At 12:30 I floated in between the small Isabella Islets to my right inhabited by geese and loitering harbour seals, and the shallow waters at Isabella Point. Ahead are more geese who cackle and swim forward muttering as only a goose could. I felt accomplished here sitting for a moment and considering the evidence of the northerly winds appearing in a line half way across the opening of Fulford Harbour. This marks the end of my downhill paddle north to south and only a few short foothills as my compass pointed eastward. Having made that unscheduled stop earlier I felt I should put out the effort not to break here as originally planned but to continue on at least to the boundary of Ruckle Provincial Park, which I could just make out around the next point. It was time to dig in for the long haul at the start of my second leg.
I turned on my iPod once more as the soundtrack to my day would alleviate the boredom of the few longer point to point crossings I would be paddling. Winds gusting from somewhere around the unseen corner of the island and came broadside to the opposing current that had been my true friend all morning. I began to wonder as I made for Russell Island to my left if my wonderful morning would spin into a gruelling afternoon, I hoped not. I scanned into my future in an attempt to see what may be in store for me when I did turn more directly into the wind. At least for now the last licks of the ebbing tide would keep the surface at bay, but would the return of the flood tide raise the wave action and put the brakes to my so far even and good pace? I paddled on.
Fulford now in my rear view I could smell the end. My lively pace maintained by some miracle though the elements were conspiring I pulled out of the chop at a small outcrop of rock a few meters from Salt Spring’s shore with a tiny low tide only isthmus of crushed shells. I scattered a few geese and climbed out of the boat to stretch my back and legs. My mind was tired, I think by now the constant insult of the winds on my progress was a toll and Portland Island lay about forty minutes of paddling away to my right on the other side of sun-tipped wind waves. Mind over distance paddling came into play and I talked myself back into the kayak after swapping my empty water/Gatorade bottle on my deck leash. It was third and last bottle and part of my hydration program for the day combined with my drinking tube run through the deck to a bag behind my seat. I slipped over the shallows in mere inches of water and pointed my nose to Ruckle Park. Rounding the last point it came into full view highlighted by brightly coloured tents in a happy Easter weekend scene on a summer day in early spring. Waves from people on the shore as I found a yellow kayak up ahead. Mind over distance paddling gears began to whir and I now had a goal, a target to hit. I will catch that yellow kayak, match it and overtake it!
I paddled harder and the yellow kayak disappeared behind a point of rock where a man cast a fishing line, a tip of the hat as I paddled by him and regained sight of my prey. I paddled on, quickening my pace but ever aware that each stroke I took now would cost me in the final hours. I didn’t care, I wanted to get that yellow kayak out of my view. I voiced a request aloud to all, including and especially Mother Nature to turn down the opposing winds that were just strong enough to annoy me now. I rounded one more point headed farther from shore to pass the yellow kayak with it on my left. I caught up, paddled by and suggested that the paddler lower her hands on the paddle. I paddled on and the winds eased in the channel ahead. I started to see glossy water in strings leading back and forth from shore. Wind shadows, I was in luck. Not only did it tell me that I might have an easier late afternoon that I had thought, but each string gave me a distance goal. I would make that third strip of water in ten minutes if it killed me.
Working my way out farther just as the tide shifted was a blessing, I soon made my way to the Channel Islands off Yeo Point at the other boundary of the park facing the southern tip o Prevost Island. I pulled over here as it was my last scheduled break before the last section of paddling. From here I could see home, well not quite but I did see Nose Point at the end of Long Harbour, good enough, close enough that home, a shower and a cold beer was only a short two to three hours away. As I turned into the only space of shell beach on the islands I was greeted by dozens of nesting Canada Geese who made a fuss and muttered loudly. I told them I would not be long, and I was true to my word. In a minute or two I was backing out of the beach, my bow now pointed diagonally to Long Harbour. Still paddling uphill, but the slope didn’t seem to steep anymore.