Woken by the gentle lapping of waves on the hull, I feel the boat turning, dancing at anchor. When I open my eyes the soft glow of sunrise on the water is caught in the hatches, shimmering reflections land on the cabin ceiling. The smell of fresh coffee wafts from the galley. The Skipper is up, but it’s pure luxury to stay nestled in my bunk while my mind returns from a deep slumber. We left our home port of Maple Bay the day before and drifted under sail on a steady 10 knot breeze, tacking our way north on Stuart Channel between Vancouver Island and Saltspring Island. We dropped anchor in Clam Bay for the night, a spacious and protected anchorage between Thetis and Kuiper Island.
It takes a few moments to remember the late night visitor we had on the stern. I had startled to the sound of bubbles hitting the hull beneath me, then the Skipper yelling out. After inspecting the cockpit and surroundings the only sign of any intruder was saltwater on the stern. Whatever had been using our swim grid for an safe landing had been frightened back into the ocean, and we returned to our berths. I imagined the predator at night waiting for it’s prey, unable to escape in the murky darkness below the surface of the ocean. It could have been an otter or a seal, hunted by a sea lion or a whale, swimming for it’s life.
Forcing myself out of my cozy nest, I pour my coffee and climbed into the cockpit, the day greets me with a kaleidoscope of colors. There’s a pair of young eagles feasting on the shore at low tide. Their darkening brown and downy white feathers ruffling in the wind. Beneath them the seaweed is a bright yellow and green contrast to the blue water, sparkling with sunlit diamonds shimmering off the ripples. Their parents perch at a distance, keeping watch and chirping attentively. The bright white of the bald eagles’ heads on the majestic bodies of dark brown with yellow talons and matching beaks stand out from the various shades of green trees surrounding the bay.
On the opposite shore, a group of First Nations people from the local community on Penelakut (Kuper) are collecting clams, filling their red nets and stacking them in neat piles, ready to load onto their skiffs when the tide rises. Lawn chairs are spread out on the muddy beach, and colorful jackets are strewn about as the sun warms them while they toil, bending to their task. A small child in a pink shirt with her bright red bucket sits in the mud, digging for clams alongside her mother. As the tide rises, they load the clams into their skiffs along with all the jackets and chairs, and make their way through the cut between the islands, disappearing from view as they are swallowed up in the curve of the channel.
In the background, low cotton clouds kiss the mountains, caressing the peaks covered in lush green forests with white splashes of winter snow lingering in shadows. In the opposite direction a sailboat comes drifting into sight from behind the point, it’s sails bright against the half blue, half green canvas, as if it were a painting hanging perfectly in nature’s galley. It floats past a sandy beach stretching lazily into the water, then disappears behind the next island, heading to a destination in the hundreds of welcoming bays in the Southern Gulf Islands.