This was to be a rare Friday night when we were without commitments. The plan, therefore, was to do a night paddle - our second paddle (almost) of the New Year which is a pretty good start! The temperature was forecast to be around 6 degrees C, with winds about 15 knots from the southeast, increasing later this evening but where we are is relatively sheltered by the southern Gulf Islands. We anticipated some light rain. No worries there, paddling in the rain just adds "texture" to the experience. We packed up, dressed in cold water immersion clothing, loaded the kayaks on the roof of our trusty HMKTV (high mobility kayak transport vehicle - OK, OK, so it's actually just an old Chevy Tracker but "HMKTV" has a very cool sound to it don't you think?). We were good to go. And then...the light rain began to increase in intensity, the fog rolled in, and visibility in our corner of the world became pretty much nil. Oh well, island life, ya just never know when the fog is going to roll in.
Having said that, living on an island is rather special. Our "highways" to mainland Canada are waterways and the frequent ferries are a bit of an adventure. By the ripe old age of eight, I had crossed the Atlantic three times on three of the old Cunard Liners - the Franconia, the Sylvania, and the Carinthia. I still remember the great and elegant dining halls, the endless passageways, and the decks stacked upon decks.
Having embarked from Liverpool on the Carinthia, I have a vivid memory of an August storm in the Irish Sea. It seemed, I was the only one on the ship who was not sea sick. It was tremendous fun! My mother, however, was reluctant to leave our stateroom and was too weak to argue with me when I arrived soaked to the skin and told her I'd been up on deck and "the spray was flying everywhere"...and I was going back up! Hardly anyone made it to meal times for at least that day...and then there were the piles of sawdust everywhere. Yes, I'm sure you can guess what they were covering up! Several days later, having crossed the North Atlantic, we approached Newfoundland and were awestruck by dozens of gigantic ice bergs. It seemed you could reach out and touch them. Of course, I had no knowledge of the Titanic, resting deep beneath us, still undiscovered, on the ocean floor. That would have made the scene even more dramatic!
The brief hour and a half to two hour voyage we take today, from Nanaimo to Vancouver, however, has elements of those old memories. No elegant dining though. I mean, how hungry can you get a couple of hours from home? You can splurge though. There's always a White Spot veggie burger - not bad actually, although I suspect the "special" sauce is not particularly good for you. There are lots of decks to wander and if weather permits, there's nothing like spending the whole time outside, the salt air is invigorating.
Living on an island, this island anyway, means that after the last day's ferry, you really can't leave - even if you're voted off! But then who would want to leave? There is a tiny sense of isolation living on an island, but it's all good, that's part of the appeal and part of the charm. Being surrounded by the sea touches something deep inside, something very elemental. It means that even when you can't get out in your kayak, you're not far from the water...and the next adventure. And heck, the trail running is great no matter what the visibility!
We'll just keep those boats "at the ready".
Image: An early morning BC Ferry passing by. Taken from Gabriola Island looking NNE towards the mainland Coastal Ranges. (The image is untouched...an amazing morning!)