The Boston Whaler was flying across the waves to a large island off the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia. It was a grey windy morning in late October but the forecast was for clearing in the afternoon, and the boat was large enough to handle the seas. On a better day, the four of us would have been fine in a smaller boat or even in kayaks. In a matter of minutes we tied up at an old wharf and began unloading our gear up the hill.
There is something about islands that is good for the soul. They are little worlds in themselves, and any time you are on the ocean, even for a few minutes, you are in another world as well. The salt air and the roll of the boat make your senses come alive.
Climbing the hill I was carrying a large water jug among other gear, and every few minutes I shifted the jug to the opposite hand. After a few minutes I could feel my legs tiring and my breathing picked up. It was a workout. At the top of the hill we found an old firepit and just enough dry wood to make a fire.
While one of us stayed behind to heat up the stew, the rest of us went exploring. The island had once been inhabited, and there were old tracks not quite grown over. In the open areas on the seaward side we were exposed to the wind, otherwise it was calm and the air was warm. The sun began to break through the clouds.
We found a few apple trees, and sure enough there was a rough foundation hidden in the trees. Finding these places, I always start to imagine what it would have been like when a family lived here. Would there have been children playing outside? The man must have been a fisherman, at least part of the time. Where did he keep his boat? Who were the nearest neighbours? What were their hopes and dreams?
We found a clearing and someone brought out a Frisbee, the bright plastic bowl slicing through the air. It was warm for late October. The trend in recent years has been a wet spring and a long warm autumn.
All at once everyone was hungry and thirsty and without a word we turned as one and headed back toward the hill where lunch awaited us. The yellow leaves of the hardwoods on the hill made a good marker; we could not get lost, although we returned by a different route, as it turned out.
The cook was slouched in a campchair, almost asleep. The fire was out but the embers glowed, and the stew was hot. We sat in a circle and slurped the stew, feeling the warm sun on our faces. The fact that the chill of November would soon be here made it all the more pleasant. Someone rebuilt the fire enough to boil water for tea.
We sat around and let the conversation meander from one subject to the next, the way the wind swirls, tossing the leaves, following its own logic.
In nature everything gets done on its own time. People seem to try to force the issue, wasting energy, missing the real opportunities when they suddenly appear. That is one thing about being on the ocean: it is clear you have to work with the tides and currents and pay attention to the direction of the wind.
It was nearly dark when we headed back to shore. A fat moon was rising. The seas were up but we had on weather gear and the boat and driver were up to the task.
Stepping ashore, we had a spring in our step. It had been an adventure. Atlantic Canada is ringed by islands of all sizes and shapes, many accessible with just a little planning. This type of adventure is foreign to many of us. We think nothing of boarding a silver jet and flying to an amusement park. Yet we have thousands of islands of adventure just off our coast, some that you can almost walk to at low tide. Each one is a potential adventure.
Have at least one of your party who knows the area and is good with boats. Watch the weather and take your safety gear. Let me know how it goes.