Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Point Loma Paddle

Monday,November 23, 2009

After my last long paddle I decided I would try something different this time. Taking a look at a map of the coast it seemed that the distance from Mission Bay to the tip Point Loma is similar to that of La Jolla to Crystal Pier. So I decided I would try that paddle. Besides I wanted to find a place to launch from that I might use to go out to the Yukon dive site. I knew there was a nice little beach in Mariner's Basin. I have paddled around in there with Cindy's Thursday night kayak group. So I drove down to the south end of Mission Blvd. and around into the parking lot by Mariner's Basin.

I checked out the beach and could see that it was not a long walk from the lot to the beach. Very close to the same distance that I have to walk when launching at La Jolla Shores. Then I walked over to the Jetty and observed the swell coming in from the Ocean. It was about 3 to 4 feet, not bad.

So I launched my kayak in the usual manner and began my paddle out through the channel. I left the beach at mariner's Basin at 0820 and was out at the Red Channel marker buoy by 0850. Though it took half an hour to get there it did not seem to be the mile and a half that I can usually paddle in that time.

From there I turned south towards Ocean Beach fishing pier. The swell was pretty good so I was not going to be able to hug the shore. At this point I was about a half mile out. Though the swell was good and coming in from the west-northwest there was very little wind. It was glassy smooth. Probably about a zero (0) on the Beaufort Sea State Scale. I paddled down south following the kelp bed and the lobstermen's buoy markers. Met up with one lobsterman retrieving his traps. I asked him if there were any restrictions to how close you could come to shore down at Point Loma where it becomes Navy property. He said that there was not, but that the surf was up and I had better notget too close in. I already knew that, but thanked him and continued on. With the swell the way it was I would never come in closer than 1/2 mile. And was more likely a mile or so out from shore the entire trip.
This picture gives a good idea as to how clam it was on the way down.

A nice but uneventful trip down. I reached near the tip of Point Loma in about two hours. I was directly west of The Cabrillo Lighthouse.

And I could see the Coast Guard Lighthouse Station down below the cliffs of Point Loma.

After a short break I turned about. Here I spotted something that I had seen in previous paddles put did not have my camera to record it. A Great or White Egret (Ardea alba)standing out on the kelp canopy. ( See Bird Identification pages).
These are shore birds and are not really adapted to be out at sea. But I guess they are light enough to stand on the kelp and fish. I would see another dozen or so on the trip back. The only other things I saw on the trip back were a couple of sea lions swimming in the kelp.

After about an hour of paddling northward the breeze started to pick up. First just small ripples on the surface. Then after another half hour it really started to blow in from the northwest. Almost at the same bearing as the swell. It continued to build. And before too long occasional white caps started to appear. Then the wind waves were getting up to about one to two feet in height and the white horses were becoming more frequent. It was seriously impeding my progress. I estimated that the sea state was getting to be about 3 on the Beaufort Scale. Winds from 8 to 12 miles per hour and waves heights up to two feet, and scattered white horses. I had to bring the wind unto my port bow to keep from being overturned. The spray was coming up over the bow and getting me wet. I had my shorty spring suit on so my body was not cold. But my legs were exposed and they were getting chilled a bit. When I would stop to take a rest I would turn facing south to let the sun warm my legs.

I kept on plugging along. I was traveling north-northwest. And soon I would have to turn east into the Bay. I was worried that if I had to turn in while the wind was still blowing I would capsize. But I was able to keep the wind forward enough, and off my beam, long enough to get in the lee of the Jetty. The wind and waves ceased and all was clam. And just the swell to give me a little push in.

I made it back into Mariner's Basin and beach my kayak at exactly 1310. So it took me two hours and forty minutes for the return trip. Not bad considering the conditions. And though this trip was shorter than my last trip, I was very wobbly on my legs, probably form the fight with the wind and the waves.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Veteran's Day Kayak

Veteran’s Day Kayak

It has been some time since I have done my long paddle to Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach and back to La Jolla. Having the day off I thought I would try to do it once more. And in fact, I would see if I could go a little farther. So I stocked up on water and trail mix and headed to La Jolla Shores.
A very calm day with little swell with a slight overcast to keep things cool. Launched and was paddling out by 0840. I took a direct route over towards Children’s Pool area. If I was going to try for an extra long paddle I did not want to take any sight seeing detours. Besides, it is possible to see some great things whatever course you take.

Once around the corner of The Children’s Pool Breakwater I headed south to Hospital Point, Marine Street Beach, and Wind & Sea. Down about Wind & Sea I came in close to shore to check conditions for a possible haul out on the return trip. Just in case I need to rest my butt and stretch my legs. As I came in close to shore I spotted a small pod of Dolphins, probably numbering about six to ten, with at least one small juvenile. Followed them for a few minutes until they disappeared. They were frolicking in the surf. Probably chasing a school of bait fish.

Though I was paddling most of the time I considered this my first rest. Took some water and turned south again.

Clear water to a depth of at least 20 feet and virtually no wind. Clouds in the sky blocking out the heat of the sun, all this made for a nice paddle. Passed Bird Rock, sighted Crystal Pier, and headed to Tourmaline. Once at Tourmaline I spotted Mission Bay Jetty appearing out of the haze. Got out my binoculars to confirm it. (Looking through binoculars on a moving kayak for any length of time is not recommended.) Some construction equipment with a light on the Jetty gave me a target to aim for. So I took a straight course right to the Red Navigation Buoy off the Jetty.

Paddled and paddled and paddled. That stretch from Tourmaline to the Jetty is a long one. And it is mentally fatiguing. It seems endless and then you are there. I took my first real rest here. Got out my trail mix and sat out there eating, drinking and planning what I felt like doing.

After a 10 to 15 minute rest I decided I would try to make it to Quivera Basin and Aqua Adventures Kayak Shop. Turned into the channel and made my way in. The entrance to Quivera Basin was not that far. I turned in and then proceeded to find the right slip that would bring me to Aqua Adventures. After a few tries I found the right slip and pulled in.
I secured my kayak on the dock and made my way up to the shop. I wanted to see Jake and let him know that the Police had recovered my kayak. He was not there. In fact, Jen told me that he was gone for good. He has left to go back to Portage, Wisconsin to fulfill his dream of kayaking from Portage to Portage via, the Mississippi, along the Gulf Coast, around Florida, up the East Coast and then down the St. Lawrence Seaway, Eire Canal and back to Portage. Amazing!

Check out his progress at http://www.portagetoportage.com/index.html

It took me exactly three hours to make this trip. I calculated how long it would take me to get back to La Jolla with about a half hour extra rest time and figured I would need to be underway again at 1215 to make it back by 1600. Rested, ate and refilled my water bottles for the trip back. Set out on time.

The wind had picked up slightly. Just a bit of wind chop. Nothing to really slow me down. In fact it made for a fun trip back, splashing over the wavelets. And periodically I would get on the lee side of a kelp bed and the water would turn glassy smooth.

