September 11, 1997
Mendocino, California, USA
At 11am, Mike Higgins arrived right on schedule. I threw my stuff in his van, fastened my
boat on his rack, said "Thank you!" and "See-ya-again soon!" to Mike
Mulligan, and then took off for Mendocino.
It was a short ride from Fort Brag to Mendocino, and by early afternoon I had my tent set up in the group camping area at Van Damme State Park. I was there as a guest of BASK: the Bay Area Sea Kayakers. The Bay Area... as in the San Francisco bay area. BASK was having a campout and Mike Higgins thought it would be fun if I was able to attend. This is the reason I was in such a hurry to leave Crescent City(Not because I was trying to put distance between myself and fang face). I had made plans to meet Mike Higgins in Eureka, 70 miles south of Crescent City, and to make it on time I had to paddle everyday. I should not have let ambition and expectation cloud my judgement. Oh well, live and learn. Thats what Im here for.
That afternoon I hooked up with a dude that had a big head of grey hair and fat bushy beard like Jerry Garcia. His name is his Brian, and hes the hippest and funkiest fifty year old Ive ever met. We paddled up, then back down a lazy little river called the Big River. It was a good time.
That evening, the BASK members were invited to a potluck at the home of Lisa Weg, a lighthouse keeper & interpretative guide, who also happened to be a member of BASK. She gave us a tour around the light house, then we went back to her residence for the potluck feast. I had already eaten earlier, but ate again anyway. I donated a bag of whole wheatn honey bagels to the cause, so I at least had to eat my share of the provisions. There were three different types of salads and pastas, four types of cheeses, six types of breads and crackers, ten kinds of wines, and lots of watermelon and Oreos. I ate until it hurt.
The next morning, I got together with Mike Higgins and two other BASK members, Joe, and Roger, and went Abalone diving. We paddled close to shore through the rock gardens until we found an area Mike thought we would find Abalone. The size of the Abalone we discovered were about half the size of a persons head. The Abalone shell is what I would call a half -- as opposed to a clam, which would be a whole shell. The underside of the Abalone is one large muscle called the foot, which it uses to latch on to rocks. If the Abalone senses danger it will tighten its grip on the surface it is attached to, making it next to impossible to pull them off with your bare hands.
To harvest Abalone, there are several rules you must follow in order to level the playing field. No scuba gear can be used, you cannot pry them off the rocks with anything other than a blunt object, they have to be over a certain size, you can only take four a day, etc, etc, etc. At one time the Abalone could be found stuck to the rocks at water level, but since eating them has gotten so popular, they are now only found by diving for them. The Abalone I found were between ten and fifteen feet down.
On the way back from Ab diving, I explored sea caves. Some of the caves I went into were big enough that I could turn my boat around inside(my boat is 19ft long). Other caves were long and narrow, and I could go in one side and out the other. There are many caves like these all along the Mendocino coast. Its a sea kayakers paradise.
That night for supper we had another monstrous potluck feast, and Abalone was the main course. Before we could cook the Abalone it had to be beaten with wooden hammers in order for it to be soft enough to chew. It took a lot of work, but it was well worth it! The Abalone was delicious... as was the rest of the meal.
That evening we sat around the campfire despite the drizzling rain, and told jokes until there were no more jokes to tell. Ken Mannshardt and I know by far the most jokes, and kept the show rolling between the two of us. Earlier that evening, Ken had invited me to come back to Oakland with him, and offered to put me up in his spare bedroom. I gratefully accepted, realizing that it would now be possible to spend my birthday in Yosemite as I had hoped.
The next morning, I put my boat on top of Kens truck, and headed off for Oakland with Ken and his girl friend Lydia. On the way, we stopped at the Anderson Valley Brewing Company pub and had lunch - Kens treat.
Upon arriving at Kens home, he took me upstairs to the spare bed room. It was a neat little room with a large window over-looking the quiet suburban street below. Ken is collecter of antique nautical artifacts and he proudly displayed them throughout the house. That evening we were all tired, so I just hit the sack after firing off a few emails.
Ken is a fireman, and he conveniently had Monday off, so the two of us spent the day cruising around town doing errands. That evening after a late snack of meats, crackers, cheese and wine, Ken, Lydia and I sat on my bed, and watched a video by The Tsunami Rangers about kayaking on the open coast.