Bruce in kayak.

"We specialize in small group travel, which minimizes environmental impact, increases safety standards and allows for personalized, enriching and authentic experiences."

— Bruce Smith, founder and owner, Seascape Kayak Tours Inc.

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Airports and awakeningsMay 17th, 2009

Bruce’s first blog back in Canada:

I arrived back on Deer Island safe and sound following a long day of travel over the Mother’s Day weekend.

I find it very difficult to travel on airlines these days. It is incredible to witness the amount of garbage generated on each flight. 

“What would you like to drink?” asks the U.S. Airlines stewardess. Smiling, I reply, “A can of orange juice please.” 

“Would you like a cup and ice?” 

“Will the cup be recycled?”

“No, sir, we don’t have enough space to recycle on this flight.”  

You brought the plastic and cans on the flight initially, didn’t you? I think. 

“I’ll take the can, no glass, no ice and I will recycle the can myself.” 

So begins the trip home to a developed country. Making my way carefully through the airport terminals in Charlotte, NC and NY, NY, I immediately notice two things: the fierce speed at which people are moving and that no one seems to be smiling or happy. Welcome to the United States of America.

PADDLERS ENJOY CALM CONDITIONS AND EXPLORING A HERRING WEIR OFF ST. HELENA ISLAND IN THE BAY OF FUNDY EARLIER THIS WEEK.

PADDLERS ENJOY CALM CONDITIONS NEAR A HERRING WEIR OFF ST. HELENA ISLAND IN THE BAY OF FUNDY THIS WEEK.

I eventually make my way back to North West Harbour through Bangor, Maine, and am greeted by waves gently lapping on the beach, the call of a loon and quiet, peaceful solitude. It almost seems as if I entered a black hole immediately after leaving the tranquility of  Playa Tambor in Costa Rica and didn’t emerge until I landed on Deer Island.

The ferry crossings, the peaceful rural setting… I am struck by how similar Seascape’s two bases of operation are. The rainy season (what Ticos call “winter”) has arrived in Costa Rica and spring has breathed new life on Deer Island. The peepers in the local pond are singing in the evening and I know the warmer temperatures will soon be here. 

We have already run several trips here in Canada. An annual trip with Sedbergh School from Ontario was held on a beautiful calm, sunny day. Sedbergh is an international school and the group included students from the Bahamas, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. It is still quiet on the water in terms of marine life. However, we did spot several Harbour Seals and a pair of Common Loons.

A second trip involved a fellow who was attending a conference in Saint John and a couple from New Hampshire who left their dogs Molly and Quigsly at the shop while on the water. Heavy winds were forecast, so we carefully wound our way through the island archipelago, taking full advantage of the protection the islands offered. In the end, we did have to pull out early to be safe and shuttle folks back to our base, where the two dogs happily greeted us.

WARMLY DRESSED HAPPY PADDLERS FOLLOWING THURSDAY'S WINDY SPRING PADDLE.

WARMLY DRESSED HAPPY CUSTOMERS AT THE TAKE OUT FOLLOWING THURSDAY'S WINDY SPRING PADDLE.

During the trip, I was asked whether it was hard to make the transition from Costa Rica to Canada. I looked at what I was wearing – fleece pants, paddling pants, wools socks, rubber boots, fleece sweater, paddling jacket, PFD and wool hat – and responded: from a temperature perspective most certainly. 

But the hardest part of the transition is traveling through very busy urban centers and coming to the realization that most people lack a connection to the earth and have not found balance or peace in their lives.

On flights, most people do not question where the plastic goes, they are only thinking about getting to their final destination. I think passengers need to carefully consider where the final destination is for our garbage and to force airlines to adopt recycling programs. This would dramatically reduce the amount of plastic that reaches our landfills, rivers and oceans.

I am very fortunate to live and work in two beautiful locations. Seascape leaves a very small environmental footprint, and while you are with us we will encourage you to do your part. Hopefully you will take time to reflect and make sound environmental choices on your next flight. This will perhaps make you smile and provide you with a sense of peace.

