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Damian Panayi

August, 2003

Dear Thelma, the Fletcher Maker!

We have just spent a second night on a lonely rocky island, one of millions in this stretch of shield country. Both behind and ahead of us is an almost endless maze of rocky islands, stunted spruce, swamps and open lake. We started in Rae, at the very northern tip of the North Arm of Great Slave Lake. We are paddling home. To Yellowknife.

Although this is a very leisurely trip along a very protected 140 km of coastline, there are two sections of this trip which will demand all of our attention. They are Trout Rock and Yellowknife Bay, each section 10 km long with little protection from the waves of one of the largest lakes in North America.

After spending 20 hours tent-bound during a storm, the wind finally lifted. Early in the morning, two of us dipped a canoe into the water to scout the paddling conditions around the corner, at Trout Rock. The wind was now favourable, a northwesterly off the land and slightly at our back. The swells were large, but manageable and diminishing.

After a leisurely breakfast, we two families and a dog loaded up three canoes and struck off. Last in the water was the Fletcher. The cargo in this canoe was particularly delicate: two young children ages three and one.

We chose to stay close together, and were at first a little nervous in the post-storm swell. But now after a few strokes, we were reminded that our fears were unfounded. We were in the Fletcher. The boat is spacious, responsive, gorgeous, and — most importantly at this moment — totally predictable in its movements. We trust this boat. We are comfortable here. Our family is safe.

We soon all relaxed, let our hips sway with the waves, returned to counting eagle nests, and let the Fletcher do the work.

Damian Panayi
North Arm
Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories