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Laval St. Germain, a Calgary adventurer, will embark on a solo 100-day journey rowing a one-person row boat in June departing from Halifax to France.Chris Bolin/The Globe and Mail

To the top of Mount Everest, to the highest peak in Iraq, to cycling his way through the Arctic, Laval St. Germain has made a second career out of testing his limits. His regular job? Piloting Arctic-bound flights for Canadian North Airlines, often in the dread of winter. Now, the 47-year-old Calgarian is combining all his strengths for an epic adventure with a twist – rowing 4,500 kilometres across the Atlantic Ocean. Alone.

He spoke to Allan Maki about why he's doing it.

On a scale of one to 10, how crazy do you have to be to row your boat across the Atlantic?

I'd say 6.5. … I get it every day. I had a text message this morning talking about it. I thought it would be a real good intellectual, physical challenge because of the fact everything is new. I've had to train in a different way than what I'm normally used to, but I have done some of those things before [checking winds and weather patterns for climbing and mountaineering]. It's going to be quite a bit different in a boat, I understand that. But I'll be ready to get going some time in the first two weeks of June. I leave from Halifax and arrive in Brest, France. We're calling it St. Germain's Confront Cancer Ocean Row and it will raise funds in support of the Alberta Cancer Foundation.

Are you also rowing to honour the memory of your son Richard, who drowned in the Northwest Territories' Mackenzie River?Absolutely. Richard took a canoe out at 9:15 p.m. on July 15, 2014. Mackenzie's big, about five kilometres across. There was a girl who was in the canoe, too. He was a good paddler. No life jacket on. As the girl started to swim ashore, she began to panic. Richard told her to lie on her back, calm down. A neighbour heard the screaming, went out in his boat and rescued the girl. Richard was gone. [The 21-year-old's body was later found washed up on a sandbar down river.] On the one-year anniversary of Richard's death, I took my son Eric and we decided to paddle from Great Bear Lake to the Mackenzie River and Norman Wells. It was a way for us to have that time together and for me to show Eric where it happened.

How did you become so passionate about taking on such demanding tasks?I think it's from a childhood of doing a lot of reading. When you've read about the exploits of these men – Ernest Shackleton and Reinhold Messner – the National Geographic stories you looked at, they burned a place in your brain. And for some reason I was a kid who decided to act on it. My dad caught me religiously reading a National Geographic and said, "You should become an airplane pilot so you can travel to all these places." I said okay. And now I'm a pilot who has flown all over the world … I don't like inaction.

When you were climbing down from the top of Everest, did you ever think you weren't going to make it?Every 15 metres in the snow, I had to sit down. There was a spot where I tried to take a nap, and it was actually the last Canadian who tried to climb Everest without oxygen, lying there dead in the snow. It was Frank Ziebarth [from Calgary], who had been lying there for years. From a distance he looked like a tent. But I wasn't thinking clearly. And seeing his Canadian flag on his high-altitude suit made me wake up and realize I had to keep on moving.

So what did that score on your crazy scale?Eight point five.

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