As I rounded the corner near Children's Pool the sun was lowering in the late afternoon sky and peeked out from under the high clouds. It shone its rays on the beaches and cliffs turning them a warm golden color.

I reached La Jolla right on schedule. And surprisingly, my butt was not as sore as I thought it would be. In fact, I never had to haul out and take a little walk-about to ease things. Even though it has been many months since I have done a long paddle like this my muscles remember and I do not get as fatigued.

Non-Kayak Dive

November 7, 2009
Non-kayak dive.
La Jolla Shores
Descent Time; 0826
Depth; 58
Bottom Time; 00:49

I had called my dive buddies Mark K. & Debbie Z. earlier in the week to see if they might be diving this weekend. They have deserted me for Cozumel. Well, can you blame them? So I headed down to the beach anyway to see if I would meet someone to dive with. If not, I would get out on my kayak.

Met up with Steve G. and Mark P. and a couple of others. They were going on Safari to see the Lion Nudibranchs that have been hanging out on the kelp growing out on the points. Steve and Mark did not mind if I tagged along.

We descended onto the wall in about 60 feet. Swam a short distance to find the outcropping of sandstone that is supporting the small kelp grove. Found a multitude of the Lion Nudibranchs. Spent the whole dive checking out these fascinating creatures while Steve and Mark photographed them.
A few were knocked from the kelp. Since I was not doing video I rescued those that were drifting about. I would catch them on my glove and let them adhere. Then I would take them to the kelp and gently transfer them over.

Photos graciously provided by Mark Pidcoe

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fickle Finger of Fate

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009. On Wednesdays I get off from work early in the afternoon, about 2:30. Today happens to be a very beautiful day. And I have time to get in a couple of hours kayaking before the sun goes down early in these short fall days. I drove down to the beach and launched my kayak. Today is a very special day. To understand why this day is special I must bring you back to Wednesday, October 21st. For that is the last time I was paddling on my kayak. I had a good paddle and returned home. Thursday passed and Friday dawned a typical cool fall day.

Leaving my apartment in the dark (we have not yet set the clocks back to standard time) I walked to my car as I have for the last 15 years. And for the last two years the sight of my kayak atop my car has greeted me. But today was different. Through in the early morning gloom, broken by the dappled streetlight coming through the trees, I could see that my kayak was not where it should be. Coming closer I found my tie-downs lying cut on the ground and my kayak gone. My jaw dropped. I could not believe it. It was stolen was my first thought. Then partial denial set in. Maybe some kids in the neighborhood were playing a prank. They took it off the car but surely it was just tossed over the fence or hidden behind the dumpster. But there was no immediate sign.

First action was to call into work and say I could not be in. The dispatchers said I must, as they had no one to cover my routes. Even the Supervisors were out doing routes this day. Typical, everyone wants to have Friday off, leaving no one to cover for emergencies.

So I called the Police and made a preliminary report over the phone. That is about all that can be done accept in the case of real emergencies. I then drove into work and ended up being only three minutes late. A supervisor clocked me in so my lateness did not show up in the system, which would require written acknowledgment of my tardiness.

Later in the day Officer Cairncross of the SDPD Eastern Division contacted me. She took a full report and told me that a Detective would be in touch with me in a couple of days, as soon as the case was assigned. I also called my Insurance agent and Neighborhood Watch person.

On Sunday my Neighborhood Watch person contacted me. She informed me she had observed a suspicious person she knew of having possibly committed other thefts in the area. So this might be a possible lead. I told her that as soon as I knew whom the investigating detective was I would let her know.

On Monday I spoke with Detective Guffy about my kayak. She gave me some ideas about possible recovery. Such as looking on Craigslist and checking used sporting good stores. I did both. And eventually would call some of the swap meets and dive shops that sometimes sell used equipment and gave them the heads up. Colby’s Swap meet was very helpful. They said they would look out for it. Having a serial number stamped on it helped very much. Colby’s said that they have in the passed caught people selling stolen goods. And go as far as detaining people that have purchased stolen goods (though they are not arrested) until police get there. That was comforting to know.

I found no Scrambler XL on Craigslist. But I did locate some potential replacements in case mine was not recovered. Something that Detective Guffy did not think too likely. Meanwhile I also put the word out on Divebums to keep an eye out at the beach, especially if someone approached them with a blue Scrambler XL for sale. According to John Moore that is potentially 800 pairs of eyes on the lookout for my kayak.

The worse part of all this was that in a week some friends of my Cousin Dana were coming out from North Carolina and were avid kayakers and wanted to go out. They were very excited about being out here and kayaking. They had never seen seals or sealions and were looking forward to it. I e-mailed them and said I had had a little problem with my kayak, but that we would still go. I would just rent one. Why could not this thief have waited until after they came?

Well, the week prior to my planned kayak excursion the weather had not been all that great. Some large surf and heavy winds. But I put in a requisitions for perfect kayaking weather and told my friends to "Touch wood, scratch a stay, turn three times, and may the Lord and Saints preserve us." (An old Nautical charm).
Saturday, October 31st arrived. I went to the beach early and checked out conditions. My request had been granted. It was flat; ankle-slappers were all that touched the shore. Just a slight breath of wind to keep you cool.
I met Rich and his son Tyler at Starbucks. I got a cup of coffee; we picked up some water for the paddle and headed down to The Shores.

We parked main lot and walked down the beach. We got our kayaks from OE Express. This is me (in the Blue PFD and white hat). Yellow kayaks! It 's just not my color.

Launched and headed over to Marine Room to see the Leopard Sharks. Crystal clear water, teaming with dozens of the skittish creatures. Spent some time viewing them and headed over to the caves to observe the sealions. Explored a few of the caves and watched the sealions. Just a few sleeping in the early morning sun, rather quiet.
Rich Tyler

From there we paddled north around the (now unmarked) swim zone leading out of La Jolla Cove. And pointed our bows westward to the far kelp beds past the
Children’s Pool. Made it out there.
Told Rich & Tyler what little I know about the ecology of the kelp beds. Then we headed back to La Jolla Shores. Took one quick detour for a last look at the Leopards Sharks and headed to the beach. Such non-existent surf that we didn’t even get the rush of riding some one to two footers into shore. But they really had a blast.

On the way back from eating lunch we stopped by and had a look at the Jack-o-Lanterns form the Underwater Pumpkin Carving contest. I liked the Jack-o-Lantern that was eating another, smaller Jack-o-Lantern.

Friday I had received my initial insurance check. And when I get a replacement I would get the remainder of the cost, minus my deductible. I spent Monday looking for a replacement kayak. I was not able to find a used Scrambler XL. This one fits my needs for diving perfectly. Ocean Kayak has a new model, The Scrambler 11 that replaces the XL. I may have to get that. It has one feature that effects my use as a diving platform. The rear carrying handle is a hard plastic handle that goes across the rear tank well. Thus making it difficult to slide your dive gear out the rear. But otherwise it has all the features of the Scrambler XL.

