Flight of the Errant Torpedoes

Baja de los Angeles to La Paz

Baja Sea-Kayaking Adventure #4

26 days, 480 miles, Nov 1977 with John and Al

Ray Jardine

1977-11-22Flight of the Errant Torpedoes page 28 of 28

Wake up at dawn, one large mess of clingy sand. The dew last night was something else. It got into everything, and everything is coated in sand. John stops in to say hello, and helps us load our boats. Then we all three take off, paddling quite briskly for an hour to reach the end of the spit. Then after crossing the sound we land on the town's public beach area. John buys his bus ticket for Loreto, and we all have breakfast, not together but in shifts because one of us needs to keep an eye on the kayaks at all times. Back at the boats we make one last paddling jaunt three km down the beach to a hotel named La Posada. We check into a room and take hot showers. John leaves his kayak with us and heads for the bus station, while Al and I spend a couple of hours washing and drying everything.

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From my journal:

Reflections of a 500 mile kayak trip whilst nursing a margarita under the influence of a bueno marimba band.

We have arrived in La Paz! And the trip has been fantastic. All I dreamed of and ten times more!

We got up at 3:30 or 4:00 and start paddling in the dark; and from the time the eastern stars disappear, until the sun actually pops over the horizon is about 2 hours. This is the time of day to be out on the ocean. The sea is calm and phosphorescent, the air is till but heavy. The coastline slips silently by, unseen in the murky darkness. It's an experience you have to be there to even get an inkling of how incredible it is.

It was a lot of paddling to be sure, and a lot of hard work - in fact rather exhausting at times. An element of danger in the wild seas, or boring after the 6th hour on a flat ocean.

And the days were hot. Sometimes you'd wake up at night sweating, but couldn't get out of the sleeping bag because of the mosquitoes. Out padding you'd dip your hat in the water 20 times a day, and once in awhile throw a couple handfuls of water on the sweating torso, but do it quick so as not to loose speed. The butt would ache from sitting in the same position, you'd wish you could sit on something else for awhile. Tendons aflame from gripping the paddle. Lots of hard work. You'd come around a point and see the next point way, way down there, almost out of sight. And you would get there in for or five hours and go around that, and there would be the next one in the barely perceptible distance ahead.

But did we see the country! Fantastic. Went for days without seeing anyone. Wild and beautiful coastline and the diving was superb. Thousands of fish, good water clarity, but mostly it was the adventure - the five hundred miles of wild territory. A few towns interspersed to relieve the strain, something to aim for every now and again.

Those campsites, and those incredible sunrises. We'd start paddling in the dark and slowly, ever so slowly, the horizon would get light. The crimson would turn into gold, yellow, then bam! Up comes the sun over the ocean.

The 50 mile day to see what we could do, and a whole slug of 30 and 35 ones. The paddle I made new for this trip is now an old friend, and rather worn. The spear gun has done a lot of shootin', and put a lot of fish on the grill. The coffee pot is well used and is encrusted in black soot.

My wardrobe for the last four weeks has been an old sleeveless shirt, a pair of gym shorts, an old baseball hat that says "Recuerdo de Mulege" (Recuerdo = souvenir) and the tennis shoes I had found back in Yosemite last spring. I used the sleeping bag as a pillow most of the time, except when the bugs were out. It's going to be hard to return to the snowstorms that they are rumored to be having back north.

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My companions? They were superb. John and Al were new to the sea-kayaking game but took just a short while to learn to paddle efficiently and adapt to the Baja coastal environs. They managed to get up to speed in pretty short order.

John is an ex marine and tough as nails, and I think he had the hardest job of all. He had driven to Utah to pick up our kayaks, and then twice mid-trip he had to take the public bus back to his van, and drive back down to join us again. While Al and I were waiting for him, we got to just rest.

After we found each other, ten miles short of La Paz, the three of us put our heads together and figured out what had gone wrong. During our night in Escondito, John was actually in the bar, just near where Al and I had camped. We looked all over everywhere for him and his kayak, but we did not think to look in the bar because I had never once seen John go into a bar. Given the choice, he tends to avoid people. And somehow we missed seeing his kayak. The next day, during our 50 mile run, John was actually ahead of Al and me, as remarkably he started the day even earlier that we had (3:00 am). And more remarkably he had kept ahead us through the day, and even went on another few miles after we had stopped. The next day, while Al and I waited on the beach all day, John was waiting on his beach, because we had agreed a few days ago to do this, in case we missed someone. In the next few days we must have leap-frogged along the coast without seeing one another, for somehow he got behind us. And when, by chance we did reunite, we learned that John had been paddling with a broken blade that was missing half of one side. All this is pretty amazing!

Allen was a superb partner also. He started out a kayaking neophyte, but in only a few days he became a seasoned paddler. I have never seen someone become so proficient in that sort a time. He was rock solid paddler with a good attitude and fun for both John and me to be with.

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From my journal:

So here I'm in Loreto. Got here last night with John and Al, but decided to stay here for a few days. John has agreed to dump my gear off at my car in San Diego, so I'll work my way up by public bus in a day or two.

I Spent the evening with Chuck and the other O.B instructors. It is Thanksgiving and they had bought a live turkey with plans of a fabulous feast, but no one had the gumption to actually kill the thing. So here sits, the pet turkey in its cage. They plan to ship it off to the course for the hungry students to deal with.

