Sunday, December 03, 2006

November 28, 2006

A cold and frosty morning in Salinas. That Mr Heater, Portable Buddy sure does take the nip out of the van in a hurry. Woulda, shoulda, coulda had that at Medicine Lake in october!
On the road to Monterey before 8. At the wharf launch before 8:30. Launched and paddled around the exterior of the harbor. I have grown used to the harbor seals curiosity while kayaking. Now I had to go through the same curve, this time with sea lions! Whoa, those are big boys and they sure are getting close! I increased my distance from the jetty, but they just followed along. As I got beyond the scuba area, they lost interest and fell back. OK. I had my sights set on the aquarium, figuring that would be a good two mile or so paddle. As I was approaching it, the seas were getting bigger and more frequent. 5 foot swells in my kiwi are not very comforting, so I decided to turn around. I paddled up into the kelp, which was amassed at the surface due to low tide, and allowed myself to float slowly on the wind. With the swell, I could not keep a good visual of the water around me, and found myself at times a bit too close to the otter. It was neat to see them up close, wrapped in kelp as an anchor, preening and eating. I, unfortunately, found myself within 50 feet or so of a mother and her pup. She was attentive but not panicked, so I allowed the kayak to drift by while I stayed motionless. Very nice scene.
As I got out of that otter population, I decided to try their technique, so I paddled to the biggest island of kelp I could find, and placed the kayak squarely in the middle of it. Cool, works well. As I was sitting back, having a smoke and taking it all in, a seagull landed within a foot of the kayak. It swam around looking up at me for handout. No way. Next it came up and pecked at the hull of the boat! It was at the bow, pecking at the hand grip, and with a single hop and wingflap was up on top. OK, that was interesting, but still no handout. I suppose that with all the rental kayaks out here, they make a pretty good living with this schitk! He wandered up to the large screwhead that holds the forward floatation in place and started pecking. Since I was just sitting back and watching this unfold, he got brave. Came wandering back with his sights on joining me in the cockpit, which is when I shooed him away with the paddle. Silly bird :).
As I drifted into the scuba area, a sealion came and porpoised right off the bow. Hello! Now, I found myself in seal territory, and they started up with their thing. OK, nuff of this, and the wind and seas are continuing to build, and I will need to be off the water in the next hour or so. Paddled into the harbor at the wharf. Sealions are barking up a storm at me, so I meander into the moorings and peer at the hodgepodge collection of boats. As I move into the central harbor, I notice a otter trying to enjoy its meal, but dealing with an aggressive (aren't they all?) seagull who keeps pecking at his side and trying to steal his food. Poor guy, He finally takes lunch and dives to escape.
Well, it is time to make a landing. I had a growing anxiety about this, as the winds had increased. I had picked the most sheltered and softest beach to launch, for this reason. They have a kayak rental here, along with the outriggers, so I figured they knew it as a safe launch.
The problem was, there were sleepers that would appear out of nowhere's and were now in the 3 to 4 foot range as they would crest! No pattern to their appearence, and they did not show themselves til they were 150 foot away from shore. I tried to time my beaching right behind one of them, thinking they would not come in that close together. Wrong! As I was positioning to the beach, one snuck up from behind. Never saw it coming. Worse, it crested just as it reached me. YAHOO!! I always realized the allure of surfing, just knew it was not for me. Now, I was getting my first taste of it, in my kayak. It would have been helpful if I had my "warmer" neoprene kayak shorts on. Or, if I had my skirt (kayaking). Nope. As hard as I tried to control the boat, the crest still had me sideways, so half a cockpit full of water. The ride lasted a good 50 to 75 feet, and the exileration made me oblivious to the cold water for the moment. THAT WAS SO COOL!!!! In too quick of a moment, the wave was receding and I was beached. Man, I almost want to go do that again :). It was at that point that I surveyed myself and started feeling the cold of the water. 50 degree water and 50 degree air. Brrrr. I moved my gear up to the van and comtemplated changing into dry clothes. Thankfully, I decided I should wait until I had the kayak up to do so.
I had noticed on beaching, a floating dock on the beach that had not been there when I launced. As I made my way back down, there was now a 12' alumium skiff and a guy in jeans and rubber boots trying to manhandle the dock into the water, while also trying to control the skiff in the waves. I watched for a moment, and realized this was a serious accident waiting to happen. The dock was about 16' x 3', and was suctioned into the sand. I walked up and offered to help get the dock water-born, and hold it in position until he could launch. He went into a diatribe about firing his work crew (working on the piles of the wharf), and gladly accepted my offer. We used the waves to help move the dock, while he also fended off the skiff. I kept in mind my little mishap at jade cove, and vowed to walk away before putting myself in danger. Once we managed to get the dock on the water. I held it out and he tried to wrestle the skiff into position. How he managed to not get killed or maimed in this process, I do not know. Only 20' of line between the skiff and dock, and every sleeper broadsiding the skiff! He just could not manuever far enough out to safely board and launch the skiff. He also was positioning himself between the skiff and the beach, and I was just waiting for the skiff and waves to win this battle. A soaking crash of a wave, and he is checking out the corpse of his cell phone. The anger channeled into a final attempt, just as I was telling him to admit defeat. He got beyond the break, with me guiding the dock into deeper water. He jumped in cranked the motored and wrapped the towline on the prop. Impressive string of curses, I must say... Back into the water and clear the prop. He was determined, I will give him that. Finally, he had the skiff underway, and feeling so sorry for the guy, I pushed the dock beyond the break, lest it drag him back to shore with the next wave. He made it out beyond the break, shouted back a thanks, and headed towards the wharf. I could see him converting all that just took place into a rage to unleash on the crew. Whew. Unemployment line here they come!
I had ended up waist deep in the surf, spent at least ten minutes there, and now reality was starting to set in. I grabbed up the kayak and started the trek up the beach to the van. By the time I reached the parking lot, I realized my toes had become totally numb, and I was not feeling the ground under me. This is one reason I never tried surfing! I set down the kayak, and tended to drying and warming. Quite an adventure :').
After loading up, I moved to the scuba area and took a long hot shower to finish the thaw. Mucho better.
Spent the rest of the day walking and biking around the area of pacific grove, finishing with an in the van dinner at sunset beach, due to the howling wind.

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