I drove by the Deer island INN twice before seeing the sign. I was glad there was no traffic behind me as I hit the brakes for a sharp turn into the driveway of the beautifully restored Victorian home. With my overnight bag in my hand I walked up the front steps under a grapevine heavy with ripe purple grapes. I couldn’t resist plucking a few and popping them in my mouth. I crossed the porch to find a note attached to the exterior door, from the owner Anke, welcoming me to the island and instructions to move into room #4, then call her when I am settled.
My original plan was just a Saturday kayaking outing with Seascape Kayak Tours. However. earlier in the day Bruce Smith the owner, emailed that there was a space available on the Friday paddle leaving at 10 am. I replied I would get back to him, I needed to do a little self-evaluation to insure my cranky shoulder would be up to two days of paddling before I committed. A quick check of the weather forecast swayed my decision and I reserved the spot. I changed into some comfy clothes and went out onto the side deck with my book and a cup of tea to enjoy the late September warmth. As the sun went down a lone deer moved out into the back garden to graze, and I watched quietly until it merged into the shadows of dusk before I went inside.
Friday morning I was up at 6am to limber up and hit the pavement for a run down into Lords Cove. I underestimated the hilliness of this terrain and my heart rate spiked and my enthusiasm plunged every time I faced another incline. I jogged by five deer in the first three kilometers and other three or — maybe the same three – on my return. My grandiose plan of tacking on the the Richardson Road loop was too ambitious and I scratched that idea. A hot shower followed by coffee and breakfast sounded better and I reminded myself to pack a sandwich and snacks for the paddle.
Following my morning tasks, I had 45 minutes to burn before I was expected at Seascape – time enough to look around the wharf area of Lords Cove. I remembered seeing an advertisement for a whale watching tour leaving from this dock, but I suspect it was too late in the season, as the only boats at berth were for fishing. I smile at the cleverly named Going to Pot lobster boat.
It was nearing 9:30 so I set off. At the end of the narrow lane I do an 8 point turn around so I would be facing outward for the drive back. The sun starts gaining strength and I peel my fleece off, then walk into Seascape Kayak Tours. A family of three arrives, the lady introduces herself as Heather and points towards her husband Fred and their daughter Bella. I wonder if I had met her on my first kayak trip a couple of weeks ago. I couldn’t be sure. Bruce shows up and greets the gang, Heather and her family move around the place with a familiarity and this tells me they are returning clients. They seem to have their routine down pat, while I am feeling a little inept and indecisive. I question my choice of clothing and run back to my truck for the 3rd time to make a change. Bruce instantly notices. “You didn’t do your yoga this morning did you?” Feeling a little scolded and guilty I answer, “Ah …no I went for run instead. That evident eh?” He says he is going to have to keep me away from Heather as our energies may …he leaves statement hanging and I see a bit of eye-roll. I crack a smile I know exactly what he means, I can be very frenetic and high energy.
On my first paddle here I used the lime green kayak that was purchased for Heather, but today I am given a red one with white underside that is maybe a hint wider, with a low carriage, when I sit in it to adjust the pedals they are stationary, no rudder. I shift about finding a good position, when I am happy with my placement. I add my newly acquired gel seat. I was a little stiff after the completion of the last kayaking trip in Deer Island, New Brunswick, Canada Part 1.
It is well after 10 am when we shove of from the beach. Bella and her dad Fred are in a tandem kayak, Heather in her new green one, me in my fancy red solo and Bruce decked out in white-sided, red-topped kayak. I stay quiet taking my cues from the others in the group, measuring my paddle strokes to match the pace. Within moments it feels very natural and we are all in sync heading towards the fishing weirs I recognize from my last paddle.
Somehow time has been extinguished from my memory. I paddle along, staying in the moment, relinquishing all cares and concerns, feeling nothing but the resistance of the water against the paddle blade, the warmth of the fall sun and a joyful pulsing of my heart. If I had any anxiety it has evaporated. I am with a conscientious guide, a super friendly group and I couldn’t be happier. When Bruce pulls his paddle from the water and lets it hover horizontally across his kayak deck, we all halt. Seals are congregated here feeding in the rich waters. As they submerge then return top side for air I watch in awe. I count at least ten of these beautiful creatures. One pops up mere feet away on my left and I feel so lucky to get to be part of his world for a few moments. When Bruce’s paddle dips back in the water it’s the signal we are off to our next destination. I paddle beside him for a bit and I ask him about sharks. He tells me he usually sees one every season. In my minds-eye I assume that means spotting a fin. He comes back with “they are out here.”
