Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Paddling the calm, before the storm...

I have to say, some of the pics on a number of sea kayaking blogs, particularly from Great Britain and Maritime Canada, are pretty impressive! Thing is, I've been going on a bit about our "Mediterranean" climate here on Vancouver Island, “Canada’s Pacific Island”. After all, we’ve got palm trees and there are already flowers coming up in...January. On your day off, you can get up in the morning here and there's lots of choices: will it be kayaking, trail running, hiking, golf, gardening. And, the Island has glaciers and some of the best powder skiing in the country. At sea level, however, (where most of us do our paddling!) it’s pretty mild. Today, for example, it’s 11 degrees C.

But reading some of the blogs from other parts of the northern hemisphere, I'm beginning to feel a little less like the intrepid sea kayaker that I like to think I am. Honestly, I'm humbled by fellow sea kayakers who are “getting out there” in weather conditons that many avid paddlers would (understandably) find just a little, well, “wintry”. Traversing snow-covered beaches in temperatures well "south" of the minus side of zero degrees C to launch their narrow boats is pretty impressive. Images of sea kayaks, decks iced up and gathering snow, punching through the ocean swell is awe-inspiring. Now don’t get me wrong. This is the west coast of Canada and it gets pretty serious on the “left” coast of the Island. Folks come from all over the world to spend a few days watching Pacific waves, birthed a thousand miles away, crash mightily on the remote and wild shores.

Here, however, the waves weren't crashing. Having said that, the forecast was a little iffy for paddling: a Pacific frontal system was coming in with a wind and rainfall warning in effect. Predicted gale force winds, however, were a few hours away. As we prepared to launch off the beach at Maple Bay, the skies darkened – and then lightened – it was as if we had been mysteriously carried into the "eye" of the coming storm!

The water was as calm as could be, with a few sailboats trying to capture whatever occasional breeze there was in order to get back to their harbour. Paddling away from the beach there was an eerie feel to the air. We both hoped the wind would come up enough to at least give the sailboats some forward passage and us an exhilerating "ride" for the next couple of hours - and maybe get a few pics of some interesting water.

Well, the winds never did increase while we were out so we cruised the shoreline, investigated some tiny "caves", counted jellyfish, practised a few braces, admired the arbutus trees in their lush, winter "green", took a bunch of pictures, and just generally felt deep appreciation "for the beauty of the earth". I think that's at the heart of the sea kayaking experience: the gentle days are as enjoyable as the "epic" paddles..each in a different way. Time on the water that is punctuated by surges of adrenaline are lots of fun but on those days when it's so quiet that you can almost "hear" the swirling eddies in the wake of eace paddle stroke - well, they're pretty special too, just in a different way.

The promised weather did come to our coast and the neighbouring Gulf Islands, with lots and lots of precipitation and gale force winds. By that time, however, our gear was drying, the kayaks back on their racks and our minds soothed and refreshed by the day's memories of paddling the calm, before the storm.

Stay safe out there,



  1. I love to read your blogs and see you out there enjoying yourself. Well deserved time out. However, tell me something. That last picture, were you trying to get out of your kayak and scale the mountain?

  2. Yup, just reached up, pulled myself free of the kayak and scrambled up to the top - just like Bear Grylls On "Man vs Wild"! Man, wish I could say that!! Haha! No, I was just stretching my arms.