Tuesday, and it has been ten days since the theft of my kayak. Detective Guffy indicated that the likelihood of recovering it is small. And I don’t think that she has been able to talk with the Neighborhood watch person to check into the possible lead. So it appears that I have lost my kayak.

Wonders of Wonders!!!!! I came home after my morning routes and there was a message on my recorder. The Police had found my kayak! I called the number and the Detective said that he could meet me in 20 minutes at the Eastern Division on Aero Drive and return my kayak to me.

Turns out they had an on-going investigation of a auto theft ring in Serra Mesa. And when they went into the residence to look for stolen motorcycles a blue kayak was found among the stolen bikes. One of the Detectives saw the serial number and punched it into his computer. Up popped my Police report and I was called. I drove over, the Detectives met me, let me in, helped me load my kayak, and I drove off one very happy kayak diver. Called my insurance agent and canceled the claim and reimbursement check. Best $150 I never got.

And so today was a very special day. Because I was out in the flat, crystal clear ocean on My very own blue Scrambler XL, perfect for diving and paddling.

Lessons learned; Put some kind of identification number on everything you own.

Don't get complacent. I always used to lock my kayak. Until one day I dropped my cable at the boat launch and did not realize it until I got home. Not wanting to drive back I decided I would buy another one. Days, weeks and then months pass and my kayak is still on my car. Parked all over town, while at work, diving, visiting friends, it never got stolen. One and a half years it was up there without being locked. Then one day I got up for work and it was gone. A crime of opportunity. And I allowed that opportunity. NOT AGAIN !!! Fool me once...etc.
So that is the story. As for the guys who did it. They know who they are and where they live. If they are not now in jail they soon will be. With the cost of my kayak being over $400 it is a felony. And it will just add to the charges of Grand Theft Auto.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Long Break

Well, it is nearing the End of Summer, at least as far as work goes. This last week I have had an extra long break between my morning and afternoon shifts. So I set a goal for myself to get out and paddle every day this week, Monday through Friday.

Every morning I would get off at 0910 and set out for the beach. I would usually make it there by about 0940 and be paddling out through the surf by 1000. Most days I would head out towards the Far Kelp where I dived on Sunday. I know that the round trip takes me about an hour.

On Monday the surf was still small at the launch, but there was a little bit of a breeze to cool things off and make a little chop. By Tuesday there was a bit of an increase in surf. Things were breaking big over at Boomer. I was surprised not to see any body surfers. Remains small at the launch.

Wednesday; Very clear water in the surf zone. Went over to see the Leopard sharks in front of the Marine Room restaurant. There were dozens. Instead of going out to the Far Kelp I went and touched each of the Ecological marker buoys, thereby circumnavigating the La Jolla Ecological Preserve.

Thursday; Back out to the Far Kelp. Today the water in close was stirred up and murky. Not able to see the Leopard sharks. Virtually no breeze. Some breakers still at Boomer Beach. Heading back to shore had to drench myself to keep cool. Hottest day of the week, 102 in Clairemont.

Friday; Goal attained. Five days of kayaking in a row (not counting my kayak dive on Sunday.) Water clear again, observed Sharks for a few minutes before heading out. Still very hot. Absolutely no wind and small surf. Burning hot with no refreshing breeze to cool me or give me a push on the way back. Surf so small that I got no help or fun ride back to the beach. In fact, with so little forward momentum supplied by the surf, I could feel the drag in the wave troughs as the water found its way back out.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dive the "Far Kelp Beds"

Kayak Dive #3
Kelp Bed NNW of Children’s Pool
August 23, 2009
Descent Time; 0854
Depth; 49
Bottom Time; 00:37

When I awoke this morning at 0600 it was overcast with a thick Marine Layer of clouds, not unknown at this time of year, but more common in May and June where this weather pattern actually has a name, May Gray and June Gloom. Because it is not usual, and nothing easily rhymes with August, it does not have a name and sometimes confuses San Diego natives. We claim this is weird weather. I am not sure if it is true. I think it happens often, if less, and burns off sooner, than in the previous months. We are supposed to have hot, sunny days with large thunderheads forming out east over the mountains. And in fact, this is what we have right now. The Marine layer is confined to the immediate coast.

Most of my dive gear was already in the car. I just gathered together my dive computer, log book, and hot water bottles (for my apr├ęs-dive warm water "shower". Comfort is essential). Brought those out to the car and drove to La Jolla. I arrived at the boat launch early and set up my kayak and loaded all my dive gear. Jeff, my dive buddy, arrived a short time later. He started setting up his gear and we discussed where to go. My two choices were a deep dive in the South Branch of Scripps Canyon or out to what I call "The Far Kelp Beds." These are just to the north-northwest of The Children’s Pool. It is out here where most of the kayak fishermen spend a great deal of time. And it is here that I have paddled to see Gray Whales during the late winter, early spring. We decided to paddle out to The Far Kelp Bed.

There was a forecast of high surf. But it had not materialized anywhere near La Jolla Shores. We could see breakers over at Boomer Beach. Which indicated that if there is any high surf it is on the southwest facing beaches. But here there were only small ankle slappers with the occasional set of one-footers. Launching and paddling was so easy. And it seemed like we were just gliding effortlessly over the surface. I mentioned this to Jeff and he agreed it was remarkably calm.

In the surf-zone at The Shores we saw a couple of good-sized Leopard Sharks (for those of you not familiar with local shark species these are not Tiger Sharks). Just past the surf we encountered a school of bait fish jumping up out of the water as if being pursued me some large carnivore. Often, when I see this phenomena, I remark that that must be what is happening. Very rarely do I see what is actually chasing them. We paddled over to the spot and as we got close observed the dorsal and tail fin of a Leopard Shark beak the surface in a frenzied attempt at getting a meal.

An extraordinarily smooth paddle out to our chosen dive site. On the way out we passed a kayak fisherman coming back in. Jeff asked how the fishing was. He held up a good-sized sea bass of some type. Jeff turned to me and commented that someone was going to have some really tasty fish tacos tonight. We anchored the kayaks in water about 45 feet deep. Shallow enough for me to use my anchor. I have not yet gotten a longer anchor line. When anchoring in deeper water (like the last dive at Quast Rock) I just tie of to Jeff’s kayak. I could have done that here, but it is good practice for me to deploy my own anchor.

Now for the hard part, getting my step-in wetsuit top zipped up. I struggled for a bit trying to do it on my kayak. I was having a little trouble. Trouble that I did not have the last time out. So I jumped in the water to zip it up. There was no current so I was able to stay near my kayak even without my fins. But I was still unable to pull up my zipper. I kept trying but it would not come. Then suddenly my hand flew up out of the water and nearly hit me in the forehead. My zipper pull had broken off in my hand. I thought for a moment what I should do and informed Jeff of the problem. But the water seemed very warm. So I told him I would just go. The straps of my dive gear would hold together my wetsuit top. After a 1 ½ to 2-mile paddle I was not going make Jeff paddle back without diving. It turned out that the water was very warm and there was no change in temperature from the surface down to our deepest depth. And I was quite warm even with my jacket open. My farmer john was sufficient. I might have even been warm enough without the top at all. Reflecting after the dive, I think I had not zipped up my top enough prior to getting on my kayak. Now I must get that repaired.

