This was a repeat of a trip scheduled every year by Joan Weiner of BASK. On previous years gray whales have been seen on this paddle and we hoped to see some go by. The weather co-operated with partially cloudy skies, mild swell at sea, and a prediction of tolerable wind in the afternoon. We all met at Limantour Beach reasonably late at 9:45 on a Sunday morning. There is a long trail, mostly paved, that runs from the parking lot to the beach so many of us had wheels to roll our boats out near the water. But the logistics of the long walk made it difficult to organize everybody. A bunch of us jumped into the water to try and create a “critical mass” and get the rest of the kayakers going. Joan got upset with us because most of us left without remembering to sign the “RELEASE AND WAIVER OF LIABILITY, INDEMNITY AGREEMENT AND ASSUMPTION OF RISK (Read carefully before signing)” form required for all BASK trips. So we all landed and dripped water on the soggy form from our wet hands as we filled in the paperwork. Once the formalities were finally done, we all launched again and finally started south.
To my horror, the whole group of kayakers paddled a kilometer out to sea and started down the coast far from shore. The section of coastline south of Limantour Beach is called the “Sculptured Beach” area with fantastic weather-carved cliffs, sinkholes, and caves. I was tempted to split away from the pack and head back to shore. But I knew that Joan was already upset with us and would get more upset if the group broke up. So I followed along behind the pod with my impatience rising painfully with every paddle stroke. Fortunately Bill Steiger was on this trip and he had similar ideas. He asked Joan if she minded that a few of us turned closer to shore. Then over half of us did just that, leaving only three kayakers far out at sea!
Our first stop was to land on the beach in front of the “secret cave”. This was Bill’s name for the little cave that leads to a sinkhole in the cliff. Bill and I showed the cave off to two other kayakers who had never been in it. Then we went for a walk down the beach to look at a couple of waterfalls created by the runoff from the last winter storm. We launched our kayaks again and paddled close to shore down to Resistance Point. Only two other kayakers, Jamie Morgan and Kip, went through the arches in this beautiful point. The tide was a lot lower than the last few times I have been through here, and one of the arches had several jagged rocks exposed in the bottom. So I was unable to pass through that arch on this trip but I wove my way back and forth through all the rest.
Our group of kayakers then split up into more factions. I stayed close to shore just outside of the largest breaking waves so I could admire the cliffs on the way by. The far-from-shore kayakers seemed to get farther from shore, made it to Miller point ahead of the rest of us and just sat there for a long time. Looking ahead, I saw a lot of rough water breaking through the rocks off of the point and wondered if they were worried about paddling through there. Jamie, Bill, and the rest of the close-to-shore kayakers moved half way out and left me behind for a while. As I approached Miller Point from the inside, the other groups converged together again until we all went through a calm channel in the rocks at about the same time.
A few of us looked behind some of the rocks close to shore. Jamie decided to work his way around a rock and back out to sea over a shallow area with lots of white water breaking over it. Just for the testosterone-induced thrill of it. I followed along behind him at a distance just to see if he got in trouble. But once I was part way in it was easier to keep on going and make the loop myself. One other kayaker, Kip, who I had met last year on this same trip, sat behind this rock for a long time. Kip worries me. I’m not always happy being a team player myself, but Kip seems to be totally oblivious to the group dynamics. I thought he was going to think better of looping through there but after the rest of us were landed on shore he finally zoomed through and around.
Joan knows this beach well and knew that there would be calm water to land on. We sat down for lunch near another waterfall. Kip found a whole bunch of balls washed up in a corner of the beach. Tennis balls, rubber balls, hollow plastic balls. Apparently this beach tends to collect them. Bill and Peter Degoey went round the next rock and came back with a few more balls including a soggy soccer ball and a basketball that still had all of its bounce. We took turns bouncing the balls off the vertical stone parts of the cliffs or kicking them into the surf to see them washed back up again.
I went tidepooling along the shore all the way to the tip of Miller Point. We had seen a few abalone shells in the sand and I found a bunch more jammed into the rocky tide-pool area. After seeing a live abalone in shallow water the day before, I was interested to see if I could find another in this remote spot. I looked under the edge of a bunch of rocks but never saw a live one. I’m guessing that most of them are on the off-shore rocks and all the shells jammed in the rocks here are ones that got washed ashore by the storms. The water was a little murky and not the best for tidepooling. Joan suggested that all the landslides and mudslides from the recent rough weather had muddied up the water.
After a long lunch we launched and started back. The wind promised by the NOAA was starting up and might have been as strong as 15 knots. Feeling guilty for abandoning Joan I never-the-less stuck to my guns and stuck close to shore. I went back to Resistance Point and looked into the first arch. The tide had gone out more while we were eating lunch and the water was lower and rougher than before. I turned to the next arch out and found it a little calmer. I went in and turned out through the main entrance. The water was choppy but not really much of a challenge. Despite this I was the only kayaker to go into any of the arches in Resistance Point on the way back. And after one last arch I felt I had seen enough shoreline for the day and could stand moving farther from the beach. I paddled out to join Joan with the others.
One advantage of traveling farther from shore was that it increased our chances of seeing a whale. All day long we had seen an occasional spout, gray back, or fluke a long distance from us. As we paddled back into the wind we still saw the occasional spout ahead of us and kept our eyes open. Finally we were rewarded by seeing a whale rise up almost completely out of the water and fall back down with a splash! This happened at least a half a kilometer in front of us so we didn’t see it as well as we would have liked. I saw that whale blow a few times and saw his back arch out of the water, heading towards shore. But when we got to the place we figured he had jumped, we sow nothing. Bill, Joan, and I had relatively wide slow boats and the rest of the pack had pulled rapidly ahead into the wind. By the time they landed they were several kilometers ahead of us, so they missed the jumping whale completely.
Everyone made a controlled landing, then I rushed to put my equipment away. I was supposed to pick up my nephew Jeremy at my Mom’s house at dinner this evening. I was already late for dinner so I called and gave them my estimated time of arrival. Jeremy was staying at my house for a week while his parents are in Kauai. I had to drive him home in time to get enough sleep for a school day the next morning. So I had to skip the usual BASK social eating event after the paddle.