Gone Paddling

Q: How should one begin a water adventure?
A: By deciding what to wear.

Expedition fashion is critical to a successful outcome (clearly). Take special note of the blue windbreaker, purple fleece, and extra-classy patched blue/green wind pants. Black hat and blue wool socks complete either end of the wardrobe.

Second most important question: what should one eat?

Mmmm … dehydrated, re-fried beans. Lots of them. Pasta, flour, dried fruit, more than one form of trail mix, and large blocks of cheese are even better. Malt balls are an absolute non-negotiable.  They are the perfect chocolate pick-me-up.  Pack plenty. Oh and don’t forget the cocoa powder for hot-chocolate-around-the-campfire nights. Then you may begin.

On June 23rd I met my team, packed my gear, and packed our rations, all at the NOLS branch office in Mt. Vernon, Washington. The next day we loaded everything into a couple 15-passenger vans with trailers and headed north. Cross into Canada and hope that our Aussie instructor doesn’t get stopped for questioning, take a ferry to Vancouver Island, drop a couple of kayaks off for repairs at the Seward factory, and then drive to the west coast of the island. Long day.

The wet part of the adventure was set to begin in a tiny fishing village called Tahsis. The goal? Learn the basics of sea kayaking and camping by paddling approximately 70miles around Nootka Island. We had 12 days and a lot to learn.

Step one: introduction to the parts of a kayak and the basic strokes. We began on the sheltered bay of Tahsis Inlet.

Step two: flipping it over. How do you get back in if you fall out? Quickly – that water is cold. We got lucky and had sunshine on the practice day. The clouds would keep it hidden for the next five.

Step three: “Pooping In The Woods 101: Cat-hole basics.” This, ladies and gentlemen, is as organic as toilet paper can get.

Step four: learning to cook cheesy bread on a one-burner stove. A paddle day with cheesy bread will be a good paddle day.

Step five: picking a room with a view. We quickly discovered the importance of reading the shore tide-lines right (or at least being sure of the overnight tide differentials) before choosing that room with a view. The moonlit sea lapping at your tent door is not as pleasant as it might sound. A thief in sliver shrouds, it’s only there to steal your sleep and your stuff.

At all times: keep the head up. Paddling three to six hours a day is hard work, but there’s a lot of beauty to enjoy.

And if you have time: practice rolling … but only on beautiful sunny days when wearing a wet suit. That water is still cold. I got my first lesson on our rest day: 4th of July.

This is the pod (the team) on the last day, just before pulling back into the Tahsis harbor – ten lean paddling machines.


Coming soon: Gone Sailing

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