Monthly Archives: September 2014

Saw a seal, didn’t drown

This adventure is about kayaking. On the ocean. It’s important to understand that I’m one of those people who sink fast in water. I didn’t even learn to swim with any ease until my late teens. So, although I’ve canoed and sailed, the idea of trapping myself in a tiny, wobbling craft – with one of those rubber apron thingies completely preventing my escape in the event I capsized – was the stuff of nightmares. I’d tried the kind of kayak where you perch safely on top, but had zero interest in getting into one of the death-trap kind. People who do it say you ‘just flip yourself back up with the paddle’. Right. I would be screaming too hard (underwater; not good) to remember anything like that.

Proof that I did it. Yes that really is me in that ridiculous hat; sun protection is important too.

Proof that I did it. Yes that really is me in that ridiculous hat; sun protection is important too.

It’s therefore a little inexplicable why I decided, while I was in Nova Scotia, that it would be really fun to go kayaking on the open ocean in exactly one of these death traps. All I can say is there was a new kayak expedition business on the shore, run by a lovely young couple who had just moved down from Montreal, and they made it look so beautiful and inviting I believed them.

We started out on dry land, where Sarah (my trusty guide and co-owner of said business) strapped me into the death trap and showed me how to haul on the handle of the killer rubber apron thingy, should I find myself upside down in the frigid Atlantic. She made me do it with my eyes closed, while I’m thinking that if it were to actually happen, my eyes would be wide open, along with my screaming mouth. But no matter. I followed instructions sufficiently that she decided it was safe to take off, just the two of us, to toodle around the coast line.

A nice, calm cove and Sarah the guide.

A nice, calm cove and Sarah the guide.

Let me point out that the water was flat as a pond when we started out and I had a life preserver on that would have floated an elephant. These are the kinds of precautions that make facing scary stuff possible.

And I have to say, it was absolutely incredible. The shore in those parts is full of small inlets, nooks and crannies that are just gorgeous, and the silence of a kayak is like meditation. Actually way better than meditation for someone like me, whose inner voice never shuts up unless I’m doing something physically repetitive.

Open ocean, wobbly craft. This is as close as I want to get to waves.

Open ocean, wobbly craft. This is as close as I want to get to waves.

The wind did pick up in parts, but I realized that keeping my balance in the kayak was very much like keeping my balance on a horse, something I’ve done all my life. All the same, I asked to Sarah to lead us back to the leeward side of the little islands; baby steps for me, thanks.

We saw a bald eagle and, best of all, a big seal on a rock as we were making our way home. I’ve never seen a seal anyplace but Marineland so that was very exciting, and it let us get within 10 metres or so before slipping off into the safety of the water. Those suckers are huge.

All in all, the experience was absolutely fantastic and I wondered why I’d been so terrified of it for all those years. Mind you, I still haven’t tried practising the upside-down-in-the-water exercise. Maybe next year.

if you want to try this yourself, check out  Cape LaHave Adventures.

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