Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A day in the sea boats, on the Salish Sea...refreshment for body, mind, and spirit.

The sea, once it casts its spell,
holds one in its net of wonder forever.
- Jacques Cousteau

The Salish Sea, Howe Sound, and Mount Garibaldi.
The Tuesday morning skies cleared and the sun, still low in the early January sky, shone brightly...and we launched the "sea boats". I love those words. These narrow craft, weighing just 50 pounds each, and designed to carry one lone occupant, were built for the sea, and for exploration. But they also enable the sea kayaker to investigate the land - both the immediate shoreline so close at hand, and the distant horizons of terra firma.

Sandstone shores of Gabriola Island, sculpted over the millenia.
The tide was just changing as paddles quickly propelled us out of Degnen Bay. Gabriola Island, also known as "Petroglyph Island", for the ancient stone carvings, has extraordinarily mysterious shorelines that have been sculpted by the ocean over time. The sandstone is thought to be 65 million years old. The "sculptures", are a work in progress.

At times, we simply had to drift quietly with the tide...and take it all in.
Gliding out of the bay, the ocean surface was alive with patterns that changed and transformed before our eyes. The invisible tidal force beneath us tugged and then pushed at our submerged paddle blades. Just off the port bow, a whirlpool began to form, quickly growing to a metre and a half in diameter, drawing into its centre the bubbling froth of the confused surface rippling and wind-formed waves. Would it continue to grow into a powerful maelstrom and pull kayak (and "lone occupant"!), spinning uncontrollably, deep into its vortex? What a story Joan would be able to tell!

Joan, paddling the "sea boat"
...and a distant stratovolcano: Mount Garibaldi, a sacred place.
A couple of hours later, feeling the warmth of the sun in the still-chilly 2 degree Celcius air, we paused between the tiny and photogenic Sear and Saturnina Islands. The view is breathtaking across the Salish Sea towards Howe Sound and the snow-capped Coast Mountains - the very edge of the North American continent. Forming a backdrop to the Sound is dramatic Mount Garibaldi, British Columbia's best known volcano. 

The deck marine compass indicated that the mountain was due north from our position. I would have said it was to the east, fooled yet again by the alignment of Canada's coast. To the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, the local indigenous people of the Squamish area, it is a sacred mountain. It should be to us all, as should all of creation. To gaze upon this unbroken view of a continent is to be deeply moved. The sea and the landscape puts life in perspective. Our lives occupy but an infinitesimal part of this planet...and yet our anxieties and our worries can often seem as immense as the universe! And that is not reasonable...and it is not a healthy state of mind.

A connection with, and an appreciation for the natural world can be one of the most powerful antidotes to anxiety, a condition that plagues so many in our society, with such debilitating consequences. The "outdoors", whatever its mood, calms and creates balance in our lives. One only need go outside, and breath s-l-o-w-l-y and deeply, taking in the sounds, the smells, and the visual stimuli that nourish imaginations and the innermost soul. We are strengthened and refreshed. Going, playing, venturing, exploring, breathing deeply, outside - such a simple source of refreshment and healing. 

Heading home - the sun setting behind Valdez Island 
and the mountains of Vancouver Island.
With the sun beginning to set and nautical miles still to paddle, we retraced our course, following the southern coastline of Gabriola back to our launch spot at Degnen Bay - thankful for the hours on the water and persuaded that time spent "outdoors" is as essential to life as the food we eat and water we drink. I'm sure you will have found the same to be true.

Once again, the sea cast its spell and held two paddlers in its "net of wonder". 




  1. Ah so cool....I was thinking yesterday when it was so nice out that I had hoped you had taken the boats....I hope to find a place to rent from over there and paddle around one day as it always looks so inviting.

  2. Hmm, I might just know of a place, L. Rental is very reasonable and I hear, if you time it right, you can even book it with a couple of "guides". Sure appeals to me. :) D.

  3. I remember someone lusting over drysuits last year...well worth it eh?!! Beautiful shots. That mountain is something else!

    What a spot you guys get to call home!

  4. Yep, tough for a padre to admit but it all began with "lusting" - followed by some solid research, and then a trip to the Kayak Academy down in Issaquah, WA...and the rest is, as they say, warm, dry, winter kayaking history. Worth every penny! Thanks for the part you played by providing incentive by example! Cheers Lee. Duncan.

  5. haha N/P glad to see you guys out in the cold. Beautiful season isnt it?

  6. This all took me back to my really younger days when I used to lie in our rowboat drifting along the shore of our Summer home on Saltspring - remembering the weather beaten rocks and caves, beach ponds, and drifting with the tides.......memories :>) Sheila.

  7. Thanks for that, Sheila. And I know that they will be wonderful memories - a good reason for us all to make more of them. :) They are such magical shorelines! Good to hear from you. D.