Sunday, November 16, 2008

Back in the Saddle

November 15, 2008

It has been a few weeks since my last kayak entry and my last day out on the water. This last Thursday my kayak buddy Cindy let me know about a kayak movie that was being shown at Aqua Adventures Kayak shop on Quivera Basin. I went down to see it. It was very well done. But the most interesting thing was that the filmmakers circumnavigated the South Island of New Zealand. Seeing this has re-inspired me. Since I first got my kayak last year on returning from New Zealand, and learning that long distance kayaking was something I enjoyed I have wanted to do something like this. I guess it was like back in the 80s when I took up cycling in a serious way. I had to increase my limits and abilities. So I planned and executed a two-month solo cycling trip to Ireland. I can’t say that I will do this. I don’t yet feel experienced enough. But it is a goal. But definitely something I would need a fellow kayaker to come along. Unlike cycling which is relatively safe, the sea is an unpredictable and potentially dangerous environment. Something one must be prepared for.

But with all the things going on recently (my kayak dive & taking a friend around La Jolla) I have not been able to do my weekly kayak from La Jolla to Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach and back. So I was determined to do it. In fact I thought I would plan an extended trip. I would pack food and water. Normally on my weekly trip I just take the water I will need. But, since it had been so long would I still have the stamina to make it? With that question in my mind I decided not to do this extended trip. Instead I would see that I was still in good enough shape to complete my Crystal Pier circuit.

I got up early and was at La Jolla Shores at 6 AM. The sky in the east was lightening; a cloudless Santa Ana day was in the works. A moon, just past full, was still well above the western horizon. The surf directly in front of the Lifeguard tower varied from small sets of one to two feet up to chest high. I set up my kayak and was paddling out through the surf at 0630. A gentle breeze rippled the water just outside the surf, reflecting a moon broken into a hundred pieces. The Santa Ana winds had not yet materialized.

Immediately after getting out past the surf I spotted a fin breaking the surface. Silhouetted black against the surface I could not tell what kind of dolphin or porpoise it was. But it was clear in its manner of breaking the surface that it was a mammal. I tried to intercept it to get a better look but it was too far and too fast. So I turned back west and headed out towards The Children’s Pool and open ocean. The surf along the Caves and Cliffs area was surprisingly large and Boomers and The Children’s Pool were wild. I would be traveling outside all the shallow reefs today. Passed over the La Jolla Cove kelp bed. The canopy was thick and a healthy golden color. Small fish could be seen swimming among the fronds.

Once past the breakwater at Children’s Pool I turned south to Pacific Beach. On a clear day you can see past Bird Rock and soon pick up Crystal Pier in the distance. Today it was hazy and the pier was obscured in the fog. But Ocean Beach and the headlands of Point Loma were visible. For a short time I could see the top of one of The Coronado Islands. So I pointed my bow at The OB headland and traveled south. This put me farther out from the shore than I typically go. I could hear the surfers at Marine Street, Wind & Sea, and Tourmaline Surf Park laughing and bellowing their exultation at catching the waves. Passed by a few lobster fishermen tending to their traps. And I could see numerous private fishing vessels and dive charter boats dotting the horizon.

With the haze and being further out I could not see Crystal Pier until I was directly out from it. So I just continued my heading to the Mission Bay Jetty. That was a goal I knew I could make. All the time crossing between the Pier and the Jetty I considered whether or not to attempt going into Mission Bay. Then, if I could find Quivera basin, I would haul out at Aqua Adventures and take a long rest. But I was not sure of the path to take once in Mission Bay. It had been a month or more since doing a long kayak, I decided against pushing myself that hard. Besides, I had not brought any food to eat or money to get anything at the Pub next-door. Next time?

As I approached the Jetty and was about to turn around I met up with a couple in an outrigger canoe. I asked if they knew the time. I was told that it was 0845. So I had made it all the way from La Jolla Shores to Mission Bay Jetty in 2 hours and 15 minutes. This was almost a non-stop trip. I just took a few short breaks to drink water or peel off a layer as the heat of the day increased. Here I took a longer break before turning northward for the return trip.

At times heading south, especially past Bird Rock, I had a bit of a following sea. This would give me a little push on my trip down. Going back was a different story. Not only was I tired from the long paddle down, but also I was facing into the swell. The only help I got was from the slight breeze coming up from the east-southeast. The Santa Ana winds that plague the East County and whip up the fires that are now burning in Santa Barbara, LA and Orange Counties never came up on the coast. And I was taking more frequent breaks.

Just out from Crystal Pier (was about one mile out to sea) I ran across another pod of dolphins. Again, the black fins arched above the water. This time I was able to get close enough to view them. They were headed south and I north. These were not the gray, bottlenose dolphins I usually see. These were black with a white patch down the side. According to my California Marine Life book they were Common Dolphin. Maybe not so common as this was the first sighting I had of them in my year of kayaking.

I noticed large flocks of black birds heading south in line and V formations. They were about the size of small gulls with round black bodies. Their wings were relatively short and flapped rapidly. One group flew close enough for me to get a good look. They had bright orange, short beaks and a bright orange spot on the side of their head. I have a tentitive identification on the bird now. John Moore utilizing doug Aquillard's very impressive web pages it is a Surf Scoter. I went through his Photo Gallery and I believe that it more closely resembles a Rhinocerous Auklet. The Surf Scoter is a type of duck. I am not an expert but that is it appears to be to me. I hope to add a link to his pages. I await permission.

Got back to La Jolla Shores and sat outside the surf zone watching for the small sets. Acknowledge the surfers around me with a nod to let them know I would not interfere with them. Picked a lull in the swells, spied out a clear path between the surfers and some waders that should not have been in the surfing zone, and paddled for the shore with all the power and speed I could muster. Timed it perfectly and washed ashore without mishap. Beached my kayak and went to my car to check the time. 1130, Made the round trip from La Jolla Shores to Mission Bay Jetty in five hours including breaks. And I was not exhausted like the first time. Not bad for having taken such a long break from my weekly, long kayaks.

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