Boating in Canada Archive

Mike Ranta lives the dream with his cross-country canoe journey 2014

by Robert Sibley, The Ottawa Citizen September 15, 2014

[image] Mike Ranta and his dog, Spitzii, are on a 200-day, 8,000-kilometre canoe trip from Vancouver to Cape Breton.

A man, a dog, a canoe. Can the Canadian dream get any better? If not, then avowed nature lover and veteran canoeist Mike Ranta is living it.

Accompanied by a trusty canine, the 42-year-old one-time oil rig worker has been canoeing across Canada since April, following rivers once traversed by the country’s early explorers and voyageurs.

“You’ve got to follow your dream, and mine is to go back to the land,” Ranta said Sunday evening after arriving in Ottawa, the latest stop on his 200-day, 8,000-kilometre trip from Vancouver to Cape Breton.

“I’ve never felt better than I have on this trip,” he said, describing how he’s paddled and portaged some of Canada’s major rivers and lakes, including, among others, the Fraser River in British Columbia and the North Saskatchewan River across the Prairies to the Manitoba’s Red River, Lake of the Woods, Lake Superior, Lake Nipissing and, finally, the Mattawa and Ottawa rivers.

Connecting those rivers has regularly required hauling the canoe out of the water and towing it, his equipment and supplies on a specially built wheeled trailer for hundreds of kilometres. To that end, he’s endured endless rain since his journey began April 1, camped at night wherever he can find a landing spot, and subsisted on berries and fish — “nature is my supermarket,” as he puts it — and the generosity of strangers.
Mike Ranta hopes his canoe trip with Spitzii will raise $50,000 to set up a youth initiatives centre in his hometown of Atikokan, Ont.

Mike Ranta hopes his canoe trip with Spitzii will raise $50,000 to set up a youth initiatives centre in his hometown of Atikokan, Ont.
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“I worked on the oil rigs for 18 years but now I’ve retired. I’ve sold my house, paid all my debts. I’ve gotten away from the money.”

Well, not completely. Ranta hopes at the end of his journey to raise $50,000 to set up a youth initiatives centre in his hometown of Atikokan, Ont., which promotes itself as Canada’s canoeing capital. And he wants to write a book to help fund future canoeing adventures.

He also hopes to get his name into the Guinness World Records for the longest solo canoe trip. The current record is held by a British TV personality who kayaked the Amazon River some 3,255 kilometres in 40 days in 2010. With a month to go and only one day behind schedule, Ranta figures he’ll be arriving in Sydney on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia on his planned finish date of Oct. 15.

The trip has had its share of thrills and spills. Ranta went into the water himself during a whitewater run on the Similkameen River in B.C. It was either that or smash the canoe on the rocks.

Ranta is no novice when it comes to canoeing. Three years ago, he paddled and portaged 5,400 kilometres from Rocky Mountain House in Alberta to Montreal on the St. Lawrence River. It took him 112 days. That would have been a world-record canoe trip if he’d informed the Guinness people ahead of time.

His partner this latest trip is a Finnish Spitz, who he came across on his last trip on the North Saskatchewan River. Now six years old, Spitzii (what else?) provides companionship and an early warning system both for water hazards and encounters with curious bears and hungry coyotes that occasionally check out their camp. Spitzii rides in the bow of the canoe, “keeping an eye out for logs or rocks,” Ranta says. “Nothing comes within 10 feet of my canoe without him barking to let me know. I don’t go anywhere without him.”

The adventures of Spitzii and Ranta are being recorded on video and can be followed on Facebook, at

But this trip, it seems, won’t be the end of their wandering. Ranta has big plans for future river journeys, including, he hopes, navigating much of northern Canada.

“We’ve got a beautiful country,” Ranta said. “You should see it.”

Ah, yes, that dream again.