Since discovering the beautiful Bear Harbor campground several years ago I have scheduled a BASK camping weekend there every year in the fall. The weather doesn't always co-operate and this year was a little bit iffy. I watched the weather reports for days beforehand and at the last minute decided not to cancel the trip. Jan Sommers came up from Half Moon Bay to join me at Usal Beach to launch into the surf and paddle to Bear Harbor. All the other kayakers who were coming decided to drive directly to Bear Harbor and meet us there. Jan had an uneventful launch but I timed mine poorly. A large wave broke down on me and my boat and started pushing me backwards. But the heavily laden boat sank under the pressure of the wave and hit bottom in the sand. This arrested any backwards movement and when the boat popped back to the surface I was able to paddle out with no more problems.
As Jan and I paddled north the water got very choppy with waves washing over our decks. In these conditions I didn't even suggest going into the caves. But as we approached Bear Harbor the water calmed down again and we landed in mild conditions. When we got there we found one BASK member holding my favorite campground for us. He had arrived early in the morning and hung around to grab the good one when the previous occupants moved out. The campground was very busy and we would not have gotten a spot, let alone the best one, if he had not been there for us.
October 2nd we planned a trip south. One kayaker named John was wearing a bicycling-skin instead of a wetsuit, which I didn't notice until we were miles from the launch. John insisted that he was perfectly comfortable as long as he kept paddling. I was afraid he would get wet and quickly hypothermic. He was very enthusiastic and took chances going behind rocks that looked pretty scary to me. He had a tendency to paddle way ahead of the pack without looking back. Having to worry about him made the trip a lot less fun for me.
Jan and one kayaker turned back early and the rest of us went "one more point" south, looking for a cave I knew about. We decided to turn back without finding the cave but people started talking about making a landing on one of the beaches. I was nervous about this because I didn't want to land only to find that some of the beginners could not get back off the beach through the surf. Finally I let myself get talked into it. We approached a sandy beach and I instructed everyone to wait while I went close and looked for the right place to land. I went close to shore and noticed that the waves were churning up a lot of sand and kelp when they broke close to the beach. A little too dumpy here, perhaps a bit farther to the right. Before I could look farther down the beach, however, John paddled past me about the time a large set of waves arrived. He had apparently blissed out on the instructions to wait for me to choose a landing spot. One of the large waves rose up behind him and he disappeared up the beach. When next we saw him he was rolling up and down the beach in the surf, scrambling up in his thin wet bicycle suit and catching his boat. Apparently not worse for the wear but I worried about him getting cold.
I followed him in to make sure he was OK. The last of the large set of waves rose up behind me and the water pulled completely off the sand in front of me. I leaned back in my boat and braced back to the left. My boat stood up almost vertically and I leaned so hard that one of my seat-back straps broke. But I held onto the brace on top of a breaking wave made out of 50% water, 25% sand, and 25% chewed up bits of seaweed. The wave finally let the boat tip back down to horizontal and I slid up the beach. John was watching and was very impressed after his experience getting rolled up the beach like a window-shade. I told him that what I had done was called a brace and he should learn to do it before spending too much more time in water like this.
Since two of us had landed here, everyone else came in one at a time and followed us. By waiting for the smaller sets of waves and grabbing the boats as they hit the sand we were able to get everyone else to land without problems. Then while everyone had a snack and looked for a spot to pee, I walked up and down the beach looking for the right place to land. 50 meters or so away the breakers were smaller and white instead of muddy green/red. This was where we should have landed and where I lead everyone to bring their boats to launch. Everyone managed to get back in the water without getting dumped. Sam, who was also in a sit-on-top, helped me hold all the boats while people got in then shoved them over the first wave. Then I helped Sam launch his sit-on-top. After a rest I tried to launch myself and failed on the first attempt! I was looking down and focused on the boat. The visor of my helmet blocked my view of the ocean in that pose and I didn't see a large wave coming until I sat down in my boat and got slammed back ashore. I managed on my second attempt and then paddled out to the "novices". They claim that they thought I did it on purpose to rinse sand off my boat.
When we got back to Bear Harbor the tide was right for doing a little kayak surfing. Nobody else was interested in doing this, but John sat on the shore and watched me surf. I got a few pretty good rides including one across the harbor and onto the shore. But surfing was very stressful on a sore elbow I was nursing and I had to quit after a short while.
The next morning we planned a short trip to the north past Needle Rock. Jan stayed in camp to go for a hike in the Sinkyone Wilderness. The rest of us launched over mild waves and headed north between the Cluster Cone Rocks. Going north we paddled past Morgan Rock which has an arch through the middle of it. Most of the novice paddlers went through this arch while I tried to take pictures of it. I had a new water proof camera, but I had put ASA 100 film in it. The sky was dark and overcast all weekend and the camera had trouble taking pictures in that light. When we got to Needle Rock the waves were large and scary, rising up far from shore and convincing everyone that they didn't want to try a landing here. So we turned back (going through Morgan Rock again on the way back).
Jan and I had to pack up early to paddle back to Usal Beach and were hot to get going. We had calmer water than the paddle up and went into a few of the caves on the way down. The swell was a bit larger than our trip up on Friday, but the water was paradoxically less choppy. We worried about the swell being higher for the landing and obsessed about it for the whole trip and then found pretty small breakers at Usal when we got there. We both made calm easy landings without any problems.