Updated: Jun 13
At 5:00 am I woke up to a discomforting rumble in my bowels.
“Oh god, this one definitely can’t wait.”
I walked barefoot out of the tent and down the sand path to the nearest outhouse shed. When I flipped open the lid on the latrine pit, I found a huge yellow slug on the seat rim. “Ugh. How am I going to get rid of this bad boy?”
I grabbed him with a piece of toilet paper, but he was heavy and slippery, and I accidentally dropped him inside the latrine pit. He hit the bottom with a loud thump.
“What a horrible way to die,” I thought. “So sorry but now I must also add some horrible insult on top of your injury.”
This wasn’t my first encounter with these slugs. Two days ago, I found one crawling half way inside my kayak booties. If I hadn’t immediately noticed him at that moment , I might well have buried my foot in him while putting on the booties. These slugs appear out of nowhere when you least expect them. Suddenly to look at your things, and there they are, on top of your gear. I hope I never have to deal with one inside my dry suit.
I paddled up the St Josef River to the boat ramp Campsite for where I would meet with the Skils Sea Kayak Group. It was low tide, and I had to dismount and walk sections of the river, otherwise I would have been scraping the river boulders.
I arrived early and the only person awake at the camp was the site’s keeper.
Henry is the closest person I’ve met who I would consider to be hermit. He’s lived in a little wooden shack at the campground for almost forty years. His beard was full and silvery, his hair long wavy and white as foam spray from sea, and his eyes were buried deep inside wrinkly sockets. He was a plump fellow, and I imagined him working as a mall Santa in Nanaimo or Port Hardy during the holidays, perhaps that being the only time in the year he ever went into a town.
He was sitting on a folding chair and had an orange cat on his lap. “I adopted him some years ago. Someone dumped him in the forest at night. The little thing feared everything and everyone. Took him a month to trust me. I’d put food outside, and for a long time he would even touch it. But we’re best friends now aren’t we Garfield?” The cat purred in agreement.
“Well, it’s good to have company. Do you know when the folks from Skils Sea Kayak are coming? They should be here soon I think.”
“Is someone supposed to be coming here? Nobody told me. I don’t have a phone though, so no one could have called to tell me they’re coming. But folks do come by from time to time and show up unannounced, eh.”
Fortunately I did not have to worry and wonder for too long if I was at the right location. A van with a trailer carrying several kayaks drove down the one-way dirt road into the campsite. When the van reached the wooden shack, it stopped and the slide side door opened.
“Good to see you again, old friend.” Said a man in a French accent. “Hey Felipe! Congrats on making it around Cape Scott! We’ll park by the ramp, and I’ll introduce you to the group.”
“I’ve no clue who he is.” Henry said to me with deadpan. “But more folks know me than I know them, so maybe I am his old friend.”
For some reason, all the times I had spoken to JF over the phone, I had assumed that his accent was Chinese. It kind of made sense that he might be of Asian descent as there is a large population of Asian immigrants in the Pacific NorthWest. I attribute this mistake of mine to the Yanni/Laurel effect where if you’re primed to hear something a certain way your Brain hears it that way. I was surprised on our first in person meeting that he was very European looking.
We were supposed to be a party of ten people but after counting everyone present, I noticed there were only nine of us.
“Yes, unfortunately our friend Rebecca got Covid two days before the trip, and so, she could not make it. It’s a shame, but it also means everyone will have to make an effort and eat more of the food. In fact, everyone’s boat will be very heavy going out today.”
JF’s wife was a British lady named Justine. I had spoken with her over the phone before as well, but now meeting her in person, I could not help but think that I had seen her before somewhere. “Were you in that series of kayaking films called This Is The Sea?” I asked.
“I was the one who made the series.” She smiled like someone who’s just received recognition for their work.
There wasn’t much time to get to know everyone else at the time save for brief introductions.
“Time is a little bit late, we should eat lunch, get all the kit packed up and get going.” Said JF.
The lunch was simple, but surprisingly good. For someone accustomed to eating nothing but canned fish, canned pasta, and cereal bars, my two ham with salami and cheese sandwiches with hummus was amazingly delicious. The banana and fuji apple for dessert were also great treats.
We launched a little after midday. The tide had risen and squeezing the kayak over the river boulders without dismounting was just about doable, even with all the additional gear.
I don’t think my kayak has ever been heavier. In addition to all the food, we were each carrying a ten-liter water bag inside the kayak cockpit.
Almost immediately out of St Josef Bay our flotilla ran into its first incident. The wind increased considerably during the afternoon, and waves bashing against the cliffs created washing machine-like conditions. One of our fellows kayaking mates developed a debilitating sea sickness and his stomach nearly tossed his lunch overboard. One of us braced with him so his kayak would be stable, and tied a tow line to JF’s boat, who then pulled the load of two kayaks plus his own.
After about 20 minutes of furious paddling, he announced what we could all already see. “Guys, I am spent. We’re going to have to pause for a break.”
Fortunately, the north wind was pushing everyone along, so resting did not mean that we stopped moving. JF switched roles with Justine who also paddled with great strength and vigor, pulling the load of three full boats. The condition of our seasick mate did not improve until we finally landed and called in the day.
Sea Kayak Vancouver Island Circumnavigation