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 2 of 22


We awaken in the chilly reassess of darkness and grope around in search of firewood. We then manage to construct a small fire of what amounts to desert weeds. Weeds or no, it is enough to produce two steaming cups of cafe con leche. The ocean is silent, and its surface reflects the gleaming of the rising sun.

One of us at the bow and the other at the stern, we lug the heavy boat down the sand embankment to the water's edge. This two-person kayak now seems quite large, but even so, it is cramped for space and sensitive to the weight of our gear and provisions. So we have included only the bare minimum - or so we had tried to do - but now after carrying five heavy and bulky loads down to the shore, it seems like tons. "Where will it all fit?" we wonder to ourselves.

With Linda's small frame, she is particularly well suited for stowing things deep inside the boat's bow and stern. With a few muffled grunts she worms herself into the confines like a spelunker.

With the boat loaded, we are ready to attempt a launching. We drag the seemingly frail but ponderously over-loaded craft into the water, and make the reassuring discovery: the kayak still floats. However, as a precautionary measure I offer to let Linda climb aboard first. The remaining freeboard seems ample, so I squeeze in between pack and duffel into my position aft.

Let the journey begin!

New to our seagoing environment, we paddle cautiously. Foremost in our minds is the fear of capsizing into the uninviting brine. So I carefully steer the kayak along the shoreline so that we are never in water more than three feet deep. In theory, if we tip over, I want us to be able to rescue ourselves by simply standing up. But unused to padding this boat, we paddle in clumsy zigzags. The boat wobbles and gyrates, and bobs gently in the oncoming swells, as we progress slowly south.

The day waxes on and the miles slip by, and the swell increases. The boat flexes disconcertingly with each dollop that sloshes over the deck. Still not trusting the integrity of our seemingly flimsy craft, we hug the shoreline even closer.

After several more hours, we are weary from the unaccustomed rigors of paddling and the confines of the boat. So we decide to turn into the beach for a late lunch stop. But in the process we catch the surf wrong and green water pours into the hold. Stepping onto the beach we strain against the unbelievable weight of gear combined with a bathtub-full of water, and finally manage to drag the boat free of an untimely pounding in the surf.

As we unload the sodden gear, the wind increases to a mild gale. We are both tired and have headaches from the glaring sun and dehydration. We feel clumsy and unorganized, and dismayed that the increasing seas have prevented us from paddling further today.

My light meter is separate from my old and battered Nikonos II waterproof camera, and it suffered the most from the dunking. It quit working in fact. So there in the sand and stinging wind we unscrew the tiny fasteners and dismantle the parts for drying. We get it working again, but only just. Then after drying the remainder of our gear we venture along the desolate beach in search of firewood. Soon we have hot beverages to ward away the chill of encroaching darkness.

Around midnight the tide rises much higher than expected, and we awake to the sound of sloshing water lapping fairly at our feet. Begrudgingly, we arise and carry our gear farther up the slope and establish an impromptu camp on the steeply inclined sand. Looking back, we see the last dry spot of our lower camp run awash in phosphorescent froth.

The story has 22 pages. This is page 2.
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