The two days of paddling to get to from Hot Springs Cove to Tahsis were quite exciting. The first day, spent coming around Estevan Point, was long (9 hours in the boat with no breaks!). The conditions were challenging, with the biggest swells I have paddled in stacking up in the shallows near the lighthouse. It was scary at times, but then there would be an unexpected pick-me-up. Three times I saw rainbows that stayed at my heading, so I played “follow the rainbow” coming around the peninsula.
At the end of the day I was shaping a course out around Escalante Rocks, focusing on the horizon to track down where that last boomer in the line was going off sporadically. I looked over to the left and there, bobbing up and down in the swell a few meters from me, was a sea otter. The otter was just floating on its back, all paws in the air. It was relaxed and at home in the midst of all the undulation. It glancing over at me as if saying, “oh, hey. You’re out here too, huh?” That made me smile and I carried on a little lighter for having seen it.
Yesterday started with some of the windiest paddling I have ever done. I could see the spray being blown off the tops of the waves and whipped around ahead of me at the end of the first crossing. When I got there I had to put down a low brace and lean into the strongest gusts in order to not get blown over! After the initial crossing the wind calmed a bit and the rest of the day was an efficient down-wind run.
I arrived in Tahsis about an hour before the stores closed. I was able to get some more fuel and resupply my food, but unable to find a few other items before town shut down. I decided to stay another evening. Today I took a walk around town today to go to the post office and try to hunt down saline solution for my contact lenses. No store in town sells it, and every person I have asked doesn’t know anyone that wears contacts! I am a bit surprised, but I suppose I will have to use my glasses more, saving the contacts for the days with the biggest conditions.
As I walked around town I noticed at how low the sun was even at noon. Starting this journey just twelve days after the winter solstice has meant that much is dictated by the light (or lack thereof). I do a lot in the dark: waking up, eating breakfast, taking down camp, making dinner, nightly journal writing... I expected this as part of the challenge of paddling during this time of year. One thing I did not realize, however, is that I would find myself chasing a sunrise that has stayed at the same time throughout the trip.
There are two factors at play here. First, the way the light comes back this time of year means that I am gaining more minutes of daylight at the end of each day than in the morning. Second, since I am heading north each day I paddle I cancel out the few extra minutes of morning light that was gained. At first I though maybe I was mistaken about this and my memory of when it was becoming “light enough to paddle” at the beginning of the trip must be incorrect, but then I looked at the tide charts.
Sunrise in Eastsound the day I left (January 1) was 8:04am. Sunrise today (January 24) at Tahsis is 8:10am (wait, that is later!). If I had perfect weather and was able to make it to Cape Scott by February 1st the sunrise would be at 8:09am... only one-minute earlier than today. In that same month the sun will be rising 24 minutes earlier back home in Eastsound.
I have, however, been gaining light at the end of the day: so far the sun is setting about 42 minutes later than it was on day 1. That extra light in the afternoon really helps with having more time to safely arrive and land during daylight. But more than that, I am excited about getting to the other side of the island and then starting to head south. Then the light will come back much faster, with the passing days and a southern heading accelerating how much light is gained each day. This will give me more and more options for when to paddle in order to utilze the currents.
This is how I have to think while on this trip: always focusing on the positives, always looking ahead. It is why I named my blog "Future Water." Paddlers (especially whitewater paddlers) will probably have heard of the concept before. In order to be successful it helps to look not at the water surrounding your boat (which may be full of obstacles), but rather at the path to the next safe spot. Doing this helps you move in a balanced and controlled way. To avoid getting sucked into the hazards of the moment you have to focus on the future water and use your energy to get where you want to be.
It would be easy to bemoan the fact that sunrise is still so late and I have spent many days stuck in a tent in the wind and rain. But that would not do much to help me get where I want to go. I have to keep looking ahead on the route and searching for the path that will get me there. Tomorrow morning I’ll wake up in the dark, launch, and continue northward. Hopefully there will be some more happy otters to remind me of how good it is to be out here.