We Made It!!!

After nearly 5 months of paddling and over 5000km we have made it to Montreal! This is the end of our trip! We are delighted, relieved, exhausted and emotional, and it is hasn’t yet really sunk in.

The weather forecast for this week was terrible, we knew that we had one good day leaving the dam at Carillon, then a storm was expected on Sunday with strong winds lasting through until Tuesday. We didn’t know what to do. The closure of the locks in the Lachine Canal left us with a few options: paddle around, portaging the Lachine Rapids somehow, hoping for a weather break; portage the last 15km of our trip along the bike path next to the canal, which would be amusing but not how we wanted to finish; or finish on the west side of Montreal, rather than the Old Port. Whichever way, we needed to get as far as possible from the dam.

The final dam

We set off from the camp site at 7am and made the short walk to the boat launch through the delightful little town of Carillon, with its period French wooden buildings painted in cheerful colours. We had a small amount of current with us for the first few kilometres but this soon disappeared as the river widened. But the forecast westerly breeze was giving us a gentle shove in the right direction and we found that by coffee time we were only 6km short of Hudson Yacht Club, where we had thought we might spend the night if progress had been slow. We passed there before lunch and continued on, managing to narrowly avoid the start of a sailing race and thinking that even hoisting our sail probably wouldn’t make our presence on the course welcome. By lunch though we were staring at Montreal Island and the series of bridges under which we had to pass on our way to join the mighty St Lawrence River. Twenty-five kilometres still to Lachine, “can we do that before dark?” we asked ourselves. We thought it was worth a go, but identified a series of other city parks at which we could stop if we didn’t make it, once again blurring the line between camping and homelessness.

Carillon architecture


We were expecting the Ottawa to quicken as it approached the St Lawrence, but were surprised at how shallow it became as we each removed another millimetre from our carbon paddles. It was amazing to actually be paddling around Montreal, even if our finish was still over 40km away. But the uncertainty surrounding the weather was playing on our minds. We really had to get to Lachine tonight. The skies darkened behind us threatening an early start to the storm, but it held off and we quickened our pace. Cas’s shoulders were pretty painful by now but she didn’t say anything, took more drugs and soldiered on. When we joined the St Lawrence we floated for a few minutes and simply stared. The scale of the river here is mind-boggling, particularly when you’re sat in a 17 foot canoe. It stretches for around 5km across as the Ottawa joins, with large shipping passing along the distant shore. Despite its width it also has a noticeable current, at last! And so with failing light, tired, hungry and over 60km from where we started that morning we arrived at Lachine. We had a quick look at the park we intended to camp on but it was too public and difficult to get the boat up to, so we headed to the flat grass lawn of the Lachine Canoe Club, which was all closed up, hoping that if somebody did find us there they might be sympathetic. Our only disturbance seemed to be the party on the dock a few hundred meters away though.

So what to do? We checked the forecast again – windy for sure, and in our faces too, but maybe not so bad first thing….? And only 20km to do. We had to go for it, despite the apocalyptic rain that was also meant to arrive. At 5am the alarm went off, though we had both been awake most of the night due to nerves, loud music, and a sleeping mat that seems to be literally falling apart at the seams. I had been listening to the rain arrive and the wind build and had worked myself up for several hours, unsure if we were mad to be trying to paddle. But things always sound worse in a tent, Cas talked me down, and we left before dawn. Turning on to the main river once again we soon realised we were flying along in the gloom. The river narrows here until after the rapids and the current was strong. We even slowed ourselves down a bit to ensure it was light before passing under a series of bridges with their waves and eddies from the supports. We covered the 8km or so to the rapids in little time and started to see white foaming water being thrown around all across the river. We had identified a sheltered bay to catch us for our portage, but it was fairly near to the start of the rapids proper and getting there would be interesting. We hugged the left shore and got some raised eyebrows from the fishermen as we flew past. These rapids are massive. To have a spill upstream, or miss our get out, would be a disaster. We came around a point and could see people in the water! What on earth…? I’m not sure who was more surprised as we slipped along the  bank past a surfer on a pretty decent wave! The GoPro footage should be quite entertaining. Chuckling at the bizarreness of this final day we slipped into the calm waters of the lagoon with the rapids roaring away to our right. Phew. Just a portage and some nice flat water paddling to the end.

The portage was easy, along a flat cycle path with the boat on the trolley. We stopped to chat to a few interested folk and put back in after the rapids had finished. We rode the current along the side of the 6km wide river and through a smaller channel around the île des Soeurs, rejoining the main river with only a few kilometres to go and the strong winds holding off. “It’s pretty boily” said Cas as we got spun around whilst avoiding a large eddy. “And that looks a little rough down there” I added, looking towards a bridge. And so we paddled the heaviest, roughest and most sustained moving water of the whole trip. We headed river left under the bridge, hoping to keep to that side and nip round into the marina. But more white foam near the bank, and the presence of more of our wetsuit-clad friends sent us way out into the middle of the boiling, swirling current. It’s around 2km wide here, but moving at 6.5 knots and in many directions. As we avoided these rapids in mid-stream my paddle spent a fair amount of time flat on the surface as boils came up underneath us threatening to turn us over. We worked our way left again through the wavetrains under another bridge only a few hundred metres upstream of the marina and, slightly sweaty and mightily relieved swung out of the flow into its welcoming arms. So that is why all the pleasure boats take the canal!

