Feature photo caption:
The Inaugural 2000 Chasse-Galerie
|College Number||College of Entry||Grad Year||Name||Job|
|RCNC125||RCNC||45||Stan Mitchell||bean counter|
|3251||RMC||54||Jim Tremain||drill sergeant|
|8035||RMC||69||Don Gates||historian & entertainer|
|8788||RMC||71||Geoff Bennett||le bourgeois|
|11386||RMC||78||Tony MacDougall||cook & bartender|
Total funds raised for Athletics: $28,924
Gold: Charles Robertson $5,681
Silver: Les East $2,793
Bronze: Lloyd Beverley $2,047
Stan “The Man” Mitchell was the first to join the crew along with Les East and Dave Bindernagel. Stan holds the Chasse-Galerie record for earliest grad year (1945 from RCNC) and, until Tom Gee surpassed him in 2016, he was also the most senior paddler. Stan’s wife Joan brought a home-baked pie to the crew during the lunch break at Rideau Ferry. She continued the tradition in 2001 and again in 2006 after Stan had passed away.Les and Dave have been enthusiastic supporters of Royal Roads, the RMC Club and La Chasse-Galerie for years. Anyone who visits the Museum at Royal Roads will have seen the life-size cut-out of Les, greeting visitors at the door in his cadet uniform. Dave was the Commandant of Royal Roads in its final year and had taken the salute from my father, the leader of the Ex-Cadets on parade.Don Gates joined soon afterwards. He and Dave sat in the stern and became the bad boys of the “Engine Room.” Don began the tradition of serving top quality British Navy Pusser Rum during the afternoon break, a tradition that was merrily continued on all subsequent trips.With his flowing white hair and red bandana, Charles from Ohio looked like a member of a biker gang but he raised by far the most money. On the back of his paddle he wrote the college numbers of all those who had donated in his name. His fellow navvy was Marius, who capped an illustrious ambassadorial career by serving coffee to his mates. Marius would return on the 2011 trip. Jerry, an enthusiastic Friend of the Canadian War Museum, would return, too, as an Old Brigader on the 2006 trip. Two of the other navvies were Roy, a kindly infantryman and a friend to everyone, and “007” Bill, who brought his favourite paddle and lifejacket: “The name’s Samulack – Bill Samulack.” Lloyd from Perth designed the paddles. He came up with the idea of edging the blades in darker cherry wood with a college decal in the centre to simulate the RMC flag. Jim would be joining the Old Brigade at the end of the trip. Sixteen years later, he was there again at RMC in his red canoe shirt, greeting every one of the paddlers on the final trip.By early September 2000, the canoe was full. The all-male Ex-Cadet crew was ready to go and had raised a significant amount of money. One paddler dropped out at the last minute. Diana Tremain came off the waiting list and became the sole female on the crew. Vive la différence! Diana, also known as Dinah or Lady Di, comes from a distinguished line of Tremain’s. Four generations of them have attended RMC including her husband Ted and his brother Jim, a former President of the RMC Club. Her elegance and wit added immeasurably to the enjoyment of the trip. Later, when asked how it felt to share a canoe for a week with fourteen men, she said, “No line-ups for the loo! For a week!” She has followed every subsequent trip with enthusiasm. While noting that improvements had been made, she always said, “The first trip was the best.”I showed up early at the Ottawa Locks on the afternoon of Thursday, 21 September 2000. Rob Clipperton of CBC Radio interviewed me on the lawn, almost exactly ten years after he had interviewed my father about RMC. A short while later, the paddlers arrived one by one. As I scanned the expectant faces, I sensed a whiff of history in the making, here in the very place where Colonel By had built the locks and a commissariat, Ottawa’s first stone building. After gingerly lowering the canoe from the trailer into the water, we climbed aboard and I stood in the stern. I had never done this before. I asked Stan to suggest a proper Navy command. He replied, “Give way together!” and off we went. Within a few hundred yards, I felt a huge sense of relief as I learned to steer the big canoe and we practiced turning, stopping and saluting. It worked!That night we enjoyed our first meal together amid the noise and bustle of D’Arcy McGee’s Pub. We wore the #2 uniform – black Maudite T-shirt – and were treated by the pub to a free case of Maudite. Early the next morning we gathered by the Ottawa River and dipped our new paddles into the water. We climbed back up to the top of the eight locks, doffed our warm jackets in favour of the #1 uniform – a red RMC polo shirt – and arranged ourselves and our gear in the canoe. There was a moment’s hush as we cast off; the Canadian and RMC flags fluttered in the breeze. We all faced the unknown and wondered how the adventure would unfold.
