Sami Iwata was back in town and called to see if we could get together to go kayaking. I suggested that we could paddle out Tomales Bay, hugging the shore to look for Rachel's missing paddle. Then I emailed everyone who was on last week's ill-fated paddle and suggested they come along and do some surf launch practice on Dillon Beach. Everyone agreed to come along, except for Peter who's rudder-cable-cut hand was inflamed and too painful to hold a paddle. While in the cold salt water the week before, it had felt OK and had not looked too bad. But he did have his doctor look at it.
The rest of us agreed to meet Sunday morning at Miller Park on Tomales Bay. There was a not-so-low tide around 1:00 PM. This allowed us to leave reasonably late in the morning, hug the shore of the bay looking for the paddle, get sucked out of the bay by the ebb tide, and get sucked back in by the flood tide after a few hours of surf launch practice.
A surfer had told Rachel that objects tended to collect on the east shore inside Tomales Bay when they were lost in this neighborhood. We traveled up the east shore, which is very shallow and barely above water even with a high tide, and looked for the paddle. I had my waterproof binoculars with me and never got as much use out of them as I did on this day. I used them to scan the shoreline looking for the paddle, but instead I saw lots of wildlife. We chased kingfishers along the edge of the bay and saw grebes dive away from us in the water. We saw an osprey eating a flatfish on top of a post. On one rocky beach we saw a golden eagle sitting on shore!
We stopped near Lawson's Landing at the end of Sand Spit, right before the exit from the bay. When we landed, the ebb tide was still going strong and we had to land quickly to keep from being washed prematurely out to sea. The other side of the spit was the beginning of Dillon Beach. We had lunch, watched the Jet Ski's buzz in and out, and suited up for getting cold and wet. I put on my helmet, while Rachel and Maryly put on wetsuit jackets (and helmets). By the time we were ready to go the tidal current had slowed down to slack and didn't give us any help. We went around the spit and headed west out of the bay looking for somewhere to play.
The waves were milder than last Sunday when we had so much trouble out here. The swell at sea was still breaking over the offshore sandbar, but the water close to the spit was calm. So calm that there wasn't any surf to play in. I lead the group up the beach for a while, passing one soupy area as being too mild. Roger split off to go try playing over the sand bar for a while and I turned everyone in on the next mild soupy zone we came to. This soupy area didn't look very rough to me, but I figured it might be just the place for Maryly to practice. The whole trip out there had been a breeze from the southwest, which we would have to paddle against to get home again. This breeze promised to chill us down after we got wet, so Maryly and Rachel were not sure they really wanted to do this. I convinced Maryly to follow me in through the rough part of the surf to get wet and do some side surfing practice.
I went in first and turned sideways in the breakers far from shore. As the breakers came in one after another I demonstrated leaning into them and slapping my paddle over them to brace. These waves were not large enough to hold onto and ride all the way to shore, so I got to demonstrate technique over and over again. Maryly followed me in, but fell out of her boat before getting to shore. As happens to me, she was apprehensive about the waves before she got wet, and then was much more relaxed after they could no longer threaten her with that.
In the shallow water I tried out the teaching technique I had used on my nephew Jeremy: I held Maryly's boat in shallow water close to shore and told her when to brace into the breakers. She got a few short successful rides and was soon paddling herself farther and farther out to sea and braving stronger and stronger breakers. I figured that Maryly was in the perfect boat to learn bracing and side surfing in, a small sit-on-top. But most people in BASK think this is the worst possible boat to learn on. The reaction that I get over and over again is "But you can't BROACH a sit-on-top". The technique taught for sit-inside boats is to fall over into the water (broach) towards the wave and force it to waste energy tipping you right-side up again. It is true, if you try to broach a sit-on-top in calm water in a swimming pool, you will fall out. (Unless you have a seat belt or thigh straps). But if you broach a sit-on-top into a breaking wave in more interesting water you instinctively hold yourself in the seat by bracing off of your paddle. A seat belt or thigh straps can keep you in your seat in rougher breakers, but it is amazing to me how firmly I can hold myself in the seat. A sit-inside boat doesn't require these external straps because you are firmly held inside the boat.
The problem with a sit-inside, in my opinion, is how long it takes to learn the techniques. Every time you fail to lean correctly or fail to brace, you end up upside down in shallow water. You have to exit your boat, take it to shore, dump or pump the water out, get back in, reattach your spray skirt, and paddle back out, before you are ready to try it again. Rachel came in for a landing and ended up out of her sit-inside boat. She confirmed my beliefs about sit-insides by spending most of her time getting ready to try again after each wet exit. Maryly got rolled out of her boat lots of times (I promised her this would happen) but in-between she got lots of practice.
I got to go out and play in the surf and joined Roger and Sami who were playing farther out where the largest waves broke first in our soup zone. (Roger had decided to stick close to us and forgo the pleasure of the large breakers over the sandbar). At one time I saw Sami's boat upside down in the water and zoomed out over the surf to see what was going on. They were practicing rolling and T-rescues. I saw Sami out of her boat a few times, but knew she could always get herself back in. Roger, of course, never ends up out of his boat. Not until after he smashes them into the rocks.
We started heading back after giving the tide time to turn and give us some help going back in. Both Maryly and Rachel went straight over the wide soup zone instead of paddling sideways through it for a while to get to a milder section of the beach. Maryly said she would follow me through a window in the surf, but still went straight out. I think I know why this happens. Once you start heading out to sea, you start paddling over larger and larger waves. It is daunting to turn sideways too them and easier to face them straight on. So both of the surf beginners ended up plowing out through the worst section of surf on the beach and had to go way out to sea to get around the soupy area we were playing in. They both made it on the first attempt.
As we headed back across Tomales Bay, Maryly asked if the island near where we launched was Hog Island. She had never been to this island, and neither had Roger, so I suggested that we go down the west side of the bay and cross over past the island. The southwest wind that had been there in the morning was still blowing mostly from the west. We were easily able to paddle across this wind, but I figured that the steep shore on the west side would have less wind. The main channel goes up the west shore and might give us a stronger push. The rocky west shore of the bay is much more attractive, in my humble opinion, than the shallow muddy eastern shore. As I started across, Roger tried all these arguments on Rachel and Maryly, but they decided to go straight across the bay and take the shortest route back to the cars. So they went straight back across the east shore while Roger, Sami, and I went down the west. We almost beat them back to the cars anyway.
Roger and I joked about how he has smashed a boat the last three times we went kayaking together. We vowed to do better this time and get him back to his car without any broken or lost equipment. Even after we got back to shore, I made sure he remembered to tie his boat down on his roof-rack, so he wouldn't drive off and smash his boat on the road.
I recently tried to meet a friend at Miller Park, and he didn't know what I was talking about. He suggested meeting at the Nick's Cove boat-ramp instead, and I had never heard of this. It turned out we were talking about the same place! Miller Park is a public boat ramp and pier, Nick's Cove is a Bar/Restaurant next door. Before driving home in all our different directions, we stopped Nick's Cove restaurant to try it out for dinner. The oysters, raw or bar-b-qued, were great, and so was the clam chowder. Everyone else enjoyed their meal as well, so we can recommend Nick's.