How many times have you heard someone say, “I would love to go on a long kayak expedition, but I just can’t get the time off work”?
Vancouver paddler Colin Mahony didn’t let his job as a forestry consultant stop him.
Colin’s dream was to paddle around Vancouver Island—up the relatively sheltered waters of the Strait of Georgia and Johnstone Strait, then down the extremely exposed icy waters of the island’s surf-washed west coast to Victoria, and finally across the Strait of Georgia back to Vancouver.
Giving up his job was not an option. So he just broke the expedition up, paddling most weekends as well as in longer stages whenever he could get the time off.
Colin set out northward from Vancouver in early April, 2005, paddling on his days off and then finding a place to stash his boat each Sunday night to catch a ferry back to Vancouver.
Over the summer, he was able to take four separate weeks off which, with weekends, gave him up to nine days of paddling at a stretch.
The week that he planned to round the fearsome waters of Cape Scott, known for their nasty tidal rip and the wild weather that spins off Vancouver Island’s northern tip, the forecast called for 50-knot winds and ocean swells up to eight metres. Luckily, Colin was able to reschedule his time off and go the following week instead.
One of the greatest challenges he found was, after days of solitude, pushing himself to be outgoing when paddling into some unfamiliar remote community. One Sunday afternoon near the end of the journey, he found himself on the outside of Vancouver Island, still on the water. He had to be back in the office on Monday morning. Port Renfrew lay ahead, and the one bus left there at 4 p.m.
“I landed on the beach, found a phone booth, and started calling around. I needed somewhere I could leave my boat. Someone said, ‘Call Rick.’” Rick was happy to help (it turned out that Colin had landed right in front of his house anyway) and offered him a beer.
“So I missed the bus,” continued Colin, “and got out on the road. It was getting dark, but I ended up getting a ride all the way to Victoria that night, right to my friend’s door.” He caught the first ferry in the morning, and made it to work on time.
“The logistics of this trip forced me to rely upon the kindness of others,” he said. “It created these wonderful situations where I would meet people.”
Now, having completed his journey, he says that the people that he met and the friendships that resulted are what really defined this trip for him.
Colin paddled back into Vancouver Harbour on Labour Day weekend, five months after he set out. In a total of 42 days on the water, he covered 1,200 kilometres.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2006 issue of Adventure Kayak Magazine. For more great content, subscribe to Adventure Kayak’s print and digital editions here.