Passing the National Arts Centre in Ottawa – 22 Sep 2000
And then we were off – the first of 100,000 paddle strokes and five trips. In front of the National Arts Centre we saluted G55 Valerie Keyes, a former President of the RMC Club, and shouted an RMC cheer to a small but loyal crowd. Early morning commuters saluted us in turn as we made our way through downtown Ottawa, passing through Dow’s Lake and the first two locks at Hartwells. By the time we stopped for coffee at Hogsback we felt like old pros. Back in the Engine Room, Dave the scribe noted that we were on schedule – another huge relief, assuming we could keep it up, because the itinerary was predicated upon a rate of 7.5 km/hr.At Hogsback, in brilliant autumn sunshine, Tony “The Cook” served coffee and doughnuts on a cloth-covered picnic table. As a man of unquestioned integrity, he also poured the daily tot of rum each afternoon and restocked the beer supply at night.John “The Bosun” took a turn at the helm and we settled into the familiar paddler’s rhythm – dip, pull and swing – all the while chatting to neighbours and watching the scenery float by. A brief stop at Black Rapids was followed by a leisurely lunch under blue skies at Long Island’s flight of four locks, where a magnificent curved dam has held back the Rideau for over 170 years. One hour later the crew disembarked at the wooden dock of Kathy and Henri Larocque’s B&B just beyond Manotick. Seven of us squeezed into a home designed for fewer; six stayed with the McDonald’s at Carsonby Manor; 4248 Tom Brownley took in two. We paddled upstream to the Shoreline Restaurant for supper and returned in the dark, aided by a beacon on the dock. I fell asleep in the comforting knowledge that everything was working, so far, but I knew that the following day would be the longest of the trip.
Approaching Hogsback Lock on the first day –
22 Sep 2000Saturday morning dawned grey and cold as the canoe headed south up “The Long Reach” towards Burritts Rapids. It would be a 43 kilometre day with over six hours of steady paddling. Coffee on the beach and lunch break at Burritts helped quell the crew’s mutinous spirit. The miles dragged on endlessly and the cold drizzle soaked through shoes and jackets. Gradually the canoe lost its fizz as, one by one, the grumbling engines shut down. Finally, as if on command, all paddling ceased and the call for “Rum!” arose. Speed increased and spirits rose remarkably. Song and verse rang out over the still water. The canoe quickly passed Nicholsons and Clowes Locks and reached Merrickville half an hour ahead of schedule.A good party and a welcome rest at the elegant Sam Jakes Inn was followed by an easy, sunny, but windy day through swamps, wide reaches and flatlands to Smiths Falls. Picturesque locks at Kilmarnock, Edmonds and Old Slys led up to the huge Smiths Falls 29A, which was built in 1974 to replace the original flight. With efficient electric gates and a lift of 26 feet, the highest on the Rideau, it performs well but has all the enchantment of a concrete bunker. Fortunately, this was the last of three locks on the Rideau to be electrified and the rest of the canal has been preserved in its original state.
