I still had around thirty kilometers to do on my quest to see all of the Mendocino County coastline. I have scheduled this trip several times in the last few months, canceled them all for bad weather, and planned it again for this weekend. On Friday the NOAA started predicting 10 foot swell so I gave up on the trip. But then on Saturday when I paddled to Fort Ross I encountered mild waves. Checking the waves again early on Sunday morning, they were still predicting 10 foot swell -- north of Cape Mendocino which is in Humbolt County north of Mendocino county. South of that they were predicting 7 foot swell and the Point Arena buoy was reporting only 5 foot. I have been trying to do all trips in Mendocino as two day trips to cut down on the driving. I cooked dinner for my dad on Saturday night, however, so I couldn't drive up Saturday and tried to arrange a one day trip Sunday instead. My dad was staying another night so I talked him into picking me up on the end of this trip.
Getting up early but spending too much time getting packed, I still didn't make it to Alder Creek until 11:30 AM. When I saw the water my heart fell. The rough waves from Cape Mendocino were making this north-facing beach really rough. It was still a soupy beach with a rip current that would make getting in the water easy. But the waves were breaking very large and noisy far out from the beach and paddling through them would be a chore. I was already feeling pressed for time to meet my Dad at 6:00 PM so I decided to cut the trip in half and drove the eight miles back to Point Arena Cove. This turned out to be an excellent decision. I had exactly enough time to explore every nook and cranny of the coast, paddle into each little cove, and take my time over lunch on a remote sandy beach. When I got to Point Arena Cove I found almost dead calm water. Point Arena itself was sheltering the cove and the shoreline from the rough waves just north, although the NOAA buoy just offshore here continued to report under 6 foot swell all day.
I discovered that I had forgotten the seat-back for my kayak. Without this my back would be miserable and I wouldn't be held as securely in the boat. I probably should have aborted the trip completely. But I was hours from home, so I tried using the seat belt as a seat back: If I ran it around my back instead of my lap it had a tendency to stay in the fold of my life vest, if I adjusted it often and pressed back into it. I decided to do the trip anyway.
After going behind a few rocks on the south end of the cove, I traveled along a stretch of shoreline with steep sandy cliffs and shallow water over stony reefs. The cliffs were tilted sandstone that revealed interesting colors and deposits. There were houses on top of these cliffs that can't possibly last long before the cliffs wear out from under them. This section of the coastline ended with a point that had a rocky reef sticking out to sea that I didn't feel like paddling all the way around. With some trepidation I picked a route through the reef and then picked a good time to go through. Behind the reef and the point I recognized where I was: Moat Creek Beach. I had explored this from the road while looking for places to launch or land. The access is not a state or county beach, but is maintained by a volunteer organization. I stopped for a few minutes to stretch my back. The water leading up to the beach was shallow over a wide shelf of boulders. The waves broke gently way out over these boulders then calmed down and created these short but steep waves all the way to shore. It looked like the waves in Bear Harbor and several other places where I have found the kayak to surf extremely well. I paddled back out, waited for a larger than normal wave, and tried it out. Like I predicted these steep little waves easily accelerated the kayak and ran me all the way to shore for several fun rides. Then I turned close to shore and paddled behind the reef for a while and then out to sea again.
The next beach is a public one, and I don't know what its name is. There is a small sign with regulations, but no name. On both sides of this little sign are two HUGE highway signs that say "PARK FACING SOUTH ONLY". There is a treacherous hill here and my guess is lots of cars have been broadsided trying to pull in or out and turn around at the same time. So I call this the "Facing South Only State Beach Park". My chart shows Saunders Reef here, but isn't clear exactly where the reef is. I think I paddled behind it for a while, behind and in front of lots of shallow rocks just under the surface near shore. One of these rocks was a long single line, over a hundred meters long just under the water, making me wonder if it was really a natural feature or some man-made object. I tapped it with my paddle and it clinked like a rock.
The next feature on my chart was a point called Iversen Landing, which implied a dog-hole port. The chart showed a bunch of little coves and I paddled into each and every one of them. Which one is Iversen Landing? Two of the coves had a cave connecting them, too small for my boat to go through. This cave leads to a long channel on other side, two short and long to paddle through even if the cave was navigable. Several of the points between coves had people clambering down close to the water to fish. Finally I found the main cove, which turned out to be very large! I stopped here on the mild beach for lunch. I had leftover BBQ salmon on bagels, a ripe nectarine and a banana for desert. After lunch I paddled across the middle of the cove and discovered a large smooth rock that has an iron hoop cemented in it, proof of the doghole port use. There were so many scenic coves and rocks in this area that I used up all my film here and didn't have any left for the rest of the trip. I'll have to come back again one day.
The next point was called Steens Landing. This point had several interesting coves, all small, and I couldn't decide which one was the doghole port. I pushed my luck behind some rocks, and figured on waiting behind one rock when a large wave hit. But this rock turned out to have a gap through the middle of it. The wave blasted through and hit me with white water. It should have been an easy matter to brace into it, but when I leaned into the wave without my seat back, I bounced halfway out of my seat. I let go of the paddle with my left hand and managed to pull myself back into the seat and barely managed to hold myself in and the kayak upright. I had been correct to worry about my stability without a seat and this experience sobered me and made me a little bit more conservative. Around another point I found myself in the cove north of Havens Neck. There were some more rocks close to shore to paddle behind, then I cut across to the point past a long sandy beach here. When I got to the point of Havens Neck I went very close to shore, behind rocks that I had not gone behind on the last trip here.
Around behind the point the water is protected by Havens Neck and the Fish Rocks. There were several little isolated sandy beaches along "the neck". I was overheating in my wetsuit so I stopped at a little beach and waded back out into the water to cool off for a while. The water was cold enough that I never built up the courage to dunk my head in it, although that would have instantly solved all my overheating problems.
I paddled close to shore and found a few long caves to paddle into. The Fish Rocks protected this area and made one of the caves so calm I was tempted to come back and explore it in snorkeling gear with a flashlight. There were fishermen on several of the next few points as well. Some of these points have old ladders leading down to the water. Many are in disrepair. One ended six meters above the three teenagers who were fishing near the waterline. I side-surfed into the narrow channel between the rocks here to shout a question at them: "Did you guys climb down that ladder"? "Yes!" "Looks pretty gnarly". They nodded and smiled but didn't comment if they though my sport was gnarly as well. I'm probably using an embarrassing outdated slang term.
Around the last point here I saw Fish Rock Beach in front of Anchor Bay Campground where I was planning to land.. I expected a wild ride, but the beach looked mild. I stayed on the left side of the beach to avoid smacking into some kids boogie boarding. A large wave rose up behind me. I was early but I saw my car parked in front of the beach access. My dad was talking to the camp host who predicted that this wave was going to knock me over. Dad responded that I was good at this and predicted I would make it. I surfed down the wave very nicely at first and started moving fast. But the boat turned right sooner than I would have liked and headed towards the two kids boogie boarding. I tried to get the boat to side surf so I would not run into them, and considered bailing out and pulling the boat over the wave. But then the wave finally broke and surfed me sideways directly up the sand and away from the boogie boarders. Without the seat-back I was bounced out of the seat again and only managed to stay on the boat by pushing myself back in off of my paddle, which was getting lots of purchase from the white water. I made a great landing despite the handicap and justified my dad's confidence in me!