The 2011 Trip
Compiled by – H8788 Geoff Bennett
|College Number||College of Entry||Grad Year||Name||Job|
|4815||RMC||60||Mike Jackson||bosun’s mate|
|H4860||RMC||60||John de Chastelain||bagpiper|
|H7543||RMC||68||Joe Day||public relations|
|8788||RMC||71||Geoff Bennett||le bourgeois|
|8816||RMC||71||Marius Grinius||coffee boy|
|M0288||RMC||83||Roxanne Rees||bean counter & scribe|
|15414||CMR||86||Catherine Paquet||adjudant adjoint|
Total funds raised for Athletics: $57,985
Gold: Joe Day $8,733
Silver: John de Chastelain $6,131
Bronze: Ray Hook $5,862
The 2011 all-Ex-Cadet crew spanned 42 years of College life from 4815 Mike Jackson to 22461 Claire Bramma. It included one CMR grad, Catherine Paquet, three other ladies and three Old Brigaders. Six paddlers represented the Class of 71.
John de Chastelain volunteered for a second tour as bagpiper. His classmate Mike still played hockey and was a lightning rod for limericks. Senator Joe finally joined the crew after having crashed the Melody Lodge party in 2000 and taking the salute in 2006. Another long-time Maudite “wannabe,” Peter Holt, brought his Nijmegen marching and singing skills to the crew. Veterans of two previous trips, Tom and Bruce, returned to their customary roles as bosun and cook. Bruce made another invaluable contribution by persuading his daughter, Cindy, to come along. She was equally adept in the stern as she was in the bow, setting the pace with Claire. Fergus re-upped as photographer and would outdo his previous effort by producing a photobook and DVD, including a “Rideau history” series of video interviews with the paddlers at various lockstations. Ray also returned as bartender and was joined by classmate Marius, a former ambassador and veteran of the first trip who was promoted from navvy to coffee boy. John Leggat was a new recruit and a good friend who paddled with me from Algonquin Park to Ottawa after graduation. He wore white tie as my best man in 1971 and in 2013 he would join John de Chastelain on the RMC Wall of Honour. The four ladies were also new recruits to La Chasse-Galerie. Roxanne grew up in Newfoundland and now lives in Victoria at the other end of the Trans-Canada Highway. She was one of the pioneer women at RMC and one of the first ladies in the “men’s” program to graduate. Catherine, as a CMR grad, was also one of the pioneers. Her energy and enthusiasm were a joy to behold, whether uploading hundreds of photos to the website, steering the canoe or leading the drill team. She mailed hand-written notes to all of her donors. Cindy the sous-chef and retired infantry officer, has served in some of Canada’s most challenging diplomatic outposts. Claire, the medic, is a military engineer with two Afghanistan tours under her belt. She is an outstanding athlete, particularly in volleyball. Claire received RMC’s Kelly Gawne Memorial Cup three years in a row.
This truly amazing team gathered together for the first time in the basement of Ottawa’s Exchange Pub, formerly the Elephant & Castle, on Thursday, 22 September 2011. Retired Maudite Jerry Holtzhauer and his wife Judith made the arrangements and joined the crew for dinner, as did many other spouses and friends. In honour of his recent successful quest to eliminate the Canadian one-cent piece, Senator Joe was presented with a large bag of pennies to be donated to the Danny McLeod Fund.
Danny himself was present at the salute the following morning, as was Defence Minister Peter MacKay. 12320 General Walter Natynczyk, another former tank man (like Danny and Ray), sent his regrets and asked VCDS Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson to take the salute in his stead.
The crew looked sharp in a new version of the #1 uniform – embroidered black caps and red shirts with ceintures flechées and the flashy new orca-eagle-wolf paddle design on the blades. I proudly carried the big stern paddle with its carved and painted motif and the abalone eyes. To his everlasting chagrin, however, Peter left his paddle behind and had to race home to get it before the canoe left. In the army, to lose one’s weapon is a serious offence.
As a sidebar to the paddle “incident,” when I arrived in Ottawa a week before departure I set myself the task of affixing the Jason Hunt decals to the blades. But to my horror, the decals were two inches too long. I shrank the design on a computer and sent it to Victoria where the printer turned the job around rapidly and delivered the new decals to me just in time.
Piper John and the seasoned crew carried off the salute without a hitch. During practice the day before, the crew had wisely voted against the bourgeois’s innovative “Peacock Fan” salute in favour of the more traditional “Present Arms” that had worked so well in 2006.
