Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I wanted to leave up the last blog so that people that may be “overwhelmed” with The Christmas frenzy might be able to relate to a more peaceful and worldwide concept. I was going to wait until The First to put up a new post but couldn’t wait.

So, a little special story to tell. I have often written about my solo kayak trips out to The WZ (Whale Zone). That is an area about 2 miles out from the beach and where I have had the greatest number of encounters with Whales, Dolphins, Mobulas, Turtles etc.

Whenever some friends are in town, or when I have just met some interesting new folks, I like to invite them to go out there with me and perhaps share in an encounter (unique but well worth the effort).

This past week my good friends Juanita and Mike Riddell have had their three daughters visiting and I asked them to go out to The WZ with me on the 20th. All three are accomplished, intelligent, strong women and a delight to be with. Gwen graduated from Yale with a Masters degree in Nursing and is now a midwife in Santa Rosa at The Community Health Center, Jen graduated with a Ph.D. in Botany from Arizona State and is working for The American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, DC, Kirin recently graduated from Stanford University in Earth Systems and is an Associate in Research at Duke University…did I say accomplished? I taught specialty classes at The Waldorf School in Northern California in which Gwen and Jen were students years ago.

From left: Gwen, Jen, Kirin

We got out nice and early around 8:30 am and the conditions were good all around. I did notice however that my kayak was acting a bit wobbly but I thought it was just me and because I had a different dry bag strapped behind me changing the center of gravity.

By the time we were close to The WZ, Gwen, who was directly behind me, commented that the stern of my kayak was riding pretty low in the water. When I turned to look I almost capsized the kayak (not at all dangerous in itself, it is a “sit on top”) but it was clear my kayak was taking on water. This meant there must be a leak in the hull.

This kayak has been with me for 14 years and has been completely reliable under a number of different conditions, some of them a bit dicey but never a leak. I called to Jen and Kirin to hold up and that my kayak was in trouble. I dove out of the kayak, put on my mask and went underneath to see if I could spot the trouble (it had to be a hole somewhere). No luck, so I asked the girls (I use that term with great affection AND their approval) to put their kayaks together and we would pull my kayak over the top of theirs, drain it and see if we could find the hole….or at the very least not let it fill anymore and have it sink. If it sank it would be goodbye to my beloved kayak because at The WZ it is between 600-900’ deep, therefore no recovery. Jen JUMPED RIGHT IN to help me maneuver the kayak into position and help shove it across the other 3 kayaks. Kirin suggested that we tie the 3 kayaks together at their bows because we were having trouble lifting the now HEAVY kayak unto the others without them separating. Rope was gotten, Jen tied them off and we tried again. Still very difficult, so Kirin STANDS UP in her kayak so she has more leverage to pull and she and Gwen pull while Jen and I push.

When we get the kayak up I see where the water is now draining out and it is a 2” by 1/8” crack at the base of the keel. OK fine, we know where the leak is, it is draining and the kayak is stable, laying across the other three. We are 1½ to 2 miles out so we still have a problem…how do I plug the crack so I can paddle back in?

A number of good suggestions are made but I am fixated on somehow “calking” the crack, but with what? Then I remembered I had an old CLIFF BAR in my kit and perhaps it would do the job. With Gwen ENCOURAGING ME THAT THAT MIGHT BE A GOOD START, I can tell she, and Jen/Kirin are a bit dubious. Nevertheless I begin stuffing the crack with old Cliff Bar. Gwen then asks if I have anything that might augment the rather tenuous strength of the CB. I do! I have some cotton balls in my kit (as nose stuffers) that I carry if I have another high blood pressure created nosebleed while out kayaking. I work those in with the CB and I am beginning to feel confident! Gwen asks about any plastic I might have and we eventually engineer a repair based on the CB/cotton “caulking”, a plastic sandwich bag over that, my scarf pulled tight over that and tied around the hull with rope from the painter from one of the kayaks.

We agree that it doesn’t look very cool but it does look serviceable for the trip back. Unfortunately all our time had been taken up messing with my kayak and the wind was coming up so we had to paddle in without really having the chance to enjoy the WZ.

When we got back to shore my kayak was completely dry and we agreed (they very kindly) that the trip had not been a disappointment and that to some degree it was kind of exciting. For me, I was real happy that I had not lost my kayak.

But think on this….suppose, the girls hadn’t been there with me. Two things are very clear; I could not have drained the kayak and therefore probably lost it…AND I would have had a 1½-mile swim in to shore. I would have been very sad to lose the kayak in which I have had so many adventures and I am not all that sure the swim in would have been anything but difficult. I am a very good and strong swimmer, and it is part of my almost daily exercise, but the water is cooler now and I am just coming off some health issues, so…

I repaired the kayak the next day and we went out to The WZ again yesterday without a problem. To Gwen, Jen and Kirin…may The Great Mystery always, always watch over you! Thank you just doesn’t quite cover it.

After hearing my story my friend Alan suggested I carry an inflatable apparatus with me when I go out (I’ll never give up my solo times in The WZ) and perhaps a life jacket. I will not wear a life jacket but do have one now strapped to the back of my kayak….I ain’t stupid!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Not my pic
First off, HAPPY SOLSTICE!! Don’t let them fool you, it is astronomically mid-winter, not the beginning of winter, and this is the oldest ritual celebration of our species, honoring the return of The Sun northward. DECEMBER 21st.

