Seeing his shadow on Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil said we’d have six more weeks of winter. The rodent got it wrong.


Launching outa Bruno’s this Thurseve, the season is summer, not winter. Temps are hot, water’s calm, the sky’s clear blue. Only thing missing are summer’s big fluffy, white clouds. A polished mirror, the bay would’ve been perfect for cloud paddling, but there’re no clouds to reflect.


The half of his forecast the rodent got right happens post-sunset, the season now winter, quite cold (by our wimpy west coast standards). How cold you ask? Cold enough for me to wear all the extra layers I didn’t wear paddling across the bay to Pt. San Pablo Harbor. Kept my face mask on, too, my nose toasty.


By the way, Groundhog Day fell on Imbolc, one of the four cross-quarter days that fall midway between solstices and equinoxes. Was a time before Tik Tok, microwaveable dishes, and the spoked wheel when folk celebrated seasonal changes on these cross-quarter dates.


Not to get too fussy, but, far as I’m concerned, celebrating cross-quarter dates makes more sense than celebrating the solstices and equinoxes. For example, why celebrate the first day of diminishing daylight (summer solstice) rather than Beltane, a cross quarter date that heralds six more weeks of burgeoning daylight?


We don’t paddle over clouds, but we do chase Mt. Tam’s shadow across the bay. We put some effort into it, our paddle strokes, but the shadow’s faster than us. When we concede defeat, ship our paddles, we find ourselves alongside East Brothers Lighthouse and B&B.


“Hey!” a voice shouts down to us. We look up, see a woman leaning over the fence that surrounds the lighthouse-converted-into-a-B&B atop the small island. We wave. She waves back, holds up a small phone, shouts , “Smile, you’re on Facebook live.” We oblige, smile, paddle on.


Not the first time we’ve been digitized on someone’s video screen. Thursdays, the Coast Guard has training exercises in the north bay. They practice rescues, chase drug runners, that sort of thing. All we ever see of those exercises is a lone Coast Guard helicopter. 


Most times, the helicopter ignores us, flies off. Occasionally, it hovers over us, we figure monitoring us, recording our heartbeats, body temperature, and so on. They’ve got all the hi-tech gewgaws and whizziwigs.


Rounding Pt. San Pablo on our way to Pet Sematary Beach, we hear the sound of a helicopter approaching. The sound grows louder, but not much louder. Fact is, it’s not a helicopter we hear, it’s a drone. And it’s hovering 30 feet above us.


“Look at that,” says Don’t Follow Don, “it’s blinking its lights at us.” Gandalf, Dragon, and I look up, see the drone blinking its lights, waving its wings. We wave, smile. Could be more Facebook live.


The drone does video us—we learn this later—but the video isn’t for Facebook. The drone’s pilot is Bonny, a friend of ours from the harbor. Ten minutes after we take out on Pet Sematary Beach, Bonny strolls over, pays us a visit. 


We chitchat about this and that, and she offers to send us snippets of the drone’s video. In exchange, we offer her a meal on the beach, but she declines, has things to attend to, wanders back to the harbor.


Here’s the meal Bonny passed up: Gandalf’s green salad with all the trimmings, feta cheese and Asiago Caesar dressing included; tinfoil-wrapped, fire-roasted potatoes (their fiery outcome a quantum problem, the uncertainty principle applied: two go in the fire, only one comes out); Impossible Burgers with fried onions; and Dragon’s croissants and lobster tails, pan-fried in two sticks of melted butter (we figure we have enough arteries among us to minimize the butter’s impact).


The next few paragraphs have nothing to do with Thursday’s paddle, but if you’ve ever wondered how to hypnotize a chicken, read on.


In 1981, I read a passing reference to a university professor who claimed he could hypnotize chickens. I wrote him asking how he did it. Here’s what he wrote back:


“You tuck the chicken’s legs up and under here and place her on the sidewalk as if she were sitting in a nest. Then gently you move her head down until here beak is touching the sidewalk. Put a long piece of chalk at her beak, so her eyes focus upon it. Then draw a chalk line on the sidewalk straight away from the beak for a foot ore so. Most times the hen will sit quietly staring at the chalk until the spell is broken by picking her up and letting her go free. At least this worked when I was a boy a half century ago. Maybe hens have gotten less susceptible.”


Stats


Date: Thurseve, 4 February 2021.

Distance: Seven nautical miles.

Speed: One point six knots.

Time: Four point five hours.

Spray factor: Zilch.

Dessert: Chocolate-dipped peanut butter cookies.