There is a beach stop – a different one from my last outing. Up on the shore, tea and hot chocolate are poured and donuts are offered. The group chats and shares previous adventures. Bruce steps away to scour the tree line, picking up garbage to carry out. One by one we break from the group for a discreet pee up in the trees. When everyone is back we make for the kayaks and help each other get afloat for our return paddle.
On our way back, I make a point to paddle beside Heather for a bit to learn more about her. She and her family have been kayaking this area with Bruce for well over a decade. They also joined Seascape Kayaking on a Costa Rican paddle tour. She is loving her new kayak and is starting or resuming (I can’t remember) an in depth course on tree identification, working on her mindfulness and focusing on her family. A beautiful soul. I paddle alongside Fred and Bella too. He tells me kayaking has always been a family event, a great way for them to recharge and connect. Bella agrees.
That word “connect” keeps coming up and I am beginning to understand why. It is useful fitting verb for the people that live on and visit this island.
Bruce paddles up between me and the coast line. He tells me that when this parcel of land, that adjoins to his property, came up for sale he purchased it. He sees himself more as its protector than its owner. I point out a rocky outcrop visible among the trees. He says he goes there to meditate sometimes. I can see why, I am drawn the spot myself.
Back in the harbour we slowly float in. Our boats land farther down the shore line that when we paddled off this morning. One by one we each grab front or back handles of a kayak and carry them up the beach, then unload our personal effects and strip the kayaks of pumps, spare paddles etc
I carry my belong up to the shed and place my paddle against the rail. I stretch out on the deck removing my neoprene socks and wiggle my toes, airing my feet out. Heather arrives with a collection of spray skirts and starts rinsing them out in the barrel. When Bruce and Fred come up from the beach, I get a bit of ribbing about being absent when the kayaks where being lifted up in their cradles. ” I didn’t know, I seem to have have misplaced my footwear,” I say with a sort of grimacing smile, hoping it will suffice as a valid excuse. We have a giggle and I assure them I will be more helpful tomorrow. I am so glad I decided to come today, I have made new friends.
Before I leave Bruce says they are planning a bonfire on the beach about 8:30 pm. I should come join them. I agree and head back to the Inn.
At 8:20 pm, I arrive at the darkened location toting a box of wine. In the moonlight I can make out the water line covering the beach, they are definitely not down there. I called the office and listened to it ring 10 paces away on the counter. Going over in my head what was said …. Bruce was going for a run, Heather was invited but her eyes were darting around looking for an out…. they were going to make supper and eat at the cottage….Ah ha… I look up and see the light in cottage window and smile. I knew if it was me and group of long-time friends having supper together the night could go on for hours. I decided to let them have their time together, but I did leave a note on the counter, stating I must have come to the wrong beach, this one is under water and It would take me awhile to get to Costa Rica. The ribbing from earlier in the day re-paid.
The next morning I am just as excited to get out on the water and again arrive early. As I drive up the lane, Heather shouts “Good morning!” as she walks down to the end of the driveway and I stop to greet her. She says I was missed at the bonfire and apologizes for the time confusion. “It’s Deer Island 8:30 which is sort of an 8:30ish more likely closer to 9 pm,” she says making hand gestures, We chuckle at this and I respond with, ” Roger that,” reminding myself I am not dealing with military hard timings. I store the info for next time.
My third time here, I am starting to catch on. I select my paddle and bring my dry bag down to the shore where the kayaks are laid out. I will await further instruction from Bruce on which kayak will be mine today.
We wait for another client who had texted she was on her way. When Sam arrives toting her mirrorless camera and mentions she is vegan, I once again am pleasantly surprised that it is so easy here to find like-minded people and I am struck again by what Anke and Bruce had said about the ferry being a repellant of certain mind-sets.
The blue sky of yesterday is gone. Today is a different experience – low hanging cloud and a strong breeze. Bruce mention that he misses the swell of the Pacific, ” The Atlantic has chop.” I recall my experiences of kayaking on the west coast from Howe Sound to Tofino, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The unforgettable lift and drop of such seas. Here a wave strikes your bow every second which came be shuttering and unbalancing, if you don’t position the kayak into the wave correctly. We take the crossing on a trajectory to a point of land calmed by an eddy. Here we collect and get instruction on where we are headed next, then push off again for our beach break. My shoulder is starting to throb. I tried to hide my discomfort but Fred noticed and suggests a rest stop. Fred looks at me with empathy. “I knew you wouldn’t say you needed a break.. An a astute observation, he was correct and I was grateful he spoke up.
