We wandered aimlessly through the web of trails on Cormorant Island above the sleepy town of Alert Bay. Mushrooms grew voraciously out of decaying logs. Giant ferns spread their arms out to us. Only small speckles of sunlight made it through the thick cedar boughs. The kids made up a game. There was a different monster down each path; you had to decide which path to take, walk on the boardwalks, run on the parts with extra traction, and cross over magic roots and magic bridges. There were some mean monsters, and there were some nice monsters, including – to my shock – the nice mommy monster. The goal of the game was to hide from the monsters.
My monster – boiling and erupting after issuing one too many warnings and one too many unheeded requests for help – had not been nice that morning. My erupting monster wished I could have left the kids and their maniacal, disrespectful selves on a beach up here and sailed off alone into the fog. My erupting monster was full of anger and resentment and could find neither logic nor patience nor empathy to quell the heat of every word. I wanted to hide from my monster, too.
There’s any number of reasons that all our monsters were out in full force that day. Tom was shoulder deep in the bilge attempting to replace an impeller, which was going badly as water poured into the boat. I hadn’t had a moment to myself in days and was struggling to get chores done with kids in tow while the boat was torn apart. We had had a long day of local tourism the previous day, not getting the kids into bed until well after 9:00 that night. And that doesn’t even include the whole reason we had stopped for a “rest” in Alert Bay: we had had a few very rough days transiting some difficult waters.
To hit slack tide at Seymour Narrows and a good tide in the Johnstone Strait, we were up at 5:00 and 6:00 am a few days in a row. Nobody was sleeping enough. The kids had been mildly sea sick. The boat was a mess. Wind was on our nose at 15 to 20 knots true, which means our apparent wind (what we felt) was 22 to 27. We pounded into wave after wave. There’s rarely a good time to go through the Johnstone strait, as the wind is almost always a strong northwesterly, which opposes the ebb current that you want to take you northwest. And when that wind opposes that current, the sea state becomes very uncomfortable. We braved the waves and appreciated the news from a boat further up letting us know that it would let up.
What a joy it was to finally be able to tuck into a passage behind West Cracroft Island and know that we wouldn’t have to reenter Johnstone. But the next day Blackfish Sound proved just as windy and uncomfortable. There was a saving grace to distract us: a humpback whale emerged not 100 meters from our boat and proceeded to dive and resurface around us for the next three or four minutes. A night in a beautiful but rolly bay on Hanson Island gave us little rest, even with our bellies full of freshly caught rockfish and fresh-out-of-the-oven bread. The short but windy and choppy drive up to Alert Bay was exhausting, and even the boys didn’t give much heed to the Dall’s porpoises playing briefly in our bow wave.
And back to the forest in Alert Bay, where I spoke hardly a word and tried to make the walk through the forest my meditation, my swim, my alone time. I couldn’t talk. I would have burst into tears. A woman we met twice along the paths (who, to my eyes, talked and smiled joyfully like a modern day fairy god mother) asked the kids brightly if they had seen any monsters. When they replied they hadn’t (expect for the five monster babies that Andy said he saw in the trees), she told them that they usually hide under the bridges and that’s where the kids would find them.
After that, instead of hiding from the monsters, the kids immediately went looking for the monsters. They peered under bridges. They talked about how big the monsters’ eyes were and how long their arms were. And it hit me that perhaps I need to confront mommy monster and learn to recognize her and when she’s coming. To know what brings her out from under her bridge, what the color of her eyes are, and – most importantly – to learn how to ask her politely to return down her forested path. We can’t have a world without monsters, but if we can acknowledge their existence and breathe and laugh to quell their fire, then perhaps we can devise a peaceful coexistence.
The impeller has been replaced, the through-hull is no longer letting water into the boat, we’ve all had time to calm down and breathe, and we rounded Cape Scott safely on Tuesday. A video and update will follow soon!