Winds ground paddlers
Layman is almost two weeks into his 55-day canoe trip that
will take him from his home in La Ronge to Hudson Bay. He is paddling the first
half with Tom O'Rourke of Pittsburgh, Penn., while his partner Lynda Holland,
will join him for the second half. The Star Phoenix will check in with Layman
from time to time as he paddles northeast.
It has been a week of highs and lows for Bill Layman and Tom O'Rourke as they
paddle toward Wollaston Lake. Marathon canoeists, like Saskatchewan farmers,
are dependent on the weather. Unfortunately for Layman and O'Rourke extremely
strong headwinds were keeping them off the water.
Waiting for the Weather to Change
"Here it is noon and we haven't moved a foot," a frustrated
Layman wrote Tuesday, on the 10th day of the trek. "I woke
up at 6 and got up to have a look. A strong northeast wind has blown
in clod, gray Arctic skies. The ceiling is so low that I could almost
reach out and touch the Beaver airplane that flew over at 6:30.
It must have been less than 250 feet (75 Meters) above me. Where
I could see for miles yesterday, I can now only see part way across
the narrows between us and the nearest island.
"As always I am driven to move and can't seem to sit out here for long, partly
because Tom has non-refundable air tickets. With no timetable, Lynda
(Holland) and I can be pinned for a week and it doesn't mean a thing.
But now we have a timetable. If the weather has other plans then our
planning is all out the window.
"Boats race by, going to and from Southend, but we are traveling the old
way. And that means we go when we can. We have 90 miles (145 kilometres) up
the lake to the beginning of the Swan Blondeau River into Wallaston Lake. It
will take three and a half days if all goes well, a week or more if it blows.
"Lots of people have made much of this trip that I am doing. And I guess
by today's standards it is a longish trip. But Lynda is fond of staying, 10
days or 50 days is all the same. The canoe and the nightly camps become your
By Wednesday, Layman and O'Rourke were back on the water, trying to make up
"It went dead calm about 8 (Tuesday evening) so we got up at 5 and hit
the water by 6:15. We had near calm and were in a narrow channel most of the
morning and got near 18 miles (29 kilometres) before lunch. And what a lunch.
Fried pike, bannock cappuccino, and a small piece of amaretto cake each.
"The mosquitoes are coming out now and any day now it will be time for
our bug shirts. The water is freezing cold as the ice has just gone off -- less
than a week ago."
This morning it was so cold that we were wearing gloves and toques. I saw a
boat go by and the driver was wearing a winter parka, Ski-Doo mitts and a muskrat
hat. And this is the 19th of June. It really never warmed up all day and after
lunch the wind picked up a bit from the north-east. It both chilled us and slowed
us down. Nonetheless we banged off close to 26 miles (42 kilometres).
"We are only two days from the start of the Swan Blondeau route. And soon,
far too soon I know, the trip will end for Tom. But he will be back somewhere
in the North again in a canoe. And soon. It has cut his soul deeply as it has
into mine. Even if he wanted to stay he would be unable. The North will call
to him in his dreams as it does to me.
"I am so damn happy out here it hurts. Something about this soothes my
soul and speaks to a primal need in a way I can't seem to find anywhere else."