Mini Gonzo Paddle, February 18th 2008.

Gordon Schanck bugged me about repeating a trip I had done the last few years. Using the large tides in the winter it is possible to paddle 30 miles or more in one day and visit many of the islands in the bay. Last year I touched 11 islands. My friends named this The Gonzo Paddle, since only someone who was gonzo crazy would work this hard for fun. But it is surprising how many people cannot resist the challenge to do something that is named Gonzo. I was busy and missed the biggest tides of the year with the best timing for the times of day needed for this paddle. Gordon got tired of waiting for me to schedule this trip so he planned his own trip and called in the “Mini Gonzo”. It was mini because he would not try to touch so many islands, but just ride the flood tide up the bay in the morning and the ebb tide back down in the afternoon. It was gonzo because the total distance was still 28 miles or more.

To make the tides we still had to launch at oh-dark-hundred hours in the morning at Horseshoe Cove. Unlike the real Gonzo Paddle we passed by all the islands in The Bay without going out of our way to try to circumnavigate them or touch them. This got us to the halfway point at China Camp with plenty of time for lunch and a nap to rest up.

Unfortunately, it was a cold overcast day and several of us started shivering in our wetsuits and paddle jackets. To keep warm we all went for a walk exploring parts of China Camp that cannot be seen from the water. I knew that this State Park was a popular place for picnics but up at the top of the bluff we found rows and rows of picnic tables, each with their own BBQ. Each table was neatly arranged on (and chained to) a concrete pad. The concrete pads were arranged in rows on a precise rectangular grid on a neatly trimmed lawn. Fred Cooper was offended by the order and started dis-arranging the picnic tables. I joined in and we rotated each of the tables by a random angle, or as far as the anti-theft chains would allow us to turn them.

Dis-arranging tables warmed us up nicely and we were ready to paddle back down the bay with the ebb tide. We bent the laid-back rules for this paddle and cut across the channel to the Brother Islands and Red Rock on our way south. Then we worked our way into Raccoon Strait and let the tide there pull us farther south. We paddled across to Yellow Bluff and some of us had a little fun playing in the rough water. Then we drifted into Horseshoe Cove, stowed our kayaks, changed into dry clothes and had a well-deserved hamburger at the Princeton Yacht Club.

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