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Guide's Report

By Geoffrey Peake

Bad weather continues

Thursday, July 12, 2001


I was exhausted after last night's writing session -- it was actually getting light again by the time I closed my eyes, but I was determined to be awake at 9 a.m. because I knew that's when we were supposed to phone Air Labrador and see if the flight was on. We have all become increasingly worried about being delayed here any longer. Our crew was clustered around the kitchen area as Michael made the call. I chose to listen from the comfort of my bed. The conversation went something like this:

"Morning, Wayne, this is Michael Peake with the Hide-Away Canoe Club...Fine thanks, just wonder how things are looking for today's flight. (Long pause) Oh... I see... Really. Well, thanks. We'll check in later."

Michael hung up the phone and there was silence in the room. No one had to ask -- we knew there'd be no flight north today. We've been through this kind of experience before -- when forces beyond your control conspire to drive your trip nose-first into the ground. We had it before in 1983 on the George River, and again in '86 on the Leaf. What we had to do now was figure out all our options and how much delay we could afford. The motto to remember in these circumstances is this: Leave No Stone Unturned. Over the years we have learned that -- in any given place-somebody, somewhere probably has the answer to your problems. The trick is to find that person. And sitting in a motel room moping around is no way to do that.

Andrew and I pulled out the maps and reviewed the route, trying to figure out just how much time we could afford to lose. We started to realize we weren't the only ones stuck when Michael called to book our rooms again. Apparently, the place was booked for the night -- as were all the other motels in town. When we tried to rent a car, same thing. As the rain poured down and the deadline for leaving our rooms loomed nearer with no options in sight, things were looking grim indeed.

Then we met Joe Goudie.

Joe is a celebrated maker of canoes who lives in Happy Valley. Over the years his home has become a gathering place for wilderness canoeists passing through town, and his generosity is renowned. In fact, our own Andrew Macdonald spent several months here last winter living in a tent in his back yard, learning to make snowshoes and preparing for a winter trip in the Grand River area with his fiancee, Sally Bliss. When Joe heard of our predicament, he picked us up at the Royal Inn, lent us his truck to use, then invited us to dinner.

We managed to find a couple of rooms just down the road (at the Hillbilly Inn!); We headed off to Joe's in the evening, and cooked up the batch of Caribou steaks and smoked Char that Sean and Andrew had bought at Uncle Sam's butcher shop in town. This ended up being one of our most memorable meals on trip yet, a good example of how unexpected good fortune can sometimes be found waiting in the midst of apparent misfortune. One of Joe's guests included Gary Pittman, a consultant for Parks Canada, who's taken several trips up to the Torngats. Originally we had planned to take a boat from Nain and follow up the coast to start our trip, but-as part of the odd chain of events that has worked against on us this trip-the charter boat we were going to take struck ice off the coast only days before our trip and damaged the main drive shaft. And of course the replacements parts needed to fix it are sitting here in Goose Bay, stuck in town like the rest of us. We told Gary our tale and he suggested several other charter boats we could use if necessary.

And so we continue to make the best of our time here in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. We know we're going to make it on the water-we just don't know when. It would be easy to get discouraged about all this, and had we not lived through similar situations like this we would too. Eventually the skies will clear. But as I sit here writing this in Joe's living room, a glass of Scotch by my side, conversation turning to travels on the coast and of days gone by, I can see the rain pouring down outside and think that, if we had to be stuck somewhere, there's probably no better place to be.

360 pix

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