Paddling on the Brink

San Felipe to Bahia Animas

Baja Sea-Kayaking Adventure #3

24 days, the Sea of Cortez with Linda, Dec 1976

Ray Jardine

page 1 of 22

Suddenly we feel alone. Immensely alone, to say nothing about committed, and vulnerable. A wave of misgiving floods over me, and for the first time in months of planning and preparation the prospects of a successful outcome seem absurd. Aloud, I utter those classic words: "What have we gotten ourselves into this time?" Having heard this many times before, Linda breaks into a grin. And with that we begin putting our plan into effect."

Sea    
Kayaking
    Baja

San Felipe to Bahia Animas

Baja trip #3: 24 days, December 1976

Ray Jardine

Linda's ramshackle VW bus has no heater, and since we are thinking of tropical climes we have brought little warm-weather clothing. So our mid-December drive from our place of residence in Yosemite is a nippy one. But from San Diego we turn eastwards into the desert and finally find welcome warmth.

"What have we gotten ourselves into this time?"

Reaching the fishing village of San Felipe at last, we drive an additional mile south to a pristine beach. Here we reach the shore of the Sea of Cortez - or Gulf of California as it was formerly known - near its northern end. After nearly a year of planning and preparation we cast off our shoes and run barefoot in the warm Baja sand to the water's edge. Along with the shoes go our shackles to the civilized world.

The Baja peninsula blocks the swell rolling in from the vast Pacific and creates a haven for marine life. A brown pelican makes a reckless aerial dive into a school of fingerlings. A solitary snowy egret, white like a patch of snow, pokes along the shoreline. A pair of magnificent frigate birds soar overhead, motionless like kites anchored to the ground with a long string.

Our driver friends from San Diego, Jerry and his sister, are not of the reckless, Baja aficionado kind; so they are understandably anxious to return back across the border before nightfall catches them in this no-man's land. Still, it is with surprising haste that they leave us with our pile of equipment and drive away into the afternoon sun.

Suddenly we feel alone. Immensely alone, to say nothing about committed, and vulnerable. A wave of misgiving floods over me and for the first time in the months of planning and preparation the prospects of a successful outcome seem absurd. I utter those classic words aloud:

"What have we gotten ourselves into this time?"

Having heard this many time before, Linda breaks into a grin. And with that we begin putting our plan into effect.

Being on an extremely tight budget, we had made most of our gear. Sorting through what now seems like a mountain of it, we locate the boat parts and start putting them together. Plywood rib frames fit to floorboards, and longitudinal tubing into their slots in the frames. For additional safety we wire the tubing to the frames at each point of contact. The resulting wood and aluminum skeleton then slips into the waterproof fabric shell, and with a mighty heave on the compression strut the leverage forces the structure drum taut and . . . voila! A kayak!

San Felipe at the start of the trip

To this point in time we had been running mainly on theory. Yosemite's frigid weather had prevented us from testing the new boat and our equipment. Eagerly, we grab the paddles and shove off into the ocean for a test run. Our hand-made paddles seem about the right length, and the boat responds well to my make-shift rudder assembly. Like a couple of kids trying out new bicycles at Christmas we paddle gleefully on a quiet ocean. This is paradise!

With the late afternoon shadows stretching far out, we make camp among the nearby sand dunes. The night is still and warm, and we lay in the two-person goose-down sleeping bag, which I had made, gazing at a brilliant panorama of stars. Occasionally we spot a satellite coursing across the heavens, and I begin to ponder. . .

As an aerospace engineer I had worked in computer simulated space flight mechanics and had participated, indirectly, in the launching of several satellites. How ironic it feels, then, to be engaged in this rather primitive endeavor - lying on a beach with a pile of gear and a small boat as our only belongings. How out of step with the awesome technological age! But alas, where was the glamor? For me there had been little more than the claustrophobic, windowless confines of my small office cubicle and its endless reams of computer printout. I believe the space program to be one of the more important and fascinating endeavors of humankind. But on a personal level, the engineer, or in this case, the pilgrim of sorts, has a choice among many roads leading to uncharted realms here on earth. I am more imbued with a longing for adventure of the physical sort, and I had left the space program knowing it would do fine without me.


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