Touching my car’s steering wheel is finger-roasting “Yeowch” worthy, the composite material red hot. Temperature at home’s bubbling at 104.

“111 in Pleasant Hill,” says Gandalf 20 minutes later, the two of us standing by our boats on the sandy beach at Schoonmaker, bellyachin’ about the weather. Turning to Don’t Follow Don, “How hot where you were?”

“Hot,” says Don’t Follow Don. “Real hot.”

The temperature at the crowded, noisy beach borders on the tolerable, high 80s, maybe low 90s. Wind’s no more than a bantamweight breeze. We shove off in near ideal conditions, Pallet Beach on Angel Island our destination.

Typical course for Pallet Beach from Schoonmaker is a diagonal across Richardson Bay toward the southwest corner of Raccoon Strait, then on around to the island’s south side and Pallet.

We vary our course today.

Outside the harbor, we spot two single outriggers ahead of us. We give chase, catch up, paddle alongside, strike up a conversation. 

A minute or two into our palaver, the female nearest to us says, “Don’t I know you?” She looks more closely at me, pauses, says, “You’re John, aren’t you?” I admit to being John.

Turns out, a small world and all, the gal paddled several times with us in the distant past. I look more closely at her, say, “Priscilla, right? You paddled a pink kayak.” She admits to being Priscilla, did paddle a pink kayak.

We chat long enough to come up on the Spinnaker restaurant, realize we’re way off course. We bid farewell to Priscilla and her companion, the two heading to the Golden Gate Bridge, the three of us doing a tight turn eastward toward Angel Island.

I’m not saying our chat with Priscilla complicated our paddling itinerary, spiking my adrenalin to levels I haven’t experienced since I was stalked 50 years ago by the Hound of the Baskerville’s. But that’s another story.

If we’d done a typical diagonal from Schoonmaker to Angel Island, we wouldn’t’ve been harassed as long as we were by what we didn’t expect. 

What harasses us, what we didn’t expect, what wasn’t forecast, is a fierce wind howling through the Golden Gate, setting loose a stampede of wild bucking broncos at us, white manes flying.

The wild horses are meaner, bigger, than my youthful encounter with the Hound of the Baskerville’s. My adrenaline’s up, but my body temperature’s down, the thin short-sleeved shirt I wear paddling outta Schoonmaker not much good in the topsy-turvy, drenching spray.

Long story short, we make it to Pallet Beach, unscathed except for a cold drenching and tired muscles. Gandalf sums up the experience after we exit our boats, says, “Sure glad we didn’t have to do that in the dark.” Boy howdy!

Pallet Beach has become the burial ground for dead whales in the bay.  The remains of one creature is close to where we take out. Don’t Follow Don flares his nostrils, takes a deep sniff, says, “We can’t stay here, the smell’s too strong.”

I can’t smell anything, my sinuses topped off with bay. But the bay that’s not in my sinuses is calming down, and the three of us take to the water, paddle around the island to Raccoon Strait, then down to Ayala Cove.

Ayala Cove is good. She’s breathless with warm sunshine, offers up a lovely meadow with picnic tables. The meadow’s also home to a gaggle of geese, one goose especially bold, the big bird waddling up to our table, demanding food. Except for a few scraps of lettuce, a slice of cucumber, and an apple core from Gandaf’s salad, she waddles away disappointed.

While Don’t Follow Don does spiralized veggies with tilapia, he gives us a book club version of someone’s self-published novel he’s just read. The plot has something to do with a cabal of bad guys trying to control the global supply of rare minerals needed for batteries.

Gandalf and I try to listen, we really do. The gaggle of geese express no interest. But Don’t Follow Don has attracted a fan club with his eloquent, detailed summary, a dock’s worth of harbor seals downwind of us belching and farting with each twist and turn in the novel’s intricate plot.

Food and book summary complete, we return to Schoonmaker on a gentle bay.


Date: Thurseve, 17 June 2021.

Distance: Eight point nine nautical miles.

Speed: One point six knots.

Time: Five point five hours.

Spray factor: Boy howdy!

Dessert: Dark raspberry chocolate protein bites.

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