Today was probably the toughest day of the trip. Things started perfectly with a picture perfect surfzone launch in San Clemente followed by visiting an adorable group of seals and enjoying my morning ocean zen on the glassy waters. Things got even more fairytale like when I paddled for nearly half an hour with a pod of dolphins.
After San Onofre the waves doubled and tripled in size. I had to go farther away from shore. Around 11 I spotted several 3-4 foot sharks near the Arcoiris Explorer. I couldn’t identify them. They looked sharky. Later on, San Onofre coast guard rescue captain confirmed that they sighted juvenile great whites swimming along my route.
After the shark incident I had to make sure that I wasn’t run over by Navy hovercrafts practicing beach takeoffs and landings. I radioed the US Coast Guard asking them to alert the Navy of my position and my peaceful intentions.
The waves got bigger and winds gathered strength after 3PM. The boat was thrown around the swells like a rubber ducky around splashing kids. I cruised into Oceanside marina exhausted and beat. In fact I looked so ragged and worn that a fellow mariner on a sailboat offered me a beer.
After a short, but sweet 10 mile paddle from Dana Point the Arcoiris Explorer landed in the sleepy hamlet of San Clemente. Checked into a beach side hotel and looking forward to an afternoon of massages, conversations with humans, healing my wounds and feeling dry.
Morning on the beach at Dana Point.
Drying on the beach in San Clemente.
After a brutally long (24mile, 34km) paddle yesterday, I landed in Newport Beach. My friend, Razvan Sabau picked me and the AIE up. It was strange sleeping in a bed. I miss my tent, miss the ocean. I don’t miss the chaffing, the blisters and the muscle pain. Yesterday I didn’t lose anything. At least I don’t know it yet.
Loaded the Arcoiris Explorer into Razvan’s school bus.
I have the magic touch when it comes to screwing things up. So far the expedition is moving along splendidly except for my waterproof solar charger. I managed to leave one of the two USB doors open on the device and now I’m with electricity. In a day or two the situation will be fixed.
I’m writing this blog entry from Seal Beach exhausted and soar. Tomorrow I hope I’ll be able to upload more photos.
Follow me live before I screw up the tracker too.
My gear is sorted into categories and packed into waterproof bags. I managed to gather and pack everything. I’m nervous that I’m forgetting something.
Here are the categories.
Health & medical
Camping and repairsElectronics and communications.
T minus 4 days. I’m done with my preparations. I got my GPS tracker. It’s normally used to locate stolen tractors or snowmobiles, but my family insisted on tracking and salvaging my kidney, should things go wrong. I also picked up my missing meals: 3 dozen assorted protein bars and a bag of energy jellybeans.
At this point I’m beginning to overthink every step of this expedition. I spent the last three days finalizing my itinerary and laminating tide charts. One of the key issues I had to tackle is where to spend my nights.
My hopelessly romantic goal has always been to stay as close to nature as possible and sleep in my tent on the beach. Unfortunately Southern California’s number one policy directive is rich homeowners first, hobos and traveling kayakers second. It’s horrible news for me, considering most of the coast is owned by rich home owners.
Laguna Beach seemed to be the most challenging, so I decided to write to City Hall requesting a special permit or exception to spending the night on the beach. In diplomatic jargon their response is known as a “polite fuck you”:
Unfortunately all of those beaches mentioned are either too close or too far from my starting point for that day. In a desperate attempt I turned to where one usually turns for advice on street sleeping. I did a Google search for ‘homeless blogs Southern California‘. Perhaps, I should not have done that.
Laminated daily itinerary and laminated tide charts.
As part of my kayak training program, I took the 17 foot Arcoiris Explorer on vacation. I loaded it on top of the car and drove 500 miles (900kms) from Los Angeles to the Sea Of Cortez, where I annexed and occupied a small uninhabited island for 4 days.
It was a special off the grid vacation that only 1 member of my family was willing to sign up for. The other 3 preferred cell phone signal, electricity and indoor plumbing.
The Arcoiris Explorer became a permanent fixture of our makeshift Robinson Crusoe camp at this pristine lagoon of Isla Coronado. Kayaking on the glassy waters of the Sea Of Cortez was pure joy. It was nothing like the rough and tumble Pacific. It was warm and inviting, unlike its so called “peaceful” neighbor. At 5AM I followed the sounds of blue whales. With the setting sun, I paddled 2 miles to a nearby seal colony. In between sessions I was polishing my paddling style or practicing my Eskimo roll, which is still an epic fail.
