By Tim Alamenciak
They don’t teach you how to find a boat in journalism school.
It’s harder than you think — there are plenty of charter places on the shores of Lake Ontario, but most were booked for a big salmon fishing derby. Harbourfront Centre rents boats, but generally not captains.
I contacted them and they arranged something, but it fell through after some logistical issues led to me rejecting their offer, then trying to accept it again too late.
But when things get dire, turn to your friends.
We needed to be small and nimble to cover Annaleise Carr’s crossing, but also comfortable and safe in the case of any weather.
For the small and nimble part, we contacted Trevor Turl, a 17-year-old who has spent more time on water than land. He’s an expert in Lake Ontario and pilots his 12-foot grey Zodiac boat, Little John, with a craftsman’s touch.
For comfort and safety, we looked up Brian Beaumont, captain of the aptly named Bold Move. A new boat owner, Beaumont showed unmatched skill throughout the night cutting through high waves, assisted by fellow mariner Mike Kronberg.
These three were my captains and crew throughout the journey. They also worked the GPS and provided loads of navigational information for my tweets, especially the afternoon of her approach.
Turl has escorted swimmers before – he worked with the Star’s Miguel Vadillo when he made his swim in 2010. There are no words for how deft he was with the Zodiac – he got up close without once disturbing the crew. We received accolades from their team over our good piloting, and I can’t praise Turl’s sense of photography enough. He knew just where to position the boat, when to stop and when to go.
Plus he drives with his feet when things get going fast so that he can hold down the bow.
Trusty captain Trevor Turl piloted Tim close enough to take pictures, but kept his wake low so as not to interfere with the crew.
The satellite modem is easily the coolest part of this setup. It gets internet at 3G speeds anywhere. However, it doesn’t work so well on a rocking, churning boat. I managed to sneak out a few tweets using it but calm times were few and far between. It has a battery and connects with Ethernet or USB.
Lenses are 300mm F4 prime and the old standby 70-200mm F2.8. I also took a Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4, Canon T1i body and three batteries. For memory I took a 16gb card, two 8gb cards, a 2gb card for backup and a 4gb Eye-Fi card that allows me to tweet and file my pictures from my phone.
For good audio I use a Zoom H1 recorder and for interviews I use a little Sony recorder.
I took a Mophie Juice Pack which fits on my iPhone and gives me about 6 hours of extra internet time. It costs a bit ($79.99) but is worth its weight in gold.
This seems like the most boring gear, but I can’t emphasize how important it was. The blue waterproof bag kept my gear dry. When properly sealed, it can survive being dropped in the lake (so long as you fish it out quickly).
The shoes are simple boat shoes from MEC, but I never once slipped even on the wettest days. I could stand on the edge of the Zodiac and feel perfectly secure.
The yellow waterproof pouch was for my phone. Didn’t end up using it much.
The lifejacket was great for going out in Little John. Strong and sturdy but with enough give to take pictures.
All the gear is from Mountain Equipment Co-op.
This would be enough to last me for about 48 hours. Water generally is the most important – I find when I’m reporting, the adrenaline kills most of my hunger. I tend not to rely on energy drinks or coffee because they only work so long. After a few coffees I can’t drink much more. Sustainable energy comes from apples and almonds. While they might not give a quick boost, the act of eating is enough to wake me up and the food provides a slow-release of energy for a few hours.
Clif Bars are an absolute godsend. I try to have one in my backpack at all times.