Jon was in rough shape. He was feverish. He was also making mistakes. It was very unlike him. He dropped a big can of tuna in the water. Clumsy and wasteful are traits of the anti-Jon. This is a man who can dumpster dive from a slack line. But we had had a long row the previous day, 15 miles, over from the US. So I tried to convince him that his troubles were due to full sun and hard work. Also, our provisions had run low, and the diet over the last few days featured such favorites as “oreos and peanut butter” for breakfast and “gin and tonic” for lunch. It was a convincing argument, so Jon tried to sleep it off.
The next day he was feeling better (probably due to the vegetables we purchased on North Pender island). We set out for Saturna Island so we’d be well placed for the following day and a trip out to Tumbo and Cabbage islands. But we had sought medical advice from our friends, thankfully, and they suggested that the strange rash that accompanied his symptoms was of concern, and that we should circle the rash with a pen. If it escaped the circle, we must head with all speed for medical care. I’d gotten strange rashes on previous rowing trips, so I was still dubious.
Which reminds me, when you are out for two weeks, away from running water, you can get a little ripe. There are measures that you can take to prevent this. The water is freezing cold, dangerous even, but after a full day in the sun rowing you will relish a quick dip. Thirty seconds ought to do it. And then there is what I call the “San Juan Shower”, though it works just as well in the Gulf Islands. Pit toilets provide hand sanitizer: Purell or the equivalent. This stuff normally just disinfects, which is nice, but if you apply it liberally to toilet paper, you can actually wash yourself with it. Use it in high value areas. No need to wash your elbows. The tingling tells you its working!
We rowed out to Winter Cove, on the north end of Saturna Island. Winter Cove opens to the Strait of Georgia via Boat Pass. The opening is too small for big ships, and also too small to quickly equalize the water height differences between the Strait of Georgia and the waters of the Gulf Islands. Huge differences in water height can build up here, and whitewater rapids result. We played in the back eddies, and then pulled the boats up on shore. The roar of the water in Boat Pass could be heard from hundreds of yards away.
To prepare for a question we’d thought the Canadians would ask us in customs, we had named our boats. Mine would be Starbuck (for the reasonable first mate of the Pequod). Jon’s would be Red Zeppelin, because the boats look like dirigibles, and well, because people like boat names that are puns. Eager to apply the names at all cost, I acquired a tube of white caulk back on North Pender island. We finally had a quiet moment in Winter Cove, and so the names were applied.
Photo by Earth Wandering
The thought of applying Red Zeppelin by finger painting with caulk was too much for me, so Jon acquiesced to “Red Zep”. Also, I wasn’t sure how many p’s and l’s were in Zeppelin.
We finished the naming, and relaunched the boats. We rowed out to anchoring depths, close to the mouth of Boat Pass, and went to sleep listening to the water churn.
Photo by Earth Wandering
The next morning, we found that the rash had overrun its borders. We had gambled and lost. We had left medical care behind on North Pender. Now our best option was to return to Saturna and get on a ferry for Sydney (the distant city on Vancouver Island). I had no more arguments. When people who know what they are doing say go seek medical care, you just do it. Once on Saturna, we asked about medical care, though the tiny community could not possibly support a clinic. We were wrong! On Wednesdays, Saturna was visited by a doctor, and on Thursdays a nurse practitioner.
“What day is today?”
Well how about that. The first ferry (which contained a visiting nurse practitioner) unloaded, and we hitched a lift in a Nissan Leaf bound for town, a mile or so inland. Jon jumped in line, and got to be the first patient of the day.
“Have you travelled anywhere unusual recently?”
“Well, I’ve been rowing for the last week… and I just got back from Connecticut…”
They both reached the same conclusion at the same time. Connecticut. Lyme disease.
Canada has a wonderful medical system, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. They sent Jon packing with a full round of the correct antibiotics, and lightened his pocket by 70$ USD. On an island where you can’t buy a life preserver, they have an obscure antibiotic to treat a disease common on the east coast of the United States. Oh Canada.
We were back on the water in no time. There was a favorable tide. We could still make Tumbo and Cabbage Islands. Jon dressed himself outlandishly to guard against the sun. A tragic side effect of the medication was sun sensitivity. The sun beat down on us from every direction, and even reflected back up at us. It did this from 6 AM until 9 PM. Sun sensitivity. It had to be sun sensitivity.
We arrived at Tumbo and Cabbage Islands, a location of peerless beauty, and counted ourselves among the luckiest few.
Tumbo Island was the trip’s northern extent. It was time to head back south, and return to the United States. But first we had to pick up Jon’s girlfriend, and survive “British Columbia Day”!
Check out Jon’s gallery of this trip