The Pink Portage

745 miles across Canada with a pink canoe

Andrew Metcalfe under the pink portage yoke. Photo: Gerry Harvieux


By Joe Jackson

Andrew Metcalfe didn’t alert the media when he decided paint his patched up childhood canoe he got at a garage sale pink and portage it 745 miles across Canada to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society. The 21 year-old ex nursing student didn’t seek out sponsorship to try and get a brand new canoe to lighten his yoke. He didn’t have a particularly clear plan either. Armed with his Blackberry, fortified by Twitter and Facebook, Metcalfe hit the road with the intention to raise a few grand for the society that helped his family through his mother’s bout with breast cancer. He just figured it would be hard for people to ignore someone with a pink canoe on their head…and he’s been right about that.

C&K: What are you up to?

Metcalfe: Just sitting.

Where are you sitting?

On the side of the road.

Are you on your canoe?

Yeah, I am sitting on it.

Has it become a kind of chair for you?

Yeah.

What are other uses your canoe has come in handy for?

An umbrella, a chair, that’s about it. Maybe as shade when it’s hot out and sunny.

Do you ever feel like you have your head in a big pink oven?

Well, there is definitely no air conditioning in it.

Do you know where you are going to sleep tonight?

No idea tonight. Tonight, just kind of winging it.

Metcalfe's portage route.

How much have you paddled in this trip?

Probably only paddled 60 kilometers (37 miles) through Algonquin Park. When you compare it to how much I have walked I have only canoed about two to four percent.

Why a canoe?

I didn’t inform the media about what I was doing because I didn’t want to be remembered for something I didn’t do. I didn’t go the sponsorship route because I didn’t want to sell myself out. So I went relying on word of mouth and I really thought a pink canoe walking up the side of the road would be pretty hard to ignore.

Metcalfe on the road.

Every time we talk I hear a car honking in the background.

They kind of honk at me as I walk up the side of the road. At first I thought it was just cause I was taking up the shoulder but I am pretty sure that they are supportive now. Supportive honks that is. Its nice, its encouraging.

Have you been tempted to take the canoe off your head, take the path of least resistance, and float some of the way?

I have been tempted, but I am without a paddle so floating in the canoe wouldn’t work out too well because I wouldn’t be able to control it.

How many kilometers do you average a day?

I average around 20 to 30 (12 to 18 miles) a day. When it’s hot or I am tired I take it easy. This is not a sprint.

What is the make and model of your canoe?

I believe it is an old Swift Prospector. I bought it at a garage sale so I am not too sure. It was already painted over when I got it.

How much does it weigh?

With all of the patchwork it is at about 70 pounds. Up from the normal 50 pounds that a Kevlar should be.

Let’s talk about the cause.

The canoe is painted pink because I walk for breast cancer. Unfortunately, that is what has effected my family but all of the donations go to the Canadian Cancer society which is all encompassing from brain cancer, lung cancer, bone cancer, they help out with everything, and I just want to give back to them.

They helped you when your mother had breast cancer, right?

The Canadian Cancer Society, when my mom was going through diagnosis, provided rides and a support group my mom could rely on. Looking back on it now I kind of attribute their involvement with keeping my family together, or at least keeping us as close as what we are, because at the end of the day a cancer diagnosis isn’t just stressful for the patient, it’s stressful for the entire family.

Let’s talk about the money you have raised.

(Car honks in the background)

(To the car) THANK YOU!! Sorry. The goal was five thousand (US $4,950), and I have actually surpassed that. I am pushing 20 thousand (US$ 19,801) earlier this morning. If I reach 25 (US$ 24,752) Shopper’s Drug Mart offered to match it and double it to 50 (US$ 49,504) grand. So that’s excellent.

Any funny stories from the portage?

I was quickly kicked off Parliament Hill in Ottawa, because they see me as a protestor, but they were just doing their job at the end of the day. They can’t have every guy walking around with a pink canoe up on the hill. I guess it would just be chaos if that happened.

Word on the street is you are huge.

There is an urban legend growing. I am not brick house-built person. No physical specimen. I am just a guy really, walking with his canoe.

Visit PinkPortage.com to learn more, and follow Metcalfe’s blog.

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    This will pick up steam like the Terry Fox trans-Canadian walk he tried over 30 years ago. He has in his legacy raised over 500 million for cancer research and still grows every year with the annual walk in his honor.

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