At 5:00am I thought I heard the humming of a boat engine. That jolted me wide awake and I peaked my head out of the tent to see what was going on. Fortunately I think it was my imagination as there wasn’t a soul in sight.
The weather was calm, the swells had died down somewhat, but still looked good for catching a wave or two on the kayak, and the beach was empty. But unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling it this morning.
“Ugh, I’m going to have to pack the kayak, paddle to the beach, unpack the kayak, pile all my gear on the sand, and then later pack everything again, and come back here and unpack again to camp. It’s too much work. I don’t have enough desire to surf if I must do all that.” I thought.
“And who knows; the surfers will probably show up again today right after I catch the first wave or two, and then I’ll be out of luck. And there’s no place to bathe here, and there is a bed waiting for me in Ucluelet.”
Maybe surfing and expeditioning aren’t meant to go together. At least not if you can’t find a proper place to camp.
The harbor entrance into Ucluelet was very rugged and narrow with jagged rocks and towering cliffs. On the mainland side was a tall lighthouse to mark the tight turn into the harbor. The lighthouse looked down to an archipelago of small islets where the swells crashed in enormous white puffs of spray and foam. In between bobbed a sounding buoy that made a puffing sound as it rose and fell with the swell. The buoy marks the safe route into the harbor, not too close to either the cliffs or the islets, which in storm or fog you would struggle to see, and where the water was deep enough that only the largest swells in the worst weather would break.
Today, however, it was calm. The sound buoy seemed to be breathing easy, and I paddled gently with the push of the swells past towering kelp beds swinging gently in the translucent water.
I made a quick stop on a beach outside the town and called JF. He appeared some ten minutes later with the air mattress I ordered on Amazon to his address.
“You look so different in normal clothing. I’d begun to think that the red dry suit was your natural skin.” I joked.
“I am sure you would look much fresher after a bath as well. You need laundry done?”
“My gosh, it’s only been two days since I slept on a bed. Has my cleanness worn off so quickly? Perhaps so… Laundry not so much. Got that done in Tofino, but thanks.”
I was really hoping he’d offer a shower and a bed instead of laundry, but I was embarrassed to ask. He said he had to get back to work and we were each on our separate ways.
Later in the day I found a hotel on the backside of town not far from the boat ramp, and took a walk to the lighthouse I had seen from the water a few hours earlier.
It is a little strange to see the same landmark from both the water and the land. From the land the vast expanse of the ocean looks ominous. Even the fishing boats in the distance are barely more than specs that disappear in the folds of the swells that roll as far as the horizon. Having my feet on dry land gives a comforting sense of security that emanates from the thought of not being out there. And yet, when I am out there, tucked inside the cockpit of my kayak, I do not feel dread or lost in the vast expanse. If you can see the land from the sea, you feel safe, because you know where you are, if you are on land looking at the sea, you see just how big the place the sea can be to be. If, however, you are at sea and you lose sight of land then maybe you might feel the dread of knowing you are lost.
Sea Kayak Vancouver Island Circumnavigation