“It’s not a matter of if” I told Spencer, “but rather when I will be tipping over our kayak just for the fun of it!” With a nervous laugh he replied, “Very funny Kel,” knowing me well enough to be moderately concerned.
Halfway over the Golden Gate Bridge, the morning fog parted, giving way to clear blue sky and rolling green hills of Marin County. We continued north on Hwy 1 toward Point Reyes for kayaking fun on Tomales Bay – located about 40 miles from San Francisco. I was thrilled to get out of the chilly city, always up for any sort of outdoor adventure and eager to explore a new part of beautiful Northern California.
Spencer got shotgun as usual, thanks to his claim to chronic motion sickness. Today was a big day for my friend as he isn’t the outdoor adventure type of guy. My lovely Spence has velvet hands he uses for painting sweeping Jackson Pollock-like brushstrokes and for twirling his dates on the swing-dancing floor. He does not deem himself a metro-sexual but will surely tell you whenever he is having a good hair day. I was proud of him for being open to trying something new. Spencer was determined to shed his “delicate flower” image and become a rugged outdoors man. As his best female friend, I took it upon myself to assist in his metamorphosis.
My buddy Brett and I giggled in the backseat, we always bring out the silly in each other. Brett is my #1 dawg! Andrew eyed us suspiciously through his rear view mirror wondering what other evil acts we were plotting. I had just met Andrew and my first impression was – very nice, funny guy – definite friend potential. He told me he would need until EOD to decide if he would grace me with a Facebook friend request. Married with two little girls, but determined to never be seen as the “old boring married guy”. He and his wife have seemingly mastered balancing time with family and friends, I found their relationship inspiring.
Tomales Bay is a 6800-acre estuary, twelve miles long, occupying the seaward end of a valley created by the San Andreas fault. The northern end of the bay opens to Bodega Bay and the Pacific Ocean, while the southern end is fed by Papermill creek and marked by wetlands. Black Mountain rises at the southern end of the bay above the community of Point Reyes Station. Sir Francis Drake was the first explorer to land in this area in 1579.
We walked toward the water where a rainbow of kayaks lay warming in the sun. I picked a turquoise kayak and was happy Spencer agreed to sit in the back as I was feeling rather lazy and didn’t want to have to steer the boat.
Then came the moment of truth … can a 6’4” Jewish man fit into a tiny kayak? I was not sure, but knew it would be amusing to watch him try. Spencer straddled the kayak eyeing the small opening suspiciously before attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole. One long leg at a time stepped into the kayak. He sat down struggling to stretch out into the boat. John came around to adjust the rudders, needing to extend the rudders as far as possible to accommodate Spencer’s long limbs. Spencer pushed hard on the rudder and we all heard him sheepishly say “UH OH – I think I broke something”. John confirmed he had indeed broke the rudder saying that had never happened before…but then again the 18’ kayaks are not made for such a tall guy.
We began paddling but headed in the wrong direction. Paddling in unison is certainly like a dance. First steps can be awkward, out of sync … with no understanding between partners. Slowly you warm up to your dance partner, you get more comfortable and acclimated to their timing. It becomes a goal to make sure you match step for step, or in our case, oar for oar.
Paddling was proving to be a challenge in my kayak. Spencer was performing more of a canoe paddle, digging deep into the water and slinging massive amounts of water in my face. Not wanting him to become discouraged, I assured him I found it refreshing. Andrew found the scene amusing and described our kayak as a wet and wild ride. Eventually Spence got the hang of things and before too long our strokes were in sync as we were swiftly gliding across the water.
As we edged closer to the others I was surprised to hear singing, bad singing at that. Andrew sang a rendition from the Jefferson’s and the normally shy Brett challenged him as he belted at the top of his lungs “Come sail away…”. It became a variety show at sea – a singing duo. They howled ridiculous lyrics, serenading everyone that had no choice but to listen. If anyone had expected a quiet day on the bay, they were surely going to be disappointed. One woman asked if we had been drinking and Brett told her “No, we are just high on life, it’s gorgeous out!”
We decided to stop at Chicken Ranch beach for a rest. The water became shallow as we approached the sand the thick eel grass got tangled in our oars. Page told us to keep a look out for bat rays and leopard sharks. At the first mention, Spencer’s turned to me, his face angst in fear. No one had told him such scary creatures would be encountered on our adventure. Two large bat rays swam up to our kayak. I wanted to stop and watch but Spencer told me to keep paddling exclaiming “this is the scariest thing I have ever done in my whole life!”. Trying hard to keep a straight face I asked him what we were going to do if one of the rays jumped into our kayak – not believing for this was actually possible. Seconds later a large ray jumped frighteningly close to my head causing me to scream out loud – payback for picking on him, Spencer concluded.
By the end of the three-hour tour my arms were very tired and my stomach growled with hunger. The region is known for oysters and we were eager to get shucking! Page suggested that we drive 15 minutes further north to The Marshall Store for lunch. We passed several other Oyster shops on the beautiful drive north all situated right on the water overflowing with patrons.