This beach has so many scallop shells, every where I can’t believe they are naturally occurring but Bruce says they are. I tell the group I generally take a few rocks or stones from beaches I have been to. I sprinkle them in my driveway to keep positive energy of the place I saw. This is a hint I would like a memento. I pocket a smooth quartzite rock and a unblemished scallop shell. While walking towards my kayak I slip on rock coated in seaweed and make a verbal outburst of “Yikes!” – or perhaps it was a curseword – then chuckle. I find myself the center of attentions everyone looking at me for an explanation and I can’t understand why. It was a non-event to me. “I slipped.”
We head back into into the bay, harbour seagulls and cormorants everywhere. We are just off shore now and I pull my paddle from the water and just bob and float with the tide. It has been another excellent day and I hate it to end.
Once all the kayaks are brought up the beach Heather and I wash them down with fresh but dirty water from a bucket, joking about the efficacy of our effort.
Next the shared lunch, I seemed to have missed that concept too. I thought it meant eat your lunch with everyone, not share amongst everyone. Yikes…. Having only brought my own vegan food supplies for my stay, I had two things to offer, the first was a Kit-Kat bar I pulled from my dry back which paled in comparison to the artisan sea-salt chocolate bar someone else had brought, and a box of wine untouched in the fridge at the Inn. There was currently a bottle of white wine being portioned amongst us all, but wasn’t going to be enough for 6 people. Not wanting to assume anything, I whisper to Bruce if it would be ok if I went and got the wine. He nodded with “Sure.”
So as soon as Fred finished telling us of work building an IT company, there is a lull in the conversation and I use it to go retrieve the Pinot Grigio.
Fifteen minutes later I plunk the box on the picnic table and hear someone say, “It’s not even opened!” I reach for Heathers glass, saying, “I did bring it to share.” I get asked some question about my jockey days, which I am not always comfortable speeking about. So I segue the conversation to Sam and she speaks of her studies and the camping trips she did this summer. Bruce welcomes her to set up her tent on his lawn and Heather Fred and Bella leave to change, saying they’ll be back for supper.
Sam starts to set up here tent on the front lawn, and I head into the house to start chopping vegetables for the pasta dinner. More wine ….. Heather, Bella and Fred return to dine with us around the table. More wine …..the pasta turned out great, and the wine is dulling the pain in my shoulder. Time for dessert… There are some quips about not enough apple crisp to go around. I chip in the Kit-Kat chocolate bar and it gets divvied up and passed around. Then some Prosecco is poured and the conversation covers a lot of ground from Star trek, books, music, and inflection lines, to ego debt and quantum physics – some deep stuff and funny. The cheeks of my face hurt from laughing. I switch to water, to ensure I am sober in time to go back to the Inn. A joyous evening not just because of the food and companionship but mental nourishment I have been craving. I return in the morning to settle up my account and thank Bruce for sharing his world and making me feel welcome. He has several projects he is trying to get off the ground and I give my word if I can help in anyway I will. I hope with my writing I can reach an audience that can appreciate the beauty of this place.
I park the truck at the stop sign and turn the engine off. A man on the end of the dock waves me forward and I flag him off. I will get the next one. I want to take a few photos of the ferry leaving the island towards L’Etete on the mainland. Just then a truck pulling a trailer blocks my shot and I have to pause. It comes to a stop and a man hops out and starts unloading his wares. I had seen him here last time I visited too, selling ice-cream to the people waiting in their cars in line for the ferry. His dedication impressed me. I notice he is struggling to get his tent raised evenly, I put my camera back in the truck and walked towards him. “Hi can I help you at all?”
“Sure,” he says, pulling up one end, as the other side slopes over. “If you could hold that end….” he adjusts his end outward and raises the top.
“I am Kelly, nice to meet you,” I say, dong my best to try and ascertain what he may need me to do next. He pulls the tent his way and says, “I am Paul,” then says, “If you shift your end out a bit…” I move my end outward till the tent’s ends are taut. He stays focused and cranks the top upward. I continue to talk. “I saw you out here last time I was at the ferry you were putting everything away.”
“Yes I am out here every weekend.” He hands me a bungee cord and says, “If you could loop that to the bottom hook…” I follow his instruction and continue to secure all the corners. He stands back and looks pleased his tent is up and straight. “Thank you for your help. did you miss the ferry?” he asks. We both turn to watch the ferry now almost out of sight. “No, I let it go. I wasn’t ready to leave.”
Thank you so much for reading about my trip to Deer Island. A wonderful place I will return again and again. Happy travels from Maritime Mac.
No Perks discounts or payment were received for writing this. It was my own experience I want to share.