At the Hogsback coffee break, a 2001 Maudite, Larry Cassie, presented us with a new Canadian flag to replace the rather worn version in the stern. Many other Ex-Cadets helped us along the way. In Manotick the Laroque’s B&B was now closed so we stayed in the homes of 4106 Peter Meincke, 4669 Toivo Roht, 8884 John Barnard, 8913 Peter Gartenburg, 15012 Tom Norris and 15148 Greg Matte. 6873 Clive Addy and 8319 Greg Macdonald met us in Merrickville. 5533 Glenn Allen, who had hosted some of us in 2000, met us for coffee at Narrows Lock, as he has done on all the trips.
Perhaps the most memorable Ex-Cadet rendezvous took place at Kingston Mills on the last day when seven RMC bikers, including 6897 Dave Campbell and 7076 John van Haastrecht, joined us for lunch. Sadly, John died four years later but not before making the biggest donation ever to the RMC Foundation. There was a good-natured rivalry between the paddlers and the bikers, who were also raising money for RMC and who took a mere two days to travel the same distance. One of their T-shirts read, “I’d rather be pedallin’ than paddlin’.”
In Merrickville the Sam Jakes Inn had been converted into a senior’s home so we stayed in various B&Bs in this lovely village. The highlight was an alfresco gourmet dinner at Millisle B&B, hosted by Debra and Hugh MacLennan. The next morning the town crier showed up in full regalia for the ceremony as we presented cheques totalling $1,500 from the crew to the Friends of the Rideau and the Rideau Round Table. Among the spectators were S125 Bill and S134 Rolande Oliver, the editors of e-Veritas and who, over the years, have been the most loyal and stalwart supporters one could wish for.
That same afternoon, on the way to Smiths Falls, the ladies took a vote. The question was, which man would get the single room at the Colonel By Inn. Roxanne made an eloquent speech on behalf of the committee, praising the merits of each of the men, but eventually settled on Ray – not only for his good-humoured bartendering but for his other career running a women’s shelter in Alberta.
Roxanne would later distinguish herself by penning a memorable ode to Mike Jackson. She too was immortalized in verse by John de Chastelain, who managed to find a rhyme for “serpentine” in honour of her brief stint in the stern of the canoe.
Claire’s cheerful ministrations as medic resulted in a crowd at sick bay every day when the malingerers lined up to get bandages. Senator Joe was a regular attendee but he had a good excuse. He complained of pain in his big toe and made a convincing show of limping around. This put a damper on Joe’s enjoyment of the trip but he was fine as long as he was paddling.
On the beach at Rideau Ferry, John played Amazing Grace and we all sang along in memory of the four Maudites who were no longer with us. Roy Lampard, a veteran of the first trip, had died the previous year. A few days later, in one of the lockstations, we were tied up beside two American cabin cruisers. Their crews were curious about the canoe and who we were. Peter suggested a rousing chorus of Amazing Grace. With the pipes blazing away and fourteen voices singing loudly, the walls of the lock echoed to the famous tune. It was a truly memorable experience – for us as well as our new American friends.
By the time we reached the cottage after four days on the water, Ray and I decided that it was time for a defaulter’s parade. I found a large plank which we dangled over the dock. Then we rounded up the guilty parties, warned them to change into bathing suits and chained them together. The rest of the crew assembled on the dock as witnesses as Ray led them down and announced the charges. John de Chastelain, the presiding judge, pronounced them all guilty and sentenced them to walk the plank. Four stout chaps stood on the end of the board as each snivelling defaulter jumped off the end. Peter was first, for having left his paddle behind. Then it was Marius Grinius, guilty of having a funny name. When he jumped, the board cracked, leading to much hilarity as well as consternation from Claire, who was next. Her crime was to be the youngest but fortunately she was much lighter. Then, to my surprise, the mutinous bartender Ray rose up and pronounced me unfit to lead and John unfit to play the pipes. John and I leaped overboard and joined the gang in the water, followed soon after by everyone else.
There were indeed moments when I questioned my own judgment. I had suggested a shortcut through the Mud Cut on the Upper Rideau. None of the others thought this was a good idea except for Peter, who had passed through the Cut earlier in the year. I decided to go for it anyway. When we got stuck in the mud I jumped out in a vain attempt to push us through – and then was not very popular when I hauled my reeking muddy body back in the canoe. Peter belatedly gave me some useful information – his canoe trip had been in June, when water levels were higher, and their two-man canoes rode higher in the water. Shortly afterwards we came in to land on the beach at Rideau Ferry, paddling hard with the sound of the pipes in our ears. Suddenly we hit a rock and John almost flew out of the canoe. The yacht club had pulled up their markers a week earlier. We almost ran aground twice more – upon leaving Rideau Ferry, which is a nightmare in the absence of markers, and on the Cataraqui River just above RMC, where the rowing team later advised us never to stray out of the channel. I had done so and sincerely regretted it, having missed a submerged rock by inches.
