Exploring, beachcombing, fishing or waiting for a break in the weather, Mary Gazetas has paddled the west coast for almost 30 summers. Each year, when it’s "time for the women to go to sea", Mary heads out with her twin sister Phoebe and a group of women that may include daughters, other relatives and
friends. By kayak and canoe, they have explored Barkley, Clayoquot, Nootka and Kyuquot sounds; the Broughton Archipelago; the Central Coast and Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands).
The women never travel lightly as they take the many comforts of home such as coffee (at least two pounds), wine, herbs and veggies, sheets and pillows. "Comfort has become more important as we age", Gazetas says. While away, the women make wood fires (with a bag of dry kindling) and cook salmon and other special treats like sea cucumber. And they have a lot of fun!
Although the food packs may be lighter on the return trip, the boats are loaded down with many stones, bleached animal bones and small pieces of white, rounded driftwood. Gazetas uses empty plastic bottles as containers for the stones and creates "beaches" on desks and tables at home.
Rather than chronological, the book is divided into chapters according to the locations visited. Each chapter begins with a map which is really helpful as well as awe-inspiring. There are so many islands to explore along the coasts of Vancouver Island and the mainland. Gazetas has had a show of her beachcombed artworks, called "Beachscapes", at the Richmond Art Gallery. Images of some of those are included along with her photos and drawings. (She always takes art supplies on her paddling adventures.) Jacqui Thomas, the book’s designer, did a marvelous job using various page
lay-outs to have the book appear as if it’s a journal shared with the reader.
Gazetas and her sister make lists and plans all winter as to what they’ll take, where they’ll go next. Her enthusiasm is contagious. She has me thinking of where I’d like to go and who I’d like to come with me. Gazetas would probably recommend a canoe as you can take so many more supplies that
way – and bring so much more back.
Mary Ann Moore is a poet, writer and creativity facilitator living in Nanaimo.