A Kayak Pilgrimage

by Dan Dworkin

To travel solo for days in a kayak is to be not on or in but of the water. It loves you, rocks you like your mother did, speaks to you with many voices, supports your meandering, bathes you, feeds you, tells you when to travel and when to stay still on the island of the moment. On every trip there is a time of storm, of being wind-bound when the judicious kayaker stays put, writes, rests, wanders, constructs stone sculptures and listens for the still, small voice.

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A Tropical Escape in the Pacific Northwest

words + photos by Don Mankin


My two Teva-clad feet poked above the water, framing the view of the mouth of the cove spilling into the broad channel before us. The silhouettes of several tree-covered islands and mountains overlapped in different shades of pastel and receded in the distance.  I was floating on my back in the waters of coastal British Columbia. Not exactly the Caribbean – no palm trees, no rum drinks with paper umbrellas, and the water temperature was more than a tad or two colder. But the water was warm enough for a late afternoon swim, the scenery was more dramatic, and there was no one else to be seen other than my four sea kayak companions relaxing after a long day of paddling in the warm bright sunshine of the aptly named Sunshine Coast.

The Sunshine Coast is just a relatively short drive and an even shorter flight northwest of Vancouver. It’s easily accessible but still feels somewhat remote -- most of the coast above Powell River, the “urban” center of the region, can only be reached by boat or float plane. Like almost all of British Columbia's coast, it is strikingly beautiful -- islands of all sizes covered in Douglas fir, hemlock, and cedar; narrow inlets and fjords indenting the rugged coastline; and jagged snow capped mountains in the distance framing long views across wide sounds. But unlike most of the B.C. coast, the Sunshine Coast is in the rain shadow of the low mountains of Vancouver Island to the west, so the weather is usually sunny, dry and warm, sometimes very warm.

I was here because it was easily accessible and, therefore, relatively inexpensive, not an unimportant concern in this era of bursting economic bubbles and fiscal uncertainty. The trip that lured me here was a seven day “Into the Majestic Mountains” kayaking trip offered by Powell River Sea Kayak Ltd. (www.bcseakayak.com).

The four of us, not including our guide, rotated among two single kayaks and one double throughout the trip. This was a real plus for me. I have taken many sea kayak trips over the years, but have rarely had the chance to paddle the more maneuverable single for any length of time. Most trip operators prefer the more stable doubles, not an unimportant consideration when the waters are rough and cold.  Truth be told, I was more than a little nervous about this, but I did just fine. What better place to confront one’s fears of tipping over than in the relatively warm, protected waters of the Sunshine Coast?

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by Sharon Spence Leib

So you know me: always the first landlubber to hop off the ship, soon as it docks. But there I am, your Lazy Highness, hangin’ off the balcony, watching three hundred Holland America passengers trudge into Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Me? I’m headin’ straight to the cool blue pool for a mojito and a nap. 

photo via flickr by FloodkOffThree mojitos later, Jennifer pinches my ankle. Even my best friend can be annoying sometimes.

 “Hey sloth,” she whines, plopping onto the chaise lounge next to me, “Wanna kayak with me tonight?”

“Kayak in the dark?” I mumble. “Why?

 “To see green glowy creatures. At Laguana Grande Bay, off the island’s east coast.”

“Do aliens drink mojitos?” I reply. “Ok, sign us up.”

At sunset, we take a bus with the other passengers, and then scramble into those cheapo orange sit-on-top kayaks. “Follow me,” calls Carlos. He’s one of those too good-looking guides you think about seducing, but not in a kayak, I guess.

Anyway, Carlos thinks we know what we’re doing, so he takes off and next thing we’re inside this claustrophobic tunnel of mangroves, bouncing our kayaks off monstrous tree roots. I’m thinking “If a snake falls off a tree onto my neck, I will kill myself and then Carlos, or vice versa.”

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