Kayaking in April

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What an awful day to be on the water – Finlayson Arm, looking in.

Like most outdoor enthusiasts I am obsessed with the weather forecast. Sometimes I check it multiple times a day just to make sure it hasn’t changed (or to see if it has) so that I can decide what to do with my free time. Sunny weekdays mean climbing outside; sunny weekends mean mostly climbing outside but sometimes other things. Rain means I should probably go camping because climbing is out of the question in most places (but not all places).

Last week the forecast called for lots of sun and we got out on real rock down at Macaulay Point/Fleming Beach for most of it. Saturday was supposed to be beautiful, Sunday adequate. I was looking for friends who were going climbing Saturday, since I already had plans to climb on Sunday in Nanaimo. Except that on Friday my friend suggested going kayaking on Saturday. An all day adventure on the ocean. Like any sane person who has only recently taken up a sport and only done it once in the last several years I decided that I would totally go!

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Worst Day Ever, I’m telling you.

We met up downtown and headed out to Brentwood Bay, where my friend Natalie stores her kayak and gear with Pacifica Paddle Sports. The owners of Pacifica, Peter and Sandra have been in business for 14 years and now have two locations for paddlers to get on the water. What I love best about this place is the sense of welcome Sandra and Peter have given us the two occasions I’ve rented from them, which makes me feel good about giving them my money and supporting their totally local business. Seriously two of the nicest, most genuine people I’ve met; they’ve really encouraged us to get out and enjoy the water. Kayak rentals start at 38$ CAD for two hours (28$ if you show up after 5pm) and increase in price per hour or day depending on how long you’re going to be using it. For an 8 hour rental the cost is 58$ plus tax. I can honestly say I thought rental equipment would be more expensive, though if you’re going out every day or weekend it does add up pretty quickly. They are always willing to discuss destinations with you and know the area really well and can help you plan your itinerary which really helps when you’re just starting out.

Spending so much time on or in the water as a child means two things: I know very well that anyone can drown and I’m not afraid of it. Sometimes I’m afraid of the things that are in it; the time we took the canoe out to see the Orcas that had wandered into Finlayson Arm (I grew up on that fjord) I was very aware that there were four very large creatures with teeth diving beneath us. The dorsal fin on the bull was probably close to five or six feet high. It was intense. And amazing. We may have been hoping to see whales on Saturday(which we did not).

Despite being on the water so much the very first time I got into a kayak I was in my twenties. I loved it but have had few people since then to go with and have never been able to justify the expense to take up the sport though I have wanted to for nearly a decade. Since that first paddle I’ve had only a few more experiences until Nat’s birthday when we rented kayaks from Pacifica and paddled down Todd Inlet, coming back just after dark. We paddled through a swarm of Moon Jellyfish the size of dinner plates which was kind of amazing.

So naturally a few months later it made total sense for me to hop in a kayak for eight hours.

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Couple enjoying a hiking break at McKenzie Bight

We started out just just after 11am and on Sandra’s suggestion decided to head down Finlayson Arm toward McKenzie Bight for brunch. The water was perfect for this direction; the tide was coming in which meant the current was going in our direction (though not too quickly) and the breeze helped keep us cool.

I love being on the water; this has always been true. Saturday was no exception.

Brunch on the beach was relaxed, but as we watched a kid scrambling over the rocks as his parents sat on the bluff with their dogs we realized that our childhoods prepared us for this. The kid was clambering along the rocks and his parents weren’t paying attention and we both immediately had the same thought of ‘what terrible parents’ followed by the startled recognition that this is what our parents did. We were raised on playgrounds that were wood and steel and full of wood chips and rocks and we played till dark and sometimes after if we didn’t have school. Sometimes we fell and got hurt, but most of the time we didn’t and it was okay. We learned that our actions sometimes have pretty painful consequences and how to assess the risk in a situation.

IMG_5332_EDITI envy kids their ability to heal; as an adult getting into physical adventures it’s a lot scarier to know that some things just won’t heal fully if they get hurt. I envy their sense of immortality, though it’s also terrifyingly ignorant.

After brunch we packed everything and ourselves back into our kayaks and set out to paddle across the Arm to Spectacle Falls. The wind was with us for this stretch and it was easy going. If we stopped paddling we still went in the right direction.

Spectacle Falls is pretty and remote; accessible only by boat but a casual paddle from Brentwood Bay and it’s a beautiful little rock beach with a small pool at the bottom for swimming in the warmer months. We had a second lunch here and watched a bald eagle try without success to catch his lunch. I made the quickest lens-swap ever on my camera to catch him.

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He circled over us a few times after failing to catch lunch.

As we had lunch the tide was coming in quite noticeably and the wind had picked up. The next leg of our adventure would take us back the way we had come to the mouth of the arm and up the west edge of the bay to Mill Bay before turning around to paddle back to the dock. We were going to be paddling into the wind and against the current.

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This photo isn’t cropped.

It actually ended up being not bad; we made quick and steady progress into the wind as we came up the arm and into the bay, then tucked ourselves in along the coast and out of the wind line and made good progress. We stopped in the middle to put our boats together and talked about climbing accidents and rescues and the dangers of our chosen sports. It was quite a bit later when we continued, but the sun was still warm and the wind had started to ease.

By the time we pulled up our kayaks onto the shore at the Mill Bay Ferry Terminal for dinner we were warm, tired, but still going pretty strong. Eating our sandwiches on the beach as the ferry loaded and headed back across the bay we were already turning our eyes to the mouth of the bay and the islands beyond. Salt spring Island has climbing after all, and what better way to get there than to hop in a kayak, currents or no?

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Really though. Worst day ever, right?

Still we had to return my kayak if not Natalie’s and we weren’t prepared to be out overnight (though we had enough food…) so we slipped our kayaks back into the water and settled ourselves back into our paddling on water like glass. The tide was high and the wind had died and we had perfect conditions as we made the wide crossing of the bay. This time we did not stick to the coast, but pointed our noses toward the docks.

We arrived just after dusk and clambered out of our kayaks sun baked, sore and happy.

We had blisters and bruises and our muscles ached but it had been such a good day.

IMG_5421_EDITAlready we are making plans for another trip; salt spring for climbing, or investigating some other islands with cliffs on the water that might lend themselves to some ‘deep-water soloing’ (climbing without a rope on rock over water that is deep enough for you to fall into if you let go).

One thing’s for sure; I’m stoked to get back on the water.

And last minute adventures are almost always the best kind.

-Not Lost Girl


When was the last time you went on a last-minute adventure? Tell me about it!

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