If you’re prone to seasickness, tonight’s paddle’s not for you.


A handful of wing foil boarders are packing up their gear when we pull into the asphalt parking lot at Bruno’s. Looking out the harbor at the bay, all we see are whitecaps.

 

Despite knowing the answer—of course we know—we ask, “How is it out there?”


One of the fellows looks over, smiles, says, “Rough.” A slight hesitation, then adds, “But lotsa fun.” 


With enough wind, their boards can rise up, the foils on the bottom of their boards just skimming over the tops of waves. A big westerly’s puffing hard tonight. Lotsa fun.


In our boats at the waterline on the concrete boat ramp ready to shove off, we hear one of them shout, “You sure you wanna go out there in that long boat?” We’ve heard that a lot this summer. We shove off.


Past couple paddles outa Bruno’s in conditions like this, we aim for Chard and Buckwheat, cut between the two small islands, then point our bow toward The Sisters. 


A rough, wet, stomach-flipping ride is what we have out to the islands. When we reach the islands, I’m thoroughly soaked, to the core, the usual fare for the guy sitting in a double’s front cockpit. 


Though the bay area’s weather has gone straight from summer to winter, the bay’s still warmer than cold. I’m soaked, but not freezing. Gandalf, in the back of the double, never complains.


We set ourselves up, point the bow at The Sisters and … let the wind and waves do the rest. The blow’s not exactly at our backs, but close enough, the white-maned ponies all galloping toward The Sisters.


Quite the contrast, the ponies snarling in our faces, rearing, threatening, on our mile-long shoulder ache to Chard and Buckwheat. They’re still bucking and rearing up, manes flying, but they’re our friends now; they let us ride bareback the 2.5 mikes to The Sisters.


I’m not a horse person, maybe been on one’s back once or twice. But I have spent many hours on the seat of a mountain bike. Riding those wild ponies to The Sisters is like speeding down the side of a mountain on a gnarly single track. 


Hi dee ho!


If you’ve seen those YouTube videos of river kayakers careening down class 3-5 gauntlets, our ride to The Sisters is nothing like that. Not at all. Closest we come to that level of gnarliness is threading Grindle’s Needle, Grindle one of the two Sisters, Myrtle the other.


The Needle’s 6’ wide, 20’ long. Threading the Needle tonight is YouTube worthy, a commercial Maytag grinding up its load, us. The two of us are paddling hard as we can against the churning water, getting nowhere. 


I’m about to give up, let the surge push us back out, when Gandalf shouts, “Paddle harder!” I can’t, but Gandalf can, does paddle harder. Much harder. Our long double shoots out, crosses through the mayhem, and exits the other side. 


How hard does Gandalf paddle? The right hand blade on his paddle cracks under the strain.


Boy howdy!


Cracked paddle and all, we limp the last mile to Party Beach, the beach narrow, eaten up by a hungry tide. The charts say the entire beach is gonna be gobbled up quickly, so we lug the double up a slight rise, the bow pointing down toward the bay. A ready and quick escape when needed. 


 Gandalf takes a plastic bucket he’s found, puts it under the bow, raises it up above the greedy water. “The bay won’t snatch the boat now,” says he.


We build our cookfire in our usual spot on Party Beach, the wall of rocks we’ve built on previous outings still in place, the wall sheltering the cookfire, in its deep pit, from the wind.


The water rising, threatening the fire, we dispense with our usual salad, put our grill on the fire, cook up a batch of  bell pepper wedges, eggplant slices, potato pancakes, impossible burgers.


We’re eating dessert, zucchini bread with apple compost, when the tide sneaks a scene out of a Jack London tale (I can’t remember which book). In the tale, a fire London has struggled to start, catches, London gets close to warm himself when a heavy lump of snow suddenly falls from a branch, extinguishes the fire and his hard-earned warmth.


In our rising tide’s plagiarized version of London’s tale, a wave sneaks by our rock wall, completely douses the fire. Only difference, we’ve warmed ourselves, eaten our food. We’re good to go.


Water’s started to climb up the little rise our boat’s sitting on, the bow still uplifted by the bucket. We get in the boat, do a seal launch, bucket and all, slide into a calm bay, wind gone, ponies stabled.


Above us the almost Harvest Moon is walking hand-in-hand with Jupiter and Saturn. In the west, Venus guides us back to Bruno’s.


Stats


Date: Thurseve, 16 September 2021.
Distance: Five point seven nautical miles.
Speed: One point eight knots.
Time: Three point two five hours.
Spray factor: Boy howdy!
Dessert: Zucchini bread with apple compote.

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