Since my last kayak trip the waves have been very mild, 3 feet and under. But work and car repairs have prevented me from going out, so I have been frustrated all week. Saturday morning was reserved for working on the house in Berkeley. But the sheet rock would not be delivered until Tuesday (yes, July 4th!), so I did a few minor electrical chores. This is at least a satisfying job because the things you do WORK immediately after you are done. But they could have waited until after a kayak trip. So at around 5:30pm I couldn't stand the good weather any more and I ran off to get in the water. I decided to go repeat the trip around Bonita Point in the hopes of taking some pictures. Bonita Point has an old light house on it, and just round the point I could take pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge. It's just a half an hour paddle south of Rodeo Beach, so it wouldn't even be a long trip.
Driving across the Richmond Bridge, I could see clouds forming over San Francisco. The wind was getting very strong, despite the on-line weather report that told me the air was calm off-shore from San Francisco. The on-line reports are a few hours old of course, and now the wind surfers were out in great numbers and having a great time in the bay. I considered stopping and paddling around in the bay somewhere. But many of the trips I want to do in the bay (like circumnavigate Angel Island) are too long and would take more time than I have this evening. So I went on to the Golden Gate Recreation Area and drove out to Rodeo Beach. When I got there, the sky was kind of curdled, with clouds that let the sun through between them, and the wind was much lower at sea. I got ready to go.
I did a reasonably good job of getting in the water through the surf. Just after I got underway, three large waves came in and the first one slammed me in the face breaking through it. The surfers (lots of them on a weekend) must have had a good time. I went south around Bird Rock. The plan was to zip south to Bonita Point while the light was still good and take a bunch of pictures, and this is what I did. The final picture in this series was of the Golden Gate Bridge and Diablo Point to the north of it. Then I relaxed and paddled back to Rodeo Beach going close to shore, under every arch, behind every rock, and into the caves.
Actually, going into caves was not originally part of the plan, but I re-discovered this cave that I had considered going into the last time I was here. That time, the water level and waves had looked a little too high. This time, when I came to the entrance of the cave, the late evening sun (out from behind the clouds) was shining into the cave and reflecting ripples up on the back wall and ceiling. The walls of the cave near the water line were covered with pink sponge, a form of sponge that grows in a thin layer on rocks and comes in day-glo colors. The rock above this was green, with red areas near the ceiling. It was gorgeous. I paddled closer and closer to take some pictures. The opening was a little over 2 meters tall and much wider, inside the roof got another meter higher. The complete length of the cave was probably less than 20 meters deep, with another small exit on the right side near the end that water and light surged in through. A pair of nesting cormorants on the cliff above the opening dropped a load of guano and almost hit my kayak. I decided to go a little farther in, if only to avoid this white rain. It was not even very choppy inside, and the waves were breaking way inside, on a little sandy beach. I turned around to head back out, and the waves did not look very rough coming in. Then I noticed that the mist from the breaking waves was drifting through the beam of sunlight illuminating the cave interior. So I stopped, and backed way into the cave to get a good angle on it for a picture. I think Marty will agree that a camera is the most dangerous piece of equipment I take on these kayak trips. To satisfy it, I get closer to things than I might without it, and I take my hands off the paddles and eyes off of the ocean to work the thing. But I knew the waves were very mild today, and nothing even very scary happed. It was a pretty spot, and I'm glad the camera lured me inside.
Outside the cave, I headed north again and came back to Bird Rock. This rock is very close to shore, and last time by here I had decided against going through the narrow channel of water behind it. This time, I paddled between the rock and the cliff, no problem. Out the other side, I turned right to get closer to the beach. Behind the last few rocks, I found a tiny little beach with no breakers. A landing would have been a snap. But instead I went back up the north side of Bird Rock and looked through a cave that I went through last time I was here. This cave runs north-south all the way through bird rock and out the other side, its probably 10 meters long. All I could see was a corner of foggy ocean, and then the cave turned to the left. I started through, and when I turned the corner, the Bonita lighthouse came into view. The evening sun was shining on it with golden light, so I back-peddaled to stay in the cave and take a picture of it framed by the rock. I went the rest of the way out the cave, then turned around and went back through: the shortest route back to Rodeo Beach. It was only 7:30pm, I had been in the water only one hour, but I had used up one and a half rolls of film! If I had more film, I would have continued north to document some of the shore between here and Muir Beach. I considered going there anyway, since I had an hour until sunset. But I hit on another plan. I could land now, wash my wetsuit, change into dry clothes, and watch the Space Shuttle Atlantis/Mir Space Station go over. These two space vehicles were docked, and their orbit was supposed to take them overhead and illuminated this evening.
I headed in for shore and put my jacket back on in case I got dunked on the landing. I came back to about where I launched from, just south of the big waves the surfers were in, where there seemed to be a notch in the breakers most of the time. I let 4 big waves go by (aren't these things supposed to come in threes?) and headed in. I stalled behind a medium sized wave when it broke, and another big wave broke behind me. I panicked and jumped out into water that I could not stand up in. The breakers were still coming behind me, and I started to worry about getting hit by the kayak, so I swam south a few strokes to get clear of it. As the breakers arrived, the water dropped lower under me and my feet came down on the edge of the drop- off of the sandy beach. The breakers gave me a shove, and I walked up the beach and out of the water. My hat only got wet on the back edge of the brim.
Rodeo Beach has outdoor showers that I used to rinse my wetsuit and other equipment, so I wouldn't have to hose them down in the dark when I got home. It was about 8:30, and I checked the ephemeris that Marty had sent me several days ago: It said that Atlantis/Mir was going to fly over at 9:09. Last night it had flown over at about 10:00pm, and when we discussed watching it, we had assumed that it would be later every evening. So I drove to a phone and tried to call Marty and tell her to go out now and watch the skies. I was unable to get a hold of her, so she missed it this pass. By then it was a quarter to 9:00pm, and I only had 24 minutes to get to the top of the cliff to view the shuttle going by.
I drove back to the parking lot and ran up the trail to the edge of the cliff just north of Rodeo Beach. The sun was down, with a row of dark fog bank on the horizon. But above this the sky was painted a deep red- orange fading to dark blue with a crescent moon in it. Looking south, I could see San Francisco and some of the lights of the city. The fog bank had moved a little south and the air was clear all the way across the opening to San Francisco Bay. Looking north there was a dark fog bank boiling over the top of the next hill, but it was heading inland and did not block much of my sky. It seemed like the fog and clouds had parted almost to the horizon to give me a great view for the overflight. Running up the trail turned out not to have been necessary, I still had 17 minutes before Atlantis/Mir rose in the sky. I paced back and forth on the cliff edge. I watched people leaving the beach and driving away. I felt like shouting to them: "The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!"! I tried watching the waves at the bottom of the cliff, but was afraid to take my eyes off the sky. Finally, 9:09pm arrived but no light in the sky. There were clouds on the horizon, the sky above those was pretty bright, there were higher cliffs northwest of me, and that pesky dark fog bank. It would probably take a few minutes to rise above all this. Finally, I saw it going by when it was almost directly overhead, I think I was looking too far north to see it rise. I have seen the shuttle go by before, and it looks like a REALLY BRIGHT satellite. This time, it was not as bright as I had expected, just a slightly brighter than usual satellite. The shuttle must be flying higher than normal to dock with Mir. I watched it until it disappeared, right on time when it was supposed to go into the earths shadow, according to my ephemeris.