Morro Bay to Double Rock, August 5th 2003.

We managed to get up early enough to launch by 8:00 AM. Since we were way inside Morro Bay, we had to backtrack over a mile to get to the entrance and turn south again. We skipped the long sandy beach of the spit and headed for more interesting shoreline. This meant we made a shortcut across the curve of the sandy beach. For a while we followed a pod of sea lions porpoising along in and out of the water. A flotilla of brown pelicans flew over them from shore. After making their FAA required pass, they turned right three times and approached the sea lions from behind, diving into the water I front of them. The seals did not seem to mind. We approached land again at Montana de Oro where I had kayaked a day paddle once before. I took pictures over the rocky reef but could not go inside for fear of the strange southern swell.

Around Point Bachon the southern swell suddenly calmed down. Konstantin mused that it was as if someone had turned off a switch! We paddled into several caves, one that opened out again closer to the point. We turned back into a cove and found calm water thick with kelp and surrounded by arches! It was a beautiful place to rock garden and we reveled in it.

Around the last mini-point in the convoluted Point Bachon, we caught our first site of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. It is strangely beautiful to see the two man-made containment buildings rising up between all the rugged rocks of the shoreline. I may be the only person who noticed that the domes of the Emerald City in the movie version of “The Wizard of Oz” look like nuclear containment buildings. Perhaps this is the source of magic in Oz. I had called Diablo Canyon before the trip and asked about regulations. They were quite friendly, friendlier than the security guys at Vandenburg Air Force Base, friendlier than most rangers I have talked to. But they had a Federal Regulation requiring that all vessels stay one nautical mile from their facility. As we approached, I called them on my marine VHS radio and talked to them again. I informed them that “We are in two kayaks just north of Lion Rock, heading south. We intend to obey your one nautical mile rule. We are about to turn out to sea to do this and thought you might like to know we are in the neighborhood”. The reply was simply “Thanks for the heads up, I will pass the information on to our patrol”.

As we approached Lion Rock the gentile breeze that had helped us along for several days started getting stronger. Konstantin suggested turning out to sea a little early. I had my GPS set on a waypoint between the two containment buildings and it would report our distance in statute miles, so we wanted to stay at least 1.16 statute miles from that point. While we were making our detour the wind rose to a shrieking 20 knots that whipped foam off the tips of the waves. The waves started to rise up from the wind and we got occasional surfing rides! We got blown closer than the legal limit, my GPS reported 0.9 statute miles at one point. Then the batteries died and we might have been blown even closer before we were completely past. They didn’t seem to mind and did not send the Coast Guard out to arrest us.

I had hoped that the strong wind was a temporary thing, an offshore wind that we would leave behind when we got close to our rock gardens again. But the wind stayed very strong close to shore. I paddled into a little cove next to “Double Rock” and landed. I hoped the cove would shelter us from the wind but it just gusted in random directions. In the cove the waves were mild but Konstantin did not want to camp here My plastic boat could land or launch on the rocky beach but Konstantin preferred sand or gravel. The beach on the south side of Double Rock had a gravel beach and although it was less protected from the wind we decided to stay there. Konstantin expressed his displeasure at the process of choosing a camping site. He says that he has even more trouble trying to find one with Sid Taylor when they go kayak camping together. Finding a site that two people are willing to land at or camp on usually results in staying at a place that neither of you are happy with.

Konstantin climbed on the rocks south of our small (20 meter long) beach and found a dead sea lion. Fearing that this would make our beach smelly, he reached down to touch it and see how long it had been dead. But before he made contact, the sea lion woke up and dashed into the water! Later I watched something black and shiny drifting close to shore. Fearing that it was one of our pieces of neoprene gear tossed into the sea by the wind, I went to check it out. This turned out to be a dead cormorant. I watched it drift around the cove, up behind rocks and back out again. It washed ashore and I considered moving it. But then the waves sucked it back out to sea and it continued its random walk around the area. I started calling it our pet cormorant.

By 5:00 PM the whitecaps died down but the wind kept badgering us. I worked on my excuses in case we got caught camping 3 miles south of a Nuclear Power Plant. “We had to get off the ocean due to unsafe conditions”. “We need to stay here until the wind and waves calm down”. But nobody noticed that we were there and we had the coastline to ourselves for the afternoon, evening and night.

All text and images Copyright © 2003 by Mike Higgins / contact