Thurseve hasn’t seen Dragon since COVID-19 shoved us up that proverbial creek without a safe port in sight. That changes this Thurseve, not necessarily the availability of safe ports, but with Dragon’s presence.

Gandalf, Don’t Follow Don, and I are prepping our boats on the warm asphalt parking lot at Danny’s Secret Launch when Dragon pulls in next to Gandalf’s car. Looking at the other two, I say, “D’ya think he’s brought ‘em tonight?”

It’s been 7 months since we’ve paddled with Dragon, but Don’t Follow Don and Gandalf know what I’m referring to. “Lobster tails!” they shout in unison.

Indeed, Dragon’s brought lobster tails. Truth to tell, knowing lobster tails are on the evening’s menu revitalizes our sagging enthusiasm for the outing. The sag’s cause is a thick blanket of gray wildfire smoke pulled tight over the bay, corners tucked in. The only shade of blue in the sky’s a memory.

Energized by thoughts of lobster tails, we put in, paddle south on a mild ebb, limit our exertion, avoid deep breaths. Crossing the little bay whose corners are the Secret Launch and Pt. Chauncey is easy going. The blanket’s thick, we can’t see the East Bay, but we don’t smother under the weight of it.

Past Pt. Chauncey, we stick close to shore, split the double row of concrete pilings in front of the Romberg Tiburon research center, the top of each piling capped by a crown of terns. Full Moon Beach, our agreed upon takeout, is within a few paddle strokes. An appropriate takeout, the moon full tonight, the Harvest Moon.

Close to taking out on Full Moon, Gandalf says, “Let’s take a peek around Bluff Pt., look down Raccoon Strait, see what’s to be seen.”

“Yeah,” says Don’t Follow Don, “let’s do that.”

Nothing but gray’s to be seen looking down Raccoon Strait. An unobstructed view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the normal, is nowhere in sight. 

We drift 50 yards past the Point, turn around, head back. Before we cover any distance, Dragon says, “Hey, lookit all the exposed sand at the Point.” Sure enough, the ebbing tide’s opened up a sweet little beach on Bluff Pt., our evening’s amended takeout.

The Point’s the southern most tip of a large hunk of real estate up for sale; Full Moon Beach marks the northern most end. A 15,000 sq ft mansion, guest cottages, and various other amenities have been pre-approved. The asking price is $24 million, dropped from $25 million. More details and photos here:

A minor disagreement finds voice before food prep. Gandalf has a freshly baked loaf of sourdough bread. Don’t Follow Don wants to save it for his spiralized veggies, mop up the juices. Gandalf begs otherwise, wants his bread to slurp up the melted butter and spices the lobster tails are cooked in. I want to eat the sourdough now.

I have to wait. The sourdough proves itself a superb sponge for lobster-infused melted butter. A pair of sea lions have been hanging out off the beach, sensing leftovers. Two porpoises are playing nearby, but they show no interest in us or our meal. Sadly, for the sea lions, we leave no leftovers, not even a dab of butter. No dessert scraps, either.

Moon cakes, our dessert courtesy of Dragon, are reserved for the Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Day Festival. That day just happens to be now. Rich with honey, flour, peanut oil, red bean paste, and eggs, the two-bite-sized cakes we savor, commit to gustatory memory, the holiday unlikely to fall on a Thurseve again.

During the last of our spiralized veggies and the entirety of our Moon Cakes, Dragon tells a tale. The tale finds him paddling down the Sacramento River from Redding. He’s hoping to reach the Golden Gate Bridge. North of Sacramento on day 12, he pulls ashore, steps away from his kayak to set up camp.

His back turned to the boat, he hears a loud crack, a rumble. He turns around, watches a giant tree topple over, watches it crunch his boat. Dragon later learns the tree toppled because a family of beavers had been gnawing on it for generations. 

“At least I wasn’t under it when the tree came down,” says Dragon, the good news. His boat is destroyed, the bad news.

No trees threatening us, we pull up stakes, paddle back to the Secret Launch on flat water under a bright orange Harvest Moon.


Date: Thurseve, 1 October 2020.

Distance: Five point eight miles.

Speed: One point five knots.

Time: Three point eight hours.

Spray factor: None.

Dessert: Moon Cakes