The first coffee break – Hogsback Locks 22 Sep 2000
The Best Western Colonel By Inn is conveniently situated beside the pier on the high side of the Smiths Falls locks. The famous old bascule railway bridge looms over the water nearby. It guards the entrance to a huge swamp, lined in the fall with treacherous deadheads, decoys and duck hunters. On a clear, frosty and windless Monday morning, the team paddled deep into the marsh, then up a long narrow tree-lined channel to the whimsically-named Poonamalie Lock. The most remote and perhaps the most charming of all the lockstations, it lies exactly halfway between Ottawa and Kingston.At Poonamalie a stretch of shallow rapids once marked the top of the old Rideau watershed. Before the arrival of Colonel By, the Big Rideau Lake stretched from the rapids, without interruption, 39 kilometres south to the isthmus at Newboro. In 2016, the 660m long dam was extensively refurbished and is now designed to protect the Ottawa Valley from major floods.The Canadian Shield appears just beyond Poonamalie, where a string of large lakes funnels the prevailing southwesterlies between granite shores, tossing whitecaps over the bows of Kingston-bound vessels. Forewarned, the paddlers entered the Lower and Big Rideau Lakes with some trepidation. However, a perfectly calm and sunny day had transformed the lakes into huge ponds. Lunch and a swim at beautiful Murphy Point Park was followed by an easy paddle to the Bennett family cottage in Horseshoe Bay. The old red canoe was still there. Among the memorabilia lining the walls were photos of my father Bob and mother Lem. How they would have loved to host these canoe trips! Of all the stops, this was the most rustic and the most relaxing: a barbecue, drinks on the deck at sunset, songs around a campfire and a cozy night in sleeping bags. Owing to the limited space, five of the crew spent the night at the nearby home of 5533 Glenn Allen, another former Club President.
On the way to Manotick – Murphy Point on the Big Rideau –
Maudite at the Bennett cottage
The next morning, a pink dawn glowed in the eastern sky. The crew paddled south through mist and through flocks of calling loons which were massing on the water for their own southward migration.
Early morning at the cottage / Leaving the Big Rideau
At Narrows Lock, the lift is only three feet into the Upper Rideau and splits the original lake into two. This peculiar idea is a tribute to the engineering genius of Colonel By, who realized that by raising the level of the Upper Rideau he would reduce the amount of blasting required to cut a channel through the mile-wide isthmus at Newboro. This saved money and, more importantly, lives which would have been lost in the blasting and from the malaria that was endemic to the Rideau in the 1830’s.An easy passage through Newboro, the busiest lockstation in the summer, marks the beginning of the downstream run along the Cataraqui watershed to Kingston. A chain of three lakes leads to Chaffeys Lock and the grand old Opinicon. On the Tuesday evening at dinner, the fifteen Maudites occupied one long table while a much larger group of church ministers sat nearby. A lively trade in wine evolved between the two tables but the priests demurred when offered some of the devil’s beer. By 2000, despite the splendid ambience, the Opinicon was decades past its prime. A liquor license had to be purchased from a store in Elgin. The grand piano was unplayable. The mimeographed breakfast menu listed porridge and stewed prunes. The beds, the plumbing… everything was old and tired. When Lady Di bumped into the owner, an older woman, and asked for a hair dryer, she received the tart reply, “What do you want that for?” Under new management since 2015, the Opinicon still retains its century-old charm but is decidedly more friendly.
Leaving the Opinicon – 26 Sep 2000 – photo by Jack Chiang for the Kingston Whig Standard
From the Opinicon dock on the Wednesday morning the crew passed through Davis Lock, then across lovely Sand Lake and over to Jones Falls, the most spectacular flight of locks on the Rideau. By’s masterpiece, the 60-foot-high dam was, in 1830, the highest in North America and was built with no less care than the Inca walls of Peru. While a skeleton crew manned the canoe through the locks, Don MacKay, the resident blacksmith and expert on Rideau history, pumped the bellows on the ancient forge and brought the nineteenth century back to life. Joe Kenney hosted lunch at his nearby hotel, built in 1877 and still in the family until Joe sold it in 2008.The scenery from Jones Falls through Whitefish and Cranberry Lakes is perhaps the most impressive on the entire route. Narrow winding lakes are dotted with small islands glowing with autumn colour. Huge cliffs such as Rock Dunder tower 250 feet above the water. When I was a young Boy Scout, I camped near Dunder with my buddies. We heard a scream at night and watched a shadowy figure pass by our rickety lean-to. We were quite sure it was a cougar.The Brass Point Swing Bridge is low-clearance and must be passed before 1550 hrs to access the southern end of the lake and Melody Lodge. The ownership of this cozy fishing retreat has changed several times over the years but the lodge remains the same as ever. Treated to a family-style welcome and Judy Gallant’s home-cooked meals, the team partied one last time. Stan “the Man” became even more popular by washing the dishes. Two unexpected visitors dropped in with a case of beer and spent the night on the sofas: H7543 Senator Joe Day and his classmate 7726 John Bodin. It’s not easy to find Melody Lodge on the country roads at night but Joe sensed this was a “seminal event.” In 2006 he received the salute from the canoe in Ottawa and in 2011 he joined the team.
