The Joys of Kayaking - Pam's Story

A story by Pam Ferris-Olson from present

I learned to kayak off San Juan Island in the state of Washington. I was attending a weeklong program on killer whales. At the time kayaks were made from fiberglass. I discovered it wasn’t a good idea to wear shorts in a fiberglass kayak. Despite that uncomfortable start, I loved kayaking. I loved gliding along the surface immersed in the sights and sounds of the natural world. I’ve had many amazing experiences. I kayaked in Greenland in October. In some places the water was forming crystals. I had to dig into the hard crust to propel myself forward. In Alaska, I heard what sounded like an explosion, only to look up and see about ¼ mile away, a humpback whale breach. As it hit the water the air shook from the sound. I’ve also kayaked at night among phosphorescent plankton. But, I think, maybe the best experience I’ve had has been in Maine.

Whenever I go out in my kayak I look for dark, round objects bobbing on the surface. If I am lucky and the water conditions are right I catch a glimpse of one. When I see it I begin to sing, hoping my voice, so different from the deeper, loud noises of a boat’s engine will attract it. Sometimes as I paddle closer, I laugh at my silliness especially when I realize as I near the object that instead of being a harbor seal I have been serenading a buoy.

At low tide rocky ledges are exposed. Some of these serve as haul out areas for seals. Recently, I came across one ledge with a group of seals. I tried to stay far enough away I wouldn’t spook them. But some, probably the younger ones, nervously slid off their rocky perch into the water. They didn’t swim away. Instead, they surrounded me. They rose up so I was able to see their whiskered faces and thick necks. We are both naturally curious creatures. I floated in my kayak; they bobbed on the water. They’d disappear and resurface in a different spot. This dance went on for a while as they slowly made their way back to the ledge.

Casco Bay may be near my home in terms of mileage but the distance I travel when I go out in my kayak is immeasurable. I am transported to another world. My spirit, no matter how low it has been, is lifted. I feel so lucky to live in Maine.