In addition to the kind and gifted photographer, Ken Spence, who was one of our sea kayaking travel companions (http://lbwithblackvelvetrav.blogspot.com/2015/08/thank-you-ken-spence-your-photographic.html) we were also traveling with a journalist by the name of Martin Fletcher. As we learned Martin was working on a short article for the Financial Times documenting his Sea Kayaking travel experiences with ROW. In all honesty I had absolutely no awareness or knowledge of Martin’s professional resume. I will confess that I have spent zero time in Martin’s world literally or figuratively. I follow baking blogs not British journalists. Foreign affairs are not on my radar but fanciful flourishes are. In reality we are worlds apart in every way humanely imaginable. That was until our sea kayaking adventure in August when fate stepped in and brought together a group of strangers with an interest in unique nature adventures.
During this unusual travel experience we stripped away our professional wardrobes, titles and multitasking gifts and opened our eyes to the wonders of the world around us. Although this was a working trip for both Martin and Ken it was obvious how genuinely they each individually relished the opportunity to experience and capture the experience to the fullest. As Ken was visually documenting the journey I could see the gears in Martins mind working through each day in the form of words, thoughts and quotes. He would make notes and verbally discuss the essence and outline of his article as he was mentally writing and rewriting each word based on new perceptions, experiences and thoughts. Although I do not possess Martin’s written flourish or Ken’s photographic talents I often think of experiences in the form of words and images combined so it was fascinating for me to see them both “at work.”
Personally what I really respect about Martin is his level of integrity in the honestly that he felt he needed to portray regarding his experiences in the pending article. You can’t write about whales if you do not see them. For both Martin and I by day three the whales had become creatures of almost mythological proportions. We were the two individuals on the trip who had not seen any whales, even at a great distance. I was anticipating a white unicorn stallion or fire breathing dragon with emerald green eyes to appear on the islands with more certainty than I was anticipating a whale encounter. I know that Martin was also questioning their actual existence. The rugged Johnstone Strait, between Vancouver Island and the BC mainland, is touted as one of the best places to whale watch in all of British Columbia. Humpback whales, 260 Resident and even more Transient Orcas all migrate the channel, feeding on salmon and the abundant marine life found between its rocky shores. So it leaves one to wonder after 3 days of paddling “where are the whales?”
Day three is where Martin and Ken’s working status afforded them the whale encounter of a life time. After an afternoon of paddling eight of the ten kayaks had been moved to dry land above the high tide line leaving two kayaks (one double and one single) near the water for Mel (one of our three tour guides) to take Ken and Martin back out on the water in hopes of seeing whales while everyone else remained at camp. Sitting on the rocky shoreline beach near our tent Anthony and I watched as Mel hurried the men into the kayaks shortly after our return. We could see humpback blowhole whale activity finally on our side of the straight from where we were sitting. As fortunes would have it they were able to paddle quickly enough to encounter a whale feeding (the pictures above were captured by Ken of Martin and the whale). Anthony stood there with his binoculars transfixed by the entire experience. Like a seasoned sports caster Anthony was verbally sharing with me the play by play experience that he was viewing. I will admit that I had very mixed emotions over their additional whale encounter opportunities. As much as I understood the logistics of getting everyone out on the water (sometimes this was a very slow process) and how it was not conducive to a quick launch it was frustrating to not have the same opportunities that they were afforded. When you wait over 30 years for an experience it is heartbreaking to miss any opportunity, even the ones not offered to you. Both men were so gracious when they returned as they knew we had all watched from shore. And as happy and delighted as I was for their encounter I was simultaneously mourning the loss of the opportunity for the rest of us. Poor Anthony did his best to cheer me up but he knew I was pretty glum that evening. It took everything that night to shake off the spectacular pout I was wearing. Still the next morning I remained hopeful that we were only half way into our trip and that there would be plenty of opportunities for whale encounters for everyone including myself.
The spectacular pictures above were captured by Ken and you can see the delight in Martin’s face. Today seeing these pictures brings a true smile to my face which was unfortunately absent the day of their big adventure. If nothing I am honest even when I am not having my best moments. Since our return Martin’s travel article has been published and is available to read on-line (link below). It is interesting to read about his perceptions and to mull over my own. Although we were on the same trip our experiences and opinions are not completely identical (strangely enough we differ mostly about the weather). Yet I think he did a fine job honestly and accurately portraying his personal experiences and the special opportunities he was provided with. In addition to Martin’s high level of personal and professional integrity I found him to be unpretentious, kind and generous in the sharing of his travel and life experiences. It is not often you meet someone who has been arrested in Syria more than once. As a bonus Martin’s witty and charming wife Katy (pictured above) was able to join him on this kayaking adventure. I love her smile, warm heart and am jealous of how photogenic she is. She woke up every day looking perfect and always had a smile and kind word for everyone.
Kayaking with Killer Whales in British Columbia by Martin Fletcher:
Ken Spence Photography: