Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A bit of a chop

That's what we called it when I was a kid on Vancouver Island; a bit of a chop. More or less the usual, the everyday winter crossing of the channel. Just a little wind, a little chop, the odd whitecap here and there. Good weather for seabirds. And me; I loved the wind in my face, the slap-slap-slap of the bow on the wavelets, the salty dampness in the air.

I still do.

Crescent Beach, the last day of March. Out of the wind, with the sun on our backs, it was almost warm. Along the unprotected shore, the wind was brisk and nippy. My eyes were tearing up, and my lips stung from the cold. At least I'd thought to bring the tuque and gloves.

"Desolate," Laurie kept saying. "It looks desolate." It did. Flatness, greys and blues, no land features. Even the few people on the beach were bundled up and walking sedately, preserving energy.

A small boat went by, leaving a white wake. I would have liked to hitch a ride, just for the pleasure of the spray in my face.

The birds flying overhead (click for full size) followed an erratic path, looking as if they had been tossed into the sky by some ancient wind god. (Ehecatl, maybe?)

That's Laurie, getting his boots wet. Patches of off-white foam were scattered over the beach, looking like old, dirty soap suds, but in reality a rich, nutrient broth, loaded with elegant skeletons of phytoplankton.
Windrows of phytoplankton remains show that the sea off our coast is producing tons of food for other creatures in the food web.
From New Jersey Scuba Diver: scroll 'way down to "Sea Foam".
A bit off-shore, a pair of mallards idled in the shelter of a breakwater. Further out, buffleheads were fishing, visible only in flashes of black and white as they surfaced for air.

It was still early, but we were chilled through. We headed back home for steaming cups of tea.

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