“The Wizard’s daughter saves us,” says Gandalf. “Her youthful eyes see the humongous shadow before Don’t Follow Don and my old eyes do.” Thoughtful pause. “Fortunately, the car carrier’s moving slowly. My vision’s strictly focused navigating the waves, wind, and the intermittent sneaker waves.”


Gandalf paints a stark watercolor, all the colors running together, blurring his nighttime vision. The waves, the wind, the sneaker waves. I’m no artist and I wasn’t there, but I believe his brush strokes speak true.


I’m at Danny’s Secret Launch for the put-in, more spectator than paddler, shoulder issues from last week’s paddle not yet resolved. Conditions at the launch bring out the wuss in me; I’m relieved my shoulder’s misfiring. 


Standing on the harbor’s jetty, I watch Gandalf and the Wizard’s Daughter in their double and Don’t Follow Don in his single paddle toward Manganese Island, the wind a constant 25-30 mph outa the south. Horrendous.


(Ed. Note: Due to legal issues, Red Rock will be referred to as Manganese Island henceforth. Don’t ask.)


Why would anyone venture out in such wild ‘n woolly conditions? One possible reason: since no virus could survive out there, a wickedly wind-whipped bay could be the safest place in a pandemic.


Think about that, but not for too long. Here’s the real reason Gandalf, the Wizard’s Daughter, and Don’t Follow Don dare fate: today is Gandalf’s birthday paddle. 


But there’s more! It’s also Kat’s b’day—Kat’s a friend of Don’t Follow Don’s. They’ve planned for week’s to meetup on Manganese Island to celebrate a two’fer b’day party. Don’t Follow Don’s even baked a chocolate cake for the event.


Of course, they have to go. The cake!


Everyone, I’m told, arrives on the island drenched in bay-&-sweat-soaked paddling/party attire. But for the wind, candles are almost lit and the cake is eaten. Skipping ahead …


Dusk descends and the revelers head back, our three to the Secret Launch, Kat to Richmond Marina in the East Bay. The wind hasn’t settled down, is still belligerent. A spoiler, that wind. But virus free.


You already know about the nighttime close encounter with the car carrier. Fog’s something else to know about. “We can’t see the shore lights,” says Gandalf, “don’t know exactly where we’re headed. The current’s ebbing south, so we figure we’ll compensate by paddling north. We don’t factor in the wind, which pushes us even further north.”


Lights finally break through the fog shrouding the shore. What the lights expose isn’t the Secret Launch. What they expose is San Quentin State Prison, 1.5 miles north of the Secret Launch. 


When all’s said and done, the three b’day party-goers mope into the Secret Launch at 12:30 Friday morning, a record for the 3-mile crossing that should stand for some time.


Stats


Date: Thurseve, 25 June 2020.

Distance: Too far.

Speed: Painfully slow.

Time: Too long.

Spray factor: Enormous.

Dessert: Chocolate b’day cake.






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