Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A play-filled antidote to nature deficit disorder...

The  HMKTV, delivering the LS-PMTPs to the launch site.
The Environment Canada weather site warned that a "strong wind warning was in effect", with predicted winds over the area rising to 30 knots - that's a problem in a sea kayak. Ahh...but the winds are going to be coming from the northwest.  The plan was to paddle amongst the Flat Top Islands, just off the shores of Gabriola Island. The very northwest "slant" of North America (and Gabriola Island) put our proposed route to the southeast - and in the lee. This was going to work.

The tide at the Degnen Bay launch was at its lowest which meant we could drive the High Mobility Kayak Transport Vehicle (HMKTV) with the Lightweight Self-Propelled Marine Transport Platforms (LS-PMTP) onto what had been, just an hour or so before, sea floor. Joan and I need to learn more about the various types of seaweed as some of it is very edible...and highly nutritious.

The lush "carpet" looks good enough to eat!
Degnen Bay > Gabriola Passage > Flat Top Islands.
Leaving Degnen Bay, we could hear the wind from the NW in the trees but the waters remained protected. Entering Gabriola Passage, the tide was almost at slack. We made a note to keep an eye on the time, for the return trip, as the strong currents flooding here can increase to 8 knots and produce treacherous whirlpools, rip curls and other such little "treats". (Chart and tide and current tables essential here.)

"Secret" beach at Rogers Reef, in a blink (tidal time), it's gone!
Leaving the Passage and passing by beautiful Drumbeg Provincial Park, we detoured briefly over to Rogers Reef where there is a small navigation light. We had never been there at such a low tide. The tiny little beach has usually been under water. What a marvellous place for a brief (inter-tidal) picnic one day.

Edible? Hmm, not so much?
While Joan continued to explore the reef, I paused in a virtual tapestry of intricate strands of seaweed, which held my narrow boat in place and calmed the waters around the rocky shore.

After a short break and some trail mix and water, we paddled into Commodore Passage, with Sears Island, Tugboat Island, and Vance Island to our port side and Saturnina, Acorn and Gaviola Islands to the starboard. These are marvellous shores to investigate -  a Pacific wonderland of tiny islands and carved sandstone natural sculptures. Leaving the protected lee of these tiny Islands and "mainland" Gabriola, we felt the moderate breeze freshening and the increased rolling of the Salish Sea beneath our hulls. The predicted strong winds had not materialized.

Good "medicine".
The feeling of freedom in such tiny boats on a vast ocean is beyond words. It's easy to lose all sense of time as you play in the waves and feel the wind caress your face. The incredibly lightweight Greenland paddle performed superbly. The Spartan sliced through the waves, quickly shedding almost every drop of sea water that came over its bow - it was a very happy LS-PMTP! As was its paddler!

Joan was having equally as much fun!

We really do need a "hands free" camera, Joan!
Before heading into Silva Bay, in the narrow passage between Vance and Lily Island, there was time for a little more fun in the breaking waves of another small reef - well, as it turned out, there wasn't time. But we made the time anyway. :)

There's always so much to see.

There are seals...

A resting seal - not as close as this appears!
and eagles...

Here's lookin' at you!
and float planes. These are shared waters.

Aw, no worries, Joan, I'm almost positive it'll get airborne in time. :)
A good day is when you lose complete track of time. We'd done just that and the tides won't wait. By the time we got back to Gabriola Passage, the current was racing - we'd missed our opportunity. We retreated back to a pebble beach at Degnen Provincial Park and enjoyed the quiet shoreline until the slowly diminishing current would permit us entry to this last leg of the day's journey. (Note: bring more food next time!)

At the end of the day, always the need for reflection.
Back at the cabin, we reflected on the day's activity and the need to nurture connections with the natural world. One doesn't have to paddle a sea kayak, hike in remote forests, or climb mountains - just spend time outside. Time in the garden or in a local park will do just fine. When we observe, and become a participant in the natural world, I think we more honestly discern our "place", in the web of creation. As sophisticated and complex as we human beings are, I've never been happy with the idea that we are necessarily of more intrinsic value than any other life form on this planet. All life on the planet is to be valued and respected, for we are all connected and interdependent upon one another.

In his book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv coined the term, "nature deficit disorder". It refers to wide-ranging behavioural disorders experienced by children (and adults) who have lost touch with and have even become alienated from nature. The antidote is to come to know and befriend the natural world. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts we parents (and grandparents) could give to our children, and to the planet, would be to read Louv's book...and then nurture such "nature connections".

East end of Gabriola and 15.18 km route through the Flat Top Islands.
The LS-PMTPs (two "smiling" sea kayaks) provided such connections on this day. :)



  1. Wow what a fantastic day! I feel better now knowing which beach you were stranded on as I thought you were over on one of the islands.
    Being connected with nature is so fulfilling and it is sad that many children today miss out on that "freeing" feeling of being outdoors in nature.
    Great blog and pics...and yes ...next time take more food or you may just end up eating that seaweed in it's natural state :)

  2. Well, it was a very pleasant "stranding", I must say! Actually, I think it was your favourite beach. Yes, we'll need to read up on sea weed first! Haha. Thanks L. D.

  3. FANTASTIC!!!!

    First day paddles, then Drysuits, now longer paddles with breaking surf;greenland paddle calculating tides and charts galore!!!

    Your retirement perched on a hill overlooking the ocean and mid week paddling in more challenging conditions....awe inspiring!

    So glad for you guys and so glad you shared!

  4. Super trip report Duncan & Joan; and I can so relate to the concept of Nature Deficit Disorder - the cure has to be one of the more pleasant remedies known!

    Kind Regards

  5. Thanks for that, Lee. Yes, the "R" day ("reconfiguration" day) is just a few months away. I suspect there will be significantly more paddling after that but I also suspect that we find ourselves "working" again, perhaps in a slightly different form and context. I will say that much inspiration for these self-propelled activities continues to come from such folks as you and Ian - in two of our favourite places, Nfld and Scotland. Bless you. D.

    We appreciate your words, Ian, as always. Certainly the ongoing discipline of "preventive medication" to counter Nature Deficit Disorder is, indeed, just being outside, sometimes on the water and sometimes on the hills. I too can think of no better remedy. Warm wishes and thank you. Duncan.