This would have been a perfect morning for kayaking, but I was driving up from Berkeley (after a wonderful dinner with Marty the evening before). Didn't get back to Duncans Mills until 9:00am, and tried to get some work done between phone calls and meeting Dan Koenig. Dan is my latest attempt to take over working on a project for an old client of mine. Dan also was the one who helped me work on the dacron- covered canoe (that we still have not finished yet). After giving me a ride back from dropping Marty's car off at the mechanic, I invited Dan to go for a walk on the beach while I went kayaking. I took him to Russian Gulch, where I hoped to explore a few small coves that I haven't been in for a while, and which look very inviting from the road every time I drive by. I read the Tide Log to Dan, explaining that sunset wasn't until 6:30, and it says here that it won't be dark until 7:30. The tide would be rising the whole time, so I didn't expect the water to do anything radical.
The creek running through the gulch was full of rain run-off water, and I just walked down through it. Paddling for a few dozen meters, then scraping bottom and pulling the kayak to the next deep spot. This hit a deep memory in my mind of paddling the canvas canoes in the backyard creek when I was a kid. Dan had to follow the creek all the way down, looking for a place to ford the water. Eventually he went all the way to the cliffs at the shore and hopped from rock to rock across the water. I told Dan the plan was to just go south until sunset, then come back before dark. I got in the water, and then thought that I should have told him: Marty would probably take it as a personal favor if he would wait for me here and make sure I got back OK. The waves were almost as mild as I could have hoped. I was able to paddle right up to the beaches on 3 or 4 of the little coves south of the gulch. There were a few large waves every so often to keep me from taking the water for granted. One place I had never gotten very close to before, was a field of medium sized rocks, none sticking out of the water more than a few meters. The rocks here are too close together for kayaking through, but I found a way around and behind them close to shore. Even the large waves couldn't make it through the maze of rocks, but instead followed me around the corner into the harbor. I passed a cave that I have been in with a higher tide, but the water was too low (and a little too rough) to go in there this time. I looked for the crack between two rocks where I had been dumped out of the kayak once before, but did not recognize it anywhere. The sun was disappearing into the haze, so I missed the actual sunset, but eventually I decided I had better head back.
I cut across from point to point, pushing hard so I'd get back before the rangers arrived and locked up the parking lot (at sunset). I hoped Dan would hold them off this time if I was late. I counted coves, 1, 2, 3, 4... didn't I only explore 3 or 4 of these? 5, 6, and then the cliffs started rising higher and higher on my right. In the dusk, I had somehow paddled right past the beach. I turned out to sea to get a better view of the coast, and headed back south again. From looking at the shape of the cliffs, I guessed where the gulch would be and headed there. Of course, this mistake was making it harder and harder to see where the beach was. I should have left my flashlight with Dan, so he could light the way. I was right about the beach, and avoiding rocks in the near darkness, I made what I hoped was an approach to the calmer end of the beach. I had to trust the waves behind me and just head in, A large wave sneaked up, and I probably could have ridden it in if the sand hadn't gotten in the way. The nose (I mean the prow) of the kayak hit bottom, and the tail (I mean the stern) twisted to my left. The wave kept coming, and rolled me sideways out of the kayak onto the sand. I had time to take a deep breath and decide that I'd rather hit the dirt and get wet than have the kayak plow into me when the breakers zoomed it up the beach. The kayak bounced off my shoulder and disappeared, I rolled over, popped back out of the water, and jumped to my feet, afraid that the kayak was going to come by again and hit me. I wiped salt water out of my eyes, and looked around. All I could see was my hat in the surf in the last glimmer of dusk. I grabbed that, and then tripped over the paddle, which I also picked up. It was still attached to the kayak, upside down and safely landed a few meters up-beach. It slipped back into the water on the next wave and I pulled it ashore by the safety line and the paddle.
I shouted for Dan, and shined my flashlight across the beach in case he was still waiting for me. I stowed the paddle, and ran across the beach and up the creek, kayak in tow, in the hopes that I was not locked into the parking lot yet. There was a car waiting in the parking lot, but it was a truck, not Dan's Honda. I assume it was the rangers, but they never left their truck, even to lecture me. I jammed the kayak in the bus and drove out onto the side of the road so they could lock up, but they just drove off without closing the gate or stopping to say anything. I drove straight home in the wetsuit so I could call Dan ASAP and tell him he did the right thing leaving. He left the beach at 7:00pm when it started to get dark enough that he was worried about finding the trail. I made it back to the parking lot by 7:30, so if I had not gotten lost, I probably would have had company on the trail.