Roger Lamb suggested an exercise paddle out of Bodega Harbor so Kate DesLauriers and I joined him. I suggested that we paddle south so that I could check out the surf at Dillon Beach. Kate and I launched from Campbell Cove and met Roger who had launched from the boat ramp at Doran Park on the other side of Bodega Harbor. We swung out close to Bodega Rocks and then headed south across the bay.
The beaches everywhere in Sonoma County were colored blue with the bodies of small jellyfish that we call “sailor into the wind”. These jellyfish are related to Portuguese man-o-war but are much smaller. The largest ones are around three inches in the long direction and their sail is a paper-thin half disk. Their oval shaped bodies are a deep blue color around the edges but their sails are so pale blue that you almost think they are white. The sails grow at an angle to the body so they all line up to face the wind and sail across it. I heard someone say that each “sailor” jellyfish is born with a random setting on the sail. Half are set to tack to the left and the other half are born to tack to the right. Then no matter which way the wind blows half of them turn and wash up on the beaches to die while the other half turn out to sea, survive and breed for the next generation. “Nature” doesn’t care about the individual and this system has been selected for the survival of the species.
We were paddling with the wind on the way out and against the wind on the way back so we always saw the sails full on. The pale blue arch and the dark blue around the edges created an illusion that the ocean was covered in millions of blue bubbles. A beautiful sight. There were so many of them that it was impossible to paddle a kayak without plowing them under. Even when I tried not to hit them with my paddle, the turbulence and vortexes coming off the paddle would spin them around and suck them under. They floated back to the surface but their wet sails were plastered down. I tried rescuing a few of them with very poor luck. I hope that they have some way of righting themselves and re-furling their sails. But I fear that uncaring nature may be discarding those individuals as well.
Roger likes to stick to a schedule, especially when food is involved. When we arrived at the mouth of Estero de San Antonio he wanted to land to eat lunch. Kate landed to join him. I stayed at sea and sprinted another mile south to check out the surf at Dillon Beach. I was initiating a BASK surf-launch practice at that beach the next day and was curious to find out what the conditions were like. I was able to surf over the outer sand bar (several times for fun) and paddle close to shore. The surf breaking on the sandy beach looked OK for the beginners arriving the next day. I would have stayed to play some more, but I turned back north again. I sprinted back to the estero and made it in time to land, wolf down part of a lunch, and launch with everyone else to head back into Bodega Harbor.