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  • August 12, 1997

    Geoffrey Peake, Chief Guide of the Hide Away Canoe Club (HACC) writes:

    GEOFF PEAKE  One thing that has been a totally new experience on this trip has been dealing with the power requirements of such things as satellite phones and computers. This morning was our final feature on CBC radio's Summerside. One of our big worries was whether there was enough battery strength to run the phone, as it tends to drain serious amounts of power. CBC was due to phone us about 8:45. We switched the phone on at 8:44. In addition to being Chief Guide, I also double as Head Engineer, and one of my chief tasks are to make sure the phone was properly set up and had adequate power to last through a 15 minute phone call. As I switched it on, Michael looked up at me and asked "Is there enough power?" I assured him there was. Within a minute the phone rang--a very bizarre sound in the middle of a trip, and the meter started running. The first few minutes were briefing from the technical crew before they went live. After about a minute the phone started beeping.
     "Oh oh" I said. Michael looked at me and silent lines of worry formed on his brow. I checked the battery strength. Sure enough the LOW POWER light was blinking. The only drawback with this phone is that there is no battery meter, meaning that you don't have a clue that the battery is running low until it is about to run out. That beeping meant that we had about 3 minutes of operational time before it shut down.
     "Battery's almost dead" I whispered in Mike's ear as he was talking to the technician. His mouth dropped open.
     "Can you phone us back just before we go on air?" he said to the bewildered technician somewhere in CBC land, who assured he would phone again in two minutes. Mike hung up.
     "Didn't you just charge this thing" he asked me in a rather accusing tone.
     "Well, I thought I did". I replied unconvincingly. Sometimes if the connections are not just right, the charger gives the appearance of charging without the benefit of actually doing so. This was one of those times.
     "We'd better hook it up now, or you won't make it through the call"
     Withing a few seconds we were running off in all directions, grabbing the charging battery that was down on the beach, finding the charger that was in the waterproof case, and a pair of vicegrips in the depths of my pack to wrench the charging ring off that had jammed and prevented any further charging. Unbelievably, all was set and ready when the phone rang two minutes later. There was just one problem--the charger does not put out enough of a charge to actually run the phone. It needs several minutes of lead time to build up a reservoir of power. It was going to be close.
     The phone rang; the timer started. Sure enough, the LOW BATTERY alert sounded about a minute later, and continued beeping throughout the call. Michael managed to keep calm and focused knowing the phone could cut out at any moment. I stood by wringing my hands, unable to do anything. Miraculously, the battery lasted--but just barely.
     Today, we returned to the river, although the north winds continue to slow our progress through the day. We paddled some very scenic country today; we are approaching the tree line, and the trees that still manage to grow up here are confined to thin strip along the bank, but they are becoming less frequent as we continue to head north.
     We stopped in at Wedge Hills Lodge after lunch, in the hopes that we could charge our battery. Their generator was broken, but Serge the caretaker, who was staying here alone until the hunting season begins, offered us a jump from the tractor's battery. He is typical of the sort of person who lives in the north. "All I want to do is hunt and fish" he says. He enjoys spending time alone here, but his real goal is to move to an Inuit settlement, find a wife "and live until I die". We talked for some time of all the many settlements we had travelled in the north, and their relative merits --or drawbacks. I managed to contrive, through a complex matrix of wires and clips, a way to charge the phone from their battery, and so we decided to stay the night. Setting up our tents on the expansive beach facing the river, we prepared for our customary August 12th celebration, Every year David, the Quartermaster, brings in a few special goodies that he conceals until this day. Tonight he open a heavily taped and sealed box with foam wrap around a bottle of Chateau Palmer Wine, 1988. Also included were artichoke hearts, pate, antipasto, and the ubiquitous cognac and cigars, which have become a regular staple on all our trips, although only a few select (and brave) individuals actually sampled the cigars. I was not one of them. There were many toasts and salutes until the bottles were empty and the cigars turned to ash.
     Before turning in for the night, Serge gave us one final warning "Watch out for bears" he said in an offhand way. "I had one trying to break into the kitchen this morning..." Just to show he was serious, he held up his loaded shotgun, "in case she tries to get in again".
     Here's hoping for a quiet night's sleep.

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