Monday, September 14, 2009

TILLIKUM. Watch for me by moonlight #4. The final stretch.

Mount Tuam looms above Tillikum in the afterglow of sunset.

Tillikum angles out from shore to avoid a mess of rocks soon after leaving Musgrave Landing. Yes, the canoe`s shallow draught would probably carry us over the reefs but I am becoming very cautious as the voyage enters it`s final few hours. I know I am tired and liable to make silly mistakes.

Cape Keppel is faint in the distance so I settle down to the agony of the long distance rower; except it isn`t anymore. If I had halted way back in Burgoyne Bay I would have missed this third wind experience, this rising above the body and it`s complaints into a kind of bliss. The miles reel off almost effortlessly and the splendid sunset that bathes the ocean in golden light and dips the mountains in deeper and deeper shades of purple helps to support the mood.

The final stretch. Sansum Narrows to Fulford Harbour.

Cape Keppel just keeps coming and coming with it`s gentle curve. When will I see all the way up Satellite Channel? The sun plunges behind the hills at last and the afterglow begins. The great bulk of Mount Tuam looks down to my little canoe and becomes more solemn, more of a presence as the light fades. The first street lights flash on at Cherry Point behind me and I begin to use then as a back bearing to keep on course. Ahead, the beacon on the islets off Isabella Point begins to flash. I am trying to keep far enough off the shore to limit the chances that I might run aground in the dark while staying close enough that other larger boats will not likely come near.

                                          The southern shore of Fulford Harbour.

To port, a half moon grows brighter by the minute; sometimes veiled in streaks of cloud, sometimes sending a silky silver track over the oil-smooth waves. Black shadows reflect the dark shore close to port. Over on the other side of Satellite Channel big lit-up ferries dance out of Swartz Bay Terminal on their way to Vancouver and little speedboats still zoom along seemingly oblivious to the drift logs I am passing that would be big trouble if they were to meet one of them at high speed. Eventually I pass the beacon, round the point and begin the last hour of my voyage up the long southern shore of Fulford Harbour. The strange ferry shape astern of me evolves into the Skeena Queen making it`s last run home to Saltspring Island. I wait `til it is past and then angle out into the middle of the bay to follow it`s route toward the lit up ferry terminal and my marina close by. Coasting close along the dark shadowed shore, darker for the house lights glaring among the trees that affect my night vision, is no option now as there are many unlit moored boats hiding in wait there for Tillikum to run into.

I line up Tillikum for the last time with the ferry terminal lights ahead and then look behind for another stern bearing. There is a large bright star in just the right place so off we go in the home stretch. Suddenly my guiding star gives off a bright white flare of light, wavers higher in the sky and then disappears. “What the...?” Perhaps a UFO ( unidentified flaring object)? The oar blades and wake burn with a milky phosphorescence as I leave the moonlit water and slid into the shoreline blackness. I make a last swerve to give me a careful look ahead to avoid the last of the anchored yachts at the head of the dark harbour.

The marina lights appear behind the ferry dock and with a groan I shift to kneeling facing forward, row carefully among the dark sleeping hulls and slide into my little slip. Heather is here to meet me. Home at last.

                                        Watch for me by Moonlight.

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