Paddling to Rod Reck, we typically circumnavigate the island before landing on Toilet Bowl Beach. That’s what we do this evening, circumnavigate the island.

The tide’s quite low and the shortcut around Rod Reck’s south end, a narrow channel between the island and a large rock outcropping, is a no-go. A field of jagged rocks is exposed, the shortcut now a hull-destroying venture. 

We round the southern tip the long way, add a minute or so to the time it takes us to reach Toilet Bowl Beach.

Toilet Bowl Beach is not deserted. Two Bay Area Sea Kayakers got wind of this Thurseve’s destination, took a chance our takeout wouldn’t be wind- or current-altered, and commandeered the beach to greet us.

The two masked Baskers are Jah-Knee, a once regular Thurseve paddler, and his buddy, Hot Diggity. Socially-distanced hi-fives are followed by an unexpected treat: Jah-Knee offers us ice cream sickles, a cool and tasty counterpoint to the day’s uncomfortably warm temps. 

Not to be critical—the fault is our late arrival, the extra minutes around the island’s southern tip—but the ice cream is melting off the sickles’ sticks, collecting in the bottom of the treats’ see-through packaging. 

A couple minutes earlier, we would’ve had our first-ever frozen ice cream sickles on Rod Reck. On a more optimistic note, the flip side to this meltdown, first-time milkshakes on Thurseve are no small shakes, either. Memorable.

Isn’t just the exposed rocks on Rod Reck’s southern tip that adds critical ice-cream-melting minutes to our arrival, the low tide has conspired against us from the git-go, from Bruno’s.

A long tongue of sand sticks out from the north face of Buckwheat Island. It’s hard to tell how deep the water is over the spit, the mirror-smooth surface of the bay giving no hint what’s immediately below the surface. Besides, pelicans are swimming over the spit. If it’s deep enough for pelicans to swim, it’s deep enough for kayaks.

The pelicans aren’t swimming; the pelicans are standing in 2 inches of water. Several minutes of hand-coaxing our boats over the spit guarantees more milkshake than ice cream sickle on Rod Reck. 

Ice cream sickles/milkshakes soon segue to Gandalf’s green salad, Don’t Follow Don’s spiralized veggies fortified with salmon filet chunks, and Dragon’s pork cutlets coated in sweet potato flour and flavored with sweet chili sauce. Remnants of the two main courses are sopped up with garlic sour dough bread. 

Dessert arrives on two fronts: Hot Diggity’s chocolate chip cookies and Gandalf’s Texas Bourbon Chocolate bar, the two parsed out among the six of us. Sipped slowly with all of the above is a bottle of Asolo Prosecco, courtesy of Don’t Follow Don and Italy.

Chatter in our cookfire-free patch of red pebbles and sand on Toilet Bowl Beach has us sharing Vietnam draft stories, but the brunt of the talk is Dragon’s, not about Vietnam or the draft, but about world hopping.

Dragon’s an authentic world hopper, does his hopping on bicycles and in kayaks. His travels are far flung, if you can name a place, he’s either been there or has plans to go. Included in his plans is Russia, but “getting a travel visa there is impossible,” he says. “I know, I’ve tried.”

He says countries in that part of the world ending in “-stan” are his favorites. Kyrgyzstan, Kazakstan, and so on. “People are friendly and welcoming. And the terrain is breathtaking.”

By the time Dragon gets us to Tajikistan, a mildly hazing blue sky that accompanied us to Rod Reck has done a runner. Jah-Knee and Hot Diggity shove off for the East Bay, the four of us to Bruno’s.

The sky’s exceptionally dark, moonless. Nights like this, dark’s often thick on the bay, too. But not this evening. The water’s still mirror smooth, no wind to ruffle it, shoreline lights reflecting off the mirrored surface, amplified. Truth to tell, I can’t remember a moonless night paddle with visibility this good …

… which is why the sudden presence of the freighter is such a surprise. Big as the town of Fairfax in Marin County, the ship’s hard to miss. We should’ve seen it miles before it reached the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, but we don’t. 

Fortunately, the ship magically materializes 300 yards ahead of us, completely contained in a shroud of surprise, never a threat. By the time we paddle to where the freighter’s crossed under the bridge, the ship’s melted into the distance faster than an ice cream sickle on a warm evening.


Date: Thurseve, 15 October 2020.

Distance: Seven point eight nautical miles.

Speed: One point seven knots.

Time: Four point five hours.

Spray factor: None.

Dessert: Chocolate chip cookies & Texas Bourbon Chocolate

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