All posts by Serial Nomad

Having crossed the Salish Sea

I’ve been unpacking, washing and drying out gear for the last 4 hours since I got home, but that’s sea kayaking for you, and all I can say is the effort is well worth the experience we had over the last 8 days.

Arriving into Secret Cove

We arrived in Secret Cove on Saturday afternoon, after paddling 26kms that day and a total of 166kms over the 8 days we were on the water. Despite the wind warnings we managed to stay on schedule, and decided to spend Saturday night at Dave’s sister’s house after our final campsite was full of people enjoying the long weekend on the Sunshine Coast.

Our final campsite (Friday night) in Boom Bay on Jedediah Island

Yesterday we completed our crossing of the Salish Sea, and even though we did it in stages, we still did it! The experience was a lot more enjoyable than doing it in one hit with no island hopping in-between, and even while it was broken up, some of the 8-10km stretches against waves and wind were still a hard slog!

The final reading on my GPS

I’m definitely one to enjoy my alone time, but I have to say I can’t imagine doing a trip like this without companions. Tyson had to leave after day 4, but even with the three of us left (Dave, Amber and myself), we had such a grand time together, respecting everyone’s highs and lows that we inevitably all experience, and functioning like a super star team. A well-oiled machine doesn’t even cut it, we seemed to function just on instinct.

Tyson, Amber, Dave & me at the Dingy Dock Pub opposite Nanaimo

My favourite memories from the trip were the moments of silent belly laughter or contemplation whilst watching the sun set over the horizon. The worst times were carrying our boats through low tide sludge where the mud would suck my shoes from my feet and force me to step on the sharp barnacles beneath. Or the mosquitos that forced me to abandon cowboy camping on Ballenas Island and set up my tent in the wind on a slant, only to wake up to it collapsing on me.

My tent the next day after being resurrected in the middle of the night

But the challenging times make the good ones even more magnificent, and I wouldn’t trade any of them for a second (except for finding Amber’s car broken into when we returned to Horseshoe Bay today 😦 ).

Sunset on Ballenas Island

I feel alive in a way I sometimes forget to feel when I’m deep in the grind. A week or sometimes even a few days away can press that reset button we should all switch on and off from time to time. Those moments when you watch over the ocean and think about how big the world is are just priceless. I never come to any grand conclusions about this insane world we live in, but at least I have time to think about it, and realise just how small I am in the big scheme of things.

Red moon from all the fires in BC

A small hit of nature can do wonders for the soul, and I feel recharged enough to put my head down for the remainder of August and most of September before I do anything like this again. Thanks for coming along for the adventure and for sharing in the experience. Reflecting on these moments allow me to appreciate them for just a little longer.

Dave and I enjoying ‘Good Times Outside’

Onward to Ballenas Island

We made it to Southey Island yesterday despite the wind warnings, and although there were waves and the paddling was tough, it was nothing like the waves coming into Nanaimo thankfully.

Amber paddling through a cave next to Jesse Island

Southy was the first island that wasn’t an official campsite with outhouses and designated areas to sleep. I think that’s why I liked it so much, I finally felt like we were removed from the rest of the world.

Arriving at Maude Island thinking it was Southey

A lot of these islands are just giant rocks poking their heads out of the ocean with trees sprinkled over the tops. We transitioned from smooth sandstone to granite rocks as we’ve headed north, or so my paddling companions tell me, I’m more focussed on the water and the sky and the beauty of having absolutely nothing to do. It’s amazing how quickly I fill up my days at home and leave zero time to even stare out the window.

Tea & ukulele on Southey Island at sunset

Right now I’m lying on the rocky beach of Ballenas Island feeling as close to heaven as I think life can ever be. The waves are slowly creeping towards my feet and my only concern is ensuring that I and my boat don’t float out to sea. Like me, I need to drag my boat a few feet up the beach every half hour.

Beautiful warm rocks on Ballenas Island

As a kid I always wondered what it would be like to be stranded on a desert island. I had no idea that it was even possible to paddle to an island in the middle of the ocean and stay for the night or longer. We weren’t a camping family, I spent holidays on a farm exploring the paddocks and river and sometimes went bush bashing with my sister, but I didn’t develop a real appreciation for nature and the outdoors until I hiked the PCT. I know it always comes back to the trail, but in the same way kids grow up camping or paddling and that lifestyle just becomes engrained into who they are, the trail cemented nature into my veins. It’s like an addiction now. I just can’t live without it.

