Okay, counting the nudist it might have been four. And the strong guy, maybe five.
It’s not every day I meet three wise men – or three men who think they are wise – but then, it’s been about ten years since I last paddled at Salt Spring Island. On Tuesday I went commando kayaking, as Dubside calls it.
I packed up an inflatable kayak sent to me by Advanced Elements (the Expedition, their biggest solo kayak) and the Backbone sent to me by Lee Johnson, a follower of Kayak Yak and the #1 fan of Expeditions and Backbones. The gear bag has room for a take-apart four-piece paddle, a PFD, bilge pump and throwbag of rope, water bottle and a doublestroke pump the size of my thigh. (I may be short but Lord knows, I’m not tiny.)
I stuffed a little drybag with a squall jacket, merino wool Icebreaker shirt, wallet, cell phone, ball of yarn & needles and snack bars, then hopped on the bus. One transfer got me and about 48 pounds of gear all the way to the Swartz Bay ferry. I knitted a baby bootie on the way, and listened to a podcast of the CBC’s program Ideas, so this was a real multi-tasking kind of morning!
After trundling my gear down to Berth 3 at the terminal, I settled in to wait for the ferry to Salt Spring. A nice old coot came by, a talkative older guy who accepted a granola bar from me and then observed, “You know, I have to tell you this, miss, you really have to lose forty pounds off your waistline. And I wish you’d wear a hat.” I put my hat back on and listened as he gave more advice to the six people and two dogs and a bird who came by during the next half-hour.
A cloudy morning turned clear as the fog burned off and the 5km breeze blew a few sheets of cloud past all day. The weather turned out perfect – you couldn’t have requisitioned better weather with a mission statement and a government grant. The crossing gave me a great view of Portland Island and Russell Island.
There was a bus stop at the Fulford Harbour ferry terminal, but no bus to Ganges was scheduled to meet this sailing. I looked around for a nearby launch spot. Both public docks had great ramps but were too high above the water. When in doubt, shop!
I stepped into The Wardrobe, a lovely little boutique full of hippie clothes, and spied one of the little velvet hats from Tibet that aren’t being brought over the ocean any more. Had to have it, even if too small for me. It will fit either Erica or John just fine (Bernie’s niece and nephew who paddled with us in Cadboro Bay). The store owner told me there were two beach accesses within a short walk: one to the right of the ferry (a three-metre vertical scramble down a dirt bluff) and a nice little shell beach about 500 metres down the road.
Do not believe locals anywhere who say that a beach access is less than a klick away or level access or a nice clear trail or even easy to spot from the road.
I was lucky enough to meet a dog-walking lady who agreed there was a nice little shell beach just down the road, as the store owner had told me. She and her schipperke dog walked by me into the tiny town of Fulford Harbour. I slogged up three hills (none of which my local guides had mentioned) and was half-way up another before twigging that I’d missed the trail to the beach. Half-way back, the dog-walker met me on her return. “You missed it!”
She showed me the trail. It was hidden under overgrown bushes, and made for hobbits! I bent over and crept through lovely-scented brush and trees, on a footpath barely wide enough for both my shoes, and not wide enough for the battered luggage roller with my Expedition strapped to it. Still, the brush opened up and I made it eventually to the shore along a quite pretty walk. It might be even more pleasant if one isn’t walking backwards tugging a tippy 48-pound bag over uneven ground.
At the shore was a two-metre drop over steep rough rock to a perfect little shell beach. Got the gear down without either throwing it nor falling after it, and set up on shore. Bliss.
Another dog and another local arrived as I was prepping to launch, a polite older fellow. I gotta say, of all the grey-haired men of my acquaintance, he was the second-fastest at getting naked. He and the dog were in the water, swimming, before I looked up from tying my paddle leash.
This bay at Fulford Harbour confirms a trend I’ve noticed among several bays here at the south end of Vancouver Island and among the Gulf Islands. The bays all point in roughly the same direction – 120 degrees from magnetic north on my compass, kind of south-east. The shoreline on the north and east side of these bays is usually rocky and at a moderately steep angle to the water. The shoreline on the west and south side of these bays is usually more sloped to the water. I was on the north and east side today. It was a shoreline very like the comparable shore of Cadboro Bay, in my home waters. The biggest difference was not one but three shell beaches, only one of which is on Reserve land for the Tsawout band.
At the bend in the bay I turned round and followed the rocky shore back, appreciating the water-stained colours of the basalt and the lichens and mosses growing on the stone. Into the little harbour at Fulford, I puttered around the ferry dock and two marinas, getting well out of the way before the ferry came in. Along into the estuary and over to the far side of the bay for a few minutes, following the sound of a drum on the shore. I hopped ashore at the picnic area to check out the petroglyph held by three tree trunks. It’s a fairly large carving of a face – a seal, according to the brass sign fixed nearby. Next time we come to Salt Spring I hope to make a rubbing of it.
The road runs right by the water here, and there is a roadside stand at the farm gate across the road. Hurray! Though all the eggs were sold, I had enough cash in my pocket to buy a jar of peach jelly and a little bag of handmade gift tags.
Nearby was a young man, lighting a small fire on the beach. We said hello, and then he asked me, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ, our lord and saviour?”
I said Yup. He was very happy to hear it, particularly happy for someone whose worldly goods fit into a shopping cart and whose furniture was a drum on a beach log. He was wise enough to talk about how good God was, and the world, and to say bye nicely when I paddled away across the estuary. Saw the lovely old rock church, and paddled back up to the tiny town.
Under the dock I found a tiny beach at high tide, landed and packed up my boat. I scrambled up the little bluff with some of my gear, and looked around. Some poor young dude was waiting for the bus or a ride, and he very kindly put down his own pack and carried my kayak bag up to the road. One-handed, without assistance or complaints. Yay helpful stranger!
He was kind, but the third wise man didn’t make an appearance until after I’d caught the ferry back to Swartz Bay and got on the bus. A young native guy got on behind me and said, “You gotta hear this song. My friend wrote it.” He chatted nicely all the way in to town while I finished knitting another bootie, and was pleased to be given the booties for his little nephew. In trade, he told me a poem, of which the only lines I can remember are:
We do not need to think our way into a better kind of living.
We need to live our way into a better kind of thinking.
Then he lifted my heavy gear bag off the bus at my stop. I got home by ten-thirty.
All in all, a good day, including the visits from three men who thought they were wise and two who were wise enough for the moment.