I recently paddled a "missing" section of my quest to paddle all of San Mateo County. On the map there was one more missing section, so I set out to paddle it on my way to a BASK meeting near Half Moon Bay. I had paddled south to a fishing pier in Pacifica with Max once, and another time I had paddled south from the large Pacifica State Peach at Linda Mar. Between these was a three kilometer section that I set out to look at on this day.
As I drove down the coast from San Francisco the fog hugged the coastline. The Pacifica State Beach, sometimes called Linda Mar Beach, was basking in a warm afternoon sun, but a large bank of fog loomed just offshore. Even the rocks north and south of the beach were lost in the fog and I figured on doing much if this trip with poor visibility. There were two kayakers surfing in the waves, but they left before I got my equipment ready to launch. I paddled easily over the waves between board surfers and headed north. As I went between the rocks on the next point the world faded away around me. I could tell I was at the edge of the fog bank because there was a blue circle of sky above me. But I could barely make out the rocks and beaches to my right. Past Rockaway Beach I could sometimes see a hint of bright cliffs and buildings that were getting direct sunlight, but I still saw them blurred by the water in the air. At one point I heard the voices of young men and the clink of beer bottles being tossed off the cliff. I considered paddling closer and shouting at them to stop throwing trash in the ocean. But I thought better of it.
As I approached the point north of Rockaway Beach I saw an animal in the water. It was lying on its pack with several feet up in the air: a Sea Otter! It dove away from me and re-appeared 100 meters away to study me from between the rocks of the point. This is the farthest north I have ever seen a sea otter and the first one on the contiguous area of my quest! I mentioned this otter sighting at the meeting later and one person didn't believe I had really seen an otter. But another BASK member told him that sea otters are quite common at Pillar Point, only fifteen kilometers farther south.
North of this point I thought I could see the beach and some municipal pipes that Max and I had landed next to. But just to be sure I kept paddling north looking for the large concrete fishing pier. I remembered how this pier looked and thought I was imagining seeing the crossing support piers. But the shapes I thought were my imagination got more and more solid until the pier crystallized out of the mist, larger and longer than I expected. I paddled between the pier posts then turned and followed them out to the end. As I turned out at an angle away from shore into the thick of the fog a fisherman on the pier shouted hello and warned me to be careful out there on the ocean. Later I got email from another kayaker who said they recognized me out there near Pacifica. Was the fisherman also a kayaker? Or was it the kayak surfers at Linda Mar who recognized me? They didn't elaborate.
The fog cleared as I rounded the first point and I had a beautiful view of the coastline with late afternoon sun. I paddled back point-to point to get back to my car sooner, but slowed down behind each point to go rock gardening. I had gone way around the point north of Linda Mar on my way out, but risked going behind some rocks on the way back. I picked my time and started through, then saw a large set of waves coming in. I stopped in the wave shadow of one rock and waited for it to pass around me. The wave picked my boat up and surfed it OVER the next rock closer to shore. I braced into the wave and kept in reasonable control. I paddled into the wave shadow of another rock and found a spot that stayed choppy but calm until the large set of waves were finished. Then I paddled the rest of the way behind the rocks of the point and continued on my way.
I paddled back to my launching spot and found the tide had gone out a little, making the water shallower and easier to land in. That is unless you don't notice how shallow the water really is. I let the nose of my boat point down the wave and it hit bottom, stalling in the sand. I managed to hold onto my brace and balanced the boat by wildly gyrating in my seat. Eventually the wave picked the boat back up and I was able to side-surf the rest of the way to shore with my head dry and my ego intact.