Boating can be as much about the land you pass as the ocean you cross.
Just imagine that you get off your boat to stretch your legs on a wilderness island and stumble across a mystery, a story without words.
The roof has collapsed and now there is only a tangled heap of old boards and rusty nails. Who lived here, you wonder, alone in this shack, surrounded by forest and isolated by water? I found a place like this in Desolation Sound, and I wanted to tell the ghost of whoever had lived here that their daffodils were still coming up between the blackberry vines.
Our boats can carry us to places, both physically and emotionally. M. Wylie Blanchet described the spirit of this journey in The Curve of Time, a memoir about her exploration of B.C.’s Inner Passage in the late 1920s on a 25-foot motor craft, along with her five children. Blanchet introduces this sense of timeless duality and contrast on the water: “Our world then was both wide and narrow – wide in the immensity of sea and mountain; narrow in that the boat was very small … a little realm of our own making.”
Still today, whether our little realm is a kayak, canoe, or 60-foot powerboat, we are sometimes so moved by our own smallness felt in the largeness around us, we want to call out to other boaters, “Do you see what I see? Do you feel what I feel?”
There’s another island in Desolation Sound, where you might clamber onto the flat rocks and notice a faint cleft trail to the top. If you turn right, the trail leads to a log bench overlooking the cove and most likely, your boat. If you turn left and keep going, you’ll find a small peaked wooden box that someone built to shelter an ordinary notebook kept in a plastic bag. It’s a boater’s logbook: you’ll read the stories about families and friends returning year after year; you’ll see the hand-drawn pictures by children marking their growth with each new season’s anchorage. The next blank page is yours. You hold the pen and try to find the right words to say that you were here too and loved this hidden place.
It is as Blanchet wrote, “Time did not exist; or if it did it did not matter …”
Barb Thomson is a boating enthusiast who writes regular columns for the Comox Valley Record.