A not-a-care-in-the-world sky above us and a do-as-you-please bay under us, we’re a content lot, Gandalf, Silver Surfer, Don’t Follow Don, and me.

A short-sleeved afternoon, I come unprepared, a long-sleeve jersey over a farmer john wetsuit. I do my best to accommodate the afternoon temperature, push the sleeves of the jersey above my elbows, but leave the farmer john untouched. A compromise.

A nonaggressive flood meandering up the bay our entire outing, we set course from Bruno’s to Pt. San Pablo Harbor. Not once during our crossing does the current hijack us, push us off course. 

Same’s true for our nighttime return paddle to Bruno’s.

Pet Sematary Beach is where we take out at the harbor. When we left Bruno’s an hour before, a mud-and-rock-exposing ebb has just ended. Our hour crossing gives the flood time enough to cover up the hull-scraping rocks at Pet Sematary Beach, our landing on a thick cushion of fine pebbles.

We dig a fire pit through the pebbles, stop when we reach a wet layer of sand. Firewood we bring ourselves, light the cookfire with a homemade starter, melted wax poured over dryer lint stuffed in a single egg carton. A jumbo egg carton isn’t necessary, a small one holds enough lint and wax for a good-sized bonfire.

Gandalf’s brought three tinfoil-wrapped potatoes, places them around the just-ignited wood. To properly cook a potato—hard as a rock on the outside, soft as pudding on the inside—takes about an hour in the cookfire.

While the potatoes roast, we chat about this and that. Truth to tell, I can’t remember what we talk about. Might’ve been Important Stuff, I just can’t remember.

What I do remember is that when we run out of topics and stop to collect our collective breath, Gandalf pulls one of the potatoes outa the cookfire, examines it, and announces it to be ready.

Hard to imagine that an hour has passed by so quickly, escaped unnoticed. But I shouldn’t be surprised, it’s well known that chatter compresses time, makes it go by quickly. Happens all the time. 

Chatter compresses distance, too. Been many an outing when we’ve been chatting nonstop and suddenly reach our destination way sooner than expected. What was a 5-mile bay crossing seems like a 3-mile crossing.

About the potato Gandalf pulls from the fire. It’s the first of three potatoes retrieved, none lost this evening to a worm hole that has swallowed quite a few spuds the past few years.

Gandalf puts one of the three potatoes to immediate good use, peels it and tosses the insides into Don’t Follow Don’s chopped veggies, the stew sizzling in the bottom of his wok. The other two potatoes Gandalf takes home, says he serves them up for breakfast and lunch.

The potato is well received by the veggies, adds a steamy, creamy flavor to the stew. Good as all the individual ingredients are, the one ingredient that brings it all together in a burst of flavor is Don’t Follow Don’s secret sauce. Secret because he won’t tell us what’s in it, a  thick yellow-brown stream he pours from a glass peanut butter jar.

Sauces and dressings can make any dish drool worthy. Gandalf’s signature salads are loaded with cashews, dried currents, tomatoes, avocados, apples, pears, and so on. What ties them all together are his non-secretive salad toppings, current favorite a honey mustard dressing.

Even before the fire pit is dug, Silver Surfer is disc jockey’ing a selection of tunes from two classic groups we merge into one, Pink Zeppelin. The quality of sound from his tiny speaker, nestled in the corner of a wood bench on the beach, is better than what Spotify puts out.

I’m sure Neil Young would agree with me. Of course, Neil Young’s not only displeased with Spotify’s sound quality, he’s also angered by the streaming service’s output of COVID misinformation. Joni Mitchell feels the same way, both talents demanding their music be removed from the service in protest.

I have it from a sketchy source that another talent is going to demand their music be removed from Spotify. Beatrice and her band the Black-Crowned Night Herons, in a preemptive move, are demanding removal of their music if the service proliferates misinformation about bird flu.

I can’t imagine Spotify weathering Beatrice and the band’s departure. When we depart Pet Sematary Beach, the temperature’s cold, but we manage, weather the cold with long-sleeved jerseys.


Date: Thurseve, 27 January 2022.

Distance: Six point seven nautical miles.

Speed: One point six knots.

Time: Four point three hours.

Spray factor: Nuthin.

Dessert: Banana nut bread topped with strawberries.

PS Volume 22 Of “Reflections of San Francisco Bay: A Kayaker’s Tall Tales” is available on Amazon, both paperback and Kindle format. If you’d like to part with some pocket change, here’s the link: