Paddling Across Canada for Cancer

Paddling Across Canada for Cancer

Map_of_CanadaArticle and photos by Job Patstone

On Sunday Oct. 7th Michael Hartley, a one-time Canadian Olympian, arrived at the Yacht-Club de Québec to celebrate with his family, originally from Isle aux Grues, the last leg of his trans-Canadian paddling trek which he calls his Canadian Odyssey.

Mr. Hartley decided to paddle across the continent to bring awareness to the cause for cancer in this country and to pay tribute to his son who succumbed to the disease at the young age of 30.

Michael soon set up the “Strachan Hartley Legacy Foundation”, to collect funds to help all young people who hope someday to become Olympians or at least excel in whatever they do in any field of sports.

Quebec_City_Yacht_ClubMr. Hartley left Vancouver this spring paddling and portaging to Edmonton and then hit the waterways in May for a 5,073km kayak trip which finally finished up right here in Quebec City.

Michael wanted to follow the route of the early fur traders, but in the opposite direction.

His kayak, and sometimes canoe, took him down the North Saskatchewan river into Lake Winnipeg, the Red River into the Great Lakes (Superior and Huron) and then by way of the French and Ottawa Rivers down to the St. Lawrence passing through Montreal and then ‘up’ or ‘down’ to Quebec City (some of the local folk debate, whether Montréal is ‘upriver’ or ‘downriver’ from Québec, but it all depends if you’re using geography or water flow).

Michael_HartleyLooking suntanned and in good physical shape, Michael posed for some photos with his brother Peter (in black) who had helped paddle the last leg from Montreal to Québec in a canoe.

Talking to Michael I learned that his trip was at times gruelling and at other times very pleasant, depending of course on weather conditions and specifically the wind, which was a constant companion, albeit at times an unwelcome one.

The adventure got off to a bad start when just four hours out of Edmonton, Michael capsized and had to be rescued by professional means; although life threatening, it was fortunately, the only major mishap he encountered.

He slept mostly on river banks or campgrounds sleeping inside only when he had friends or family in the town he happened to stop at. He kept his Facebook page up to date on his progress and anyone could follow his whereabouts using twitter or Spot-on.  The most difficult time was traversing Lake Superior, which took seven days as he expected to cover approximately 60 km a day but only managed 50 at best, even when he spent sometimes 11 hours a day on the water.

Paddling against the wind and certain currents were his biggest obstacles, but for a man of 65 he faced the challenge head on and at no point did he think of quitting.

Mr. Hartley managed to bring in $35,000 for his Foundation during his long voyage, which according to one of his associates, was fairly substantial considering he spent most of his time alone on the water where nobody could reach him.

He had no sponsors so appreciated the support he had from family and friends who are spread out across the country.

To find out more about Michael Hartley and his Foundation please visit

The site also includes some recent pictures of his escapade across Canada.

Categories: News, Opinion

About Author

Job Patstone

Job Patstone was born in Hamilton, ON. and has lived in Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer AB. He is presently living in Quebec City, with his wife. He worked for Xerox for 26 years and was an ESL teacher for another ten.

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