“Good goin’!” and so on.

We hear these shouts paddling by the lighthouse/b&b on East Brother’s island. We weren’t expecting to see or hear anything on the island in these Aftertimes. Reasons are twofold: first is the pandemic and restrictions, second is the island’s power outage 2 years ago. 

Seems both bugaboos have been righted, two fistfuls of overnighters leaning over the waist-high railings, shouting and hi-fiving down to us.

Startling it is, hearing and seeing those folks, the paddle across the bay so far on calm, mirror-quiet water. No boats, no wildlife. Calmest paddle in months.

Only exception’s a faint sound of distant singing coming from Chard island at the start of our paddle. We consider investigating, but Gandalf reminds us of the fate of sailors who’ve fallen prey to singing Sirens. We don’t investigate.

A 15-minute paddle from the lighthouse/b&b takes us to Pet Sematary Beach. Two landlubbers are sitting on the fancy wood bench that claims a spot just behind the hight tideline at our end of the beach. We chat about this and that, build our cookfire close to the bench.

“You folks wanna have dinner with us?” Don’t Follow Don asks. They decline, say they’re at the harbor for the evening’s music, pick themselves up off the bench, say their goodbyes, and head down the beach for the concert.

Midway through Gandalf’s signature salad, we hear faint strains of music floating over from the harbor’s outdoor stage. Louder than the Sirens of  Chard and without the associated fear factor,  our interests are piqued. We’ll investigate.

But we won’t investigate until we finish our meal. The end of Gandalf’s salad segues directly into Don’t Follow Don’s chopped veggie dish, the dish dominated by his homegrown tomatoes and basil. 

According to Don’t Follow Don, the basil is the only plant in his garden that stands up to the domineering tomato plants, won’t be bullied, grows tall, sturdy, and tasty.

The music’s louder now, lots of horns. We pack up the boats, hike down the beach, walk up the dirt driveway, cut through the Black Star Pirate’s Barbecue outdoor dining deck, follow the railroad tracks to the concert area.

The place is packed, people elbow-to-elbow all the way from the goat pen, down past the giant metal bumblebee and big-toothed tiled crocodile, right up to the spotlit wood stage on wheels.

Those horns we thought we heard while we were on Pet Sematary Beach? A brass band’s on stage, shiny instruments waving to the beat of the music, stage lights reflected off the horns’ smooth metal into the crowd.

“Who are these guys?” I ask.

A fellow standing next to me says, “They’re the Jazz Mafia. Tonight’s a Grateful Dead tribute.” I’ve got a tin ear, but I do recognize some of the Dead’s tunes. How about that.

The three of us mingle with the crowd. We’re in our paddling togs, so no surprise we get a lot of questions. “Did you kayak here?”

“Yeah, we did.”

“Where’d you start?”

“San Rafael.”

“You paddling back in the dark?”

“Yeah, we are.”

“Oh, my gosh!” and so on.

A little before 9 PM, the band takes a break. I look at my two paddling buddies, say, “My ears are cold. You wanna head back?” Their ears are cold, too. Lively as the evening is, we’re ready to trade in the cold for our warm boats.

Midway back to the boats, we come across a gaggle of young women, I’m guessing in their 50s and 60s. They see us, start asking the same questions we’ve been asked all evening. We answer, they respond with wows, oohs, and awes. 

The three of us throw our shoulders back, stand up as tall as we can; flattery can do that, make you taller. We’re thinking the same thing: it can’t get any better than this.

But it does get better. From the back of the gaggle, a female voice shouts out, “You guys are badasses!”

I love paddling on the bay at night.


Date: Thurseve, 14 October 2021.

Distance: Six point eight nautical miles.

Speed: One point six knots.

Time: Four point two hours.

Spray factor: None.

Dessert: Lemon scones.

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