My foot is wet and I knew that would happen…
I have lived on Salt Spring Island most of my life with emphasis on ‘lived on’. Though aware of the ocean and that awareness only heightened from my kidhood days walking to or from school to our waterfront home via a crushed shell beachfront, it, the water was only a fact of life. My off the island life has been in the seat of a sea kayak and to my regret only began in my mid-thirties. Until then, land-lubber that I was I had no idea what a spectacular bubble I had chosen as a home. My water-side perspective has altered my perception and only increased my love of place, this oddity always in social flux, tourist-centric in summer months and left to sleep in the autumn and winter weeks, but yet remains my community, my Salt Spring.
From the vantage point of my wooden kayak I see the island for what it is, what it will always be long after I, and all I know are mere dust in the wind. A lovely lump of rock thrust up on the ragged coast of BC. Not covered with a sprinkling of salt as my childhood imagination saw things before moving to the island in the 70’s. Instead Salt Spring is coated deer, forests, sheep, vineyards, retirees and youthful exuberance. A small town surrounded by water with all the love, joys and local gossip of any small village, and all of the above very transitory in the big scheme of things.
It is this that I ponder along with my sanity as I wake long before sunrise and am paddling away from a beach north of Fernwood dock aiming for Southey Point where I will meet the start of the ebbing tide that will help me down and eventually shoot me wildly through Sansum Narrows. My mission on this tender morning, to start a circumnavigation of the island in one shot, all 72 kilometres of it. It was quiet and quite dark when I staggered back and forth to the car by the headlamp light with the required gear for a marathon. Tent, sleeping bag, (just in case) stove, fuel, emergency food and water, clothing life jacket, paddles etc. It never fails to amaze me that whether on a day paddle or a two-week excursion the amount of bits and pieces needed is about the same.
A mild light begins to rise around me as the air chills my face and I switch off and then remove my headlamp (I hope not to be needing it by evening). A sun waking and yawning from its southern travels is about to greet me, but I am cold and wearing my paddle jacket and toque knowing in a couple of hours I will have to stop to strip down for the warm spring day ahead. My foot is wet, and I knew that would happen. One Wet Foot should be my native moniker. I am blissfully aware that my day has begun uncivilized in the dark, and decaffeinated. Somehow to me a big drink of water, an Ibuprofen and a few sips of Gator-Aid are no match for a good cup of coffee. Coffee is forbidden on a marathon day.
I have spent the previous day loading my body with the nuts and bolts and fuel to at least make this long 12 plus hours of non-stop paddling less painful. I am hydrated to the point my ears are leaking, I have carbs burning and a box of goodies to keep me fueled all day long. Peeking tentatively over the wall of silhouetted treetops of Wallace Island to my right is the sun at long last. I paddle by sleeping seals floating blissfully unaware of my presence and the cacophony made by the geese nesting on every rock in the channel.My nerves were up in the dark, wondering what the day would have in store. Would the forecasted light winds be mythical, or would I round Ruckle Park facing northward to home in blissful calm waters? Would I fatigue part way and have to call for a ride? Would the playlist in my head keep me occupied paddle stroke after paddle stroke. Now that the day has officially broken and I am well on my journey it is time to turn the corner on the day, around the northern tip of Salt Spring Island and begin my southern run.
The easy part.