Watching sunset from Southey Island

We had a half day of paddling today, only going 10km from Southey to Ballenas Island via a marina that was under renovation. It’s been a treat to come across at least one marina on this trip, and it’s not something I ever expected, but when you are expecting it and it’s not there the disappointment can be enourmous. I dreamt of cinemon buns all night but paddled away empty handed.

Reaching the 100km mark yesterday

We’ve paddled a total of 116km and have three more days to go. It’s funny how the first half of a trip you feel like it will last forever, and then once you’re beyond half way you have to conciously keep your mind in the present and not allow it to slip back to all the things you need to do when you get home. Like all good things it’s sad to think of it being over, but at the same time I’m grateful to even feel this way.

View from our campsite on Ballenas Island

Soon it’ll be time to warm up the jetboils and get dinner cooking. We’re hoping to see phosphorescence this evening like we did on Day 2, and hopefully we’ll be able to stay up late enough to swim in them. We’ll be cowboy camping right by the water’s edge tonight so we can literally roll out, dry off and fall asleep. It’ll all depend on the moon, but we’re facing north east so hopefully we’re in for a good show!

At the mercy of the wind

The moon is shining like a spotlight through my tent this evening and it’s not even full. It’s probably also the first night in a while when I’ve camped and it’s been too hot to wear my sleeping bag! I love these nights. It’s the kind of night that I wish I didn’t have a single walled tent!

Sunset at Pirate’s Cove – Day 3

It’s day four, and we’ve had some incredibly eventful days already. Today in particular was quite hairy. We were paddling against 30 knot headwinds (approx 55km) into 5-8 foot waves attempting to reach Nanaimo. If my boat wasn’t fully loaded I’m sure I would have flipped, but instead we were just pelted in the face by salt water as we did our best to stay together during the 4km crossing. I didn’t get any video or photos of the experience. I was hanging onto dear life to my paddle which was being blown out of my hands. It was that kind of exhilarating experience you wish would be over while you’re in it, but you know you’ll look back on and be proud you survived.

Dave’s wind umbrella (would not have been helpful today)
Paddling through a shallow channel – Day 3

There are severe wind warnings in affect tomorrow (like today believe it or not), so having reached our day 4 campsite by the hair of our teeth we’re contemplating what the next few days will look like. We’ve paddled over 80km already, and like Dave continues to remind me, sea kayaking is entirely weather dependant, so we’ll see what tomorrow and the next few days bring. The wind warning is in effect until Thursday afternoon, so it might stop us from crossing Georgia Straight entirely, but whatever, I’ve laughed so hard on this trip my ribs hurt, and the only reason I think any of us are out here is for a chance to escape reality and to have a bit of fun.

Ice cream on Newcastle Island (before a hilarious game of horseshoe)
Red = severe winds (we’re surrounded)

On this trip I’ve learned a lot about island life and boating life in general. Sea kayakers and sailboats/yachts move in similar circles location wise (beaches, marinas, island pubs), but certainly behave very differently when it comes to cooking and sleeping. It’s been fun getting a glimpse into their world and to realise that although their boat costs about a bajillion times more than mine, I’d much prefer to be paddling my boat with my soggy tortillas and hummus in the hatches, than be on their fancy crafts. It’s quite a liberating realisation I must say.

Coming out of our first marina having purchased fresh water and cinnamon buns
Tea on the beach (I cut all my hair off the day before the trip!)
Our boats docked at the Dinghy Dock Pub, Protection Island

We’ve seen some incredible scenery, stunning beaches, beautiful sandstones cliffs with amazing shapes carved into them from the sea. We’ve seen bald eagles swooping down to catch fish, gulls attempting to swallow star fish, racoons surrounding our tents at night, and hoards of spider crabs that brought out the arachnophobe in me.

Groovy patterns in the sandstone
Dave measuring distance on the map using a green bean
Dave and Amber pumping water at Pirates Cove

I could safely say if I left tomorrow I’d still be satisfied with the trip we’ve had, but we still have 5 more days to go, so undoubtedly there will be more adventures to come. Sometimes straying off course presents an entirely new possibility you never bargained for. We’ll see what happens tomorrow!

Sunset at Chivres Point, Wallace Island – Day 2
Sunset tonight under the haze of BC’s forest fires

Time moves slower out here

I haven’t lay in a tent and typed on my phone for years it seems. The months I spent tapping on this tiny screen on the PCT seems crazy to me now. How did I do it? Why did I do it? I guess it’s human nature to want to share your story when you’re riding a high. Like coming home from a great day at work or receiving a phone call that has the potential to be life changing. All you want to do is tell someone! I think that’s what this blog was to me back then. A vehicle to share those highs and lows. It’s what it still is I guess, though I question it a lot more now, like all social media. There’s just so much content out there, I can’t help but question why it is we do this.

