Thursday, September 10, 2009

TILLIKUM: Watch for me by moonlight. #3. South through Sansum Narrows.

Sailing south from Southey Point.

A stronger breeze, so up goes the sail and I recline thankfully in the stern, easing Tillikum in the sudden gusts and willing her onward in the calms. After about twenty minutes the wind dies and it is back to the oars. I do feel refreshed from the break and row on past a little offshore Island and a shoreline of beautifully wave sculpted sandstone and splendid waterfront homes that are always hidden from view when we drive along the road that follows this shore. Over to starboard is the Crofton Pulp mill on Vancouver Island and ahead in the distance I can see the ferry crossing over toward Crofton from the island village of Vesuvius. By the time I slide into the Vesuvius wharf for another quick break the ferry has had time to return and depart again. Here I find a phone to call Heather and leave a message that it is now 3:45pm, I`m running late, and I am headed on toward Burgoyne Bay and Sansum Narrows. I ease my weary bones back into Tillikum, open another package of sandwiches and stroke south toward a watery gap between high rocky hills. As I munch and row I notice the direct relationship between my energy and food. This really is like pouring gas into the tank! The light breeze that follows me is just strong enough to leave me feeling like there is no breeze at all and the heat of the day pounds down. Sweat runs down into my eyes. I seem to have crossed a Rubicon of sorts though, because although the pain in my legs and backside is no less I have now accepted this as normal and can dismiss it. Normal life is rowing Tillikum on and on and on.

The sun is lower now and beginning to paint the high forested eastern shores of the first narrows in a golden surreal light but gives me some much appreciated shadow time. Seals regularly come up for a look, gulls poke along the rocky, seaweedy beaches. The tide is falling but not much from now on. After the steady rise of the morning hours the water will be pretty much at stand until early morning tomorrow. It is this combination of favourable tides and light winds that have brought me out today for this marathon effort for what normally would be a three day journey.

Transiting Sansum Narrows.
Crossing the mouth of Burgoyne Bay, I check my little hand radio to see if there is a friend calling me from the head of the bay. I have named Burgoyne as a possible stopping point if I am too tired or late. No reply. I have already decided to continue anyway and begin the dogleg through cliff-lined Sansum Narrows. There is minimum turbulence from the tidal current in this sometimes wild bit of water and I am soon slipping along the shore toward Musgrave Landing. Over my shoulder I see a little aluminum canoe buzzing towards Tillikum propelled by an outboard motor mounted on the side. A bearded, younger version of myself lifts a hand in greeting.

Here`s the dock, I crawl aboard, lift out the fresh water and the lunch bag and begin to eat my supper. I don`t trust my legs to function just yet and I`m hungry. Later, I manage to work my way with difficulty up the wharf to land and then pace up and down the dock to get my legs fully working again. The sun is now low in the sky, hovering over the mountains of Vancouver Island. For the last leg of my journey I will be travelling through the sunset and on into the gathering night as I follow the southern shoreline. As I gingerly slide back onto the rowing seat I bring out the flashlights, flares and strobe lights, replenish my water bottle and smear more sunblock onto my face. I exchange the chart for the one covering the southern portion of Saltspring and look over the route carefully. Where are the offshore rocks, what beacons will be visible for me to steer by? I am ready for the last big push.

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