The big stern paddle, so bright and shiny when we left Ottawa, aged noticeably every day. The paint gradually wore off and all the abalone eyes popped out. I was determined that the paddle would steer the canoe the whole way. That would be part of its “magic” and it would please Jason Hunt, who wanted to use it in a Kwagiulth ceremony after the trip. However, we had heard one or two ominous cracks and I remembered that yellow cedar was soft, not tough and limber like the cherry wood in the crew’s paddles. After almost a week on the water it was Peter who unwittingly delivered the coup de grace. He leaned hard on the paddle as we turned a sharp corner at Lower Brewers Mills. Crack! The paddle split about halfway up the shaft between Peter’s hands. During coffee break at the lockstation we splinted it with sticks and two rolls of red and white tape but it was still a bit wobbly. We steered the canoe with a regular paddle and saved the big one for the arrival at RMC.
The final lapse of judgment, which we luckily survived, was the salute at RMC and the run around Point Frederick. The wind was stronger than I’d ever seen on other trips and I debated whether we should go for it or retreat under the bridge. I would decide right after the salute. I stopped the canoe well away from the shore where the Commandant, 14835 BGen Eric Tremblay, Danny McLeod, one hundred cadets and other spectators were waiting for us. But the wind pushed us in faster than I expected. We finished piping, saluting and cheering with just seconds to spare. I ordered “All Engines Reverse!” and got us out of there, but not before the stern of the departing canoe grazed a rock. Then we turned to face the full force of the storm. I was comforted to see the Cordite, RMC’s little tugboat, waiting to escort us. I kept us moving forward, hard into to the wind, to feel how the canoe would respond. She pitched and rolled but felt seaworthy and stable. Then I saw that the waves would get no bigger and that we could do it. I shouted over the wind, “We’re going in!” The crew gave a whoop and bent to the challenge with full power. The canoe reared up the flank of each wave and plunged down into the trough beyond. It was exhilarating and powerful but unlike anything I’d ever done in this big canoe. Then I thought of three things. At some point we would have to turn broadside to the waves and then to run with them. But I had done that before in canoes and kayaks and knew what to expect. Secondly, I was still using the broken stern paddle because I had forgotten to switch it after the salute. I had to focus on the steering so I held on grimly to the stub of the paddle and used all my strength to manoeuvre. Thirdly, and worst of all, I realized that no one was wearing a life jacket. I weighed the risk of continuing versus the risk of losing all control for a minute while everyone put jackets on. I decided to continue and to ask forgiveness later. The broadside turn went well as did the following run, although each heaving wave tried to push the stern sideways. Spectators later told us they couldn’t believe our speed. We raced past the pier at RMC, turned sharply to port and drifted slowly, gratefully, into shore and the arms of the welcoming crowd. How different it could have been!
Whether climbing or canoeing, I have always been haunted by what might have happened. In 2016 I used a proper stern paddle and we all wore life jackets going around the point.
The Legacy Dinner was held in the Cadet Mess and New Gym. I looked up at the lists of athletic champions from the old days and the narrow running track and I remembered a line overheard in my time as a cadet over forty years earlier. A visiting basketball player had looked around and wondered, “If this is the New Gym I wonder what the Old Gym looks like.”
John de Chastelain penned a limerick in honour of the splendid meals on the trip, in large part due to the efforts of our road crew, Wendy and Jamie, who ensured we would never starve.
The Chasse-Galerie at the Dinner
Was acknowledged by all as a winner
But everyone saw
As we marched through the door
That the trip had left none of us thinner!
The Coxswain must steer the boat finely,
Keeping it straight and on line, see;
So our eyes opened wide
As we showed our surprise,
When we saw Roxanne steer serpentinely!
– John de Chastelain
Jackson – You’re a limerick waitin’ to happen.
The inspiration for one came while I was nappin’.
You throw out words like statesman and venable
In hopes that the crew will be quite amenable
To listen to stories of you as a lad
With two-seven charges, you surely were bad.
Your light hearted banter and flapping of gums
Is bound to ensure we’ll always be chums.
While I admit your tales mostly are gripping
I fear, Signals O, your Comms might be slipping.
Your dials are set to permanent TRANSMIT
So this serpentinian Newfie would like to submit
A request that ends in a PLEEEESE:
For today at least switch Comms to RECEIVE
– Roxanne Rees