Paddlers enticed by sounds of New Orleans

Canoeists racing against cold weather on journey


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Two young Winnipeg men set off on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure Tuesday morning -- paddling by canoe to New Orleans.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/09/2009 (4831 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Two young Winnipeg men set off on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure Tuesday morning — paddling by canoe to New Orleans.

Murray Jowett and Nick Turnbull, both 21, set off just after daybreak from the bank of the Assiniboine River below the foot bridge at Assiniboine Park.

"We’re doing it for the adventure and partially for the music and just for the challenge," Jowett said as their family and friends gathered to see them off.

WAYNE.GLOWACKI@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Winnipeg musicians Murray Jowett (left) and Nick Turnbull head off on their adventure Tuesday.

The two young men decided to take a break from school to do the trip. They will travel up the Red River into North Dakota, portage to the Minnesota River and then to Minneapolis and the Mississippi River and all the way to New Orleans.

"We’re going to New Orleans because… that’s where the Mississippi ends," Jowett said.

Only Turnbull is an experienced canoeist but he said he’s never done anything like this before.

They expect the trip will take three months but they’ve talked to others who’ve travelled the same route and it’s taken them longer.

"We’ll use the coming cold weather as motivation," Turnbull said. "We’ll be going harder to stay ahead of winter."

"We’ll be back by Christmas," Jowett said, adding they both plan to resume classes in January.

It’s going to be an exhausting trip, more than 4,800 kilometres. And it can be dangerous. The Mississippi is a busy waterway, with several dams and dikes.

Local veteran adventurer Don Starkell, who canoed to the Amazon and followed the same Winnipeg-New Orleans route, said Jowett and Turnbull have taken on a tough challenge, especially leaving at this time of year.

"They’re making one hell of a mistake starting at this time of year," Starkell said, adding the 800 kilometres to Minneapolis will be difficult. "It’s going to be cold, really cold. You’re going upstream and the mosquitoes and camping will be bad."

Starkell said it took him three months to get to New Orleans but he was a veteran canoeist, adding he’ll be surprised if Jowett and Turnbull can match that speed.

"We took four days to get to the border, 10 days to Grand Forks, 17 days to Fargo and a month and seven days to reach Minneapolis," Starkell said.

The Mississippi is a busy waterway, Starkell said, but Turnbull and Jowett can avoid barges and big ships by sticking close to the shore but that will also keep them out of the current and slow them down. He said there are a series of 16 or 17 locks and dams along the route, which will slow them down further.

Turnbull and Jowett said they aren’t bothered by the challenge. They have a cellphone and a GPS device.

They’ve also packed a fiddle and a guitar.

"We’ll be playing along the way," Jowett said. "We’ll make music, meet people and have a laugh."

They didn’t expect to get too far on their first day. They were supposed to be just outside the city limits Tuesday night.

Turnbull said his father will drive down to New Orleans to meet them and then drive them and their gear back to Winnipeg.



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