Monday, May 16, 2005

A reckless solo paddle to Texada island, spurred on by unbelievably clear skies and a glassy ocean. This is the sort of thing I told myself I would wait till the end of summer for, and certainly not until I had a partner.
A hasty lunch is packed and I am out the door and carrying the canoe down to the water before V has time to talk any sense into me.
An hour later, and halfway across Malaspina Straight, the seas have gone from smooth glass to rolling canyons and I am prying and drawing like mad just to keep the boat from tipping. The nearer to Texada, the bigger the waves. As I approach the shore, after almost two hours of paddling, the wind kicking around the point to my left is deafening, and the waves are like miniature rollercoasters, the canoe sliding down their slopes like a bathtub toy. Even though I have weighted it, the front of the canoe desperately wants to head north, and all the J-Stroking in the world won't change it's mind. It takes all my remaining effort to get the boat pointed into a small protected cove with a pebble beach, and then drag it from the water, exhausted.
After climbing to the top of an embankment, I sit down and ponder my fate over lunch. Two spotted seals slide away from me and into the water, alarmed by my sudden encroachment on their turf. Across the straight I can make out a very faint speck of light blue, which might be our cabin. The sea seems to have transformed itself into some kind of crazy Winslow Homer painting, waves battering each other black and blue, wind screaming around the point. But the ocean on the other side looks as calm as ever. I chew my sandwich and stare gloomily at the "celebratory" beer I'd packed, lying unopened in the bottom of the lunch bag like a bad joke.
The next little while sees a steady outpouring of self-abuse and sarcastic self-heckling. Then the gradual weight of figuring out what to do begins to settle in. I lean back and watch the swells, trying to imagine myself back in them. If I were to go with the current, keeping the front of the canoe facing north-west, I think I could ride the wind out of the roughest spot and back to my side of the straight, plowing down the front of the waves instead of up them, but it would be pretty rough. I would also end up about a mile north of where I want to be on the opposite shore.
After a good thirty minutes of internal/external debate, I summon the courage/stupidity to try for it. My other option: waiting for the wind to die down, seems less and less appealing the longer the shadows get.
Sliding the boat into the water, a mantra begins to form on the tip of my tongue:
"One wave at a time".
About twenty minutes later, after a near tipping, "One wave at a time" is retired in favour of the more practical "Don't take your eyes off the waves." This is repeated until about the halfway point, at which time I realize my current speed and course will take me perilously close to a tugboat carrying a full load of logs north through the straight. A new mantra seems in order, and "Come on!" is spontaneously and ferociously brought into play. Finally, nearing my home shore, the monotonous "You got it" is spewed forth repeatedly.
The last fifteen minutes of the journey are made through waters swelling with tiny jellyfish, and a strange song begins to emanate from my exhausted lips, with lyrics:

"Little Jellies in the Waaaater,
Little Jellies they are Eveeerywhere"

The singing goes on long after the canoe is stowed and the sun has gone down, much to V's alarm.