Full Moon Paddle

I thought of joining the group in Long Beach on their moon-light paddle, but I figured if the harbor was pretty on a full moon, the ocean had to be prettier. Iíve never been out in my kayak in the full dark as I can remember, but I love to drive on such nights. Everything takes on an unearthly aura. So that was the plan and after a stop at West Marine to pick up some light sticks, I was unloading my boat on Little Balboa Island.

It was about 7pm when I launched and the harbor looked like a regular day, if a bit quiet. I quickly made it into the main channel and was struck by the smell of exhaust fumes. No, not from the boats, but from the multitude of BBQs getting ready for dinner. I guess I was too early for the smell of cooking steaks, perhaps something to look forward to on the return leg.

Outside the harbor, the sun was getting pretty low, but I still had time to make it to Big Arch Rock before it called it a day. I tried to take note of the swells thinking I might not be able to see them so well on my return. I arrived at BAR in time to lounge about and watch the sun make its full decent. The waves were rather intermittent, so I was able to sit and enjoy the scenery and snap a few pics. When the sun was finally under the horizon, I moseyed into the cove to wait for the darkness to arrive and the moon to chase it away.

As the darkness set in, I started to get a little worried. When you paddle with others, you have to worry about being on time, where to paddle, how fast and how long. When you paddle solo, youíre only worry is a cold, salty, solitary death! Best not to test youíre limits too far. But I took some deep breaths and tried not to think about when the Great Whites like to feed. I was counting on the good olí moon to provide enough light to get me home.

Finally the stars at least were out. I could barely make out some palm trees silhouetted against the last hint of light on the cliffs. I decided to poke my nose out from behind BAR to see what the ocean was doing. The swells coming at me were looking very dark as my boat hull slapped down the other side. As my bow would plow through the next wave, the water that washed over my deck seemed dark as molasses. I thought it must me 8:20, but the moon seemed nowhere in sight. I started heading back towards the harbor, my light stick taped to my paddle shaft. Concentrating as I was on the shadowy waves coming at me, it was hard to look around to find the evenings honored guest. All of a sudden, I felt like there was something behind me. I had to spin the whole boat around to find the moon had finally made its entrance above the hills. I paddled on till I was close to the harbor entrance and turned again to enjoy the view. The worry about being out in the dark ocean was now totally gone; I wished I could stay out all night. A succession of orbiting water molecules roused me from my revery and I accepted the fact that I couldnít sleep out here tonight.

When I made it back into the jetty, God threw in a moon-lit harbor paddle for free.

Mark Sanders