After getting all our gear on we dropped down the anchor lines onto the rocky reef below. This area of the reef has a low rocky profile. Not the dramatic rocky out-croppings in some reefs closer to shore and along the sites south of here. Visibility was about twenty plus feet horizontally, and we could see up to the surface, though hazy, at 45 feet. The surge at depth was light with an occasional moderate set rolling through that only required us to kick a little to stay in one place. But not strong enough to require that we hang on to rocks or kelp strands.

A fairly dense and healthy kelp bed covers the area, providing a wide variety of habits for different sea creatures, from the bottom dwellers in the rocks and kelp holdfasts to the swimmers and crawlers that live in the vertical water/kelp column. We saw all the regular reef inhabitants. (I use this phrase when nothing outstanding or rare was observed. That does not mean it was a boring dive.)

But we did run across one interesting find on this area of the reef. Heading west from our anchor lines I spotted a cable or rope about a half inch thick held to the bottom with what appeared to be a large Railroad spike. The rope was fixed to this spike and led in and east/west direction along the reef. Tied at 20 foot intervals from the spike were orange plastic ribbons. It appeared the rope had been there for quite some time as there was a fuzz of alga growth. But the ribbons indicated it had recently been tended to, as these ribbons would not last for too many months in this environment. I followed the rope and came across a few more orange ties. Then I spotted another rope over to the right paralleling this one. Swimming over to that I spotted yet another line. The ropes and ties seemed to form some kind of research grid. At least that was my surmise. I will have to post this find to Divebums and see what I can find out. Following one of the ropes I found something that showed they had been there for quite a while. One of the ropes led right through the middle of a large kelp holdfast. It was about two feet across. For a holdfast to get this size takes some time, even with the rapidity of growth that the kelp plant has. (I received a reply from a Scripps researcher complete with an article about the research.)

We explored for a little more. Jeff took some photos of marine life and me. Following the cables back we came to our anchor lines. They reached straight up into the kelp showing that there was little or no current. We surfaced and reversed the process of stowing all our gear and getting in. I was able to get my tank assembly up on to my kayak without assistance. This is a satisfying accomplishment. My kayak does not have a covered hold to stow my weights in. So I must leave them in by Buoyancy device. That makes it considerably heavier and not easy to lug up onto the kayak. But I have developed a way to do it. I gather all the hoses and gauges and secure them tightly with my BCD straps. Then I belly up on the opposite side of the kayak from my BC, grab it and lift it up while sliding down into the water. This brings it up into the tank well. Then I secure the bungees get up on my kayak and take off my fins, gloves, hood, and wetsuit top. And I am ready to paddle back.

We turned to shore and headed back to the boat launch. The sun was starting to burn off the Marine layer and it was getting warm. Got a little sun. Getting closer to The Shores we started encountering the numerous kayak tourists that use the launch to be lead on tours by one of the many Kayak tour operators. We passed by triple kayak. I noticed that the girl in the middle did not have a paddle and was just along for the ride. The guys in the front and back were doing all the paddling. I hailed them and asked how she rated not having to paddle. Without missing a beat, the guy in the rear of the kayak told me that she was the Captain.

Surf still low and glided into shore effortlessly and with no embarrassing spills. The weight in the back of the kayak helps out tremendously. Unloaded the kayaks, loaded the cars, and went off for my usual shrimp burrito at El Charro’s. While eating, we discussed our next big adventure. I said I would like to attempt diving the HMCS Yukon from our kayaks.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Post Card from Paradise

Just a quick postcard from Paradise. Still out kayaking and diving on a regular basis. Just not a lot new to report. In the immortal words of one of my favorite song writers; "Life is easy when it's boring." - Sting.

Not actually "boring" just uneventful. Beautiful weather; clear skies,small swell, and gentle breezes. No dolphins or whales being seen now. Just the occasional Harbor Seal peeking out of the kelp at me. And the ever present Sea Lions lazing at Goldfish Point. The most unusual thing to report are the white Egrets standing out on a kelp patty fishing for top smelt. I have seen this behavior now two weeks in a row. And in my last two years of kayaking I have not noticed this before. Someone forgot to read the memo that they are shore birds. These birds are typically seen in the estuaries and bays around town.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Quast Rock Complex

Kayak Dive #2
Quast Rock Area
June 6, 2009
Descent Time; 10:21
Depth; 68
Bottom Time; 00:42

Jeff and I planned a kayak dive to the Quast Rock complex (as it is called on "The Map" ™). This area consists of several dive sites including Quast Rock, Anchor Rock, and T-Rock. Jeff and I were to meet at The Boat Launch around 0800 Saturday morning. He invited another diver, Mike, to come along.

Being a natural early riser I was up about 0600 to get all my equipment ready. This time I would put together my gear before getting to the beach. Walking out to my car I was greeted by a beautiful sunrise. Some rain clouds to the east making for an interesting horizon. But above, clear blue skies. I assembled my gear and checked that I had all my kayak stuff. Made sure I had my anchor, dive flag, and extra line. These are things that I don’t use when I just go for a paddle.

I left for La Jolla Shores as soon as I was ready. Got there before our meet time. But that gave me time to get ready and enjoy the morning. It was still clear at the beach. This is unusual for this time of year. Typically we have the overcast skies of June Gloom. Today there was just a line of gray rain clouds out west. There was virtually no wind to speak of and small two-foot waves coming in. I parked the car out on the sand and off -loaded my kayak and dive gear. Got everything set up before Jeff and Mike arrived. I am diving today with my Farmer John wetsuit that I just got expressly for kayak diving. Now I don’t have to have my suit zipped up and hood on prior to reaching the dive site. It is much more comfortable to paddle out without being encumbered by 7mm of wetsuit restricting your paddling.

By the time they arrived, just after 0800, the tide had covered twenty feet of the thirty feet between my car and the water's edge. They set up, while I parked my car, and we paddled out through the surf of an incoming tide. Heading west towards Quast Rock we encountered a very small swell from the southwest. Oddly enough the surf was breaking large at Boomer Beach. Usually if this is true the swell is a lot bigger. As we passed Boomer Beach I started looking towards shore for the line up of the visual coordinates. (Check www.divebumes.com to get these and the GPS coordinates.)

I lined up the visuals and Jeff found the GPS coordinates and he dropped his anchor. We then tied the three kayaks together in line and I raised my dive flag. Getting on our gear we dropped down the anchor line into about 60 feet. Visibility was about 20+ feet, typical for this time of year. There was no surge to speak of, but we definitely had a thermocline. It was a chilly 53 degrees at depth.