Bruce

Bruce’s first blog back in Canada above inspired me to offer an addendum to this topic:

After we endured the cavalier attitude of U.S. Airways toward the prospect of recycling, I watched in horror as a US security agent in the Charlotte airport yelled at Bruce as if he were a boot camp recruit, slamming his MacIntosh laptop computer down hard into a plastic tub. I have to admit I’m always embarrassed to bring my Canadian partner into the US! Why is it that we have become complacent in the face of security employees’ blatant disrespect for their customers? When did it become acceptable to scream angrily at people who are buying your product, just because your job entails some semblance (though many times removed) of national security?

I went to one of the airport’s Starbucks seeking solace in a skim milk latte, something I hadn’t had for months, knowing I would have to purchase a permanent container because I refuse to buy their senseless throw-away cups. It amazes me how many people buy them and throw them away like automatons without thinking, without questioning anything. Like lemmings or sheep following one another off a cliff.

“Are you a mother?” was the first question posed to me by the young lady who stood ready to take my order. The irony that she sounded like a rapper getting ready to follow the M word with the F word was lost on her, as was the connection between Mother’s Day and Mother Earth. What I bought was a chocolate chip scone and a $5 ceramic mug, requesting that it be filled with the coveted latte. And even though my answer to her question was no, she matter-of-factly gave me the Mother’s Day discount.

From here, I enter the adjacent magazine store with the intention of buying one little package of tic-tacs, but am stopped in my tracks by a cat’s anxious meow. I whirl around to see a heavily made-up woman in designer clothing shopping officiously for this and that, all the while slinging around on her hip a frightened cat in a luxury carrier. I am suddenly repulsed by the unmindful transport of this poor creature, who only wants to find peace. Identifying only with the cat, I feel on the verge of insanity because I am so unlike the people around me in the airport. So I put the tic-tacs back, flee the store and go to my gate to prepare myself for the next assault of culture shock.

Starbucks’ use of throw-away cups, U.S. Airways’ refusal to recycle, militant airport security attitudes – all of these non-environmentally friendly and non-user friendly systems deserve to be questioned and criticized and I’m working hard to still my mind from the irritants of an over-the-top consumer-out-of-control materialist society. I so want for people and companies (who we know are smart because they know how to make money) to start working together to get a point where we are self-sustained and not buying and doing unsustainable things all the time.

No one can do everything, but we can all make small choices that have a big impact on the original Mother from which life springs. The Buddha said, “My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.”

Frances

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE AND ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION - BARNES ISLAND, BAY OF FUNDY

HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL FOR THE FUTURE AND ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION - BARNES ISLAND, BAY OF FUNDY


Ode to an OpossumMay 7th, 2009

We mentioned in our last blog that the next entry would be written from a totally different region and climate: Canada. But we felt compelled to write one last time from our southern home beside the beach in Tambor, which we will leave in just a few short days. 

Playa Tambor after a hard rain, with its view of the silent sentinel, the land formation locals call a crocodile.

PLAYA TAMBOR AFTER A RECENT HARD RAIN, WITH ITS SILENT SENTINEL, THE LAND FORMATION LOCALS CALL A CROCODILE.

Throughout our time in Costa Rica, our blog entries have introduced you to our adventures and to the rich biodiversity of the country…

A couple of days ago, an Opossum wandered onto the hotel property and collapsed on the walkway close to our apartment. The animal had likely been hit by a speeding vehicle and was badly injured. Initially the small mammal appeared to have died. However, as we watched, the poor creature seemed to come back to life and continue to move slowly and try to shake off its serious injuries. 

One of the local workers came to inspect the animal and decided to take him, somewhat unceremoniously, to the back of the property and put him out of his suffering. In only a few short moments, we had become emotionally involved and felt very sad all day about this loss. 

Golden Trumpet or Bejuco de San José in bloom along the Rio Panica

BEACH HIBISCUS OR BEJUCO ALONG THE RIO PANICA

Death is a part of the cycle of life. In nature everything is connected and has an important role to play. An Opossum is not a cute, cuddly creature like a puppy, nor does it flash vibrant tropical colors like a toucan or possess human-like features like playful monkeys. But its role in life is just as important. Its life, too, is special. 