Melody Lodge on the last morning – 28 Sep 2000
The last sunrise shone clear and cold with, finally, a gentle northerly breeze. During coffee break at Lower Brewers, a reporter from CBC-TV interviewed me on camera for the evening news. Unknown to us at the time, Pierre Trudeau had just died. Thus there was no mention of the RMC canoe trip on TV that night.
The Engine Room resting at Kingston Mills before the final push
Away from Lower Brewers the channel widens into the aptly-named River Styx, the scene of my near demise as a young boy and the sudden end of my trip the year before. The Collins Bay Penitentiary perches sullenly on the east bank. However, there was no danger on this fine day and the canoe ploughed safely through the following waves to Kingston Mills – except for “the incident.” There was one extra bottle of rum so I ordered a stop for a double tot. The crew became very lively and started pulling hard, no doubt anticipating the imminent end of the journey. Just before we landed, 3935 Ted Tremain (husband of Diana) appeared onshore, smiling broadly and waving a flag. His older brother Jim was steering the canoe and became quite animated. What with the following wind, the excitement and the extra rum, the canoe plowed hard into the dock.Luckily there was no lasting harm done. As the canoe worked its way down through the last three locks we ate lunch, practiced our skit for the evening and donned our #1 uniform. It seemed odd to think that the adventure would be over so soon. In a few short days of pulling together, we had reaffirmed the ties of a unique fraternity.The spires of Kingston rose above the marshes. The Memorial Arch stood on the port shore beyond the last bend. For once, the crusty band of paddlers stowed the back-chat and bent to the final challenge with muscle and grit. A fleeting vision from a bygone era, the canoe shot out from under the Lasalle Causeway. Fifteen paddles flashed in the sun. From bow and stern the flags of Canada and RMC snapped in the wind. The canoe approached a long line of clapping cadets – the entire recruit class in white sweaters and black fuzzy pants. I hollered, “Eyes left!” and saluted. A wave and a cheer rippled down the line like a feu-de-joie. The RMC Commandant, my classmate 8850 Rear-Admiral David Morse, saluted in reply. Bagpipes chanted their welcome and we tossed back the old college cheer, “Beer Esses Emma!”
Passing under the bridge at RMC with ducks (upper) and cadets (lower) – 28 Sep 2000 – photo on left by Jack Chiang for KWS
Savouring the thrill and excitement of the cadets’ welcome, we steered into Lake Ontario, rounded Point Frederick, passed beneath the guns of Fort Henry and then glided to a final halt behind RMC’s oldest building, the venerable Stone Frigate. “Mission accomplished.”Among the tuxedos and uniforms at the annual fund-raising Legacy Dinner were Valerie Keyes, David Morse and RMC Club President 8833 John Leggat, to whom we presented a plaque with a miniature paddle. John would eventually join the ranks of Maudites on the 2011 and 2016 trips. Well after midnight, the red shirts and paddles appeared one last time. Fourteen rowdy Ex-Cadets – and one lady – re-enacted a scene from the Montreal Beaver Club during the long winter nights of the fur trade. The table became a flying canoe. The voyageurs “paddled” and sang from their hearts the old chanson which once rang down the rivers of the north, “En roulant ma boule roulant…”
RMC Foundation Legacy Dinner – 28 Sep 2000
Half of the donations went to the RMC Rowing Team to purchase a new shell. It was christened “Liam Hassett 21786” in honour of a fourth year cadet and avid rower who drowned in the summer of 2000 at CFB Trenton. LCol Peter Dawe of the RMC Club was a strong supporter of the Rowing Team and made the suggestion regarding the donation. Peter also did most of the work at RMC in preparation for the arrival of the canoe. He even made a cameo appearance in the canoe on the last day. Sixteen years later, 27173 Officer Cadet William Carpentier – one of two cadets in the 2016 Chasse-Galerie crew – rowed in the “Liam Hassett” as a member of the college team.