As we approached the reef the first rock formation that I noticed reminded me of a deck gun that you might see on a sunken warship, encrusted with sponges or coral. The floor was strewn with a jumble of large boulders making for all kinds of nooks and crannies for life. Swimming around the "Deck Gun" was a large school of Blacksmith damselfish. The male Garribaldi were in force protecting there newly made nests of purple algae, as yet there were no yellow eggs masses.

Many Golden Sea Fans dot this area of the reef, along with plenty of sponges, strawberry anemones, and coral polyps.

We began exploring the reef complex. Just to the northeast I found a rock formation that looked like the bowsprit of an old sailing ship. This impressive rock points up at an angle of about 15 degrees and on the compass it points northeast 030. I seemed to have wrecks stuck in my imagination this day.

After circling the area a couple of times to get a general picture of my surroundings I started searching the cracks and crevices for critters. First off I noticed a good population of painted greenlings. And we saw a good-sized lincod hanging out on the bottom. Looking closer I began noticing the Hermisenda nudibranchs, plenty of those. These were some of the more interesting critters found this dive, but plenty of the regular reef inhabitants.

After forty minutes or so, with our air running low, we located the anchor line where we planted it, and surfaced to our line of kayaks. The swell was small enough and the reef rocky enough that the one anchor was sufficient to hold all three kayaks. I then reversed the process of getting in my dive gear. Taking off and stowing my mask & snorkel and light but leaving on my fins, I inflated my BCD and secured it to the kayak. Bellying up on to the kayak, I stowed my fins, hood and gloves. When everything is secure (in case I flip) I pull my tank assembly up on the kayak. In this case I tried to pull it up over the side. Hoses, straps and weight pouches snag on the side. Eventually, with a little help from my buddy, I got it. This process is something I have yet to perfect.

After a relaxed paddle back to the boat launch we stowed dive gear and kayaks and head off to for a bite to eat and recount the dive. Jeff thinks that we may not have been at Quast Rock. We were at one of the adjacent sites, either T- Rock or Anchor Rock. Between arriving at the GPS coordinates and getting the anchor set we probably drifted just a bit off the site. I am not sure this is anything that can be avoided. And next time we go there we just need to extend out the initial exploration of the Quast Rock Complex.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Three Rivers Kayak, North Carolina

April 5, 2006

On Friday April 3rd, I flew out to my cousin Dana’s in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (near Raleigh) for a visit. One of the first things I wanted to do was to get out and paddle. Near by Chapel Hill are the rivers, The Eno, The Flat, and the Nuese. I searched for some places to rent a kayak. Found an operation called Frog Hollow. For $38 I was able to get a sit-in kayak for about three hours.

On Sunday I woke early and drove to the Eno River. It was cold when I got near to the river and steam was rising off the water. Luckily I had prepared for cool weather, although it was a nice sunny day. I arrived at the river about 8:00 am.

There was a couple getting their kayaks ready to go out. I chatted with them for a while. They had only been kayaking a few months and asked how long I had been kayaking. I told them and they asked me if I had any tips for them. I first had a question for them. "What was the longest trip they had made so far?" They told me that it was about 13 miles. I said they really did not need any tips from me. However, I did tell them that one thing I really enjoy is keeping this Kayak Blog. I gave them the address to it. Hopefully they will remember and take a look. Unfortunately by the time of this writing (two weeks later) I have forgotten their names. So if you happen to view my blog and give me your names I will post them.

The kayak guide showed up about 0830. He briefed me on the operation of the kayak. It is a sit-in but has no rudder. So it operates very much like my ocean kayak. But he did have to instruct me on how to get out of it and empty it of water in case of a spill. Luckily, a skill I did not have to utilize. I had printed out a map of the three rivers and brought that along, as instructed. He showed me where I could go. I decided that I would go down the Eno until I got to the confluence of the Flat River. Then I would paddle up the Flat for a while, turn about and return to the Eno and then go out to the Nuese River. That leads into a lake. But I did not think I would get that far.

I started paddling. It was cool. But soon I would have to peel off all of my layers of clothing except my shirt and shorts. There was virtually no river current. And so it was impossible to tell if you were going up or down stream. This was good in that I never had to fight the flow of the river. But it later became an issue as you will see.

I had a very enjoyable cruise down the Eno to the Flat. Turned up the Flat and paddled for about 50 minutes. I then turned about and went back to the confluence of the Flat and Eno Rivers. The guide had told me to look out for a group of power lines. This would mark the confluence of the Flat and Nuese Rivers. I found them and headed out into the Nuese. So I paddled for another 45 minutes and came out to a widening in the river. I there met a fisherman and his son. I asked them where the lake began. He pointed out a train trestle bridge that crossed the water and said that was it. It looked too far to go. So I then turned back up the Nuese to return to the Eno.

As directed I followed the power lines until they crossed. This would mark the turn into the Eno. I continued on when I found that I was paralleling the power lines instead of crossing under them. My map had disintegrated by then. And then I kept running into channels that turned out to be dead ends. There was a point where I was becoming frustrated and on the edge of worry. About this time I ran into two other kayakers. They were going up the channel I had just gone up. I told them it was a dead end. They said it did go through and continued on. I went around to find the open channel. And soon I met up with them again. I told them where I wanted to be and they said they would lead me back. When we came out it turned out that I was up in the Flat River above the confluence with the Eno River. I had gotten disorientated. I am glad I ran across the kayakers. I would have kept going up the Flat until I had reached these recognizable boat ramps on that river (where I had turned around). I was not in any real danger of being lost for good. But, going up the Flat until that boat ramp, would have delayed my return to The Eno River Boat launch. And I don’t when they would have figured me over due and sent a search party.

Question: Which of these is the through channel?

Answer: All of the above. So you can see my dilemma. None of them look to be through channels.

I eventually got safely back to my starting point and had returned on time. So I was not missed. I recommended to the guide that they make laminated maps for us tourists so we would not get lost when our map disintegrates. He said they had tried that but the maps kept disappearing. I don’t know why they have this problem. The kayak operations at La Jolla give out maps and seem to get them back. And there is very little chance of getting lost. I described my situation to the guide. He told me that because the river level was high the ground below the power lines had flooded and this made it appear to be a channel. Thus the cause of my disorientation.

So my adventure on the Three Rivers was very good. But give me the easy navigation of a clear coastline anytime.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

No Praising Hrolfr

March 29, 2009

I went down to La Jolla Shores this morning to meet with "The Map" tm Cleaning Crew volunteers and show them the procedures for cleaning. After I was done I decided I would get out on my kayak for a short paddle. I had not planned on going out and did not pack anything to eat or drink. When I was at the beach last (on Friday) surf was up and it was cloudy, cold and windy. But today was better. Though still partly cloudy and with a brisk breeze blowing from the south, the surf was manageable.

