Calgary man attempts solo 4,500-kilometre row across Atlantic for cancer research
Extreme adventurer aims to raise $200,000 for clinical trials in Alberta
A Calgary man is putting his life on hold for three months to attempt a perilous journey — isolated on a tiny rowing boat as it's tossed about in the Atlantic Ocean — on behalf of the 43 Albertans who are diagnosed with cancer each day.
Laval St. Germain has just embarked on a 4,500-kilometre solo row from Halifax to France to raise $200,000 for cancer research in the province.
North Atlantic <a href="https://t.co/x7TMp0NsKv">pic.twitter.com/x7TMp0NsKv</a>—@lavalstgermain
Potentially life-threatening extreme adventures are something of a hobby for the Canadian North pilot.
In 2010, he became the first Canadian to summit Mount Everest without the use of an oxygen tank. He's also scaled and skied off Iraq's highest peak, cycled from the Arctic Ocean to Yukon in the dead of winter and climbed the highest mountain on six of the world's seven continents.
But, having lost his father-in-law less than six months after a surprise cancer diagnosis and with one of his closest friends having been recently diagnosed, this physical challenge has special meaning for St. Germain.
"Shoving off on a trip like this into the North Atlantic to cross it is probably a lot like being told you have a disease like cancer," he told The Homestretch.
"For those people who are given that diagnosis, they aren't ready for it. They haven't have been training for it. They haven't been customizing a boat for it. They haven't been planning three months of their lives for it.
"They shove off into stormy seas, and you've got some terrifying situations, and a lot of suffering, and nausea, and kind of the same things that you get on an ocean rowing boat, but of course 10 times worse for people that have cancer."
Cooking on rocky waters
St. Germain has packed 100 days worth of dried food and a fishing spear, though cooking aboard the two by 1.5 metre wide deck can be "complicated," he said.
His 6.3-metre custom-built ocean rowing boat, affectionately known as TrueBlue, pitches and rocks 30 degrees in any given direction, often without much warning, he explained.
"I'd equate it to to being in a mountaineering tent strapped to a mechanical bull at times."
But of all the physical challenges that lie ahead, St. Germain said the most difficult will be the separation from his wife and two children.
"To miss a summer with them is pretty torturous, but I figure that in the big scheme of things it'll be worth it."
I have one of the most important items on my entire boat, my family pic & I'm ready for a 5:30am dep. from <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/YHZ?src=hash">#YHZ</a> <a href="https://t.co/80dLdaT622">pic.twitter.com/80dLdaT622</a>—@lavalstgermain
His suite of technological gadgets — including a satellite phone, GPS, Wi-Fi and solar panels — will allow him to keep in touch with his wife, Janet, his daughter who has just returned from university and his 14-year-old son.
Just two days into his trip, St. Germain has raised just over $27,000 for the Tom Baker Cancer Centre Clinical Trials Unit in Alberta.
"When you consider that 43 people every day get the diagnosis of cancer, I think it's a worthy cause."
With files from The Homestretch