Feeling the ocean’s power.

[If you want the beginning of the story, read part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, and part 4 here].

It was about 2pm when we could set out on our journey for day 2, based on the tide cycle as discussed in yesterday’s post. It was a bit of a slow and lazy start as we enjoyed the sunshine and calm waters, but eventually we began marking our progress from point to point as we made our way between different land points.

In hindsight I think the current was not working in our favor as our progress seemed very slow, though perhaps I was just having a slow afternoon. It also seemed that I was being pulled by a sideways current that made my progress seem extra slow and frustrating. It may have been my fault based on kayak adjustments…but whatever the cause, frustration ensued. Thus, I was tired and a little grumpy despite the nice weather!

But we plodded along, point to point. We had a destination – Windfall Island – but also said that by 6:30pm we would regroup, consider our location, and decide whether we would make camp that night. Based on our calculations we should be there around 6:30pm, but we were aware enough (or my friends were) that sometimes things do not go as planned when on the water.

Our big-picture plan was to camp on Windfall Island until it was time to head back home and to do day-trips from camp. We knew that rain was coming and it sounded really nice to be able to set up camp in dry weather, and to set up once rather than taking camp apart and setting it again while our equipment remained wet…possibly wetter and wetter as days would go by!

As we left a point on the mainland, we pointed our kayaks in the direction of a far point on Swan Island – rather than crossing directly to the island via the shortest crossing possible. The weather was lovely, we were tired, and there seemed little reason to take the shortest route on a day like this!

But, about halfway there, out of nowhere, we were suddenly in gigantic waves! Huge waves that made it impossible to keep our boats upright! And wind was flying in our face, and we weren’t as close together as we should be. I freaked out! This was my end!

Right, I recalled, the ocean is powerful and will do what it wants, when it wants, with little notice. I had felt all day as though I was on calm little lakes, like those I used to canoe on in Wabakimi Provincial Park in Canada. No, I was faced in that moment to remember that we were in the ocean, and I don’t know how the ocean works very well, but I could feel it’s power. I like to be in control, and in this moment all control had been taken, or so it felt.

Okay…the waves weren’t actually very big. Less than a foot high. But recall that my kayaking experience is minimal, and to me they were frightening. What’s more, I wanted to head to the left, to continue getting closer to Swan island, but the waves were coming in such a way that to go straight into them (which I was always told is the safest) meant that I would be running parallel to the island, and if anything getting farther rather than closer. If I kept on that trajectory I would hit the far shore eventually, but it definitely wasn’t the closest land mass and at my rate of speed it would take too long.

I informed my traveling companions that all I could do in the moment was go directly into the waves. I thought that’s all that any of us could do. They tried to offer direction, but initially I was too frozen to hear it. I lost it for awhile. I cried. I froze. I worked hard. I yelled – including some swear words. Let’s just say that I was not the ultimate travel companion.

Somehow, eventually, I calmed down enough to re-group. At some point I was just sitting in the waves in my kayak, and I realized that it was okay. I was okay. The kayak was moving appropriately in the waves (ie, keeping me upright). My friends were great at remaining calm and figuring out how to work with me in my messy state. I was able to listen, to try new things – including going closer to the direction I wanted in the waves – to taking back a little bit more control. I followed them as they showed me how to tack (ie turn) in the wind and waves. Once we were in the right position this allowed us to ride with the waves directly to a beach on Swan Island.

It wasn’t the nicest beach. Nor the best beach to spend the night. But it was land and I was safe. We got out of our boats and discussed what to do. As we did, the tide was quickly heading out to sea. Thus, when the water calmed almost completely not too long after we arrived, it would have been a daunting task to move our boats back to the water to find a more suitable place to camp. So we stopped and made due.

As I crawled into my tent that night, after an amazing but quieter meal (at least on my part), I felt ashamed. When I said yes to coming on the trip, I thought I would do fine. I was so excited to get away, I didn’t allow any doubt about my ability. When we all went out before we were a good match. But that was a calm sunny day. I hadn’t experienced bigger waves. I didn’t realize I would react so poorly. Now I felt like a liability. I freaked out in small waves. I was tired after the first two days of paddling. I shouldn’t be here. Why did I say yes? What should I do now – here in the middle of the trip distance wise?

Meanwhile, my companions had a different perspective. They had more faith that I wouldn’t hold them back – or at least that they were willing to continue the trip with me even if I did.

They also had other things on their mind that night. As I worried about holding them back, they were more worried about the tide hitting their tents as we hunkered down between cliffs and the tideline – on the highest tide of the month. Oh, and the grunting sounds – was that a bear running by? Are those seals playing?

6 thoughts on “Feeling the ocean’s power.

  1. Pingback: EJS' Blog

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