Jay and Ron
By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN
TUFTONBORO — Ron Guilmette was practically born with a kayak paddle in his hand. He grew up in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and as a boy would ride his bicycle to the Shawsheen River, where he could rent a kayak for 25 cents per hour. So, when his sister built a camp on Cow Island nearly a decade ago, Guilmette and his family were eager to put their kayaks in and paddle around the neighborhood.
After several seasons of getting to know the nearby islands, Guilmette and his nephew, Jay Lecesse, came up with a challenge: visit every island on Winnipesaukee by kayak. In 2013, they completed the list, and took a photo of one of the two on each island so that they could disprove any doubters.
Later that summer, Guilmette was kayaking around Palmer Island when he started chatting with resident Al Palmer, of the same family the island is named after, standing on his dock. When Palmer heard about the kayaking feat, Guilmette recalled, "He said, 'That would make a great coffee table book,'... The light went on."
But, there was one problem with turning their photos of the islands into a book: "I had a thousand pictures, they all had us standing in them." So, he and Lecesse had to go back and perform the feat all over again, this time photographing just the islands.
It turned out to be well worth the effort. The pair published "Islands of Winnipesaukee," a 176-page, 9.9 by 11.8-inch photo book, in 2014. They received their first 1,000 copies in June of that year, expecting to have enough to sell through the holiday shopping season, but sold out in August. Another 1,000 copies was printed in September of that year, and each one sold by Thanksgiving. The book is currently in its third print run, and is available at book stores around the lake, as well as through Amazon.com.
Guilmette, who lives in Massachusetts, said he still finds enthusiastic fans of his work when he visits groups in the region, or signs books at local stores.
"People love it. Every time I come up, I learn more and more about the islands," he said. He also teaches locals a few things, too. For example, a common belief is that there are 365 islands in the lake – one for every day of the year. In fact, they are a little fewer. Maps and charts that they used to plan their adventure had 253 islands – but Guilmette and Lecesse were able to document 260.
If the goal was simply to photograph each island, Guilmette concedes that it would have been faster, and easier, to use a power boat. However, that wouldn't be Guilmette's way.
"We're all into kayaking, we love kayaking. You're out there, you're in charge of your boat, you're getting exercise, you're getting sunshine, you're learning about the lake," he said. "You can sit on a motorboat and fly around the lake, but you'll miss half of the beauty of these islands. Kayaking for me was the way to go."
Becky's Garden Island in Center Harbor
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