I was in Berkeley this weekend, and although I had my kayak and most of my equipment with me, I had forgotten to bring one of the waterproof cameras. Since I expect Point Reyes to be socked in fog most of the time, I figured I would not be able to take pictures there anyway. So this would be a good time to do a boring 6 mile run along the Point Reyes beach. After checking the waves on the internet at 6:00am, I called my Dad and arranged to meet him in Inverness. When we met there, the sky was clear and blue with no fog, so we stopped at a store and tried to buy a new waterproof camera. They didn't have a waterproof one, but I bought a non- waterproof use-once camera anyway. I figured I could leave it in its heat sealed pouch while I got through the breakers. Then take it out during the trip for pictures, and finally put it in a drysack during the landing. I wouldn't mind getting a few salty wet fingerprints on a use-once camera.
We went to Point Reyes Beach North. "Surf unsafe, no lifeguard on duty, rip currents, undertows, sleeper waves, shark attacks." says the sign. I wish I could find one of those rip currents to pull me out to sea, that would beat having to fight my way out under my own power. My plan was to enter the water here, a place I had never been, so that I could make the landing at Kehoe Beach, a place I have landed at before. The parking lot is right next to the sandy beach, so I didn't have to drag the kayak half a mile to get it in the water. On the other hand, I had the opportunity to walk down and look at the waves and loose my nerve before I even got in the wetsuit. But there was a channel where the waves didn't break until they were pretty close, and it looked like I could get out with relative ease. I got in the wetsuit and attacked the waves. If you don't count getting knocked down once and loosing the kayak once before I even got ready to start, I made it out to sea on the first serious attempt.
Just north of my magic channel through the breakers, the waves broke WAY out to sea. I kept paddling further and further out to get around them, and got a few scares when I turned north a little too soon. When I travel along rocky coastlines, I often move farther from shore to avoid breakers around rocks, and then move closer to shore to see more when when I can. This trip was like that, but I could never see what it was that was pushing me away from or towards the shore. I felt like I was being manipulated by UNSEEN FORCES. Although there were no clues along the uniform sandy beach, there seemed to be 3 different kinds of water in different places. There was relatively calm water that allowed me to get under 100 meters from the sand, before the breakers prevented me from getting closer. There were rough stretches that forced me to paddle 300 meters away from shore to stay out of the breakers. And there were very choppy sections that also didn't have big breakers until close to shore. The unseen force that makes the waves break close or far from shore is the depth of the water. I wondered if the choppy sections were rip currents, because it looked like water was rushing out to meet the waves and damping them down so they could not break. I wondered if these sections were functions of x or t: Do the choppy sections always stay in the same place, or do they move around? If I stayed in one of them too long, would it clear up and turn into a section with breakers far out to sea that would rise up and knock me ashore?
I passed a dip in the dunes that I could almost see over, and assumed that this was the channel for Abbot's Lagoon, which sometimes connects to the ocean. Later, I began to wonder if that was the creek at Kehoe Beach, and I had gone too far. But eventually, I saw a distant figure at the place I originally assumed was Kehoe beach. I also assumed it was Dad, and when the figure walked up the dune trail and waved something at me, I knew it was the right place. Actually, Dad had stood a piece of driftwood up on the dune and hung his scarf from it like a flag. Kehoe beach turned out to be one of those places where the waves broke 200 meters from the shore, and the waves looked really big and scary to boot. I recently launched and landed here, and knew that there was a magic channel through the breakers, created by a creek. I wasn't sure it was still there, because the big waves seemed to break uniformly across their whole length. But I lined up with the creek, put my camera in a waterproof bag, and put my gloves on just in case. I had worn the complete wetsuit with the jacket the whole trip, so I was ready for a rough landing.
As I started in, a few medium sized waves went by, and I thought I saw the channel through the breakers. So I was able to head in with some confidence. I think the worst thing that could have happened was getting caught in a wave as it was breaking. I managed to avoid this, and it was easy the rest of the way to shore. The waves broke behind me, and when they caught up with me, they just zoomed me closer to shore. It took 3 sets of breakers like this to make it all the way to the beach, and Dad took a series of pictures as I came in for a perfect landing. He admits that he was half hoping to catch a picture of me and the kayak tumbling end-over-end together in the surf.
When we got back to the car (a long walk from this beach) Dad had a treat for me: An oyster cocktail from Johnson's Oyster Beds on nearby Sir Francis Drake Estuary. Dad prefers oysters from here above all others, because Johnson's is in the middle of a National Park, and doesn't have any cities or houses to drain their sewage into Drakes Bay. We drove back there and bought two more cocktails, and two dozen oysters for our fathers day bar-b-que in Berkeley that evening. There was a sign at the head of the road to Johnson's Oysters that said "No canoes or kayaks in the estuary until July 1st". I asked them why, and they said that the rangers put those signs up during harbor seal pupping season. Dad says that he would be interested in paddling around Drakes Estuary with me. But he is not interested in going in the ocean.