“Hey!” shouts the big guy standing on the bluff above us. “This is private property.”

Gandalf and I have just pulled into Party Beach, the beach below the quarry’s admin building . Our wet clothes are spread out willy nilly on the beach, drying under the last of the day’s sun. 

His first glance looking down from the bluff, the security guard mighta thought we were two homeless guys setting up camp. We have that look and feel about us.

I coulda shouted back at him, “California follows Roman law, and Roman law states property below the average mean high tide line can’t be privately owned, so we’re not trespassing.” But I’m not sure about that, about the law, so I don’t say anything.

A safer approach mighta been, “The quarry knows us. We’ve crashed their Christmas party a buncha times,” past parties in a big white tent right next to the admin building, right where the security guard’s standing. But I don’t say anything.

Besides, I’d have to get outta the green plastic lawn chair I’m sitting on and turn around so he can hear me. But I’m sitting naked on that plastic chair, changing into dry clothes. I’m not sure what Roman law says about that, but I figure now’s not a good time to find out.

While I try to discreetly pull on dry pants, the security guard spots our kayak, surprises us with, “Oh! A kayak. No problem.” He says no more, walks over to his truck and drives off. That’s the last we see of the security guard.

If I’d had my way earlier on during the paddle, the guard wouldn’t’ve seen Gandalf and me, wouldn’t’ve seen our boat. We wouldn’t’ve made it to Party Beach.

Ten minutes after launching from Bruno’s, we’re out by Buckwheat Isle. We ship our paddles, raft up for snacks. Rafting up with only one boat is akin to clapping with one hand, but we manage, pass snacks between our front and rear cockpits on the ends of our paddles.

Snacks finished, paddles free of sweets, we head for the channel that splits Buckwheat from Chard. Nearing the channel, Gandalf emits an expletive, follows that up with, “The left foot peg for the rudder just broke.”

“What’s that mean?” I ask.

“I can’t steer,” says Gandalf.

I give our situation some thought, say, “Let’s work our way back to Bruno’s, see if we can fix it.”

“Can’t do that,” says he. “I haven’t got the parts or tools to fix it.”

“Whata we gonna do?” says I.

“Keep paddlin’,” says he. “We’ll figure it out.”

We keep paddling, a decent breeze shoving us along. The rudder’s stuck in one position, that position forces us close to shore, close to an old pier. 

Sidling up to the end of the pier, I grab a barnacle-encrusted, creosoted pylon to steady the double while Gandalf frees himself from his cockpit, reaches back, manages to lift the rudder from the water, secure it to the stern.

Not forced to turn in one direction is a plus, but trying to turn a wide-beamed, 21’-long boat in any direction without a rudder is a chore. Party Beach not far, I say, “Let’s take out at Party Beach, save our energy for the paddle back to Bruno’s.”

“Nah,” says Gandalf. “Let’s go out to The Sisters, figure out how best to navigate in these conditions,” these conditions being breezy, bumpy water. 

We do that, practice going this way and that on our way to The Sisters. By golly, we’re masters of our rudderless boat by the time we reach The Sisters, threading Grindle’s narrow needle in bouncy water without mishap.

Wind and spray in our face, we 180 back to Party Beach, meet the security guard, change into dry clothes, do dinner, hang out past sunset, pack up for Bruno’s.

We’re proud masters of our boat, can handle pretty much whatever’s thrown at us. But what’s thrown at us is unexpected: calm. Flat water, no wind. 

Takes no time to navigate back to Bruno’s, angle seamlessly through the narrow opening in the breakwater fence where a pylon’s gone missing, and take out at the concrete launch ramp.

A security guard trundles by in his electric cart, but there’s no need to bring up Roman law, the guard knows us. He knows us, but I’m still taking no chances. I keep my wet clothes on. I’ve got a heater in my car.


Date: Thurseve, 20 May 2021.

Distance: Five point five nautical miles.

Speed: One point one knots.

Time: Four point nine hours.

Spray factor: Yes.

Dessert: Très chocolate cake leftover from my daughter-in-law’s b’day.

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