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For almost ten years now, I and many others here on the Sunshine Coast have been enjoying outrigger canoe paddling on the waters around Gibsons. There isn't a time of year that won't see us out on the water. Of course, the warmth of spring, summer and fall are the most comfortable for the pursuit, but even in the depths of our west coast winter only wind and ice in the harbour will keep us away. It is a passion we all enjoy. Our weekly paddles on the ocean are eagerly anticipated.

When weather allows, we'll steer our canoes around through the gap in front of Gibsons, then turn down the far shore of Keats Island. There, the sense of distance and isolation takes over. Faced with only ocean and the rocky shore of Keats, one can soon forget just how close to civilization we really are. The smooth glide of a canoe and the rhythmic gulp of the paddle pulling us along is the familiar music that accompanies us each day on the water. These are magical times, when the day's issues and problems fade to insignificance. Like the one good golf shot that brings every player back to the game, so too these very peaceful and personal moments in the canoe are what each of us longs for time and again.

When I steer the canoe I prefer to stay close to shore. With the shore close at hand the benefits to the crew are many. That close proximity shows each puller just how fast the canoe is traveling. The close up detail of the shore provides a diversion to the mind, paddling becomes easier. It's just an interesting place to be, on the water and close to shore. That course around the far shore of Keats Island usually allows me to steer the canoe between two rocks that most don't even know as navigable. It's my secret passage. On one such evening excursion in the fall of 2006 we'd just come through Secret Passage on our return trip to Gibsons. We paddled on for a bit, then, I chanced to look back over my shoulder. I turned the canoe so that the crew could see where we'd just come from and we stopped our paddling just to savour the moment. The waning sun illuminated the point, and highlighted the two arbutus trees in a moment of stunning perfection. It had to be a painting. Such are the paddling times. We paddle from one point to the next, always looking for that special time and place in the universe. On this evening we'd found it, right there at SECRET PASSAGE.



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