Edmonton

Family paddling from Edmonton to Montreal running a month late

It hasn’t been smooth sailing for the small family who chose to make their move from Edmonton to Montreal via canoe.

Family of three has weathered waves, rain, injury and portages

Benoit Gendreau-Berthiaume, his wife Magali Moffatt, and their five-year-old son, Mali are about a month behind schedule paddling from Edmonton to Montreal. They don't seem to mind, however. (Paddling Home/Facebook)

It hasn't been smooth sailing for the small family who chose to make their move from Edmonton to Montreal via canoe.

Nearly four months ago, Benoit Gendreau-Berthiaume, his wife Magali Moffatt, and their five-year-old son, Mali, launched their canoe from the shores of the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton.

Since then, they've battled large waves, driving rain and wind, long portages and a hole in a foot.

"We're basically a month behind where we thought we'd be at this time," Gendreau-Berthiaume said Tuesday.

"We just kind of took our time at some points, realized that we had to take breaks to rest from some stretches that were harder than others."

Their biggest challenge to date: carrying their canoe and gear through Boundary Waters, a series of small paddles and longer walks that ended with a 14-kilometre portage to Lake Superior. What was already a difficult hike was also made worse when Gendreau-Berthiaume stepped on a rusty nail three kilometres into the walk — and then realized they'd lost their GoPro camera along the way.

"That was a really gruelling experience," Gendreau-Berthiaume recounts with a hollow chuckle. "We can laugh about it now but when we were in the middle of it we weren't too happy campers."

Fortunately, the missing GoPro was picked up by a long-distance cyclist on his own way cross-country, and is now in the mail.

Taking their time

Now, the family of three is hunkered down in Sault Ste Marie, waiting out some strong winds.

Gendreau-Berthiaume hopes they will get back in the boat on Wednesday, but isn't in any hurry to rush it if the weather looks unfavourable.

"No point in trying to make it out there and just freezing our hands and bodies in big waves."

Not that his five-year-old son would complain, Gendreau-Berthiaume says.

"I've learned a lot about my son, and how good of a trooper he is … the whole portage, he hiked probably 20 kilometres with all the back and forth that we did, and he never whined, never complained — he was just so happy to be outside.

"Kids are a lot tougher than we give them merit for."

Gendreau-Berthiaume expects the family will reach Montreal, their final destination, in about a month. First, they've got about 14 days of hard paddling across Lake Huron ahead of them — and then?

"After that we'll be going downstream, so that will be nice."

The trio has been keeping a blog of their adventures along the way. You can also follow their progress on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Vimeo.

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