I woke up at five o’clock this morning on the last day of our fifth annual getaway to Pender Harbour. On this still, quiet morning, my mind was still overstimulated after a crazy night playing games until midnight with our kids. Yes, we let our kids stay up late every night of this trip, and no, that wasn’t thought through. They are TIRED.
I lay in bed contemplating sleep, while also contemplating a paddle on the silky waters of the harbor in the early morning. On pure exhaustion, an empty stomach, carrying a camera that can’t swim and a full water bottle, I threw my lake-showered hair into a ponytail, tiptoed past my sleeping angels, and giddily padded my way down to the dock. With grace I didn’t know I had, I slipped into the kayak, adjusted my leg straps, and glided away. I slowly woke up as the salty air and smooth ripples took over my world.
Let me clarify as we begin this story, that I have very little kayaking experience, but I do have strong arms, and a heart for adventure.
From Duncan Cove where our cabin rested, one can take off deeper into the harbor to the East to enjoy the beauty of large boats, an array of cabins and houses, and some occasional wildlife. To the West lie ever-changing rocky islands, oystercatchers, bald eagles, and strong currents. I chose the latter, in hopes that I might catch the sunrise from the mouth of Pender Harbour.
A few days earlier, I paddled at low tide out to The Gap at the south side of the mouth of the harbor, and found a tiny sandy beach with sea stars scattered everywhere. I hopped out for a brief moment until a couple oystercatchers started squawking at me to get off their kelp. I hopped back in the kayak and continued on, but only for a moment. The low-tide and shallow rocks in the water past Charles Island was a bit more than I was ready to handle, and it was my first kayak trip out of the harbor on my own. I gladly turned around and rode the current back to our dock.
But this morning, I didn’t turn around. As it was high tide, I was less concerned about hidden rocks under the surface, and a bit more ready to tackle some waves. The ocean didn’t let me down. I breathed in deeply as all book characters do as I gazed out at the open water. The sun was gently appearing on the land to the West as I circled Charles Island. I took a quiet moment to take in the breathtaking simplicity of the cliffs above me and the trees swaying in the gentle morning breeze.
Excitement built as I noticed the sun peeking around the north side of the cliffs. I snapped a few pictures as I turned the corner. I realized in that moment I had made a gigantic mistake. Blinding morning light filled my vision. It immediately dawned on me that I would be forced to take in the breathtaking majesty of the glorious sunshine without reprieve the ENTIRE thirty minute trip back to Duncan Cove.
After laughing to myself and almost crying, (and considering just tying my kayak to a rock and blowing my whistle for help) I paddled gently along the cliffs deciding my next move. After ruling out the whisle-blowing maneuver, I made up my mind to sprint across the mouth of the harbor before any large ships came through. Fortunately, I could do this in two spurts as there was a slightly smaller island part-way across. I paddled furiously over to William Island and took a break in the still waters beside it. A bald eagle was busy fighting away some Canadian Geese, and I’m thankful he didn’t consider me in their company.
I continued onward, partially rowing and partially guarding my eyes as I searched for massive yachts headed my direction. I made it to the northern coastline of the harbor, and swiftly made my way to our tiny cove before the sun could completely blind me.
There was no imminent danger in this trip, and no injuries beside a piercing headache from the lack of sleep and blinding sun.
But I do need to say this: don’t paddle east into a sunrise.