Thursday, December 27, 2012

Paddling bliss: 'Twas in the "snow" of wintertime.

My paddling partner, patiently waiting.
So...this is south Vancouver Island where, here in the "Warmland", we are accustomed to a year-round "Mediterranean" climate. That normally translates into a green Christmas, with the most frequent mention of "snow" being in reference to the delicate "snow drops" (flowers) that begin to poke up through the soil in the garden about now.

The usual December rains run happily down the fronds of island palms. We had, incidentally, a very nice palm tree out front, amidst the Douglas Fir. I had carefully nurtured and protected it, over the years, until the resident deer defied all reasonable expectations...and ate it. Sigh...

Pretending not to look, the waiting HMKTV
had a trick up its sleeve for our return...
to turn a kayak into a toboggan!
Having said all this, Christmas Day dawned this year with some snow in the forecast. Snow? Here, on Canada's "Pacific Island"? Although, admittedly, not great for travellers, it did strike me as rather cool to have some snow on the ground. Hmm...with morning formalities concluded and a good number of hours before supper, what to do? Launch? Yes, that would be perfect.

There was a special peacefulness as snowflakes 
silently kissed the waters of Sansum Narows.
Launching at Maple Bay, we headed over to Saltspring Island. The 30 minute crossing, light flakes falling silently in the water around us, was simply magical. Paddling another forty-five minutes or so towards Vesuvius,  however, we had a sense that visibility over the Narrows might decrease dramatically so crossed back to the "big" Island. Curious seals and sea otters popped up around us and bald eagles piped their high-pitched "whistling" from atop tall cedars, all presumably extending their cheerful "season's greetings" to the two lone kayakers.

Refreshed and invigorated by the cool air and falling snow and sustained by a high-energy "Garibaldi cookie", it was time to head back to Maple Bay and our waiting HMKTV (High Mobility Kayak Transport Vehicle: Civilian designation: Subaru). Interestingly, the large flakes had begun to form an unusual sub-surface "slush" in the sea water. All we were missing were the "bergy bits", tiny ice bergs that would transform our usual Mediterranean landscape into an "Arctic-like" seascape.

Smiling...and blissfully unaware of the events that were about to unfold!
Little did we know that the whole time we were away, the silver-grey HMKTV had been plotting some  interesting mischief. It must have known that we would be in a hurry to get our Vancouver Island-spoiled bodies back into the warmth of the vehicle and that we might not take the time to remove the layer of snow from the kayak cradles...before setting the boats in them.

Minds still enjoying the endorphin-laden "afterglow" of paddling (kayakers will understand this experience) - we didn't take the time.

Hoisting the first kayak (mine) onto the cradle, it instantly slid forward on the layer of snow at an alarming rate of speed - and towards the hood of the HMKTV - en route to the concrete retaining wall mere inches from the front bumper!

Thankfully, my always-alert  paddling partner was able to adroitly re-capture the stern grab handle, quickly halting its descent into what would have been an embarrassing incident to explain to an insurance agent - while I looked on, open-mouthed and imagining the result of the bow of my relatively-new kayak striking an immovable wall. That would have happened, of course, after it rebounded off the hood of the silver-grey Subaru. Yes, it appears I was completely immobilized by "can-this-really-be-happening!" for a rather critical moment.

Thank you Joan. :)

We took a few minutes to clear all remaining cradles before loading Joan's boat on the racks. That process was, thankfully, uneventful.

Lessons learned: stay focused; be present in the moment; maintain situation awareness; take time to remove any snow from cradles before loading kayaks, most especially when vehicle is parked on a slope! Sheesh.

The time on the water, however, "in the snow of wintertime"...was wonderful.


Thank you to Jean de Brébeuf, author of the original lyrics of the "Huron Carol ("'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime") in 1643. The post title, is only meant to be "close". It's a wonderful Canadian carol!


  1. Never seen you look so happy as sitting there covered in snow in your kayak! I can't believe you didn't share this story over would have livened up the place. LOL

  2. Haha! We must have been at two different dinners - I thought it was pretty lively! Of course, you're so much younger than the rest of us. :) Thanks L. D.

  3. And thank your wife...a lot!!!haha WTG Joan!

  4. I did Lee, profusely. Hmm...she seems to be bailing me out a lot these days! Haha!

  5. Hi Duncan - again, thanks for your posting. Fog and mist are very deceiving! My father-in-law who boated off Sidney all his life, was lost off Sidney one time - scary. I relived the story about Wes' time on the water. when reading your story.

    I was so excited when it snowed for both my Birthday and for Christmas - haven't had snow on my Birthday since I was a little girl - and to also have it on Christmas - that, too, is rare :>) - Sheila

  6. Hi Sheila, thanks for that. Yes, we definitely respect changing visibility on the water, especially in tiny vessels such as ours. A "white Christmas", here? Who would have imagined that! Best wishes for the New Year from the two of us. :) Duncan.

  7. Thanks for the snow loading lesson. Must keep that in mind when our first snow paddle happens. Happy New Year Duncan & Joan

  8. Thanks Mark, but I'm sure your common sense with such things exceeds mine. :) I had thought of several titles for the post such as: "The perils of expediency" or "There are no short cuts!". Haha! Joan and I wish you and Robyn many great adventures in the New Year and a happy and healthy 2013. Duncan.

  9. I thought one of the lessons learned would be 'and take Joan'... :-)
    Just had a lovely time catching up with your adventures. Belated happy 40th anniversary - may you enjoy many more!
    As you say in an earlier post, We look forward... and we also give thanks for what has shaped us, auld lang syne. From Robert Burns; 'And there's a hand my trusty friend and give us a hand o' thine, and we'll take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne.'
    Hugs all round and all the best for 2013.

  10. Hi Jackie, thanks so much for coming by. Yes, "and take Joan" was a lesson I learned, um, a lot of years ago - as you know well. :) Warmest wishes and may 2013 be a year of many wonderful adventures for you all too. Hugs back. Duncan and Joan.

  11. Wow, you really don't hesitate to get out there in all conditions. Beautiful to see.

    I also like the Huron Carol.