Last night, a Pacific Screech Owl sat in a tree in front of our apartment and called incessantly for an hour and a half. And today, while cleaning kayaks for storage, we were graced with a visit from a very large and venerable “green” iguana, who has taken on the orange-red and blackish grey colors of the very old.

Very old and large Green Iguana, now reddish-orange and grey-black.

OLD GREEN IGUANA, NOW REDDISH-ORANGE AND GREY

We wish to pay tribute here to the opossum and to wish him, and all the other souls now crossing, safe passage. 

Bruce and Frances


Halcyon DaysMay 3rd, 2009

We write this during the final countdown to our seasonal departure from Costa Rica. There are seven days left until we leave to run the summer kayaking season on Deer Island in the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, Canada. Seven halcyon days.

The rainy season has begun. A few nights ago, we were driving home from Curú Wildlife Refuge at dusk when the first substantial rain began to fall, making the dirt roads suddenly oily and greasy. We nearly got stuck in the slippery mud dropping off a friend who lives near the river.

Green HeronCOMMONLY SEEN GREEN HERON ON THE PANICA RIVER.

 

 

Last night we were awakened by a deafening roar of rain, the first true torrential downpour that lasted several hours and brought a fresh, cooler feeling to the hot, sticky air. As a result of this hard shower, the water in the ocean in front of Tambor Tropical and in the nearby River Panica has turned to a ruddy red. We paddled up the Panica this morning at high tide and saw a variety of birds, including beautiful pink Roseate Spoonbills and tall, regal white Wood Storks. Every paddle offers opportunities to see a tremendous number of wading birds such as egrets and herons, the most common being the Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Tiger Heron and Green Heron.

 

Boat billedNOT SO COMMONLY SEEN BOAT-BILLED HERON, ALSO ON THE RIO PANICA.

 

 

Two days ago, we saw a heron we hadn’t seen before in the Panica River, the Boat-billed Heron, which searches for fish at night. Its shoe-shaped bill is thought to help it catch food in lower light, in which precise spearing of fish with a narrow bill would be difficult. The bird was hiding in the thicket and very shy, but we got some decent photos that show its huge, human-like eye and unmistakable bill.

 

We also saw a Belted Kingfisher this morning, one of five types we see in Costa Rica, the others being the Ringed, Amazon, Green and American Pigmy. The kingfisher has been the subject of a fair amount of folklore, hearkening all the way back to Greek mythology. There is a myth that Zeus was jealous of a female character, Alcyone, for her power over the wind and waves. In a jealous rage, Zeus killed Alcyone’s husband by destroying his ship with lightning. Alcyone threw herself into the sea to join her drowning lover and they both turned into kingfishers. So through the years sailors believed the kingfisher could protect them by calming stormy weather; they referred to the kingfisher as the Halcyon bird. Kingfishers were also thought to nest for seven days of peace and calm when rearing their young, and these were called the Halcyon Days. (Les Beletsky, Costa Rica Travelers’ Wildlife Guide.)

 

BeltedTHE BELTED KINGFISHER, ONE OF THE HALCYON BIRDS OF GREEK MYTHOLOGY.

 

 

The paddling season in Canada is shaping up with plenty of day trips and multi-day experiences on the calendar May through September and we’ll have to hit the ground running once we arrive. Meanwhile, as we pack gear, clean boats, store belongings and prepare to depart, we are listening to the Howler Monkeys, watching all the birds, feeling the rains move over the sea, and trying to get every ounce of enjoyment we can out of our final halcyon days in Tambor.

 

When we next communicate with you, it’ll be from an entirely different climate at the opposite end of the Americas, but one with just as much beauty and joy to offer paddlers, wildlife lovers and everyone who makes the time to visit our very special corner of the universe: Deer Island. We hope to see you there this summer.

 

Pura vida,

 

Bruce and Frances