So I launched my kayak and headed out for a short paddle. First, down to The Cliffs for a peek at the Sea Lions. Ran into a small pod of Dolphins by the Marine Room Reef. Then I headed out to the far kelp bed off Children's Pool to test my resolve and fortitude. Wind was picking up and there was a bit of wind chop and swell coming in from the south. And the ocean swell was coming in from the west at about 4 feet. I was feeling just fine. Not having prepared I did not want to go too far. Turned back and headed to The Shores. The wind and ocean swell were at odds with each other and it was causing my kayak to turn south. I had to keep correcting my course to larboard (port) in order to keep my heading eastward. Made it back to the beach.

Everything went fine. I was not obliged to bow down to the god Hrolf this time. Instead the god Hungr was calling to me. At visit to Jeff's Burgers took care of appeasing that god.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Test of Fortitude

March 14th, 2009 Saturday

Down to The Shores for my regular weekend paddle. Surf was up just a bit, about 2 to 3 feet, occasional sets up to 4 feet. I had packed a few snacks to eat along the way; some bananas, apples and oranges along with a couple of water bottles. Usually I bring only water, even on my long trips. Surprisingly enough my typical breakfast of cereal, fruit and a glass of orange juice will last me for my entire trip. I hooked my dry bag behind me, stashed my water and my tube of sunscreen in the forward bungee and set off through the surf. Made it out through the surf the first try, though I got soaked by the surf. But as I came up out of the wave that had just crashed over my head I noticed my brand new, as yet unopened, tube of sunscreen floating in towards the beach.

Not wanting to litter and loose an $11.00 tube of sunscreen I did an immediate U-turn. Back to shore and located my tube. Hopped back on the kayak for another attempt at the surf. This time I was not so successful. Tipped over. Back on again and began paddling out. I was again overthrown by a powerful wave. And this time I lost one of my water bottles. So I pulled into shore and dragged the kayak up out of the water. Located and retrieved my water bottle. Then I took a rest and caught my breath before trying one more time. This time I was successful without loosing anything.

Even with all that extra energy expended getting out, I was feeling good and took off for the western kelp bed. Out at the kelp bed just off the Children’s Pool I spotted something very odd floating on the surface in the kelp. It was a very large black and white mass. I need to wear eyeglasses to see details of objects at a distance. Not wanting to loose my glasses I do not wear them out at sea. (I have a couple of cheap sunglasses that I have beach-combed). The mass looked like it could be a flock of birds. But, if it was, they were the most unusual birds I have every seen. I started paddling towards them. They made no reaction to my approach. As I got about 50 yards away I was able to identify these birds. It was a flock of black and white party balloons.

So to do my part for the environment I attached this raft of balloons to my kayak and paddled off to continue my trip. I looked back a minute later to see that I was leaving a trail of single balloons behind me. It was clear that they were not all securely tied together. So I spent about ten minutes popping the balloons and collecting them into my kayak. Then I chased down the escapees and brought them onto my kayak for safe keeping. Too many times have I found remnants of party balloons wrapped around kelp plants or Gorgonian coral to leave them in the ocean. I met two kayakers that were going back to the beach and asked if they would mind taking back my find, as I was going to be out another couple of hours. They were glad to help.

I continued south towards Bird Rock. Stopped a couple of times for a bite to eat. For not having done a long trip for some time I was feeling pretty good. But as I neared Wind and Sea I stared to feel a little nauseous. Now, I rarely get seasick. Having spent many years sailing in Alaskan waters in all types of seas I am not usually susceptible to this ailment. But for some reason I was feeling so now. I turned back and was paddling home. Soon I began to feel very weak. What was coming over me? Could it have been my sitting still for so long picking up the balloons? Or was I hit suddenly with something else that was causing me nausea? Whatever the case it was all I could do to keep paddling.

Even turning back this soon I still had a couple of miles to go to get back to my starting point. This was a test of my fortitude. Going in to another beach would only be a temporary relief. Going in and out of the surf would just expend energy I could not afford to use. I must get back to The Shores. I was in no immediate danger. But I knew that I had to keep going. My illness was definitely sapping my strength. And it was taking a toll on my mental ability to keep going. But I just kept telling myself to paddle. Slowly and consistently and I would make it. Occasionally I would become discouraged. But I would realize that this mental state was actually causing me to lag more than any physical ailment I was suffering.

I eventually made it back to the beach. And I had to visit the nearest cylindrical metal altar where I bowed and prayed to The Great Norse Sea God, Hrolfr. After propitiating The Gods I felt better and proceeded to stow my kayak.

Thinking back on the episode I have given some thought to just what it is that allows people to survive stressful situations. Although I was in no danger of expiring this did give me insight to what people who are faced with life threatening situations may go through. And I also realized that the best thing to do if you do find yourself in such distress is to keep a good attitude. Despair is probably the worst thing that can happen. As long as you have any life left you must keep going. If some outside force takes your life, or your body shuts down do to circumstances beyond your control is one thing. But, I believe, as long as you have one once of strength left you must strive to reach your goal. And now I have to get back out there.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Beaufort Sea State Scale

February 5, 2009, Thursday.

Down to "The Shores" for a quick paddle on my morning break. Wanted to get in before the storm hit this weekend. From the Lifeguard Tower to the Boat launch there was virtually no surf. What surf there was had a height of about 6 to 8 inches. However, I could see that the surf north was big. Upwards of six feet at Scripp’s Pier.

But the wind was blowing and there was quite a bit of wind chop. Back in my Coast Guard days I was able to gauge the Sea State visually, using the Beaufort Scale. By observing the characteristics of the wind generated waves you can estimate the sea state and wind speed. Today the wind was generating some good-sized chop with the occasional white cap. Trying to recall what sea state this was I guessed it was about a 2 or 3. But I could not remember the wind speed that is associated with this part of the scale. Probably around 5 to 8 knots.

So when I got back home I searched for a website that showed the Beaufort Wind Force and Sea State Scale. (See link to this under Dive Links) I found one and determined the Sea State. It was about 3. The description of that level on the Scale is 7 to 10 knots with a wave height of 2 feet (.6 meters) described as a Gentle Breeze, and the appearance of the Sea is as follows; "Large wavelets. Crests begin to break. Foam of glassy appearance Perhaps scattered white horses."

This Sea State of 3 is exciting to be in. Going with the wind it pushes you right along at a nice clip (The winds are going between 7 to 10 knots, or about 8 to 12 mph.) And on the return this wind is not too much to paddle against. But you must definitely pay attention to your aspect to the waves. Coming directly at your Bow or Stern is fine and even or even from you quarter is okay. But at this Sea State a wave on your Beam could tip you. And if you were to find yourself in a Sea State of 4 or greater it would most likely tip you if it caught your kayak on the beam. And fighting the wind would be very exhausting. Being out in a Sea State of 4 for a short while would not be too bad. But any extended period in a kayak out in this weather could lead to trouble. A Sea State of 5 is now up to 19 to 24 mph and six-foot waves. It would be very difficult to paddle against winds and seas of this force. Beaufort Scale 6 is a Small Craft Advisory.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Art and Science of the Graceful Exit

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Long mid-morning break today so I went out to La Jolla Shores for a paddle. Launched and went directly out to the Far Kelp Bed to watch for whales. I did not see any after searching the horizon for whale sign for about half an hour. Turned back to The Shores.

