After 32 years as a Massachusetts state trooper, Ron Guilmette’s toughest days should be behind him.
But retirement hasn’t stopped this very active 65-year-old, who recently completed quite the odyssey with his nephew Jay Leccese. The pair visited all 253 islands scattered throughout New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee.
This enormous quest, achieved in only nine days of paddling, might be Guilmette’s latest kayak adventure, but it certainly wasn’t the first for the retired lieutenant colonel who raised four children with his wife, Ann Marie, during their decades as residents of Salisbury Beach.
“I started kayaking when I was 10 years old,” Guilmette said. “Being from Lawrence, we’d bike up to Ballardvale, which is near Andover. We’d rent a kayak for 25 cents an hour back then, and we’d paddle the Shawsheen River. We’d spend all day there, then go back home before dark. I loved kayaking.”
And since then, there have been many trips, several to the Isles of Shoals, in the new kayaks that Guilmette purchased after leaving the state police for supposedly less strenuous activities.
Located six miles from the New Hampshire coast — and even farther from Salisbury Beach — the Isles present a daunting day trip over open seas that can be rough and aggressive.
Yet, although Guilmette’s proud of those ocean voyages, it was his years paddling with family on the Granite State’s largest lake that led him to consider visiting every one of Winnipesaukee’s hundreds of islands.
For years, he’d head out with family on Winnipesaukee waters around the town of Tuftonboro, where Leccese’s parents, Judy and John, have a summer home on Cow Island.
They’d pack a lunch, Guilmette said, and take in the beautiful scenery while visiting the islands in the vicinity. They had great times, he said, but he was up for more.