Maryly Snow and I went looking for a calm place to launch on a rough swell morning. We had planned on kayaking the beautiful coves north of Jenner but had to give up on that when the swell was eight feet high. Maryly liked the sound of the name of Stillwater Cove, and I assured her that it did not disappoint. We planned to launch in the calm water of the cove and just stay away from the shoreline. When we started out there were waves breaking far from shore along a submerged point and we had to swing way out to get around them. Then the water calmed down and we turned shoreward again as we paddled north to Ocean Cove. This cove has a campground and private boat ramp that I have never been on, so I was curious to go in for a landing.
As we approached Ocean Cove, we saw a yellow kayak heading out and towards the next point north. I noticed that the paddler was wearing a helmet, and I commented that the only kayakers I see wearing helmets on the ocean are BASK kayakers. We found out later that this was in fact a BASKer, Ken Kelton, who I was scheduled to meet near here the next day for a kayak camping trip. He didnít expect to see anyone he knew so he kept going. We never got close enough to recognize each other.
Maryly and I turned into Ocean Cove so I could attempt my landing. Waves were breaking on the sides of the cove and the center was clogged with bull kelp. The kelp was so thick that it stalled our boats and then made it difficult to bite into the water with our paddles and get going again. To make it easier on myself I turned towards a rock and paddled in the clear water around it. I told Maryly she didnít have to follow me. There is a reason the water around the rock was clear of kelp: Waves breaking around the rock tear out the kelp and could tear into us as well. Maryly followed me anyway and we had no trouble with waves around the rock. As we got close to shore, however, a large set of waves came in. I braced into one wave so hard that my left arm submerged to the shoulder. Maryly hung back farther from shore and didnít want to land. I got close enough to shore to look at the boat ramp but not close enough that the waves insisted I come in for a landing. I figured this was close enough for today and turned back out.
As we went up the section of shoreline along the north side of the cove my memory started jangling. There was a place that I recalled that I had seen before I started keeping a journal. So I could never remember where I had seen it. I had been paddling a rugged section of shoreline on a calm sunny day during abalone season. I found a large rock close to shore with a calm little cove between it and the cliffs. As I paddled around the rock I stumbled across two other kayaks behind it. One of the kayaks was empty an I looked around to find a snorkel nearby in the water. Someone was abalone diving. In the other boat, a woman was sitting and reading a gothic romance novel. I imagined I could hear the conversation earlier in the morning: ďWell, OK, Iíll come along with you. But Iím not getting in that cold water! Iím going to bring a book to readĒ. The little cove behind the rock was a little rougher on this day, but I went around the rock anyway. When I met back up with Maryly, she was feeling queasy. Sheís not sure if she is starting to get seasick in a kayak (that would be a disaster) or if it was too many frozen margaritas the night before. Whatever the reason, we turned back and paddled straight across to Stillwater Cove for a landing.
After a pit stop in the rest rooms, but before stopping to eat our lunch at the picnic tables, I went back out to try and catch some waves. There was a shallow rocky spot on the north side of the cove where waves broke noisily and I tried to back up close enough to this to get a shove towards shore. It never worked. Maryly came back out and sat through some large waves. This can build your confidence when you discover that the waves donít push you around as much as you first expect. Then I went over to the calmer south side of the cove to do some rock gardening. Between the large sets of waves I went through a narrow channel in the rocks. Maryly wanted to try this out and started through. I heard her boat grinding on a rock and rushed around to the exit to see what happened. When I got there, she was gone! She had managed to turn her boat around in the crack and exited the way she started.