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!

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