“You guys had a calm evening last night,” says Gristle at the start of our Friday morning pedal, Gristle a mountain biking buddy and former Thurseve paddler


“Wasn’t calm at all,” say I, looking him in the eye.

Gristle stares back, doubt in that stare. “But it was calm here, not a breeze, not a leaf rustling.”

When I meet Gandalf and Don’t Follow Don Thurseve at Danny’s Secret Launch, they presage Gristle’s comment, both claiming calm conditions where they departed from, Don’t Follow Don 12 miles north in Novato, Gandalf 5 miles across the bay in Berkeley.

The weather forecast downplays what’s blowing across the bay, too. “10 to 15 mph,” it says, “Gusts to 20.” What we find is a consistent blow of 20 mph, a few gusts upwards of 25. That’s the bad news.

Now the good news: heading to Rod Reck from Danny’s Secret Launch, the amped-up wind’s behind us, pushing us in the general direction of the island. The current, flooding, is heading the same way.

Our friend the wind.

Actually, wind and waves are more friend to Gandalf and me in our long double than they are to Don’t Follow Don in his shorter single. The waves fetched up by the stout wind are 3’-4’ tall and close together, the double easily bridging the crests, but not Don’t Follow Don’s boat.

While the tandem hightails it over the waves, the shorter boat spends an inordinate amount of time wallowing in the deep troughs between wind waves. Lickety-split for Gandalf and me, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride for Don’t Follow Don.

Speed the double’s advantage, we navigate a level playing field, zig and zag across the water to Don’t Follow Don’s wallowing, time it so both our boats arrive at Rod Reck’s Toilet Bowl Beach together.

Ashore, our thoughts turn to food, though I suspect Don’t Follow Don’s thoughts are the hungriest, his boat burning more calories per paddle stroke than ours.

Honey-infused seed bars up the sugar in our blood, jack up our energy, while Gandalf and Don’t Follow Don prep their dishes, Gandalf his salad, Don’t Follow Don his chopped veggies. The two sitting side-by-side, vegetables  chopped and diced, I took to fantasizing. Imagine that.

Don’t Follow Don says the veggies in his home garden are free-ranging wild things, the red and yellow tomatoes the Genghis Khans of the garden, marauders; the yellow squash and eggplant tenacious Marco Polo explorers; the baby bell peppers small but Einstein smart, cleverly converting the best of sunlight and shadow to their needs.

In a phrase, vegetables free to be their best selves.

In my dialated mind’s eye, I contrast these vegetables with factory-farmed vegetables, crowded together in straight rows, no freedom of movement, no breathing room, many brutally harvested by cruel machines, the poor creatures stressed beyond the pale. Most of them, when they reach your plate, sufferers of PTSD.

My fantasy’s cut short, Gandalf shouting, “The tide’s got our boats.” The same flooding waters that assisted us to Rod Reck have turned coat, decided to strand us on Toilet Bowl Beach. 

Kitchen knives raised, their sharp edges glistening in the smokey red sunset, the two chefs rush the water, scare the bay into relinquishing her hold on our boats, the long and the short boat drug back to shore. 

So sudden and forceful Gandalf and Don’t Follow Don’s response to the bay’s intrusion, both wind and waves keep their distance, steer clear of us on our return paddle to the Secret Launch.


Date: Thurseve, 2 September 2021.

Distance: Five point two nautical miles.

Speed: One point three knots.

Time: Four point one hours.

Spray factor: Yes.

Dessert: Tiramisu.

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