We sat around for hours discussing the various things we had seen and done here in Baja. Stories of paddling over sharks and whales, sleeping over little crabs hidden in the sand which attempt to burst out from under the ground sheet all night. A Moray eel grabbing a fish away from a successful spear fisherman. And another moray grabbing a bite of a fish which was being cleaned several feet from the water. A student hooking a 150 pound marlin that went into a frenzy and completely terrified everyone. A bird diving from high in the air, nabbing a fish, dropping it from altitude - right into the maws of a waiting shark. Capsizing the kayak in the high seas or getting nailed by a scorpion. Having your spear pulled to maximum power and bouncing it off a lunker like it was a brick wall. Good stories, good friends and a wonderful warm, starry night - it was a real pleasure comparing experiences with these guys. It appears rather universal, with our common lifestyle, to become more focused on nature and wildlife.

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From my journal:

I am writing this now in San Diego. What a trip! The bus trip ride back to the states was really fun and I'm glad I came via that. I met a few Mexicans on the bus including one pretty young senorita who sat next to me for several hours. At the stop in South Rosalia she got off, and five burly commercial fisherman climbed aboard and sat near me. They informed me (in Spanish) that "Don't worry, we're Mexicans, but just don't worry about it." We had a great time. They worked on a boat out of Ensenada and were on a one week leave home. At one of the later stops, one of the guys came looking for me, and bought me a beer and taco at the cantina. It was a nice gesture that he would extend his friendship to a Grino stranger rather than just hanging out with his friends. And I didn't get the impression he was expecting anything in return.

I got a chance to talk with other people on the bus, so it was a good chance to gain insight into the Mexican culture. I only wish I could speak Spanish better to communicate with them on a little higher level. The Mexican people are great, in general of course. Their way of life seems fine, they are friendly and courteous, and always very polite.

I love Baja and its seacoast, and all that they contain. And I really like the people. I'm glad to have the opportunity to experience the sea coast in its golden years, before it sustains the rabid growth similar to that which as befallen the California coast, once the water problem is sorted out down there. For now, it is sea-kayaking paradise, and I am already planning my next trip down next fall.

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Baja is a Black Coffee Pot
Poem by Ray Jardine

  • Baja is paddling the kayak a thousand miles a day yet only progressing 15 or 20.
  • Baja is a catch-bag of cabrilla.
  • It's a hot cup of Irish coffee with smoke blowing in your face, and it's a thousand white beaches all line up in a crooked row.
  • Baja is driving down Southern California and stopping at the next rest area to work on the paddle again.
  • It's catching a bucket of sea off the wind swept bow, and then another.
  • Baja is peering at the stars early in the morning to see if the handle of the big dipper is pointing straight down yet, then getting up and packing the boat in the dark.
  • Baja is paddling close to a sea lion covered rock to chase the creatures into the sea to watch them cavort about and listen to their excited barks.
  • It's thinking about someone a few thousand miles away and wishin' they could have seen those whales today.
  • Baja is seeing a scorpion drop out of your wet suit as you're putting it on (Al), and it's searching the trash of some little Mexican town looking for a new rudder.
  • It's paddling all the way around your first bay because your friends are new to kayaking and fear to go out to sea, especially in the dark.
  • It's sitting on the beach looking out at the rough seas and wishing you could go out, or bobbing dangerously in the rough seas looking at the beach wishing you could go in.
  • Baja is running along the beach for a mile and then leaping into the frothy surf and letting the cool waters embrace your hot and sweaty skin.
  • It's looking at that next point of land way down yonder.
  • It's being right in the middle of a 150 mile stretch between towns.
  • It's hearing that they're having a snow storms in Oregon.
  • Baja is having a dinner of coffee, grilled fish, tortillas and a night full of stars.
  • It's watching the pelicans, sea gulls, boobies and cormorants, and felling that we are all fishermen and kin of sorts.
  • Baja is a black coffee pot.
  • It's seeing a hundred mountains thinking they're the highest, then catching a glimpse of a soaring frigate bird high, high overhead.
  • And it's having a head of hair that feels like an ol' mop and yet never having felt so clean in your life.
  • It's cleaning your eye-glasses ten times a day.
  • Baja is being on the beach your first day and looking at your enormous pile of gear piled next to the kayak and thinking about installing a deck-top carrier.
  • Baja is a couple of dozen crimson sunrises.
  • It's trying to get the sand out of your boat after having just capsized in the surf, and a lone sea gull flies only a few feet overhead as if checking if everything's ok; a friend out of the blue.
  • It's paddling on a flat ocean and the sun is frying you from every direction. The sweat is running off and you always have an itch somewhere but no extra hand to scratch it with.
  • It's stalking dinner with a spear gun and every little fish in the vicinity follows close behind and on every side, waiting for the kill.
  • It's paddling in the black of night and suddenly watching the area below light up with emerald-green phosphorescence as a school of fish scatter away from the boat.
  • Baja is the new paddle you made only a few months ago which is now a well-worn friend.
  • It's a spear gun that's done a lot of shooting and put a lot of fish on the grill.
  • And it's riding the bus back up to Tijuana, already making plans for next year's trip...

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    Again from my journal:

    We had a real fine time. The trip went almost too flawless to make for any good stories. Mostly day after day of super weather, flat ocean, beautiful diving, etc. Our slogan got to be: "well, it's another Baja day."

    Another Baja Day

    A Baja Paddling Poem by Ray Jardine

    I long to be
    Under the canopy
    Of bright stars a shining,
    Where twilight yet casts
    Its crimson glow upon
    A tall and solitary cardon.
    Where the sea calls softly
    With its gentle swells
    That lap at the edge of my campsite.
    Where the air is warm and still
    And scented with aromas of the day's catch
    Drooped over the smoldering embers.
    It's another Baja evening,
    And joyfully we hope to rise early
    And greet . . .
    Another Baja Day.

    The story has 28 pages. This is page 28.
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