I invited a bunch of friends over for a Turkey Dinner the weekend before Thanksgiving. Many of these people were kayakers, so we talked about planning a paddle before the movie and dinner. (I was also doing my annual ritual watching of the movie “The Nightmare Before Christmas”). I figured that if someone could put the turkey in the oven, I could launch with everyone else and do a paddle out of Goat Rock Beach.
Four of us showed up at Goat Rock on a day that was supposed to have reasonably calm water. But the swell was coming from the west and this made the normally calm area behind Goat Rock very rough. If the tide had been lower there might still be a protected spot to launch, but the sand right near the parking lot was under water. To our surprise, the sandy beach on the north side of Goat Rock looked much more manageable. This beach is normally a very nasty dumping beach and I have only launched there once before on a very calm day. On this day we lined up and managed to get everyone off the beach here with no problems.
We paddled north to go through the caves and arches off Jenner Beach and see the beautiful Jenner Coves. I was recovering from the flu and had become pretty tired the day before on a flat water paddle in the Carquinez Strait. But today I felt much better and was willing to go into a few arches and caves despite the unexpectedly rough conditions. One cove before Russian Gulch Beach, I went into the cauldron of water that has the north facing crack leading out of it. This place is usually a lot calmer inside then outside. So I paddled straight in with Dave Littlejohn behind me. As I got inside a big set came and really churned the water up for a long time. Dave commented that just holding position outside the cauldron was exciting, and when things calmed down he exited out the side of the rock garden. I waited and waited and finally found a window in the waves calm enough to zoom out through the tall crack/arch on the north side. We had been out for over an hour and I suggested we turn back.
One reason for turning back early was to go through the big arch just south of Goat Rock. I was a little dismayed when we arrived there early. We could have played in the Jenner Coves longer! But it took us a while to queued up and go through this arch one at a time and paddle the short distance back to Goat Rock. By then it was after two o’clock and I was in danger of being late for dinner at my own house! I had friends arriving at three o’clock.
We had agreed to try and land on the south side of Goat Rock on our return. Dashing one hope, the tide had not gone down enough for the sand to be exposed near the parking lot. So we had to land 100 meters or more down the beach where the waves were larger and the carry longer. Don Fleming went in first and was knocked over by a wave. He rolled up and managed a dignified landing. Dave and Fred Cooper made better landings with someone on shore to help direct them in. I came in last and got picked up by a big wave. The water dropped out in front of me until my boat was standing vertical and threatening to spear the sand. My boat fell over into the wave as it tuned parallel to shore and was drug up the beach. I tried to get my paddle in position to roll back up but the water was too shallow to allow this. I had time to try several times and heard the gravel clatter on the end as it failed to rotate far enough. I let go of the paddle with my right hand and held it out of the water with my left. The unencumbered right end of the paddle was then able to swing around until it was in position and I reached up and pulled it down. My boat came back upright an my head cleared the water just as the water slowed to a stop and left me high and dry.
We lugged our boats all the way back to the parking lot and looked at the “rough” north side of Goat Rock. It was still miraculously calm and we should have landed there! We dashed off to my house to arrive after the first guest had already arrived. The turkey was cooking and the smoke alarms were blaring but in the end the dinner turned out very nice.