Updated: Jun 13
I made a short half day paddle to Port McNeill of only six miles. With strong northwest winds forecast for the afternoon, getting to Port Hardy could wait another day, I thought. It felt strange to be done before midday so I decided to go back out into the town harbor and practice some rolling with my euro blade and try to do a wet re-entry a few times in the icy waters. Even with a dry suit, there won’t be very much time to be immersed in the water before the cold seeps through , and the sluggishness of hypothermia begins to take hold of the body. It takes just ten to fifteen minutes in the water before you get overpowered. When paddling alone, this presents a conundrum; should I dress for the paddle, or the swim? Too many layers, and I will sweat until my clothing is soaked, and yet too few I am risking life if I cannot get upright in the event of a swim. The solution is to have a fail proof roll no matter the situation.
After an hour of practice, I paddled back into the marina.
“Did you see the orca?” Said a man walking his dog by the boat ramp as I emptied the gear out of the hatches.
“No, I didn’t. Where was it?” I said surprised.
“Oh, it was right where you were, eh. A big bull with a dorsal fin as big as a small man. I think you had your back to it when you were doing your flippy thing with the kayak, eh. He sure seemed interested in you with all that splashing. Poked his head out of the water to check you out two times. Probably thought you were a seal in distress or something. An easy lunch. Lizzie here was barking like crazy.”
“I must not have heard it sneak up on me because of the ear plugs.”
I don’t think I would like to have an unexpected encounter with a wild, curious, and possibly hungry, orca. The only orca I have ever seen is Shamu at SeaWorld. I was amazed by how fast the enormous creature could swim and turn. It’s an animal the size of an elephant, with the agility of a leopard. You’d have to go back to the age of the dinosaurs and meet a T-Rex to find an equivalent land predator. If the orca makes up its mind that you look like food, then you are going to be its lunch. Fortunately, I’ve been told they are fussy eaters, not inclined to change their diet, and there isn’t, as far as I know, any recorded incident of a wild orca eating a human, even if by mistake . Here in Vancouver, even different family pods of orcas have different diets. The resident orcas are keen on salmon, while the transient that migrate up and down pods prefer marine mammals. Humans, it seems, are not on their menu, at least not until one of them tries out a plump American tourist from Florida.
Sea kayak Vancouver Island Circumnavigation