On one of my afternoon outings I learned two important things about seals. One, in nature they don’t play with adorable beach balls or clap their flippers together. Two, they can be insanely territorial. Every time I approached their rock colony, 6-7 well developed males jumped into the water and swam right alongside the kayak. As soon as they popped their heads out of the water they turned to me. They kept their distance, but their angry looks spoke volumes. It was essentially their coast guard unit. Needless to say that I kept my distance as well. The arrangement worked out for both parties.
Apart from my underwater camera which got flooded on day two, all my gear passed the test with flying colors. The equipment is ready for the big trip and so am I.
After a few training sessions I concluded that for every 4 hours of kayaking I need to take 2 Advils. At this rate I might as well name the boat “Advil”. It seemed like such a genius idea that I wrote a letter to the makers of Advil. This is what I got back:
After Advil was out, I turned to the social responsibility message of my trip for inspiration. Fighting for ocean sustainability and tuna protection, I couldn’t find a better namesake for my yak than the legendary Greenpeace vessel, the Rainbow Warrior.
As a teenager especially obsessed with an inevitable nuclear holocaust, the Rainbow Warrior played a special role in my life. Having sailed on a mission to halt nuclear testing in the South Pacific agents of the French government sank the boat in a New Zealand marina during the summer of 85. Unable to fathom how a non-communist government can be so evil, I was glued to my radio following the drama every night. I was heartbroken for days.
Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbor after bombing by French secret service agents.
Inspired by Greenpeace, I named the kayak the Arcoiris Explorer. Paying respect to my hosts in Mexico, I used the Spanish equivalent of rainbow. Godspeed “Arcoiris Explorer”.
Coming up next: How I fell in love with Phil at Greenpeace HQ who also named his yak after a legendary Greenpeace hero and climate change warrior.
After the euphoria of my graduation faded I realized that I had one more obstacle ahead of me: I didn’t have a kayak. Buying a kayak is like shoe shopping and bicycle shopping made a baby. A “yak” has to be comfortable, fitting and stylish like a shoe, but light, fast and sturdy like a bike. Unlike shoe and bike stores, there aren’t too many kayak retailers. Buying one online is just out of the question.
On my first trip to Southwind Kayaks in Irvine I learned three things.
- Sea Kayaking is a dying sport. People are buying SUPs and fishing kayaks.
- I’m too big for most boats.
- The only kayak that would fit me comfortably has been discontinued.
Luckily, Kei, the owner had a used one with low nautical mileage lying around in the marina.
Buying a piece of preowned plastic that’s supposed to keep me from drowning made me nervous. To ease my anxiety I had to lay my cards on the table. I told her that I was a famous kayak blogger and if that boat sank her business would sink with it too. My words must have carried some weight. She flawlessly refurbished the boat and delivered it to my house free of charge. (Now, I’m stuck with this blog.)
Even though I try to take only the absolute essentials with me on this trip, I managed to spend half of my kids’ college fund on accessories and kayak accoutrements including a super sexy sprayskirt. Spraykirts are used to keep the water out of the cockpit and the closest thing most guys ever come to cross-dressing in public.
The refurbished Current Design Storm GT made it home.
Some people love to take classes on any subject. I know someone who wanted to take a walking class to be a better walker. I, on the other hand prefer to learn things from the internet, YouTube videos or getting the Complete Idiot’s Guide To hobby of the moment.
Surviving on the open seas in a 17ft long plastic needle is not something that I wanted to take lightly. I thought maybe a real person should tell me what it’s like when a freak wave throws me out of the kayak, smacks me on the head, washes my paddle away while sharks are circling and not some guy who starts by saying, “Hello Youtubers”.
Unfaithful to my character I signed up at UCLA’s Marina Aquatic Center for a Sea Kayaking survival class. Out of the 3 students, one dropped out the moment she had to get into a kayak. “It’s way out of my comfort zone,” she said anxiously as she left the class. I still wonder about what she might have been expecting. Introduction to kayak theory? Comparative transnational feminist perspectives on sea kayaking?
After 6 hours of falling into the water and ungracefully crawling back into the needle, I got my degree from UCLA. I completed the course with flying colors.I’m not only a UCLA graduate, but a “qualified” sea kayaker.