By: Manuela Joannou (M.D. Medical Director, Project Trauma Support)

Sea Kayaking in Newfoundland. For Eight Days! I was extremely excited to be given the opportunity to join one of the True Patriot Love Best of Canada expeditions this summer. Exhilarating, yet I must admit, just a little scary. I have the privilege of attending as the team physician, no less. This means that I must give the impression that I know what I am doing. It just won’t do to complain about blisters, or being cold or wet, or tired or cramped. As our Newfoundlander guide Paul Langdon of Canoe Hill Adventures has cautioned us, we can have the best laid plans and intentions, but in Newfoundland, especially out on the ocean, Mother Nature has the last word. We will be kayaking from the Bay of Exploits to Fogo Island over 8 days leaving June 9th, camping each night wherever seems like a suitable place on shore.

Friends are regaling me with stories: About the experienced kayaker who was subjected to a rogue wave that left him perched upside-down on a rock 20 feet above the ocean. About the pod of 50 wales that they watched feeding last year near Fogo Island (the one place where we have the longest open water crossing). Even Paul tells of how one kayaking party got blocked in with Icebergs and could not move for 4 days.

The True Patriot Love Foundation is a Canadian Jewel. Together with the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, TPL has been a great supporter of our Project Trauma Support initiative that brings hope and healing to military/veteran and first responders with psychological injury caused by Post-Traumatic Stress. TPL has given us a wonderful opportunity, to raise funds that they will match up to $50,000. All proceeds will go directly to supporting military veterans attending our programs.

Even though the Sea Kayaking expedition feels a little dangerous and risky, (in an exciting sort of way), True Patriot Love has organized the entire operation with strategic execution. All of their information regarding the preparation for the trip has been exact. All of us attending all three expeditions were invited to a training camp at the YMCA Camp Pine Crest in Gravenhurst this past weekend. This allowed us to check out our gear and our intestinal fortitude. We were able to see where our clothing and accessories were less than optimal. Being miserable at training camp with missing or inferior items results in much less dire consequences than on the real eight day wilderness trip. We appreciated the wise counsel of Paul and Angus, our other expedition guide.

We had the opportunity to meet with all who will be on our expedition and to start some real bonding and team building. We were introduced to the model that True Patriot Love utilizes to truly support our wounded veterans; bringing them together with successful, adventure seeking civilians who can personally thank them for their service, appreciate the benefits of their military training on the expedition team, and also mentor them as they set forth into the next chapters of their lives.

It seems I have been so busy over the past few summers that they have just flown by, almost unnoticed. Every spring, I have hoped that the upcoming summer would be different, that we would be able to get outside and enjoy the outdoors and the nice weather. This year has kicked off refreshingly differently. Camping out overnight in unseasonably cold weather even for April, has made me appreciate just what the Great Canadian outdoors has to offer. And 5 more good months of summer to go with an exciting adventure to look forward to!

Our guides did tell us to “go jump in the lake” with all our kayaking gear, just so we would know what the ocean water in June could feel like (7 degrees Celsius, Rob measured it!). So now I feel quite “broken in”. Still 5 weeks to get ready and fix the gear malfunctions and hit the gym for some remedial conditioning. The whining stops here!