Sunday, 6 August 2017

A Whale of a Tale: Kayaking in Witless Bay

Image result for humpback whale
Big water
of mystery.

Turbulent and unsteady
at the surface,
darkness and uncertainty
in the depths.

into uncertainty,
into the depths,

to face
to encounter
the unknown,

the humpback,
the commander
of the sea.

from a distance,
up close.

The magnitude,
the power,
twice surfacing
from the depths.

Too close
for comfort,
my vessel,
my heart,
my senses

as a third
from nowhere,
of my place,

my bow
with his tail,

my boat
on his back.

A whale of a tale.
He is wild.
I am free.

5 August 2017

What a beautiful summer it was for weather wearied islanders. Many of those who live on the island portion of Newfoundland and Labrador are blessed with what I call “short term bad weather memory loss.” Apparently we had a miserable spring (which I can no longer remember), but our summer days were sunny, warm and beautiful (which I can still remember). Regardless of the weather, it is important for the health of the soul to be outside in nature, experiencing the elements and delighting in God’s creation. Being an outdoor enthusiast, kayaking is one of the activities I enjoy to do. So, in the midst of this years busy whale season, with a relative who is an experienced kayaker, we launched our kayaks from Long Beach in Witless Bay and headed to the bird sanctuary at Gull Island. Having read something about Jonah the week before, I remember saying to my partner as we paddled toward Gull Island, with humpback whales surfacing at a safe distance, “into the belly of the beast we go.” Nearing Gull Island, we were literally paddling through Puffins with their bellies so fat with capelin, they could hardly take off from the surface of the ocean. Paddling south on the lee side of the island, which was absolutely full of bird life, all of my senses were awake to the smells, sights and sounds of the wildness, power and unpredictability of God’s creation around us. Passing the south end of the island, we encountered larger swells. The kayaks handled very well, and I got a little over confident. On our return leg near Beaches Path, as we headed back to Long Beach, I suggested to my partner that we get a little closer to the humpbacks for one last look. Before we knew it, we were overwhelmed with humpback whales. With my partner on my right, two humpbacks passed on my left so close that I could have touched one with my hand. With them so close to my kayak, what I didn’t see was a third coming directly toward me. My partner saw a collision about to happen, and instinctively said “tap your boat, it doesn’t know you are there.” With that, I began tapping my paddle against the kayak and braced for a collision. At the last second, the whale’s tail turned just enough to avoid colliding with the bow of my boat, but went directly under the kayak. The force of the whale and the water under the kayak pushed it upwards. After the collision was narrowly avoided, my partner next thought I was going to be capsized. Getting wet up past the elbows as the kayak rocked back and forth, I somehow managed to stay upright. Paddling to save our lives to get out of there, I asked what just happened. The answer: “you just sat on the back of a whale!” Not quite the belly of Jonah’s whale, but the back of a humpback is more than close enough!

No comments: