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Sea kayaking on Vancouver Island's wild West Coast Add to ...

Later, we all go for a hike, finding the interior forest a tangle of green; ferns, moss and lichen dripping from tree limbs and rocks. Passing a massive cedar, we measure its circumference to be 12 arm spans (or about 20 metres) and Dave estimates it is more than 1,000 years old.

On the island's far side, while the toddlers play with shells and crabs, we comb the beaches for the infamous Japanese fishing floats made of green glass. A gale has been blowing for several days, and large waves crash into the black volcanic rocks while foam streams away from headlands. Unfortunately, I doubt the chaotic scene is doing anything for Isabelle's appetite for paddling.

The last time Bodi went kayaking was in Argentina. Only eight months old, he happily nestled on his mother's lap while I paddled our double kayak. Much bigger and more active now, there is no way he could share a cockpit with anyone, especially his pregnant mother. Luckily, the double kayaks on Spring Island come with spacious centre hatches, which double nicely as child seats.


The second morning Christine and I set off to explore the sheltered waters inside of Kyuquot Sound, with Bodi tucked in the hatch between us. Dave follows. He has Morgan in his centre hatch, and Isabelle up front. The big boat is more stable than she expected, and Dave's calm presence is reassuring.

"My father came over from Scotland in a boat as a very young boy," I hear her explain. "And he told us as young girls that if we didn't want to drown, then stay away from lakes and rivers."

After a long pause, she adds, "But this doesn't seem too bad. Not yet anyway!"

The boys spy a raft of sea otters (recently returned in abundance to Kyuquot after being hunted to near extinction in the late 1800s) and point excitedly. But the gentle to and fro of the boats is calming, and before long, both have fallen asleep in their hatches.

We continue onward, exploring sea caves and vertical rock stacks that line nearby shores. Before long, we spot a black bear wandering a beach in search of crabs and other treats. Bouncing between her legs is a very young cub, no larger than a household cat.

To my surprise and delight, Isabelle - a golf and curling fanatic - is hooked on the technical details of kayaking. She fastidiously follows Dave's coaching, "Loose grip on the paddle, generate power from the torso with rotation." Later, over a dinner of halibut steaks and mango salsa, Isabelle lets slip that she would be interested in paddling a single kayak. All by herself! But only in the protected waters of the harbour, mind you. What a difference a few days makes.

One morning we sensed our group was ready for more

Toward the end of the week, we launch an armada of kayaks after a leisurely breakfast. This time, Isabelle joins me in a double. The plan, as always, is to simply see what the ocean will allow.

Dave and I have already paddled around Spring Island several times, exploring long sections of exposed coastline. With swell exploding over submerged rocks, creating "boomers," I once again felt the exhilaration of the "outside."

On this morning, Dave and I both sense that a journey to the outer coast might be within our group's reach. Gently inching toward the channel, we let the others follow, trying to gauge their comfort. As the swell gently builds, perhaps 30 centimetres in height, I feel Isabelle's grip tighten on her paddle. Dave asks how she is doing. Just fine, she nods. We near the final islet. Beyond lies open ocean. If we keep going, we will commit to traversing a kilometre of open coast before we can tuck back into sheltered water again. Dave checks if everyone feels okay to go on. He gets a solid round of grins.

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