A six-year-old’s perspective on coastal cruising
by Isabella Maxey
This story was created by having Isabella tell me about the trip and then I supplemented by asking her questions. The words are hers (including the metaphors, which I found amazing) with very, very minimal editing. I have added some information in parentheses. -Brian Maxey
My name is Isabella Maxey and I am six years old. My mom and dad kayak a lot. I have wanted to go on a sleepover kayak trip for four or five years. This September, I got my wish.
My trip began with a ferry-boat ride to Orcas Island with my family. I had been on a ferry before when I was young, but I cried because I thought I was going to get to ride on a real fairy, not a boat. My dad and I walked my mom and little brother down to Camp Orkila (YMCA camp on Orcas) and waved goodbye. Then we went on my first overnight kayak trip to Doe Island. I had been in a kayak before at the beach and in the Hudson River in New York City. We were originally going to go to Sucia Island, but we didn’t have enough people to make it safely. My dad always talks about being safe in a kayak. My dad said that Doe Island was magic because there was a glade on the island where the fairies live.
We met Toby Brown and Desmond at the store. Toby is a grown-up like my dad. Desmond is in his teens. I bet a lot of people know Toby Brown. We went shopping for the food we would need. We bought juice boxes, marshmallows, apple sauce, a hot pepper, tortillas, pesto and milk boxes for my dad’s coffee. And then we drove over to Toby’s house where we were going to get in the water.
We got all our stuff and brought it down to the beach. We had sleeping bags, tools to cook with, tents, clothes, toothbrushes and toothpaste. I brought warm clothes. It was hard work taking the kayaks and the stuff down the trail to the beach. We had to make many trips. Then I put wood for our fire into the bow of the boat. My dad said he wanted heavy things in the front.
My dad and I were in an orange kayak. I was in the front, which is called the bow. The right side is starboard but I forget what the left side is called. I was wearing pink and black sweatpants, a white rash guard with hearts on it, a purple fleece and my pink raincoat. I was also wearing my red life jacket, which you always wear in a kayak. Before we got on the water my dad said that if we tipped over, I should hold on to the boat and if I was not holding on to the boat, I should swim to it. He said I should not swim to shore.
Then we paddled to Doe Island. Kayaking feels like flying and the paddle feels like a wing. I paddled the whole way. Paddling is like weaving—I pretended that the paddle was a needle and I threaded the needle back and forth and back and forth on the loom, which was the ocean. We paddled near rocks looking for sea stars, but we didn’t see any on the way there. We did see seals looking at us. When we first started paddling it was cloudy and the sky was gray. By the time we got to Doe the clouds had moved away and there was a patch of blue.
When we got to Doe Island, we brought all our stuff up to where we were going to sleep that night. There was blue grass at our campsite. We saw a lot of yellow jackets—about 10,000 of them. Toby said that their queen had stopped feeding them and that they were hungry and looking for food. My dad and I set up our tent. We could see the mountains over the water. There was a seal with a fish in its mouth and a pelican tried to get it from him. My dad and I went for a walk on the island and found the bathroom. The bathroom was wooden and didn’t flush and there was no place to wash our hands—just hand sanitizer. On the other side of the island we saw a great blue heron very close. The next day we also saw a lot of kingfishers and a bald eagle. On our walk we saw a place that had a lot of moss and three tree roots in a circle. I thought that might have been the fairy glade.
We had pesto noodles with pine nuts for dinner. I ate my tomatoes on the side and only Toby and Desmond had the hot pepper. Desmond and I went looking for good marshmallow sticks and then we roasted marshmallows over the campfire. Dad said it was good that my little brother Liam wasn’t with us because he would run off the cliff to see the seals and would be in the fire. That was so funny.
I wasn’t scared sleeping in the tent, but I did miss my mom and brother. We woke up early and I went down the trail by myself to the bathroom. That was brave.
For breakfast we had Toby Brown’s famous tortilla eggs. And I got more marshmallows for breakfast but I am not supposed to tell my mom. After a little while we packed up, kayaked around Doe Island and then headed back.
On the way back we saw a lot of sea stars. Toby picked a purple one up and put it on my lap. I touched it gently and talked to it. Then Toby put it back right where he found it so it would be back home. We also ate kelp candy, which is the pods off of bull kelp. I didn’t really like it. I dragged bull kelp for a while.
When we got back I was tired, but I had a very good time. Then we had to carry everything back up the hill to the car. That was hard work. I put on dry clothes and was warm and safe.
Then we said bye to Toby and Desmond and went to see my mom and brother. I still really want to go to Sucia, but that might not happen until next summer.
My favorite part of the trip was making a fire and roasting marshmallows. My favorite part of kayaking is the flying.
Isabella was born into a kayaking family—Mom and Dad got engaged paddling the Everglades. Her first swing was a whitewater boat hung in a tree. At three she was paddling the waters of New York Harbor with occasional trips upstate to explore lakes. Now seven, she enjoys paddling on Puget Sound, Green Lake in Seattle, and has been working on her wet exits and hang time during winter rolling sessions. Next summer she hopes to do a longer trip on Vancouver Island and still needs to get to Sucia. She also loves to draw, sing, read and get into trouble with her three-year-old brother, Liam.