The specifics of my most recent trip are coming up next, but before I get into the maps and photos and meal plans I wanted to write a long-overdue generalised post: Why I Love Ocean Kayaking.
The last two summers have been full of house buying and wedding planning and debt, and have kept me on terra firma and away from the world of paddles and sprayskirts. So the first few paddle strokes on Thursday were like a rebirth, a reminder of why I’m so happy in a kayak and why a salty fibreglass cockpit offers the best view of BC’s spectacular coast.
I’ve never experienced anything else remotely like it. At approximately a walking pace, there’s enough time and peace to take everything in. The sights, smells, sounds and tastes of the ocean and beach and mountains. The rhythmic splash of paddles hitting the water. The swells and rolls and occasional smacking great waves. The wildlife – seagulls and eagles and seals, oh my! I’ve never been lucky enough to see a whale from a kayak, but I’ve seen porpoises in Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy, and seals literally everywhere. They come close, within a few metres, and regard kayakers with curiosity but no aggression. I could never get that close to the equivalent land predator (a wolf?) and feel so safe. The boats are incredibly stable and, with the exception of a couple of idiotic forays into rapids and strong headwinds (we learned a lot about what not to do in a kayak on that particular trip), feel as safe as a favourite chair. Especially if you’re in a double kayak, and especially if it’s fully laden with camping gear.
And that’s the other thing. Kayaking opens up campsites that can’t be accessed from land, but allows you to live a life of comparative luxury. My first ever camping trips as a teenager involved hiking around the Yorkshire Dales carrying all our gear, so we ate rehydrated packets of pasta and soup. On my first kayak trip we ate baked chicken, chili, and pasta salad made with fresh veggies, drank beer and wine, then followed up with coffee, French toast, bacon, fresh blueberries and maple syrup for breakfast. These days we always book a double kayak with a central hatch between the two paddlers, and we fill it with a large tent that hikers would die for, an air mattress, great food, plenty of booze, even ice! There’s nothing like a nice glass of BC Merlot or a cold gin and tonic (with lime, of course) on a deserted beach.
You don’t even have to go all that far, or go anywhere near a tent; I’ve seen seals, otters, eagles, leaping salmon, smaller flying fish (one landed in my sprayskirt once) and all kinds of bird life, all without leaving Vancouver harbour. I’ve paddled in the eerie calm of snow and of fog, all within a few hundred metres of roads and houses and shops and city parks. I try to persuade all our out-of-town visitors into a kayak, even if it’s just for two hours along Jericho Beach, and everyone who’s tried it has loved seeing the city from such a unique perspective. We try to get that same perspective on our own trips; the season was already over when we went to Portugal, but our day paddle in Nova Scotia was a resounding success, and also the source of my Blogger / Nature Network / Facebook profile picture – I really like that photo!
There is a downside, of course: sore muscles (mostly the stomach and back if you’re doing it right, and mostly the arms and shoulders if you’re doing it wrong), a wet bum, and sand all over your house for the entire season. How does it keep on appearing in the bath, weeks after the last excursion? It’s a mystery I can only hope to solve by planning more trips. Two a year for the next thirty years should just about do it.