Be Prepared, that was then, this is now

That was then, this is now!

April in the Gulf Islands can often be a very pleasant time of year to explore the shores and islands by kayak. In fact, from about Christmas onwards the conditions are almost always favourable just dress warmly. The bigger winds of the summer months when heating and cooling during the day can whip up a good westerly by mid-day are not always present in the so-called off-season around here. With that in mind and my hamstring not feeling too bad at long last I took to the waters in my backyard, namely the Trincomali Channel that runs almost east-west separating Salt Spring Island with Galiano Island with the smaller Wallace Island in the middle. I like to zip around Wallace to visit the seals and otters, eagles, ravens, kingfishers, and the occasional fluffy mink mixed in with the notorious Wallace Island raccoons. It is a short crossing from Hudson Point north of Fernwood to Wallace and timing the tide means that you inevitably get a good ride at least in one direction and fight it the rest of the way.

Some April skies over Trincomali Channel, Salt Spring Island.

Some April skies over Trincomali Channel, Salt Spring Island.

I had the tide on my side for the first part. Paddling up the shore of Wallace quickly meeting the space between Jackscrew Island and the Secretary Group, passing the harbour seal colony and enjoying their reaction to my kayak, and my camera. The winds as scheduled were blowing from the northwest but I was in the lovely arms of the sheltered Gulf Islands. It may have been bouncy in the Strait of Georgia, but where I was sitting was pretty with a mere ripple on the water from gusts blowing, pouring through Porlier Pass. The usual. That was then!

I decided to call it a day after about 10km turned and stopped at a beach for a stretch and a snack. The clouds were big and puffy and blowing across the sky. I could see rain on the hills of Vancouver Island and thought, this is a good time to head home. No sooner than I sat back in the cockpit did the winds switch. This is now! The sky immediately filled with grey and far away, down the channel I could see the signs of wind before I ever felt it. I paddled down Wallace for about five minutes before I took the idea of crossing early as a good idea. The winds were now hitting me, the calm water of the channel now not so much happy. Wind waves built and by half way across to my island’s shores I was getting a nice deck wash broadside with two footers breaking and curling. I was fine, I was happy and it was nice to get an opportunity to dust off my rusty kayaking skills. Paddling in rough stuff is not a huge deal for me. I have had to do it before. If this had happened while I was in my tent in camp I would have chosen to spend the day in my tent, however, I was out there and caught with my pants down as the nice north wind switched and spun around to come at me from the east. The north going tides bashed sideways as was I and the crossing, though bumpy was a good time. My not so straight line to a fishing bouy kept me on target and once over to the Salt Spring side I felt home free. Well, then again…

From glass the blast as a surprise East wind whips things up in Trincomali Channel, Salt Spring Island.

From glass the blast as a surprise East wind whips things up in Trincomali Channel, Salt Spring Island.

Turning into the wind took a bit of elbow grease and with some sweeps I had my bow pointed into the waves and bounced and bounded at a decent pace but knew I had a long way to go. For ever ten minutes in calm waters this was going to take twenty or more to do that same distance. I could see it building harder ahead. The bigger swells rolled up my deck to my spray skirt. A few face washes here and there and my now grumpy demeanor taking me up the shore. Nearly an hour of this and I saw my end point but knew that I would have to paddle passed it to get pushed back to where I started. Adding more paddling time in a 20 knot headwind on a day that was supposed to be winds diminishing to light, ha! I saw a beach house and knew where I was. I let Mother Nature take me in and went limp. This too I have done before and often rewarded but the ‘no ego’ approach to kayaking. I landed in some nice small but fast waves onto an oyster shelled beach and hauled the boat up.

Sitting on a log, I wonder and pondered the idea of resting and getting back at it. The winds were increasing but I had hoped that I could wait them out. It was a squall, one of unusual proportions but they usually pass. I sat, nibbled snacks, drank water and waited a half hour. It rained on me. Sideways stinging rain. Okay, forget it! I walked across the wood foot bridge connecting the beach front to the backyard of the house and knocked on the door. I would plead my case for temporarily trespassing and go get my car, about a half hour hike up the road. It beat the winds and waves. No one home. I moved my stuff and ran for the car.

The lovely thing about living on an island, is knowing that you can bail out and knock on a door. I have been tempted in the past to bail, this was a first for me, but my motivation that afternoon went to sitting in my kayak battling the elements to wanting to sit on my deck with a cold one instead. I knew that if someone had actually been there and opened the door, upon hearing my story they most likely would have offered me a cup of tea and a ride to my vehicle. Alas, no tea, no ride but a nice walk on a country road. I left a thank you note for the use of the beach and packed up, and found that beer!

Moral of the tale, be prepared! Though I was prepared in gear, kayaking skill sets and the confidence in knowing when to call it a day was not going to be the end of the world, I was not prepared to have my la la paddle day corrupted by Mother Natures ill will. It was a bad head space paddle day. The longer I sat on that log the less likely it was going to be that I hit the waves once more. It was a bad head space day and I leave it at that. Of course, the squall passed as I drove home. The rain abated and the sun returned.

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