• Stephanie O’Hanley

Défi Go Fetch launches Kickstarter campaign


Défi Go Fetch adventurers Nuka de Jocas-McCrae, Luc Labelle and Julien Granger in their Kickstarter campaign photo need a financial boost to complete their extensive journey.

Over the phone from Pascagoula, Mississippi, Luc Labelle sounds determined. Last May Labelle and fellow long-time high school friends Julien Granger and Nuka de Jocas-McCrae from Île Perrot launched Défi Go Fetch, a 9000 km coastal expedition by kayak from Montreal to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and the trio are now more than halfway into the journey.

“It’s hard to tell how much distance there’s left to do,” said Labelle. With the United States limiting their stay to one year, they abandoned plans to travel to the Florida Keys. “We decided to cut across the Okeechobee,” he said. “That was our shortcut for us to still have time left to enjoy New Orleans that will come really soon and other nice spots along the way.”

At their next big stop, 100 miles away in Louisiana, they’ll meet a fifth-grade classroom in a French community where they’ll fulfill de Jocas-McCrae’s father’s challenge to read the kids a French story and Labelle’s grandmother’s challenge to sing a Zachary Richard song, Labelle said. “He comes from New Orleans, we wanted to make it happen with him. Unfortunately he’s on tour...we’ll still sing it and it will be great.

“After nine months and a half, the little money we could raise before leaving is now long gone,” Labelle said. ”We’re managing pretty well but our objective is to create a movie of our expedition.” In late February they launched a Kickstarter campaign with a $20,000 goal. “We did take footage all along the way,” he said. They want two women from home who edited the team’s French and English campaign videos free of charge, to be their film crew. “These two girls are so motivated and are themselves expeditioners and they love traveling and they’re always willing to help,” Labelle added. “It’s just great to work with motivated people like this.”

With Kickstarter funding they’ll be able to replace broken equipment and gear and “to finish this wonderful trip in a good position,” he said.

De Jocas-McCrae capsized his kayak in North Carolina, a misadventure documented in an educational module the team posted on ChallengeU. They’ve lost gear to seawater, time and use, Labelle said. “All the electronics are really badly damaged.” The repair and replacement list includes a microphone, GPS equipment, even a tent, and since September they’ve been on the phone to companies, trying to replace equipment.

“We do as many repairs as we can but there’s only so much we can do about electronics,” he said. They’ve sewn clothing, sleeping bags and mattresses. “It’s rough. We’ve been using those pieces every day since May.”

Water seeps into Labelle’s kayak’s back hatch, something sponsor Epic Kayaks considers normal wear and tear given a nine-month journey and heavy loads, he said. “It’s only a small issue and when you know you’ll get some water in your stuff it’s all right, you arrive and you just take everything outside and dry it out.”

“It’s funny how we can get used to sleeping in really sketchy places and parks, Labelle said. The previous day on Dauphin Island, Alabama, they slept by a boat ramp “beside an old fort from the Civil War,” where camping is prohibited. A park official found them but after refusing to hear Labelle’s story, she phoned police. “The first thing he (the police officer) says is ‘Don’t worry, I know she’s annoying, she can be really irritating but you guys are fine.’ It was Monday, 5 a.m., obviously there won’t be anyone coming there and we wake up at 6 a.m. and he told me ‘You can go back right what you were doing.’ That happened often. Policemen and people in general understand what we’re doing. It just takes the will to understand.”

Défi Go Fetch’s Kickstarter campaign may be found at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/36952423/defi-go-fetch-challenge

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