Twelve of us in ten boats were paddling the Atlantic shoreline near Canso, Nova Scotia.
We had navigated through rocky inlets, shoals, surf, the wind’s wanton shifting in direction and velocity; we’d schlepped gear to where we could find suitable camping spots. We’d been soaked by rain.
Yes, we were having fun – responding to whatever with humour and we can do this. We even had music, thanks to our disc jockey paddler and his solar panels. A definite bonus for re-charging soggy spirits too!
Then. On day five of our seven-day plan we got the call to pull off the water. This directive came on short notice, but wasn’t a big surprise.
Our group decided to split up that morning.
Some went exploring on the water, others took a hike – everyone planning to be back and spend the afternoon enjoying the beach where we’d set up the night before.
The hikers, soaked by rain when the sunshine quickly disappeared, arrived back at camp first. We coaxed damp wood into flames and started erecting tarps over tents and the cooking station, planning to create a welcome atmosphere for the paddlers’ return. While we were trying to get dry and stay warm by our struggling fire, we received the cell message from our expedition’s leader : “the wind is increasing, break camp asap and load your boats.” We were aborting the trip, and apparently the quicker the execution the better. With eyes on the weather this made good sense; the rest of the group – the paddlers – were out there pushing hard to get back to camp. And truth we told, we all were a bit weary with wet gear and the physical demands of this trip. But an early tear-down right now? It took a few disheartening minutes to process. We wondered, did we understand the phone message correctly? We had planned a two-night beach-camp here. The night before we had settled in creating a comfy space, food and gear scattered around.
Us hikers who got the call to “pack up, we’re breaking camp” talked our way through the sudden change in plans and got into action. Tearing down those wet tarps we had just tied into place; stuffing gear into bags and then into cargo holds; splitting a beer instead of packing it out. By the time the paddlers were back we were well in motion and could also help them pack up.
By late afternoon we all were ready and made our final launch: in this formation: a navigator (where are the shoals?), a lead kayak, two side-guard vessels flanking the main group, and a sweep ensuring all ten boats were accounted for. We safely rocked and rolled the swells (it does feel safer in a group) to the beach at Black Duck Cove. This is a day-use provincial park that has trails, a boardwalk and canteen, and a parking lot where one of our vehicles was parked.
For the second time that day, our group split up.
Some got busy with the trip’s final schlepping of the gear. I won’t guess the distance or laps from the shoreline where our full vessels rested, to the parking lot where all the gear needed to be ‘dumped’ and loaded into vehicles. Many steps each way. Eventually, the boats empty, we splayed ourselves amongst the gear we’d dropped on the grass and deck of the canteen. Too bad it was closed: they could have pulled in a whack of business!
The others in the group left to fetch vehicles from other locations along the coast; also delivering a thank you message with a bottle to the Munro’s, who had portaged our crafts earlier in the trip which had saved us a bundle of time and hard labour!
It was nearly dark by the time we were all together again, now the empty boats had to be moved from the water’s edge to the parking lot.
Among the ten vessels were five single kayaks, one tandem kayak, three pedal-driven kayaks (kind of like these but different) and one custom-made, pedal-driven boat that I can’t define or name but holds a LOT of stuff. And because it is wooden and heavy, needs to be moved carefully using foam rollers. Back and forth we went. Thankfully we had a two-wheeler gadget for the kayaks, and finally – in the dark, hurrah for headlamps! – our combined energy and robust spirits got the job done.
Typically after a trip like this when we’ve had fun playing hard, this group winds up with a celebratory meal at a restaurant. Not this time. We had a few hours to drive home, physically were wiped out – and hungry – so we used one of the canteen’s picnic tables and dumped out all the excess food we had left. Cheese, tortillas, peanut butter, sausage, avocados, chocolate treats – you name it – whatever we could find. It was a celebration supper in a category all of its own and one that (hopefully) will never be repeated!
Sometimes I’m asked, “what makes you keep showing up for adventures you know will be challenging physically and mentally, probably with some serious discomfort, even potential for injury?”
I ask myself that question too and I did especially before this kayak trip. I had an intuition it would go differently than planned. It was strong enough that I considered discussing it with the trip organizer. I’d feel awful, even negligent, if something really terrible happened. Yet the only basis I could pin for this premonition was paddling shores near open ocean; we’d done similar trips before without incident. In the end, only my journal and God were the wiser for my wondering. I came to rest with it and shifted my angst to curiosity, what kind of adventure was on our horizon?
We alI had a good dose of adventure, including the open-door culture-hospitality of a fisherman’s wharf and shack on our second night of the trip. It wasn’t five-star but it was available when we couldn’t find any place to pitch all our tents. I managed to secure a bunk where I rolled out my sleeping gear inside the cabin.
I would have missed so much had I not shown up for this trip.
Learning from people’s leadership and experience to read the signs, and knowing when it’s time to pull away from something.
Testing my physical resilience. Putting up with wet gear, paddling through swells (exhilarating!). The thrill of belonging to this energetic and amiable group and watching my mates’ ingenuity for problem-solving. These are just some of the reasons I get out and try new and difficult stuff.
My intuition was right. The trip do go differently than planned.
We had fun. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
With love and a nudge: go find your fun!
PS Credits for several photos to Catherine MacRae (tent-mate and adventurer-friend both on and off the water) and my other mates whom I may have missed.