September 10, 1997
Klamath, California, USA

Some lessons are harder to learn than others...

I could have gotten killed last night. I left Crescent City at around one o’clock, but by the time I had paddled the 18 miles to the mouth of the Klamath River, it was already dark. I didn’t stop much along the way, other than to watch a pod of dolphins, and take a few pee breaks, but a little head-wind can make a big difference.

I couldn’t see the steepness of the beach, or know just how nasty the surf was hitting it. I was very afraid. I dreaded the thought of staying out on the water all night. I had no choice but to go for it.

I waited for a large set to finish, then I paddled as hard as I could to ride in on the back of the last big swell. I was screwed from the get-go. Even the small waves were huge. I hit the impact zone on a wave higher than the length of my kayak. I fell straight down the crest, my bow dove under, I pitch-polled, and then I was tossed end over end. To prevent breaking bones, I let my body go limp. The next thing I remember, I’m on the beach beside my kayak, being sucked back into the next wave. I couldn’t fight it. I got sucked in, then spit back out again.

When I finally got my kayak up the beach a safe distance, I found that it had a 6 inch crack on the opposite side of the one I got six days ago. The crack didn’t look like it would let much water in, so I pulled the boat over a sand bar, and I paddled a half-mile up the Klamath River, toward a light on the river bank. There was lightning going off all around me and I was in a wide-open space - not a good combination!

When I got to the light, I found an RV park and pulled into the dock. I knocked on a door and asked where I could find the owners. "We are they." said a man. I told him what about what had taken place, then asked if I could pitch my tent somewhere, adding that I couldn’t pay him. "Sure... " answered the man, "anywhere."

When I came back with my tent, his wife had a huge plate of food for me. I went into their RV and talked with them for an hour as I ate. It rained hard while we were talking, so the ground was now very wet. I was too tired to set up my tent, so Don, the owner, suggested I sleep in the RV park wash-room. So here I am this morning... trying to sort things out.

I’m doing fine and in high spirits... because I know last night could have been the end. I’m going to call Mike right now, and we’ll work out something to get my boat fixed. I need to get down to Eureka by the 12th in order to meet a guy who is taking me and my boat to Mendocino. 30 other kayakers are camping there for a couple days. I’m just going to tag along. Everything is going to work out. I’m sure of it.