"To be honest, I think it will be a piece of my life that will always stay with me, because I didn't think I would ever row across Placentia Bay or Fortune Bay in (a boat)," veteran Placentia-based rower and coxswain Matt Foley told The Compass last Friday.
"But just to have the experience to do it with these guys that I had never met before and know now that I can do it and I achieved it — it's certainly an eye opener."
Foley did not get to row all the way to St-Pierre-Miquelon with the international crew due to work commitments. He went as far as Brunette Island in Fortune Bay before returning to Placentia Aug. 4, one day before Indianoak made it to Miquelon. He ultimately completed six of the 10 legs on the crew's schedule. The excursion was tied to annual Ternua festivities that celebrate Basque culture in St-Pierre-Miquelon.
The boat left Placentia July 28, featuring a crew coming from Quebec, France and Spain.
"At times it was kind of difficult, because most of the people were speaking their own language, but there was two other people in the group that could speak a bit of English, and they translated things back and forth," said Foley. He had not met any of his newfound comrades prior to the day they departed from Placentia, but Foley quickly grew accustomed to their company.
"They welcomed me with open arms. They involved me with everything … I couldn't ask for a nicer, better bunch of people."
There were lots of highlights for Foley, but one moment that stood out was coming into Lamaline July 30.
"We rowed almost eight hours that day before we could change over, because the sea was too bad, and I'm telling you, the girl that coxed us, she's one of the best that I have ever met. To handle a crew like she done at a boat on a four-metre sea, it was certainly an eye opener."
The first stretch from Placentia to Petite Forte on the Burin Peninsula was the biggest challenge Foley faced, but after that the rowing experience became more routine.
"Like I said, their style of rowing compared to ours was completely different, and once I picked it up, it was a whole lot easier," he said. "It seemed like you were only out for a paddle everyday."
He loved the experience of arriving in communities where large crowds came out to welcome Indianoak and the crew. Foley particularly appreciated the food they received, given the rowers relied on granola bars and water while out in the boat.
"The reception was great — awesome."