Canoeist starts cross-Canada paddle

Mike Ranta and his dog Spitz are hoping to canoe across the country. They left from Steveston yesterday. - Jacqueline Langen
Mike Ranta and his dog Spitz are hoping to canoe across the country. They left from Steveston yesterday.
— image credit: Jacqueline Langen

An Ontario-born bushman, his dog and pet coconut have set course on an 8,300-kilometre canoe journey across the country.

Departing yesterday at 6 a.m. from the Steveston Fisherman’s Memorial at Garry Point Park, Mike Ranta hopes to reach Hope by April 8, Ontario by July 1 and finish his journey in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia by Oct. 1.

“This is a dream trip for me, it’s not really that big of a challenge. I think it’s going to be fun,” he said in an interview held in Steveston on the eve of his departure.

Accompanied by his dog Spitz and a coconut he calls Atta, the 42-year-old is travelling with three GoPro cameras and a GPS-based locating beacon that will relay his position every 30 minutes to a live web link. Audiences can follow Ranta’s adventure on Facebook at Mike Ranta’s Paddle.

“I’m going to try and break my old record of paddling for 39 hours straight. I want to break that by more than double,” said an optimistic Ranta.

The paddler says that by channeling the right part of his mind, he can go multiple days without sleep.

British TV actress, Helen Skelton, holds the current record for the longest solo paddle journey. In 2010, Skelton voyaged just over 3,230 kilometre from the confluence of the Rio Maranon and Rio Ucayali in Peru to St. John in the Amazon delta in Brazil.

“I’m going 8,300, so I’m not going to break the record, I’m going to shatter it—and hopefully she doesn’t go for it again,” said Ranta, who is of Métis and Finnish heritage.

When asked what preparation he did for a trip of such magnitude, Ranta replied with a nonchalant demeanour,  “I did some cardio training of course, but I’ve got to leave it up to my dad I guess. He’s brought me in the bush my whole life.”

His route will feature many portages and includes the Fraser, Lake Okanagan, the Columbia River, the Saskatchewan River and the north shore of Lake Superior.

Ranta says the dangers he may face are cold-water temperatures, extreme weather conditions and wildlife. He will carry a week’s supply of food on board at all times.

“I’m going to be going into some very isolated places very few people have been…Sometimes due to weather and the mountains rescuers may not get to you for a week, you’ve got to prepare for that.”

Ranta has been fundraising for the odyssey in his hometown of Atikokan, Ont. The money raised will go to the Atikokan Youth Initiatives centre.

“If you can change one kid it’s worth it. But I’m an extremist, I want to change them all,” he said.

For every person who donates, Ranta will engrave his or her name onto a 60-foot paddle he plans to construct after he finishes the cross-country journey.

“It’s been a dream of mine for about five years now…I thought what a great way to end the trip, get the kids involved and to thank everybody who’s put in a donation.”

After his first long distance paddle in 2011 from Alberta to Montreal, Ranta has been thinking about pursuing a longer voyage.

“It’s been an extraordinary year building up to this, I can’t wait to get at it.”


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