When I got to the surf zone I decided that I would practice my entries and exits. Surf was about two to three feet in front of the Lifeguard Tower, just at the south end of the surf zone. Down at the boat launch they were just small ankle-slappers.

The ultimate goal is to look good while exiting the surf. If you tip over all the time you are not going to instill confidence in your kayak and dive buddies. Also, tipping could result in the loss of gear. So the graceful exit is what you should aim for. Of course, realistically, as long as you get in without injury to yourself or an innocent bystander it was an acceptable exit. (Any landing that you walk away from is a good landing.)

There are of course, different degrees of gracefulness. The ultimate is coming in perpendicular to the wave and the beach and washing up onto the shoreline, stepping out of the kayak, and pulling it out without getting wet above the waist.

The next desirable degree of gracefulness would be coming nearly all the way in, controlling the kayak sufficiently so that the breaking wave stays on your stern quarter. Then you scrape sand or jump off the kayak in time to save you from a spill.

The least graceful exit (without actually getting dumped) is the frantic paddling, shifting of the lateral center of gravity, and the bail and grab. I will briefly discuss some of the techniques for achieving these different degrees of the "Graceful Exit".

The Mechanics of the Surf Exit; When coming back to shore in your kayak there are a number of forces acting on the kayak. First, is the weight distribution of you and your equipment on the center of gravity. When encumbered with dive gear the center of gravity is shifted back and down. This is the most stable of configurations. And you are least likely to get tipped. Without dive gear the center of gravity is forward of the aft end of the kayak and higher above the water line. Thus making the kayak less stable.

As you and the kayak enter the surf zone the breaking waves will push on the rear of the kayak. The front end sticking many feet out in front of you will be traveling at a slightly slower speed then your rear end. This will cause the kayak to turn and become parallel with the wave. This is to be avoided, as it will lead to the ungraceful effect of being tipped over in the surf. This is especially embarrassing if done in front of other kayakers, Lifeguards, or cute girls in bikinis. (Ladies, this is to be avoided unless your goal is to instill in the male of the species the Knight-in-Shinning Armor Syndrome.)

There are many possible solutions to the problem of turning abeam to the wave. Thinking about how a kayak maneuvers on the surface supplies you with several strategies for overcoming this dilemma. When paddling there are two basic ways of turning. One is to paddle on just one side of the kayak. Paddling on the starboard (right) side will turn you to port, and vice versa. Or, if you have forward momentum, putting the paddle into the water on one side (say port) will turn you to port. Just how effective these strategies are will depend on the size and strength of the surf. If it is too big you are going to get dumped. You may resort to the "Bail and Grab" strategy.

Timing is everything. It is very important to watch the surf. Waves come in sets. There will be larger and smaller sets. Generally, you will be able to see about how many waves are in a set. By looking out to Sea you will be able to observe if the set coming at you is large or small. This is not foolproof and rogue waves do appear unexpectedly. Try to choose the smaller sets for exiting. This requires a little foresight. For, by the time you paddle into the breaking surf, that small set may have passed you by and a large set is coming up on your stern. At this point you need to decide whether to abort re-entry or continue.

Having chosen your time start paddling with all the speed you can muster. The waves are going faster than your kayak and there is not much that can be done about it but compensate for it. The "Rudder Approach" was the first strategy I tried. As I entered the surf I continued paddling as fast as possible. Once the kayak starts to turn I then placed my paddle into the water on the side away from the wave. This should turn the kayak’s nose back towards the beach. This works as long as the wave is not too fast, big or powerful. This is one of the more graceful appearing exits, as it looks effortless.

This next strategy is the "Paddle Approach". As you begin to turn into the wave begin paddling powerfully on the side towards the wave. Theoretically, this will point the nose back to the beach. Again, this will depend on the speed and power of the wave. This is the second most desirable strategy. It does not look and is not as effortless as the previous approach.

The last and least elegant strategy is the "Frantic Counterbalance" approach. I discovered this one quite by accident and it was done, at first, completely intuitively. As I was doing one or both of the previous approaches I felt my kayak reaching the tipping point. Neither of the strategies was working sufficiently to keep me from tipping. Instinctively one or both of my legs went out over the side of the kayak towards the offending wave. This seemed to counterbalance the wave pushing on that side of the kayak. Though this does nothing as far as maneuvering the kayak back perpendicular to the wave it does act by shifting your weight out over the side of the kayak. This is the least graceful of the exit strategies and is the last step before the using the "Bail and Grab" approach.

This last strategy should be avoided if at all possible. If you use it too often you might even gain the attention of Lifeguards who may, rightfully so, view you as a hazard to yourself and other beach-goers. If you need to use this strategy there are two procedures you can use. You can either "Bail and Grab" towards the wave. The downside to this is not grabbing in time and having you kayak plow into shore without you. This can endanger others on the beach as your kayak comes rushing in. Or, you can "Bail and Grab" on the side away from the wave. This can offer more control, but if the wave is very large or powerful you may be run over by your own kayak. Very embarrassing.

Now back to the beach for more practice.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Not Another One

January 17, 2009 Saturday

After my blog entry "Time Trials", I went out paddling on 1/15, 1/17, and 1/19. But, this entry will focus on Saturday’s paddle. It was the most interesting.

This whole week has been the most excellent week for being out on the water, flat, clear, with just the gentlest of breezes to keep you cool and refreshed. There was supposed to be some high surf starting up this weekend. Well, at The Shores, in front of the lifeguard tower it was non-existent. A few hundred feet north it was chest to head high and the surfers were out in force. I launched my kayak and was headed out by 0840. Once past the ankle-slapping "surf" I headed over to The Caves. Bit of a swell in close so there was no shooting the Caves today. But otherwise the surface was a glassy mirror. The waning moon hung in the southwest and its reflection was visible as a single orb. No breaking up of its image by even the smallest wind ripple.

As I headed out towards the western kelp beds to spot whales I passed by Boomers and Children’s Pool. The surf was crashing there. And on all the reef breaks at Hospital Point, Marine Street, Wind & Sea, and Bird Rock the surf was up.

I paddled down to Crystal Pier where I stopped for a break and ate a little snack and rested. Then I started back north. Right away I ran into a pod of Dolphins playing just outside the surf. It was such a nice day and I had nowhere to be so I sat and watched them frolic for about a half an hour. Two young ladies on a tandem had paddled out to see them. We watched them and chatted. They asked me where I had started. I told them. They said they might go as far north as Bird Rock. I told them about conditions and moved on northward.

