Row to Canada

When Rick was in high school, he had a great friend named Smitty.  Rick and Smitty had many adventures together, but the greatest one was an 11 day rowing trip they did right after graduating from high school. They rowed in an antique dory, simply for pure adventure, from their homes at Vaughn Bay Spit on the Longbranch (Key) Peninsula in Washington all the way to Canada.  They rowed during the day and camped on beaches at night. They only packed a few items: toothbrushes, fresh underwear, sleeping bags, a tarp, and fishing lines.  They packed 3 food items with them: pancake batter, instant potatoes, and Carnation instant dried milk.  To supplement this scant diet, they dug up geoducks, and caught salmon and crabs.

Rick (Front Rower) and Smitty (Second Rower) leaving Vaughn Bay for their grand adventure 1970

The year was 1970 (I was 8 years old).  What was going on as these two 18 year-olds rowed to an ancient rhythm for the sake of adventure and freedom?  In 1970 Jimi Hendrix came out with his hit Voodoo Child (Rick actually went to a Hendrix concert in Seattle  at the Center Arena in ’68!!), The Beatles had their hit, Let it Be, and Simon and Garfunkle’s Bridge over Troubled Waters hit the charts.  In 1970, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin both died of overdoses. In 1970, the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18, 100,000 people demonstrated in D.C. against the Vietnam War, and on May 4, National Guards fired on and killed 4 protesters at Kent State University.  And Rick and Smitty rowed and rowed all the way to Canada.

Life happened and, somehow, the two went their own ways.  Though they lost touch, Rick always spoke fondly of Smitty and often told me about the rowing trip they took so many years ago.  Two years ago, in 2009, Rick’s dad forwarded an on-line obituary for Mark Smith (Smitty).  Sadly this is how Rick found out  Smitty had died after a two year battle with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, is a fatal neuromuscular disorder, which causes progressive paralysis of the muscles. At this time, there is no cure for this cruel disease.

When Rick got in touch with Smitty’s widow, he found out that Smitty, too, had often talked about the rowing trip to his wife and children.

In August 2012, Rick and 5 other rowers will recreate the trip Rick and Smitty did in 1970. The trip will be in honor of Mark Smith (Smitty’s full name) and it will be a fundraiser for ALS.  I doubt Rick will be so spartan with the food this time around!!  Certainly, he will carry more than an extra pair of underwear!

Here are four of the six rowers:

The Row to Canada Rowers: Rick, Geoff, Kilian, and Peter. Not shown are Dana and Richard.

So on Wednesday, August 1st, the six rowers will set out from Vaughn Bay and they will complete their journey on Sunday, August 12. Rick was 18 years old when he and Smitty did the journey so long ago.  He is 60 years old now, but just as strong as ever!  The Row to Canada will be filmed by Rick’s students from the Seattle Central Community College Film and Video Program.

Here is the Row to Canada Camp/Route Map.  I will be welcoming the rowers to their camp on Monday, August 6 at Camano Island State Park.  I heartily welcome friends living in the Seattle area to join me on Camano island that evening around 3 pm.  We will look for the three dories to arrive and give the rowers a hearty welcome, and a  potluck meal. I will lead everyone in a yoga session before the meal!  Please leave a comment below if you’d like to join me and I will be in touch with you.

Row to Canada Camp/Route Map

There will be two men to one dory.  Rick and Geoff are building two dories and the last dory will be built over Memorial Day weekend. I put together a very short slide show of the making of the dories at the Center for Wooden Boats in Port Townsend, WA:

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We have set up a facebook page called Row to Canada.  You can LIKE it and get updates on the progress of this great fundraising adventure:

Rick’s sister, Ingrid, is putting on a benefit concert on June 28 from 7-10 p.m. at the Fremont Abbey (4272 Fremont Ave, N in Seattle).  Her band, Butterfly Rodeo will perform Celtic and Folk music to raise funds to defray the costs of the journey.  The event will start with music by Seattle harpist Molly Bauckham. It’s not too early to purchase tickets ($15 per person) at:

If you’d like to see Ingrid and her band perform, here is a you tube video.  Her band used to be known as Gaelica.  Ingrid plays the oboe:

And lastly, but very important is the website for the event. Donations for ALS Research can be made here:

I just watched a fabulous film called Jane’s Journey about Jane Goodall.  She travels the world at 75 years of age advocating a higher consciousness towards the ecology and all living things, especially animals.  She says, “When you do something that’s good, it makes you feel good.”  I couldn’t agree more, Jane!


7 Responses to “Row to Canada”

  1. marykay Says:

    I was looking for an update on this inspiring odyssey! Thanks. In 1970 I was expecting my 4th child (in 5 years). Count me in for the Camano Comraderie. Bravo.


  2. Ralph Says:

    This is very cool…a dear friend of mine sent this to me recalling a trips that I and another mutual friend took in an 18′ white bear rowing skiff…on separate trips we went through all of the san juan islands for a month (april!) and back to Kirkland on the first trip, and then from seattle to the entire south sound on another. Brings back great memories…all the best!


    • frangallo Says:

      Your trip sounds amazing! I just read your comment to Rick. If you have any words of wisdom for our rowers (He-Rows), please share. I can imagine you had challenging weather in April. Fran


  3. frangallo Says:

    Wonderful!! I am so happy you will be a part of the Camano Comraderie (I love the name!). We will organize a carpool for the event. It means the world to us that you will be there! love, Fran


  4. Ingrid Ferris-Olszewsky Says:

    This is a wonderful write up Fran, thank you so much for taking the time and heart to do all of this! xoxo


  5. Herb Says:

    would love to join y’all at Camano Island. Can I get a ride from someone? Herb


    • frangallo Says:

      Hi Herb, So glad you will be a part of the Camano Island welcome group! I will make sure that you (and others) get a ride. As we get closer to the event, I will organize carpools and we will organize the potluck details. We have some time ahead of us, but I will certainly be in touch with you about this! Fran


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