August 1974, while living in Kenora, Ontario, I decided to take a canoe trip far out in the Lake of the Woods to spend time amongst the islands in places I have never visited. I planned to go alone and by canoe and get far away from civilization and the daily rat race.
I was going into an uninhabited region with large expanses of open water, know for high winds and large waves. Common sense dictated that I had to take special steps to guarantee my safety. I owned a 16 ft. fiber glass canoe that had served me well for over 20 years but it could be easily swamped by large waves. I took an old canvass tent and trimmed it to fit the top of the canoe then fastened it down securely all around the upper edges. I designed a special skirt in the area where I sat, that would tie snugly around my chest and keep the water out.
Because I planned to go about 50 miles I attached my small 1 1/2 horsepower outboard motor to the left rear of the canoe. Long before the departure date I tested the equipment and discovered that the motor had a tendency to splash water into the rear of the canoe. That problem was solved by adding a splash guard between the motor and the side of the canoe.
The first day the weather was great and I enjoyed traveling around the islands and at no time did I see another boat, person, or cottage. I brought sandwiches for lunch so I was able to keep traveling south, leaving Kenora and the north shore far behind. When I stopped for supper at a small island, and what with all the fresh air and exercise, I fell asleep by the campfire. About an hour later I was jerked awake by the crash of lightning and thunder right over my head. I jumped up and set up my tent and gathered all my equipment inside just as the rain started to fall. The canoe was pulled up on the rocky shore and turned over.
I had traveled about ten miles as the crow flies, but much more by navigating around all the islands. I was happy to go to bed early as I wanted to get fresh start in the morning. It rained all night but I was dry and secure because I had a fairly new four man tent.
In the morning the rain had stopped, I broke camp, and was quickly back in my canoe and heading south. The terrain was changing from numerous islands, to wide open expanses of water. The sky was getting cloudy and overcast and the wind was beginning to pick up. The rain started up in the distance and I could see it heading my way and stirring up the surface of the water. I obviously was heading right into a severe storm that was coming directly at me from Frenchman’s Narrows. I had to get off the lake and to shore before the full force of the storm reached me.
Part II – “Wind Bound” to follow.