Packing our boats at the ferry terminal in Tsawwassen

 

What I wanted to share though this evening was my very best discovery of the day. It’s something I’d forgotten about being in nature, and one of the key reasons we should all get back to it from time to time. What I was reminded of is that time slows down. There is nothing to do out here except be out here. To watch the sun slowly slip behind the horizon and leave radiant colours in its path. To watch the tide slowly creeping up the sand until it’s lapping at your toes. Every microsecond the world around us is changing, but when you watch it change, it moves so much slower than you think.

Dinner with the crew: Tyson, Dave, Amber and me

 

We have been blessed with good weather for this trip, and a tail wind that had Dave moving around 5km/h just by holding up his giant umbrella. (Photos on my waterproof camera will have to be posted later). It was pretty choppy out there, but the waves were at least moving us forward.

Mt Baker in the background

 

We’re camping at a spot called James Bay on Prevost Island. It’s glorious, not the most secluded but private enough that we had our own beach front kitchen space and some flat grassy spots under a grouping of apple trees to pitch our tents.

View from our beach kitchen

 

Tomorrow we’re aiming to be on the water by 7am. I’m so looking forward to coffee and oatmeal in the  morning. Mainly for old times sake. I’ll be tired of oatmeal by day three, but it’s the routine of making it and the cooking of breakfast on the beach that will make up for the flavour!

Goodnight from James Bay!

Return to the Salish Sea

Well hi there, yes it’s been a long time, and with time comes a big responsibility to satisfy whatever expectations you have of what prevented me from writing all this time. If I wasn’t fighting crocodiles or scaling glaciers or walking across the god damn universe, what excuse do I have for leaving you hanging in the balance, tapping the refresh button, waiting for this update to finally arrive? You were waiting for it though, right?

Unfortunately I don’t have any real excuses or a lot to report. I spend about 90 hours a week in front of my laptop, and the remaining time is spent paddling or lying horizontal. I see this year as my ‘head down get shit done year’, and if it doesn’t kill me I’m hoping next year will be my ‘let’s get as far away from my laptop as possible year’.

But until then, my next adventure is a 9-day sea-kayaking trip along the Salish Sea Marine Trail. For those of you who followed some of my paddling adventures last year, you may recall my failed attempt to cross the Salish Sea from Nanaimo to Vancouver in one hit. This trip is not that! We’re taking 9 days to go double that distance. It’s a vacation, and it’s meant to be fun!

Watching the sun set from the Copeland Islands – Desolation Sound trip in May 2017

So in addition to the story of my sedentary-soon-to-become-active-life for 9 days, I’m documenting my trip preparations for those of you who may also want to jump in a boat and go on a multi-day trip, or on an overnight trip, or at least just start dreaming about it!

My gear for this trip

Whether it’s a 9-day trip or an overnight excursion, your gear pretty much stays the same, (like hiking, but totally different at the same time). You just need to take a hell of a lot more food, but the nice thing about travelling in a boat is that provided it fits in your hatches, the weight doesn’t make all that much difference!

My food for this trip

When you’re travelling on water (unlike hiking), you also need to keep an eye on currents, tides and the wind. I’ve just downloaded a new app called AyeTides, which I’m excited to test out. There’s nothing worse than waking up to discover the tide is out and you now need to carry your heavy boat 500m to the water, or even worse, waking up to find your boat has been washed away because you didn’t carry it above the high tide line or tie it up!

Arriving at Martin Islands – Desolation Sound May 2017

You can click on the links below to review my:

GEAR LIST

FOOD LIST

ITINERARY

The biggest difference on this trip compared to other multi-day kayak trips I’ve done is that we’re rolling our boats onto the ferry to get from the mainland to Vancouver Island. This means I’ll be taking a set of kayak wheels that I’ll need to strap to the deck of my boat, which won’t be ideal but I’m sure I can manage. I’ve seen my friend paddle with a two-burner stove on their deck so I know it can be done!

Then once we arrive in Swartz Bay we’ll roll our kayaks off the ferry, head to the water, strap the wheels to the deck and start paddling!

Our trip plan (click on the map to view the interactive version)

You can read more about the Salish Sea Marine Trail here. We’re doing a 165km portion of the 260km trail, which goes all the way from Victoria to Vancouver, and when I say trail, I mean there’s official campsites you can pull up to on the islands you paddle past on the way. If we make good time we may even paddle all the way to Squamish to drop off my friend Dave. That would mean one less ferry trip coming home, but we’ll see how we do!