So dance to the return of The Sun, Not my pic

Every now and again when my eyesight fails me a bit I wonder whether I’ll be able to spot whale blows like I used to. Here in my area we don’t have so many whales that their blows are everywhere as in Hawaii, so Vicente and I often have to really be focused to see some of our critters. Well the other day I was doing some work in the garden and as I was moving some pruning, and not looking to sea at all except as a back drop for my view field, I caught an anomalous, faint mist in the air about ½ mile out in front of Alan’s place. There was a wind chop besides but as I stopped and focused, there it was again…a whale blow! I saw two whales out there but couldn’t identify them for certain; could have been Blues. I am now confident that I am in fact just as capable as before and am ready for the season to begin (I may go out next week for a first search).

Alan and I took a little drive to El Sargento (a bit up the coast from us) to attend the local school’s science fair. We both have a fascination with everything that is alive…and a lot of other stuff too like rocks and Galaxies etc. As we expected, it was small but fun nonetheless and I made a great contact with a woman who has lived up there for the past 15 years and has been watching the whales for some time. She promised to e-mail me when there is a “gathering” of them near her. She said that last year, my best year ever also, there were whales of all kinds no more than a ½ mile out from the beach, if that. There were Humpbacks, Blues, Sperm Whales and thousands of dolphins. Vicente and I can get there in about 40 minutes by panga so we are ready! To top off the day, we went to the restaurant at Bahia Los Muertos (now named Bahia Los Suenos so it doesn’t scare Gringos to go there) and had a great lunch. You would not believe how beautiful it is there.

I have met a delightful young Mexican artist, Paulina Vargas Garibay. She attended one of my benefits last year and has become a dear friend. Here are some examples of her work, I suggest you check her blog for more paintings,; her e-mail is She has won a number of awards and has shown her work in both Mexico City and Todos Santos. She is extremely versatile and has much to offer….and she is a very sweet person besides.

On the 17th I woke to a very still Sea and of course that meant a trip out to The WZ. Apparently I missed a pod of Orcas that were feeding at the edge of the reef at the same time but I am sure one day we will meet up and I’ll have the swim of my life! I did see one Sea Turtle, and had THREE dolphin encounters. I went in with all three groups but the Sea was pretty turbid so I didn’t see any of them under water (I gave it a hell of a try) but they were all around me on the surface, just not close enough to see when I dove. However, on my first dive out of my kayak I saw the most beautiful jellyfish. I don’t have an underwater camera so here is a picture I got online.

Bolinopsis sp., Not my pic
It was about 18” wide and 20” long, UTTERLY diaphanous, undulating and had four rows of blinking neon florescent beads dividing it into quadrants…extraordinary. If any of you saw the movie “The Deep”(?), where there are these alien water creatures, it looked like the angelic one. When it began to descend I followed it up close and it was just too beautiful to describe adequately; oh do I love this Sea!

Weather looks good next week for my first Whale search with Vicente. I’m hoping to have the three delightful daughters of Mike and Juanita Riddell along. I taught two of them (Gwen & Jenny) as a specialty teacher at The Waldorf School in Mendocino County when they were youngsters. The youngest, Kirin, went out with me about three years ago and we found a group of 11 Blue Whales cruising by and then 2 Humpbacks too, what a day!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Thank you all for making my past birthday one of the best ever. Though most of the contact was electronic, the love and energy expressed could be felt in every part of me. The day ended at the home of Alan & Marilyn for a dinner of an incredibly good turkey curry, some chocolate, chocolate cake made by my friend Lisa Pedroni, and then sitting back to enjoy watching The 49er’s WIN.

Me at 69 years + 7 days

There were some interesting debates regarding how I figured my age; I have COMPLETED 69 years and am entering my 70 year but of course not yet 70. But my 69th year is over. Oh well, it is of little import but for me, significant nonetheless.

I received two e-mails from friends further south of El Cardonal (San Jose & Vinorama), who are beginning to see Humpbacks in their areas. This of course means they are moving back to The Cape and should be arriving here soon! Unless I spot a number of them from land, I will probably not go out for my first search until mid-January (my first Humpback ID last year was on the 14th of Jan). I am anticipating another good season, but only time will tell, eh?

Two intrepid kayakers passed through here last week, Ken & Wendy from Whitehorse, Alaska. No, they hadn’t kayaked all the way down but they had started far north of me and were reaching their destination at Cabo Pulmo only 40 miles south of here; a total of 3 weeks coastal kayaking along The East Cape.

They are serious birders, check out their blog:

The Saturday that they left my area was one of those especially beautiful days down here with no wind, skies clear and temperature of air and water just about perfect. Alan and I went out to The WZ and had a nice time talking about a multitude of things, no critters stirring though, not even one Mobula.

Wanted to show you a pic of one of my oldest and dearest friends, Frank Denney, who recently returned from Alaska. He and I challenged the limits put on us and had a great older childhood skiing, hiking The High Sierra, riding the train (before we had driver’s licenses) to San Francisco to catch the Burlesque shows at The 3rd & Peerless, listening to George Shearing at The Gilded Cage with our fake IDs secure in our pockets, sneaking into the public pool at night for a swim…..and a lot of other stuff besides. Frank and his delightful wife Jackie are inveterate travelers and have seen a good part of The World, much more than I. What a time we had....and what a time they are having!

Our local Osprey family has produced another brood. About a week ago the whole family was out (parents + two young ones) doing some raptor training. What a privilege to watch.

My grandfather’s book has been republished and is available through Amazon. It is a true adventure yarn of his time in China as a Sea Captain.

Lastly, this is a pic sent to me by Wendy (of the intrepid kayakers), knowing I would enjoy it so I share it with you.

Sun and moon
On Oct. 7, 2010, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, observed its first lunar transit when the new moon passed directly between the spacecraft (in its geosynchronous orbit) and the sun. With SDO watching the sun in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light, the dark moon created a partial eclipse of the sun. Image Credit: NASA