Visitor
A true story by Gord Pincock

This story took place in the late 1980's during my first solo kayak voyage down the west coast of Moresby Island.  It should be noted that, since the day described here, I have never again ventured out to sea in similar conditions.  (Don't worry, during your trip we will not seek waves like the ones described here!)


Moments before the porpoises arrived, I remembered the dream and how it had always progressed; alone, paddling my kayak off the west coast of Moresby Island, British Columbia.  I traverse a mile offshore, avoiding most of the rebounding waves that cause such confusion on the surface of the enormous swells that slowly raise and lower me.  Rising toward the peak of each gigantic wave is like balancing in a buoyant elevator; I am lifted skyward until it seems that I will peer over the mountains of the San Christoval Range.  At the wave's crest, I have a brief moment to look around, take landmarks and a few deep breaths before beginning the decent along the back of the great, cold green swell.  From the peak, I drop slowly into the wide trough between the waves.  The swell passing beneath is unhurried, allowing my dreamtime imagination to awe me with the increasing volume of water looming above.  Halfway down the wave, water completely obscures my view of the distant mountain range.  At the bottom of the trough, I am surrounded by other mountains; massive, shimmering liquid ridges.

The dream had been recurring for several years, ever since I had first wished to paddle this route.  Always, I awoke relieved, yet frightened, not knowing the outcome of that challenging, imaginary day at sea.  This day, I looked around me from the peak of a wave and recognized the view.  I was paddling through the final stages of my dream, this time without the ability to simply wake up relieved.

I was approaching a wide bay lined with steep cliffs, there was only one narrow inlet leading to shelter.  The huge Pacific swells encountered the cliffs with a frustrated rage and rebounded back out to sea as fast-moving, confused and overlapping refracted waves.

I had been wondering if it was a good decision to launch today, now I felt that it surely was not.  I had never wished to fulfill this particular dream.  Last night the wind had finally calmed after a fierce June gale had pinned me to a beach during the day.  From my campsite this morning, the waves had looked fairly large, yet I had felt eager to move on, since there was barely a breeze blowing.  Now, I was stuck with my decision.  Seasick and fatigued after several hours offshore, I continued into the worst of the rebounding waves, navigating toward the steep shoreline and the narrow channel leading to calm water.

Half a mile from the entrance to the channel, the refracted waves became vicious.  My mouth was dry with fear, I thought of reaching for my water bottle, yet I dared not take a hand off the paddle.  Instead, to moisten my lips, during a paddle stroke I passed a hand across my face and sucked a few drops of cold seawater from my soaked neoprene pogies.

The kayak plunged violently; surging up through a wave that seemed to form around the boat and then plummeting down through air as the water vanished beneath me.  Seasickness had taken much of my strength, now it began to diminish my judgment.  My determination faltered and my spirit started to sink toward desolation.

At that moment, the porpoises chose to surface beside me.  Inches from the kayak, they surrounded me with quick breaths.  Bewildered, at first I did not realize what was happening.  Then, upon recognizing a glimpse of a dark blowhole, I began to shout my greetings to the visitors.  Hollering and raising my paddle, my spirit quickly inflated.  Watching them, I realized that they were completely comfortable and at home in the wild seas.  I was the visitor and they had come to assist me.

The porpoises accompanied me for several minutes, long enough for my seasickness to evaporate and my strength to return.  With a refreshed outlook, I paddled over the tossing seas and through the passage to shelter.  Relief.

Relaxing and drifting in the calm shallows of the inlet, I took a few moments to remind myself how to avoid those conditions; next time, I would simply remain on the beach an extra day, or longer, to allow the waves to settle down after the wind calms.

I camped in the inlet for five days.  Peering from the cliff tops, I watched two more gales pass through.  The deep vibration of waves erupting on the cliffs was my constant reminder that it was not yet time to launch my kayak.  Finally, I departed on tranquil seas.  I barely recognized the expansive bay as I paddled out through the mouth of the inlet; the ocean had exhausted itself, now it seemed to be napping peacefully in the sunlight.  Searching over the gentle swells, I longed to see the porpoises.

Never before or since have porpoises approached me so closely.  Occasionally, while paddling a steady rhythm, I close my eyes and imagine them swimming beside me through the waves.

My brief encounter with the porpoises left a powerful and lasting impression on me.  They helped me to realize that perseverance, combined with a positive outlook, will usually provide me with the results that I desire.  Whenever I think of them, I am reminded of how a change in my own perspective can create a whole new situation before me.

© Butterfly Tours ~ Sea Kayak Haida Gwaii
Updated by Gord on September 22, 2013
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