“Turn around right now, this very minute, Johnny, and come home. I mean it!”

Geez! The older I get, the tougher the memory of my Grandma gets. She’s been on my case since I left the house late this afternoon, the oak trees in our back rocking in the wind. 

“It’s not gonna be safe out there. You should know better.” I turn up the volume on the car radio, try to drown out her words. The car radio can’t compete with Grandma.

At the harbor, talk of our float plan gives her pause. I can imagine a slight smile taking hold of her mouth. “Lots of white caps out there heading for Rod Reck,” says Gandalf. “Whataya think?”

“Be fun goin’,” says Don’t Follow Don. “Long as we’re careful, stick close together, should be okay.” At the mention of ‘careful’, Grandma’s smile widens, nods her head. She likes the word careful.

Grandma likes careful, but she can’t help herself. “But what if the wind doesn’t die down?” she works my mouth like a ventriloquist. “We’ll never get back to Bruno’s. We’ll be stuck on the island.”

“Let’s go out and see what happens,” Gandalf says to Grandma. “Go as far as Chard, turn back to shore if we have to.” Grandma tries to shout, “No!” but I keep my lips sealed.

We cruise out to Chard, wind and waves at our backs. “Whataya think?” shouts Don’t Follow Don over the wind, through the heavy spray. 

“Let’s see what happens,” Gandalf shouts back a favorite response. Of course, we go on. Grandma’s beside herself, can’t say anything. Not like her at all.

The deeper we get into open water, the fiercer the wind, the bigger the white caps. A quarter mile beyond Chard, Gandalf, no doubt rethinking the return paddle, shouts to Don’t Follow Don, “Turn back?”

“Too late for that!” comes the shouted reply. Don’t Follow Don’s right: no way we could turn around, paddle back, headwind and splash smacking our faces.

Grandma centers herself, calls up the vast powers and authority of a Grandma, shouts in my head, “Turn around right now, this very minute, Johnny, and come home. I mean it!” 

A powerful command, but I surprise myself, let the wind blow her words away, the thick spray off the boat’s bow washing them clean off the blackboard in the back of my head. 

I feel a touch of guilt for disobeying Grandma. She’s concerned about my welfare, after all. But truth to tell, I’m glad I disobeyed. Adrenaline overrides guilt. The paddle to Rod Reck’s downright exciting, wild. I’ve never gone faster in a kayak, the wind spiriting our double onward, riding windwaves lickety-split to the island.

The wind doesn’t die down while we’re on Rod Reck’s Toilet Bowl Beach. We dig a deep cookfire pit, shelter it from the wind with a wall of flotsam and jetsam we find on the beach. Sun down, we huddle around the fire, eat salad, corn-on-the-cob, spiralized veggies with salmon.

I’m not sure, but I think Grandma sent a Coast Guard helicopter to check on us. While we’re eating oatmeal cookies for dessert, a helicopter flies low over the island, directly over Toilet Bowl Beach. Before I finish my cookie, can grab another, the helicopter circles back around, momentarily hovers above us, flies off.

I’m not sure Grandma’s responsible for what happens next, either. Here’s what happens next: when we put our boats to water and shove off for Bruno’s, the wind dies down, doesn’t pick up again til we take out at the harbor.

Speaking of exciting paddles, here’s an update on the fellow we met a few months ago who’s paddling from San Francisco to Hawaii. 

You can follow his progress here: 


Date: Thurseve, 27 May 2021.

Distance: Seven point nine nautical miles.

Speed: One point four knots.

Time: Five point seven hours.

Spray factor: Lots.

Dessert: Oatmeal cookies.