Added 22 January 2006
We were all up and moving before dawn on Saturday, New Years Eve Day. As such, we were on the water earlier as well. I was ready a little before Brian and Chuck, so I went out into the sandy shallow zone and scanned beneath the water for rays until Chuck and Brian hit the water a short time later. We then paddled out to a nearby point where we saw some starfish and some neat yellow and black striped fish. We were totally engrossed in looking at the fish until we heard the distinct sound of a whale breathing after a dive. Little fishies? What little fishies? All eyes were glued to the horizon.
After a moment, we spotted the whale perhaps a quarter mile away (the distance was hard for me to judge though). As we kayaked out towards that direction, the whale lightly surfaced a few more times before it showed us it's fluke then dove deep, never to be seen again. In a flash of excitement I thought momentarily of going into a full bore paddle to try to get close to the whale, but of course it would have been a futile attempt. Still, it was fantastic to even get the fleeting glimpse that we did.
Our move towards the whale took us half the distance across the "straight" between the point and Isla Alcatraz. Brian and I continued towards the island while Chuck doubled back to the point briefly before joining us. At the island we spotted a couple of sea lions, but they never let us get very close. We also found some cool starfish, other unknown fish, and a really pretty black, white, orange and blue fish called a King Angelfish. The island was home to an osprey nest, and had the usual accompaniment of pelicans and seagulls.
The waters around Isla Alcatraz are subject to some unusual currents. As we rounded the southern end of the island, traveling clock-wise around it, we encountered a very stiff current that was basically a swift flowing river within the larger sea. We figures that the unusual conditions were created by the large tidal flux trying to move through the confined space of the narrow straight.
As we rounded the island back to where we started, we beached the yaks and explored the island. Brian found another large carapace of a Green Sea turtle, this one with the head still attached. It was neat, but kind of sad as well. Sea turtles are so cool. I hope to encounter a live one someday . . .
We hiked up to the top of the island and enjoyed some magnificent views, including a bird's eye view of the osprey nest. The island was a bit smelly from all of the bird droppings, but it was still fun to explore. The island gave us a good vantage point to see Ensenada Alcatraz and the larger Bahia Guadalupe.
When we left the island, Brian was getting hungry and headed back to camp, but Chuck and I kayaked back to the point and slowly continued south down the coast a short distance, scanning for fish or other exciting creatures. We saw tons of fish, but little else, and our hopes of seeing a predator like a shark were never realized.
Eventually, we decided to head back to camp, but I took my time and lagged behind Chuck. Back at camp, we ate lunch, then Brian and Chuck took a nap while I tried to write. I was too distracted by my surroundings though, and the afternoon wind had just enough of a chill to it that the temperature was a hair below comfort level. So it wasn't long before I gave up and decided that I needed some activity. Chuck had given up on napping as well and was writing in his journal as I dragged my yak down to the water and went out in search of rays (both the animal kind and the solar kind).
I couldn't see much along the beach because the wind was disturbing the surface of the water too much, so I paddled down towards an area that was a little better protected by the point. I could see into the water better there, but there was nothing to see. I was just about ready to head back to camp when I saw Chuck launch his yak. He paddled over to me, and we decided to head out to the point to see what we could see.
As we rounded the point, we heard and saw an interesting phenomenon. The tide appeared to be exiting the bay, but the afternoon wind was pushing the water in the opposite direction. In the shallow waters of the straight, the two forces met headlong. You could visibly see the tide rushing out and slamming into the oncoming waves, and likewise see the waves get completely annihilated by the oncoming tide. The waves were about 2-3 feet tall from trough to crest, and they stacked up tightly at a near constant spacing of less than ten feet apart. When they got to a certain point in the straight, they completely disappeared. It was very impressive to watch, and it looked daunting while sitting in a kayak.
Chuck and I paddled to shore nearby and got out to view the sea battle from a slightly higher vantage point. Not long after beaching, Brian paddled up and joined us. Then Chuck got in his yak to test his mettle in the melee. He approached from the bay side, but chickened out before crossing the front line. Then Brian got in his yak. Together, they paddled along the shoreline in calm waters past the battle front, then entered the waves obliquely and paddled with the waves and through the clash zone into the oncoming tide as I took pictures.
When time came to test myself, I paddled out into the out-rushing tide, then paddled headlong into the front towards the oncoming waves. The tide sped my entry into the rapid succession of waves, but once in the waves and the wind, my progress was slowed considerably. Every wave sent water over the bow of my yak, but the coaming kept most of it off of me and out of the boat. Eventually, I made my way to the calmer waters near shore, then turned around and traversed my route, riding the waves towards the oncoming tide. Once I broke free from the line of waves I had to battle the rushing tide, which I think was probably the more formidable of the two forces. Or perhaps my arms were just tired.
At any rate, it was quite a thrill to have experienced that in a kayak. Looking back on it now, and remembering the force of the two colliding giants, I wonder how stupid it was for us to have played there. I don't think we were in any real danger as long as we were in our kayaks, but I don't know if I could say the same thing if one of us rolled and became separated from the kayak. I imagine that there must have been some serious currents churning beneath the surface.
After our dance with death, Brian headed back to camp, while Chuck and I beached on the bay side of the point and hiked up to the shrine on the end of the point. From the point, we had an excellent view of the tide and wave phenomenon in the straight. After that, we headed back to camp and beached our boats for the last time.
Back at camp, Chuck decided he was going to dig up some crabs, possibly with the intent of eating them for dinner. As Brian D. and I watched, he dug a hole, and accidentally sliced the first crab in half. (He felt really bad about that.) On the second hole, the crab jumped out in a full run, making Chuck scream like a little girl and go running as well. He quickly regained his composure and chased the crab down with shovel in hand. As soon as Chuck screamed like a little girl, Brian D. quickly glanced at each other and quickly realized that perhaps there would be some entertainment value in all of this so we quickly grabbed our cameras and ran down the beach to where Chuck was herding the crab to keep it from going in the water. He was a little guy, and after Brian D. got a few pictures, we left it alone.
But now Chuck had to eager photographers following him around the beach, each wishing that our digital cameras took video with sound. But alas, it was all for naught anyway. Chuck didn't unearth a single crab for the next half-hour or so. I think the pressure was too much for him.
While organizing our gear for the drive home, we were treated to another amazing sunset that night. And also as usual, we wiled away the evening chatting by the campfire. None of us made it to midnight to ring in the new year, but I wake up sometime after midnight and went down to the water to watch check out the bioluminescence again, where I quietly (and very contentedly) welcomed the New Year.