Happy paddling! 🙂

View from the Copeland Islands – Desolation Sound May 2017

Taking ‘that’ step

You know what, I’m cooped up at home on a Friday night, my housemates both in separate rooms, wondering what to do next on my never ending task list.

I’m nearing the end of an 8-week creative non-fiction writing course, that has not only taught me all the things I don’t know about writing, but has worn me down with a mountain of assignments and reading tasks. I should be reviewing the work of my peers and reading about lyrical essays and mixed media. But I can’t. I just want to write without intent, or style, or consideration of a beginning, middle, or an end.

I’m writing tonight because I want to. To rid myself of that feeling of being under-qualified, or as my friend Chrissy so rightly put it, a complete literary fraud. I’m going back to the form I know and the voice I’m familiar with. There’s been a lot on my mind that I’ve wanted to communicate, so I’m writing because it feels liberating.

The writing course, of course, has been incredibly insightful none-the-less. I’ve learned to express myself in eloquent metaphors, but I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process. I’m one of the least creative, creative people I know, and I put it down to a life full of efficiency. I eat the same foods, wear the same combinations of clothing, and try to use every second of every day productively. I don’t take time to soak in the details, use clever language or colourful prose. I want to get my messages across succinctly, so I can move onto the next assignment before the next.

It sounds awful, but even when I’m not doing something it’s because I’ve scheduled time to do nothing – like meditate, or fold laundry, or speak to my housemates because it’s socially required. My life is one calculated move after the next, but it’s essentially what drives me. There’s nothing worse than an unproductive me.

The interesting thing is that I recently found my breaking point. The moment when I realised I’d tied myself in so many knots, I could no longer undo them all.

I experienced this in a number of ways; increased anxiety, inability to focus, moments where I’d burst into unexpected tears wondering what the hell was wrong with me. My life had become a series of tasks, and if I didn’t get them done I was failing.

The problem was overselling myself. There wasn’t enough time to do everything. But instead of prioritising, I just continued to steamroll ahead. Like a deflated balloon in much need of air, I began to sink instead of breathing.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned this year is that I’m not perfect, and that’s okay. Though I’m a strong independent woman, admitting that I need help has made me feel more empowered than I’ve ever been.

I’d always viewed help as a sign of weakness. I want to do everything I can on my own. But it’s amazing what happens when you accept vulnerability. Reaching out is often harder than going it alone.

So if I were to extrapolate a theme from this, as my writing coach would insist I do, I’d say it’s about accepting that I’m human. And instead of juggling life’s demands while sitting at my desk on a Friday night, I’m going to celebrate humanity instead, by setting aside time to share this story.

The work-back principle

I’ve been sitting in a lot of meetings at work recently, discussing ideas and creative solutions to problems that often cause me to drift away on my own thoughtful tangents resulting in two columns in my notebook. One for work, the other for my own inspiration.

Friday was one of these aforementioned occurrences and I thought it worthy of sharing, as my notebook weighed more heavily towards the B column.

Sometimes the solutions to a problem can only be found by working back from the desired result. I’ve been applying this principle to the project I’m currently working on, but because I’m equally consumed by thoughts of what to do once this contract is up, I’ve begun applying this philosophy to myself.

In other words, to decide what to do next, I need to start from the end and work back, which as a concept raises some rather interesting questions.

Where am I when I die?

Who is around me and where do I live?

What was I doing before I died?

Was I sitting on a yacht drinking champagne, living in a cottage in the woods nursing squirrels, or did I plummet to my death as a human kite?

What job did I retire from?

What possessions did I own?

What was on the wall of my bedroom?

What languages did I speak?

What was my greatest skill?

Who will remember me?

What was the final chapter in my memoir?

Death is a reality I usually sweep under the carpet and avoid thinking about, but the more I accept it, the more I remind myself to live. And perhaps if I consider these sorts of questions before my mortality catches up, the better I can steer my choices when it comes to making decisions.

Like a lot of people, I don’t have these answers, any of them in fact. I don’t have a five or ten year plan, I feel weighed down by options, I change my mind frequently, and I’m constantly questioning what the hell I’m doing here. But if the decisions I make today shape my tomorrow, perhaps I should start to consider what my tomorrow actually looks like.

I purposely reversed my regular walking route today for a new perspective, while considering the questions above. Though it didn’t result in specific answers, the common themes revolved around simplicity, community and activity. Who knows how this translates over the next five, ten or fifteen years, but for now it feels like a good place to start.

Happy 2017 and beyond!

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A calendar created by my dear friend Myla (aka Bad Seed)