Pair paddles to all 253 islands in Lake Winnipesaukee

TUFTONBORO — Ron Guilmette, a retired 65-year old Lt. Colonel from the Massachusetts State Police, and his nephew, 22-year-old Jay Leccese, last week completed a two-summer effort of kayaking from Cow Island to all 253 islands in Lake Winnipesaukee.
''It took us eight different trips, including some during last fall's foliage season, to get to all of the islands. I don't know if anyone has ever done that before,'' said Guilmette, who lives in Salisbury Beach, Mass., less than a mile from the New Hampshire border.
Guilmette says that he has been a frequent visitor to Lake Winnipesaukee ever since his sister, Judy Leccese, built a summer camp on Cow Island in 2007.
''I started coming up and kayaking on weekends and we'd kayak around to 15 or 20 islands. But that got old after a while. We wanted to see the other islands and the buildings on them, so last summer Jay and I decided to try and visit every island on the lake.'' says Guilmette.
He and his nephew broke the lake into eight sections, using Bizer maps , and started their quest last summer, completing five of the eight legs.
Long-distance kayaking is nothing new to Guilmette, who grew up in Lawrence, Mass., and at the age of 10 would bicycle from Lawrence to Andover, Mass., with his friends to rent kayaks for 25 cents per hour on the Shawsheen River in the Ballardvale section of Andover.
He also has done a lot ocean kayaking, having kayaked out to Isle of Shoals on four different occasions from Rye Harbor and once directly from Salisbury Beach (14 miles one way) . He has also kayaked in the cold ocean water at Bar Harbor, Maine, where he hired a guide to lead him along the rocky coast.
Guilmette was with the Massachusetts State Police for 32 years and served as chief of police at Merrimack College after retiring. He also teaches at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.
His nephew is following in his uncle's footsteps in the law enforcement field and is a graduate of Merrimack College and works as a police dispatcher there.
Guilmette says that he's looking to do a lot of kayaking in the coming weeks, especially to places like nearby Ragged Island, where there are high bush blueberries in abundance which can be harvested by hand without ever leaving his kayak.
He's also planning to stop by at the Fisherman's Coop in Seabrook on his way north and pick up eight lobsters, which are currently selling for $3.99 a pound, for a lobster cookout for the family when he next arrives at Cow Island.


Ron Guilmette, a retired Lt. Colonel from the Massachusetts State Police, is shown off Indian Island in Meredith Bay. He and his nephew, Jay Leccese, recently completed kayaking to all of the 253 islands in Lake Winnipesaukee. (Courtesy photo)