Two weeks ago, after our guided kayak trip off of Vancouver Island, Steve, my husband and I continued our travels through Ucluelet on route to Tofino on the Western coast of the Island. I learned that Ucluelet means “people of the safe harbour” in the indigenous Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) language. The words “safe harbour” remind me of another particular kayak trip Steve and I took two years ago on Georgian Bay, a large bay on Lake Huron.
Due to the open and often unpredictable waters of Georgian Bay, we feel safer kayaking over canoeing to our campsite. The ease with which we can just skim through the water and waves is quite wondrous, creating a meditative sense of flow. But when the winds pick up, we can be faced with three-foot-high white-capped waves and it can be a bit of a slog, even in a kayak.
In our tandem boat we head for the side of an island protected from the wind.
Here we get a bit of a reprieve from the winds for a few minutes, where we can catch our breath, nurture ourselves with water and dried fruit, and check our maps for landmarks.
I notice the din of the waves completely stops. I am filled with silence and peacefulness, and an appreciation that we can stop for a few minutes in these beautiful surroundings; this island dotted with windswept pine trees that look like they may have served as inspiration for the Group of Seven. From this safe place, protected from the open water and the white-capped swells, it’s hard to imagine anything other than calm and tranquility.
But I know better. I am grateful this harbour has given us shelter from the wind and the waves. But our time in this tranquil place must end. We need to start paddling back into the open water where we will take on the moist wind and sun and head for our camping site, still about an hour away.
Yes, I am grateful for the harbour. But I am more grateful for the open water. It is there where I feel most alive, where I lose myself in my thoughts. It is where I get stronger as a paddler and where I acquire more skill. It is where I navigate to what is next. It is these waves that will eventually take me home, a little stronger and wiser in the process.
Life will always provide safe harbours along the way. And if we’re willing, we will know when it’s time to take a few chances on the open water.