Above: Fathom Five National Park at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula.
“Full fathom five thy father lies; of his bones are corals made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes; nothing of him that does fade
But doth suffer a sea change into something rich and strange.”
(Song from “The Tempest” by W. Shakespeare)
Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2009
It’s a sunny day and Ruth and I are 32,000 feet in the air, somewhere over the Rocky Mountains. On our way to Seattle for a week-long reunion with her mom, siblings and the beautiful faces of the next couple of generations. My canoe is stored in a woods next to a motel in Tobermory, at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. Gear is piled in my parents’ basement. I’m on vacation from my vacation.
Like the crossing from Port Huron to Sarnia, reaching Tobermory was a milestone. Ruth met me there Saturday, Aug. 15, driving from Petoskey across the Upper Peninsula, and crossing into Canada at Sault Ste. Marie. She followed the northern coast of Lake Huron to Little Current, where she took the bridge connecting the mainland to Manitoulin Island. At the east side of the island she took the ferry to Tobermory, arriving about 8:30 p.m. I was still on the water, just turning from northwest to east around the peninsula, when she called to tell me the ferry had docked. I was about seven miles from Tobermory. I had been paddling since about 9 a.m., with an hour break for lunch about 3 p.m. A fairly stiff wind had been blowing from the southwest all day, and I had to keep an eye on the waves, staying away from shore to avoid the breakers. But I was full of energy at the thought of seeing Ruth and anticipation of a few days’ rest, and I was determined to finish the day in Tobermory Harbour.
I stopped on the shore of little Bishop’s Island to grab a couple of apples and a bag of peanuts, attach green and red lights to the bow, and clip a white light on the back of my hat. Hopped back in the boat, and paddled for just a bit before taking photos of a most beautiful sunset. Then, with each stroke, day slipped into night. By 9:30 p.m. the moonless sky was as inky as the water. The waves and wind were behind me now, and had calmed significantly, but it was still eerie to be paddling in the dark. I could see cottages with lights on, but all the bays and islands made it hard to get a bearing. A blast of fireworks on shore scared me. I slowed down, repeated my mantra “everything will be all right,” and paddled on.
About 11 p.m. I finally reached the mouth of the harbor. Ruth called me on the phone, and said she could see my lights from the ferry dock. I looked through my binoculars at the dock, and saw her waving behind the fence. She gave me directions to a boat ramp a bit farther into the harbor, where we met about 10 minutes later. As patrons stumbled out of the wharfside bars, we unloaded gear, pulled the canoe from the water and tied it to the top of the car.
So, my beloved “Seaweed” rests in the woods, awaiting our return Thursday. Wind and waves willing, we’ll be back in the water Friday, Aug. 28, for the crossing from the peninsula to Manitoulin Island.