When smoke meanders around a cookfire—doesn’t swirl, simply meanders around slowly—that’s because there’s no dominant, prevailing wind to blow it in one direction. If the smoke goes straight up 100% of the time, lucky you.

Gandalf, 1-of-3, and I meander slowly around the cookfire, try to keep time with the smoke, a version of musical chairs, the smoke always winning, one or more of us ending up in a losing chair for a spell.

Earlier, when we’re paddling from Bruno’s to Party Beach, there is a dominant wind. A westerly, not ferocious, maybe peaking at 12 knots, she pushes against our backs, just enough of a shove to help us catch a ride on an amusement-park train of small swells. 

We ride the wind-assisted swells past Pt. San Pedro out to The Sisters, Grindle and Myrtle. If The Sisters were receptive to takeouts—the ladies have no beaches, both of them lumpy hard rock—and we built a cookfire, the smoke would’ve been whisked away in one direction, no meandering.

We thread Grindle’s Needle, head back to Pt. San Pedro as the sun sets, the wind dying down, not unusual at sunset, the wind fading. 

Last few Thurseve’s have sported spectacular sunsets; this evening’s, while stunning, isn’t quite up to par, is more modest, a brilliant yellow egg yolk, the low-hanging scraggly gray clouds immediately above underlined in a smear of tan oak.

I think the sunset’s modesty is a function of a relatively clear western sky, those few scraggly gray clouds excepted. Would’ve been a spectacular sunset if the large southern gray smudge turning San Francisco’s skyline into opaque gray slate had been further west. Just sayin’.

Our modest sunset is over when we paddle past Pt. San Pedro, dusk well into her cups when we takeout on Party Beach. An ebb well underway, the beach is littered with low-tide, fist-sized, hull-scraping rocks. Experienced paddlers, we know how to handle these conditions: we drag our boats by their bows over the rocks to soft sand.

Party Beach is backed by a 15’-tall bluff. A short distance from the bluff’s upper edge sits the quarry’s admin building. Security conscious, the owners have installed a bright spotlight on the building, the intense beam flooding the admin parking lot and cascading over the bluff onto the rocky beach, throwing long rough shadows behind the low-tide rocks. Looks like the moon’s surface, less the water.

Today’s February 13, tomorrow’s the 14th, Valentines Day. Keeping with the tradition, Gandalf shares a small heart-shaped box of See’s candies with us.

Valentines Day was added to the church’s calendar in 500 AD by Pope Gelasius to celebrate several martyred saints, all named Valentine. Staying true to history and it’s spirit, Gandalf also shares with us a spot of canned liquid refreshment, Monk’s Blood. If you’re gonna celebrate, do it rite.

Beyond Valentines Day fare, we also have salad; lobster bisque; sea salt rosemary ciabatta; fire-roasted yams with mushrooms, onions, and sour cream; mixed fruit flambé.

Meandering around the cookfire, the evening on the chilly side, we chat about this and that, not much about Valentines. Politics is mentioned, the state of the union, but that chatter’s too dismal to repeat here.

On the upside, we learn that puffins in Iceland are tool using, wielding sticks to scratch under their chins, a sign they’re on an evolutionary train ride to take our place once we leave the station, our last ticket punched.

The film Parasites and the Oscars share a whole paragraph worth of chatter, but I’m gonna edit it down to one sentence: if you’ve got a squeamish stomach, cover your eyes during the film’s final scene.

There’s more chatter, I just can’t remember it all, too busy trying to stay ahead of the cookfire smoke, eating See’s chocolates, drinking Monk’s Blood.


Date: 13 February 2020.

Distance: Five point three nautical miles.

Speed: One point two knots.

Time: Four point five hours.

Spray factor: Minimal.

Dessert: Mixed fruit flambé.

comiX —> https://photos.app.goo.gl/UUvsW6Cks8JehqfaA