They will help you and guide you, regardless of the season and your preferred activity.
Saturday, Denis and Sonja came to visit. They drove from Beaver Creek to meet us and offered their help to get our new canoe. On Monday, May 2nd, Denis arrived with his pickup truck and a rack that he built over the weekend, just to carry the canoe. Denis and Sonja, we will forever be grateful for your help. You found the perfect solution to our transportation issues.
After driving Denis home, we continued our journey to Riverton, where we were supposed to leave our damaged canoe. It was to go by transport truck to Burlington (ON) to our great friend Michael, but ultimately it was from Winnipeg that it left the following day. Michael offered to take care of transporting the old canoe and having it fixed. Thus, we will have a spare canoe ready to be shipped if any problems occur in the future. 20 months of travelling by canoe can bring its share of surprises and adventures ... We know! Michael knows as well,nand he is always ready to help us. Michael, thank you so much for your friendship, for always being there for us, and your invaluable help.
So on Tuesday, May 3, we drove to Winnipeg in Denis and Sonja's truck. We picked up the new canoe at Heartland Archery. The canoe is in great condition.! Thank you Lynne, and Clipper Canoes, for your support!
Within a day or two, we should resume our paddling (for a long time, hopefully!). There is ice still visible on the lake, but with the temperatures increasing for next week, we expect it to melt quickly. Once gone, we will be cut off again from the outside world. Only inReach will work and will keep everyone informed on our social media and via MapShare.
Thank you again to all who helped us this week. You make our story a fantastic, unique, human adventure.