I paddled up the coast and when I got to Wind & Sea Beach my butt was getting just a little sore. You see, by then I had been sitting on my kayak for three hours and twenty minutes. So I paddled in to shore to see if I could haul out and take a rest. You must be very careful at some of these beaches along this part of the coast. There is a very steep beach and the swell will come right up to the shore and then suddenly break in a very powerful crash. But today the tide was just right and I beached my kayak with no problem. I took a little walk to stretch my legs and ease my butt. After that short break I was re-energized.

I watched the sets carefully to time my entry just right. I sensed a lull and pushed my kayak into the water. A small wave was coming in just then. I sat on my kayak but was not well positioned on the seat. My seat had caught under me. I fell out of the kayak and let go the paddle. Grabbed both paddle and kayak and tried again. Not having to wait anytime at all I hopped up and was paddling out. Not a bit of breaking surf in my area. But the surfers out at the Wind & Sea reef break were really going at it. (Not being a surfer I don’t know the proper lingo. So, If anyone wants to educate me I would appreciate it.) Paddling out I spotted the two young ladies I had met earlier. They were headed back south and I could not catch them up to say "Hi". But they had gone quite a bit further north than they had planned. I was impressed since they had told me that this was the first time out in about six months.

Meandered my way back north and was turning east around Children’s Pool when I spotted a flotilla (I think that might be the correct term) of kayak tourists sitting out west. This is unusual. They typically do not come out this far. As I was wondering what they might be up to when I sighted the distinctive gray mist of a Whale spout. Even after many hours sitting on a kayak when I see something like this I get a boost of energy. I paddle at top speed in their direction.
I was able to get out in the vicinity and get a good look at the whale. I infiltrated the group and followed the whale for another 20 minutes of so. At one point the whale came up right between two kayak fishermen, about 20 feet from one of them.

I turned back to The Shores. I caught up with a couple that had been out watching the whale with us. I said to them that this was my second sighting in two Saturdays. I told them that soon my friends were going to stop believing my stories. He said he would vouch for my. I was seriously tempted to tell about my Kayak Blog so he could go on and post a comment verifying the sighting. But I figured they had nothing to write the Blog address on. So you will just have to trust me.

PS. On Sunday while waiting for my dive buddy to show up at La Jolla Cove I saw another Gray Whale just outside the near kelp bed. Am I straining my credibility?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Time Trials; Warning Uninteresting Content

January 13, 2009

One of the perks of being a School Bus Driver is a nice long split between morning and afternoon routes. So, since it is a carbon copy of last Saturday I zipped down to the beach directly from work this morning.

Left the parking lot at work at 0920. There was a little traffic going into La Jolla from Highway 52. I arrived at Starbucks 0940 for a little fortification. Ordered a Grande Espresso Truffle (if you like Hot Chocolate and Espresso I highly recommend this drink) and a Banana Nut loaf. Ate the Nut Loaf while waiting for the Espresso. Drove to La Jolla Shores and was in the parking lot by 0950. Unloaded and prepped my kayak and was paddling through the surf by 1010.

By 1040 I had made it all the way out past the farthest Kelp Bed West Northwest of the Children’s Pool. There was a fishing boat, The Sea Watch, out there. I circled around it on the outside using it for a reference point. I knew that I wanted to be back at the beach by 1130 so I could get home and get ready for work and be there by 1330. I still had 20 minutes left until I would have to start back. So I went south for ten minutes and turned back towards the Sea Watch. I paddled directly back to the boat. I made it in 7 minutes. It was now 1057. I took a three minute rest and then headed back to La Jolla Shores.

I arrived at The Shores precisely at 1130. Striped my gear off the kayak, washed off the sand and put it up on my car. Then I rinsed the sand off of me, changed clothes and was driving out of the lot by 1200. I was back home by 1220 in plenty of time to make myself lunch and get to work.
Now that I know it can be done I will try to get out anytime the weather is nice and I have no other errands I need to do on my break.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

To Blog or Not to Blog

January 10, 2009

The Ocean is a Desert with its Life Underground,
And the Perfect Disguise Above.

The weather this weekend was forecast for clear skies with Santa Ana winds building in the mountains later in the day. So I planned to do my first kayak paddle of the year. Due to the Holidays, family obligations, and some days of very dense fog at the beach I did not get out on the kayak. Although I did get in my traditional New Years Day dive.

I arrived at the beach later than usual, about 1030. It was warm and sunny with small surf at La Jolla Shores, occasional sets of 3 to 4 feet. There was just a gentle breeze coming from the southwest. I went through the surf and got the regular cold water wake-up slap in the face. Very bracing, and believe it or not one of the pleasures of kayaking.

Started heading due west, bypassing my usual excursion over to the cliffs and caves. Just went immediately out to the western kelp bed to the northwest of the Children’s Pool. Then I turned south to Marine Street beach. This was my planned turn around point. Since it has been a while since paddling I decided to keep it short.

When I paddle I really enjoy experiencing my surroundings. The sights, smells, and sounds of the Ocean. I sometimes will pause in my paddling and just listen to the Sea. Absolute quite, broken only by the cry of a sea bird or the huff of a sea lion or seal taking a breath. And I also think about what I will write in this Blog. But I have previously discussed many of those aspects of kayak in past entries.

Now if this were my dive log I would record the particulars of a dive regardless of how uneventful a dive turns out to be. Of course, a dive log has the added function of being a record of the ones dive history for Dive Operators to know your experience level or possible medical reasons if a problem with Decompression develops. But this Blog is not only a record of my kayak experience, but an exercise in creative writing that I hope is enjoyable to read. So I was debating weather or not to make an entry at all. This paddle was turning out to be a very nice but typically uneventful day in Paradise.

Well, I reached Marine Street and turned north to head back. I had paddle up to the inside kelp bed just off The Children’s Pool, and was passing by a Sea Urchin fisherman’s boat. He had his Dive flag raised and was underwater on a hookah. (For non-divers that is an air supply from a compressor on the boat with a hose down to the diver.) Coming out from behind his boat something on the horizon to the west caught my eye.

The Ocean is generally a flat surface, except for the swell. So when something rises above the surface it is usually worth checking out. This time what caught my eye was a puff of gray mist. Whale sign! I immediately turned in that direction, west past the outside kelp beds. I continued to scan the horizon to spot the whale sign again. A few minutes later there was another puff, a little closer and traveling slowly south. I figured it was a half-mile or so west of my position. Again and again over the next few minutes I would see a puff, then the back of the whale as he arched through the water. Then I got a glimpse of the flukes as he sounded to the bottom. This I believe is a sign that it was feeding. And it seemed that it was now not moving south but staying in the vicinity I had first spotted it. Then, simultaneously, to my left and to my right about one hundred yards apart I saw two spouts and two flukes rise above the surface and sound in perfect unison. So what I though might be one whale I now had proof of at least two. I continued to paddle in their direction for a bit. But after many minutes they surfaced far to the southwest. And there was no hope of my getting any closer than the quarter to half mile I got. After that I turned towards The Shores. At least I would now have something to write in my Blog.