to a cool sunny morning after a day and night of cold rain,
I set out on the 70-mile drive to Ventura Harbor. It was to
be my first kayak adventure with CKF (California Kayak Friends).
Mike Condit had graciously offered the use of his Looksha IV
since my first kayak was on order and would not arrive for several
weeks. The sun sparkled on beads of water on my windshield while
wisps of mist began to rise from the pavement as the sun rose
in the clear blue sky.
only one short lesson and a few rentals under my belt, I was
unsure how I'd fit in with a seasoned group. But I knew enough
to get back in a boat with a paddle float and since this was
a round trip I figured maybe I could cut it short if I couldn't
at the launch site I was unsure what to expect. Soon I found
a busy group of wet-suit or hydroskin clad folks. They were
of all sizes, shapes, and ages, with clothing of varied colors.
The one thing they all had in common is they all wore funny-looking
hats! They were busy as bees unloading shiny colorful boats
from the top of SUV's. Some had slick rollers to assist with
the job, while one was perched atop a big aluminum stepladder.
They didn't notice me pulling in because I had no SUV with
kayak perched on top - just a guy in an ordinary car.
finding Mike, the adventure began. He got me all set up, showed
me how to do right some things I had been doing wrong, and
shoved me off the concrete launch ramp into the still harbor
waters as the folks with fancier boats launched from the docks.
we paddled past the breakwater I didn't know what to expect.
But everyone chatted casually and Mike made sure I felt at
ease. The paddle up the coast was a lot of fun - bobbing in
the waves, enjoying the salt spray, the view, and the blessed
freedom from pager, cell phone, and pressing responsibilities.
I enjoyed watching others disappear, appear, and then disappear
again behind a swell. They all still wore those funny-looking
hats. Soon I realized they looked very comfortable and if
I'm going to be at home on the water I'll want one too. I'm
told I can't qualify to own a genuine Tilly though until I'm
50, but that's okay: there will be plenty of other kayak goodies
to acquire in the meanwhile.
a somewhat comical break for a snack we headed back. Mike
had mentioned hugging the shore on the way back so I headed
in that direction. Soon a sleek yellow boat passed inshore
of me. I thought it was Mike so I figured everyone else was
right behind us. But the yellow boat went on ahead at a pace
I could not match. It was then I realized the owner's funny-looking
hat wasn't Mike's funny-looking hat. I located the rest of
the group farther out to sea and figured I could paddle out
to join them (making my journey longer) or take a direct route
to the mouth of the harbor, which I did. It was quiet and
I missed out on some good companionship, but I got a taste
of solitude on the ocean. Well, I wasn't all that far from
the group, conditions were mild, and I wasn't on some long
open-ocean crossing. But to a beginner it was a new adventure
and it gave me a small measure of confidence and independence.
The sun glinted flip-flop upon the translucent yellow paddle
of the sprinter who had gone ahead - a bright steady beacon.
met the sprinter at the harbor entrance and paddled on in
with him - not knowing that the procedure was for everyone
to regroup and count heads (or funny-looking hats) before
didn't want to get out of the boat when we got back! The day's
adventure was fresh on my mind and it would have been great
fun to practice new skills in the quiet harbor. But life's
responsibilities beckoned, as I had kids to pick up and other
things to take care of. Besides, I was grateful to Mike for
the generous loan of his boat and it wouldn't do for me to
steal away with it!
I drove home I thought of the day when my own boat will arrive
and I can once again join those friendly people in funny-looking
hats for another fine adventure.
November 17, 2003