“Seven years?” I say.
“Yes, 7 years,” says she.
Gandalf, Don’t Follow Don, Phil, Kat, and I have just paddled into Potsticker Cove, are hauling our gear up the many steps carved into the hillside to the day-use area. The area’s two picnic tables have remnants of a meal on them.
“My mother-in-law died some years ago,” she says, packing up leftovers from one of the two tables. “The family scattered her ashes here, wanted to come back and celebrate her life. Took my sister-in-law 7 years to get today’s reservation.”
“Wow!” say I.
“Yeah,” she says. “You better ask her if you can share the site with her and the family.” Pointing toward the beach, “She’s down there.”
Traipsing down the many steps to the beach, I’m not sure I even want to ask the gal if we can share her space. I mean, today’s a special time for the family, apparently 7 years in the waiting.
Of course, there is a minor counterpoint to my hesitancy, embarrassing in comparison: today’s the first time in several years we’ve made it to Potsticker, blown back by wind on our other attempts.
I find the gal, she and the family putting away their beach gear, prepping to leave the park. I muster up my courage, ask if we can share the day-use area with her.
“No problem,” she says, doesn’t hesitate. “We’re gonna do dessert up there, then head home. You’re welcome to it.”
The five of us finish lugging our dinner gear up the steep slope, do our kitchen on the picnic table that’s been swept clean by the first gal I talked to. The family does their dessert, then all, but two, depart, beating back dark with flashlights to find their cars.
We build our cookfire in a barbecue pit, stand around the warmth, eat salad, cooked chopped veggies, sardines out of a tin, talk.
The two remaining gals are curious about paddling on the bay at night, ask a lotta questions. We tell them on a beautiful night like this—not too cold, not too hot, calm, wisps of fog meandering overhead hand-in-hand with a light breeze—paddling on the bay’s magical, but much less so when the wind’s angry and the water’s roiled.
Dessert’s apple pie, one from Gandalf, another left over from the family’s celebration. We heat both pies over the last of the cookfire, some concern expressed about burning the pies’ bottom crust. A needless concern, the pies exquisite, no burnt crust, warm and tasty.
We all leave the day-use area well after dark, the two gals to their car, we to our boats. The paddle up the strait to the bridge’s north tower is magical, the tower loosely wrapped in a veil of mist, the tower’s red lights diffuse through the thin fabric, a nearly full Harvest Moon brushing against the top of the tower.
Past the tower, Kat takes her leave of us, paddles into Horseshoe Cove. We paddle on around Cavallo Point, head toward Yellow Bluff, Yellow Bluff notorious for big water. There is no big water now.
There was big water at Yellow Bluff earlier in the evening on our way to Potsticker. Don’t Follow Don heads straight for it. Of course, he does. To my dismay, Gandalf steers our double right in behind him.
What’s not to understand about “Don’t Follow” Don?
The waves are big, bigger than I’ve ever seen at Yellow Bluff. Making things worse, a fellow in a single outrigger is bouncing up and down in the confusion ahead of us. I shouldn’t pay attention to him, but I do. Watching him bounced out of his boat not once, but three times, doesn’t give me confidence, doesn’t make me feel secure.
I look for Don’t Follow Don. How can I describe it? What’s the word? Frolic! That’s the word. Don’t Follow Don’s frolicking in the turmoil. That he’s frolicking doesn’t make me feel any better, any safer.
“Gandalf!” I holler over my shoulder. “Get us outta here.” Gandalf does, gets us outta there, not fast enough for me, but out.
That Yellow Bluff is placid on our return to Schoonmaker is a fitting end to this report.
Date: Thurseve, 23 September 2021.
Distance: Seven point six nautical miles.
Speed: One point four knots.
Time: Five point five hours.
Spray factor: Lots.
Dessert: Apple pie, chocolate crisps.