About the time we land on Pet Sematary Beach, NASA’s electric-powered intra-galactic super snooper, Perseverance, has landed on Mars. Within minutes, video and sound of the event are broadcast to Pt. San Pablo Harbor, neighbor to Pet Sematary Beach.

Of the three of us on the beach, Don’t Follow Don can claim early involvement in researching the successful transmission and reception of those signals. 

In another lifetime, Don’t Follow Don worked for NASA at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. His task: to research some of the ins and outs of communicating with Mars. 

If not for a later transgression of racing electric golf carts deep inside Stanford’s linear accelerator, Don’t Follow Don might have gone on to help discover Mars’ hidden oceans and the kayaking civilization those waters supported.

Just sayin’.

The water supporting Gandalf, Don’t Follow Don, and me tonight—across the bay from Bruno’s to the Harbor—is slate gray with the texture of orange peels. Minimum wind, no rips or tears in the peel. Only unknown’s how much residue’s left on the surface from last week’s Chevron spill.

Starting out, we’re not sure we should head in the direction of last week’s upset.  I text ahead to Rob, a Pt. San Pablo Harbor contact, ask, “How’s the water?” I don’t immediately hear back. 

“What the heck,” says Gandalf, “it’s been a week. Let’s go.” And we do, paddle in the direction of last week’s spill.

No sign of spillage on our crossing. That’s the good news. Even better news is Rob’s “Bay’s ok here” text that comes in as we round Pt. San Pablo. Can’t get any better than that, can it?

But it does, get’s better than that. Pulling into the beach, we spot a swimmer coming ashore further up the sand. Looks healthy, the swimmer does, isn’t covered in oily residue.

No residue on the beach, either. Tonight’s beach is exceptionally wide, about as wide as it can get without being anchored in mud. Could’ve been coated in lotsa gunk, too, but isn’t. We’re grateful, happy we chose the takeout we did.

An overcast day, the sky as gray as the bay, cool is the temperature when we leave Bruno’s. Cold is the temperature when we reach Pet Sematary, the sun down. We have a load of firewood, build a cookfire, toss in three foil-wrapped potatoes. We never stray from the fire’s warmth.

Hunkered around the cookfire, there’s talk of older cars with lotsa mileage, worn tires, and compromised starter motors. That chatter segues to Perseverance, a vehicle with four good tires and no starter motor problems. I don’t say anything, but think what might’ve been if golf carts hadn’t raced in an accelerator.

Salad’s ready and served 10 minutes before the cookfire’s judged hot enough to heat up the wok for spiralized veggies. BTW, I recommend Tzatziki Cucumber dressing, what we douse our salad with tonight. Refreshing, that’s the simple tagline I’d put on its label.

The salad no more, Gandalf unveils a special brew he’s set aside for the evening, a bottle of Three Philosophers beer. A dark meaty beer, well suited to a cold evening.

The beer sparks a group memory of an episode in the TV sitcom Cheers. In the remembered episode, character Norm explains his Buffalo Herd Theory of Brain Cells. To whit: just as wolves will cull a buffalo herd of its weakest members, leave the herd stronger, so beer culls the brain if its weakest cells, leaves the brain …

We toast Norm till the bottle’s dry.

A healthy brain leads to talk of a healthy gut. “People are wasting their money on supplements and probiotics,” says Gandalf. “What’ll make the critters in your gut healthy are foods like pickles and kimchi.” We agree to bring pickles and kimchi next week.

Lacking pickles and kimchi this week, we still do well by our guts with a wok worth of spiralized veggies, TJ’s seafood medley thrown in for good measure.

The evening and the cookfire both drawing to a close, we pull our foil-wrapped potatoes from the fire. No quantum quandary this evening, the potatoes are the same three we tossed in, no more no less. 

The spuds are perfect, blackened to diamond hardness on the outside, custard soft on the inside. We cover the soft insides with onions and mushrooms to seal the deal.

A local hound wanders down the beach to our little camp while we pack our boats. She sniffs empty plates, nuzzles hard blackened potato skins, wanders back up the beach.

We shove off, paddle back to Bruno’s on oil-free orange-peel water.


Date: Thurseve, 18 February 2021.

Distance: Six point six nautical miles.

Speed: One point four knots.

Time: Four point seven five hours.

Spray factor: Not much.

Dessert: Chocolate-covered peanut butter cookies.