“Whatcha do with your potato?” I ask Don’t Follow Don.

Gandalf’s been bringing a variety of potatoes to our outings. He cloaks each potato, usually four, in a wrap of tinfoil, tosses them into the cookfire when the fire’s first lit.

“Takes a while for a potato to be thoroughly cooked,” says Gandalf. The potatoes are usually the last items we pull from the cookfire. Most times, we’re stuffed, can’t ear another bite, so Gandalf gives us each a potato to take home.

“What’d I do with my potato?” Don’t Follow Don repeats my question. “I mixed it in with my oatmeal is what I did. Had purple oatmeal Friday morning.

Gandalf’s potatoes come in three colors: white, yellow, and purple. If properly cooked—kept in the cookfire at least an hour—the meat of the potato will mimic the smooth consistency of pudding.

This Thurseve, a small potato is properly cooked before an hour goes by. Don’t Follow Don’s chopped veggies already heating up in his wok—a new wok, by the way, a real beauty—Gandalf spoons out the soft, yellow innards of that small potato into the simmering stew. Turns out to be a tasty addition.

Another sign of a properly cooked potato is its skin, a solid black carbonized covering is what you want to see. Gandalf and Don’t Follow Don both prefer to scoop out the potato’s warm innards, leave the skin for compost or fuel for the fire. 

I prefer to eat the whole potato, hard covering and all. I figure by consuming the black, carbonized skin, I’m doing my part for climate change, sequestering carbon.

The potato’s hard skin is like eating beach sand, has the same crunch as the very fine sand on tonight’s takeout, Full Moon Beach. It’s an acquired taste, the skin, not the beach sand.

Full Moon Beach is only one of two decent takeouts at extreme low tides, hers a handy sandy haul out no matter how low the tide. The other low-tide haul out is Toilet Bowl Beach on Rod Reck. 

Tonight’s low tide is accompanied by a swift ebbing current, a current we ride from Danny’s Secret Launch to Full Moon Beach. The bay’s surface is textured like an orange peel, ever so slightly lumpy, not the mirror smooth surface of past weeks. Only bouncy water’s at Pt. Chauncey.

During yesterday’s 2.2.22 palindrome, a Wednesday, the two most celebrated groundhog meteorologists gave conflicting forecasts. Punxsutawney Phil laid down a disappointing 6 more weeks of winter while Staten Island Chuck proclaimed an early spring.

This evening, not a palindrome, leans toward Punxsutawney Phil with cold, crisp temps and a tapestry of high, wispy clouds. I’m so confident of Punxsutawney Phil’s forecast, I don’t bother to cinch my hat down, positive there’d be no spring winds to snatch it off my head. There aren’t.

Cold nights like this, we bring a furnace-worth of firewood, of late the wood’s been mostly milled lumber with a few odd pieces of oak and pine. The milled lumber catches quickly, but burns to ash faster than you can say ‘Brrr’. We’re constantly tossing wood on the fire to keep it happy.

No surprise, most of our stay on Full Moon Beach tonight finds us huddled around the cookfire. No spring winds to swirl the fire’s smoke, we keep our places, don’t migrate around the fire pit to escape stinging eyes, irritated noses. When smoke does swirl, our seating devolves into a game of musical chairs, each of us vying for the best fresh-air seat.

The course from Danny’s Secret Launch to Full Moon Beach doesn’t cross any major shipping thoroughfares, an easy paddle for that. Sitting on the beach, we have a good view of the shipping channel, can watch the boat traffic.

“Look at that cargo ship,” says Gandalf, pointing toward the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. “Big bugger!”

“Don’t see anything,” I say. The night’s darker than the carbonized skin of a properly cooked potato.

"Yeah! There it is,” says Don’t Follow Don. “You can see it’s silhouette against the lights from Chevron’s dock,” Chevron’s refinery 4 miles across the bay.

My eyes are older than theirs, but the cargo carrier does materialize out of the dark, takes shape. “Headin’ out the bay,” says Gandalf.

“Yup,” says Don’t Follow Don, “got no cargo on its deck.”

For what it’s worth, that’s the closest we come to a big ship all night. A few ferry wakes do roll under our hulls on the paddle back to Danny’s Secret Launch, but that’s about as rough as the bay gets on this cold, clear, crisp winter evening.


Date: Thurseve, 23 February 2022.

Distance: Five point nine nautical miles.

Speed: One point four knots.

Time: Four point three hours.

Spray factor: Only at Pt. Chauncey.

Dessert: Banana chocolate chip cake.

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