After an amazingly delicious and entertaining meatball-filled night on Squirrel Island, we had to say goodbye to the tightly knit community of cottagers and push on towards Montreal. Or so we thought.
Peter had been battling a stomach bug for just over a week at that point and he was only getting worse. His body needed rest and our hosts, John and Sylvia, had offered to give Peter some much needed TLC for the day and drop him off wherever we could get to that evening.
Thing is, it’s a 6 person boat. It’s a 6 person trip! Bert to the rescue. Amidst the Squirrel Island gang was a 75 year old legend named Bert. He built his own cabin from scratch. He can fix anything in the world, and he and his wife Ramona still paddle around the island every time they get the chance. Bert knows a lot about the old voyageurs and even more about the outdoors, so he volunteered to fill Pete’s seat in the boat. “WHY NOT?” he said.
He was welcomed with a huge headwind on Lake George that persisted throughout most of the day. He injected the boat with a new personality and 75 years of stories to share. He showed us shortcuts and kept the boat moving at a steady pace. It would be hard for anyone to jump in and paddle stroke for stroke with a team that had been doing it for 98 days but he never stopped pushing, until we got to his brother in law Tom’s cottage down the lake where we set up for the night.
Tom and his wife Sharon welcomed Bert and our team with caesars, pulled pork, homemade pie and inexplicable excitement and hospitality. As we continued to celebrate Bert’s accomplishment and share jokes and stories back and forth, it became obvious that Pete would benefit from another day of rest under Sylvia’s care.
Tommy had witnessed Bert’s day in our boat from his jet ski and after a couple of drinks he realized that he could do it too. From there ‘The Diesel’ was born. Tommy took the day off planning his 70th birthday to singlehandedly paddle the 5 remaining crewmembers to Thessalon - roughly 45km east of his property.
We woke up, regrouped from the party the night before, ate another delicious breakfast on their patio and started towards our destination with a full fleet in the canoe. Tom not only shared his gifts of accents and comedy with our team but he even showed us the area’s hidden gems. We got a chance to cliff jump off Whiskey Rock and used the day’s tailwind to sail right into a beautiful beach site for lunch.
At the end of our day together, Sharon met us in Thessalon with another delicious meal as we debriefed another memorable day in the boat. Bert and Tommy not only helped us get to where we needed to go, but they kept the conversations new and exciting and showed us that spontaneity and adventure are not just for the young. They fit in perfectly and treated us as equals. They made 70’s look like the new 20’s and truly inspired us all.
To Tommy, Sharon, Bert, Ramona, Sylvia, John, Gregg, Ilene and everyone else we got to meet over the past couple of days…THANK YOU! You treated a bunch of strangers like family and we will always remember you for it. We love you!