San Simeon State Beach, Friday March 28th 1997.

Joan Wiener, a BASK member who initiates a lot of wonderful kayaking trips, suggested some kayaking in San Luis Obispo County, way south of Monterey Bay. The people who live here are apparently embarrassed to be associated with "Southern California" so they call this the "Central Coast Area" hoping that Northern Californians won't realize how far south it really is. I know this because I have a sister who moved to this area and she has been trying to talk me into visiting her for quite some time. The combination of a BASK kayaking trip and a family visit finally convinced me to make the long drive down. I drove in very late on Thursday and got to talk with my sister for a short time Friday morning before running off to paddle. I planned to spend evenings at her house and get more visiting done then.

Most of the BASKers were camping at the San Simeon State Beach, so I met them there on Friday morning. The original plan was to paddle down to Cayucos State Beach, but there was a boat ramp just south of the campground that had mild waves. Cherilyn, a kayaker who I have never seen in a boat because she has had her leg in a cast forever, was getting in a kayak for the first time in six months. She liked this mild beach and convinced the rest of us to do a trip that would land here. So we shuttled all the kayaks about 14 kilometers north to Simeon Point. This turned out to be a beautiful little cove well protected behind a hook of land that pointed straight south. A few of us impatiently got in the water and explored the inner edge of this point. The other half of the kayakers (eight total) took more time getting in the water then started straight South. I think they missed the best part of the trip! This little point had calm water behind it and a rocky shore with little caves carved into it. None of the caves were large enough to paddle into, but there was one little beach that had a dead tree hanging down on it. There was just enough room to duck around the branches of the tree and land on the beach. Then I got some wonderful shots, through the bleached white branches of the tree, of kayakers paddling by.

All the way down the coast we saw lots of sea otters in the water. In one place, we saw a large "raft" of them in the kelp. Someone tried to count them and says that there were 15 otters in that one group! At the edge of one patch of kelp, there was a small brown harry ball floating in the water. When all the other otters had left, this ball remained motionless when not bobbed by the waves. So Pat (another BASKer) and I went back to look at it and I tried to turn it over with my paddle. Sadly, it turned out to be a dead otter. It was not nearly large enough to be an adult, but still much larger than a river otter. When we got back to the park we reported the sighting to the ranger who promised to pass the news along. He gave us the impression that someone would want to go pick it up and investigate why the otter had died.

When I had checked the weather that morning, NOAA was reporting 10 foot swells in the neighborhood. Joan had billed this trip as semi- protected coastline and much of the coastline did face south away from the prevailing wave direction. The beaches we started and ended at were protected but the rest of the coastline we passed had pretty large waves breaking into it and we stayed well away. The water was choppy and every once in a while a large swell would lift us up on its way to shore. I figured this was just one of those 10 foot swells and wasn't the least bit surprised. We were traveling southwest with the prevailing wind, current, and waves pushing us along. Despite this everyone else seemed in a bit of a hurry and I was working hard to keep up. We made excellent time. This was not a day I would have chosen to go kayaking by myself because I wouldn't have been able to paddle close to shore. But I was perfectly comfortable in the water. Lee, one of the more experienced paddlers, made the rounds talking to everyone and asked me if I was comfortable. I found out later he was asking this to see whether or not I was close to panic in these large seas. Several of the "surf chickens" were apparently very uncomfortable in this water and needed some coaching, especially for the landing. Penny (the matriarch of the BASK club) chose the landing spot and directed traffic. She landed first, caught some of the boats as they came in, and helped pull them out of the surf. She waved some of us back out so the "surf chickens" would have company at sea until they were safely landed. Everyone did land safely and easily. I felt honored to be ignored by Penny as I made my landing: She must think I can handle myself in the ocean! (I wonder if she is correct...)

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