We paddled in between the launches and speed boats and found ourselves an empty spot in the marina, and were met by Debbie who was closing up for the season and who had helpfully told us about the canal being closed. And so this was it, where the fur traders would have stopped to unload their furs, and where we now end our trip. We sat on the dock, staring at the river and at Bertha, lost for words. We had done it. What an adventure.

The finish! Montreal Old Port

We have a few more additions for the blog over the next wee while, but for now we are going to try and let it all sink in. We would very much like to thank everyone who has read our blog, helped us along the way and joined us on this incredible journey either in person or in spirit. The support has been tremendous and we wouldn’t have got here without it.

24 thoughts on “We Made It!!!

  1. Since learning of your expedition when you were featured in our Lac du Bonnet paper, I have followed your journey closely. I not only anticipated your very well written summaries as you paddled forward, but all the ones since you began at RMH. When you had to take a break at Thunder Bay I feared you may give up as you looked across the might of Lake Superior, and considered all that yet remained, but you persevered with your dream. While you didn’t manage all of Lake Superior in a canoe, something I can’t even imagine doing in a sizable pleasure boat, you sure made a commendable effort at conquering it. (It’s not hard to understand why the fur traders turned to Hudson Bay). Your feat of paddling from RMH to Montreal is of Olympic proportions and you are worthy of a medal, but you will likely have to settle for the memories that have been etched upon your hearts and will provide a lifetime of stories to tell and retell. I particularly felt for you during the past couple of weeks with particularly challenging weather, but you refused to let it defeat you. Perhaps crossing Saskatchewan and Manitoba with their torrential rains and mosquitoes and horse flies that could have been mistaken for small sparrows prepared you.
    Enjoy having completed this monumental journey which few would ever even consider embarking on. I am glad you received a good amount of our Canadian hospitality along the way. Thank you for making it possible, and for taking the time for people like me to tag along and enjoy the ride.

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    1. Dear Cliff. What a wonderful message to receive on completion of the trip. Thank you. We’re delighted that we were able to convey something of the emotions and trials of our trip, and that you enjoyed following our journey.

      We are now back in the U.K. having visited Newfoundland on our way home. Although we’ve seen a lot of Canada, more than most Canadians I think, there are clearly so many sides to your country and we hope we will get a chance to explore more of it in the future.

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  2. Congratulations what an amazing achievement. I’m so proud of you both. And Hurray for Canadian grace and goodness. Best people in the world. Xxxx

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  3. Mike, Caz, the Murray household has been so impressed with your fantastic trip. Congratulations! We know and love parts of your route but following the blog as you fill the gaps has been fab. Hope to catch up soon in Edinburgh.

    Love,

    Doug, Rebecca(&large bump), Isla & Callum. X

    P.s. I now have significant explorer-beard envy…

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  4. Congratulations! Proud to have met you and amazed at your accomplishments!
    Wish you both well in all future endeavors. Here’s a toast to you – with a wee dram of Ardbeg -Uigeadail, one of my favs!
    Sláinte.

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    1. Also one of ours! We’re slowly settling back into life in the U.K., but have so many happy memories of our summer paddling and all the people we met and who helped us on our way. Thanks again for all your support, best wishes for the future, and let us know if ever you head this way!

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  5. Congratulations guys on competing your amazing journey. We’ ll miss following your blog and progress on a daily basis. Wishing you all the best with your new careers down under. We are proud to have had the opportunity to contribute in a small way to your fantastic accomplishment. Remember your promise to keep in touch.
    Sincerely,
    Ken and Dianne

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  6. Congratulations to you both. Not a trip for the lighthearted. Only the best to you as you move forward. Trudy (part of the Bryant-Lothian portage group).

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  7. Magic, marvellous, amazing. Well done you two. Very well done. And thanks for keeping us all in your loop. Looking forward to the next volume. Dad x

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  8. Well done Caz and Mike !***How Punderful! Rapids progress! Canoe beat that? What a wonderful achievement! Well done and God Bless your life travels ahead togehter beyond many honeymoons. XXX

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  9. As we said a few weeks ago…Cheers to new friends!
    So glad we met you and that you made it safely. We went to Black Bear campsite near Petawawa the next day to check in and wondered if poor weather altered your timings.
    You two are the real deal when it comes to adventurous spirits.
    Please keep in touch, maybe we’ll see you down under.
    X0
    Pam & Dan

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  10. Congrats Caz & Mike, what a feat, your both awesome, we loved sharing our country with two special people. (I’m sure that l speak for most Canadians) From the shores of Lake Superior (Marathon), l count my blessings for being at the right place at the right time, to have met you at the landing. It was a pleasure to show you some northern hospitality…. wish l could have done more. Miss Betty says hi, she loved meeting someone from across the pond ( you both). Completing one amazing adventure, onto another terrific one down under …. Best Wishes, keep in touch from time to time. With everyone you met on your adventure, you’ll be busy….lol…. 😋😉🍻🍷🐾
    Eve & Gary
    P. S.
    Had our first snow storm yesterday….
    waiting to strap on my snowshoes

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  11. Just think ~ after all that … you’re still talking to each other!
    There’s heavy snow on the ground in Atikokan, – Quetico area.
    Hey! Consider a cross country ski next.
    Cheers, Janice from Cache Bay

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  12. What an amazing adventure you guys chose to do. Congratulations again!! Meeting you was a highlight of our summer…do keep in touch as you set sail on your newest challenge down under!

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