Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

Axel Schoevers (Photo: A. de Krook) Name:
Axel Schoevers
Rijswijk, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Dharma Bums

Clouds drift away to reveal the full moon, dimming out Orion for the day. In a moon-grey lit Puerto Don Juan howling and barking breaks the silence. At night I dozed at slapping sounds on the water. Fish, but what kind? But these sounds now are unmistakably to be identified: a pack of coyote is singing to the moon on the west side of the bay. I had seen evidence of these elusive creatures the day before: tracks running along the lined-up kayaks detouring to every cockpit and back. In the low light I see that the tide is out and I can determine that the two cut-open plastic water jugs, holding the rest of yesterday's clam-dig, have fallen over and are now a foot apart. I rest a bit more and while the sunrise paints the mountains red, the student's camp awakes to a sharing the hearing of the coyote between those that heard it and those that slept through all of it. Good morning! The salt water filled clam jugs drained. A few clams are spread out on the sand. I put them back into the jug. But one of the escapees has proven immense will of survival and has dug itself almost completely in the sand. I move my hand towards it but decide to pull out before. I cannot take this one. Last I pick-up the blue cap of one of the jugs and put it back onto it. Not that this is necessary, the ex-water jugs already partly cut open beneath the top, but to keep the blue cap from escaping. Now I find out why the jugs had fallen over and away. Bite marks pierced the top of the jug and scratched the cap. Coyotes have adapted to the extremely harsh Sonoran desert climate and learned to open water jugs. I wonder if Coyotes know more about the full moon than humans do.

20060411758L.JPGYesterday, Mountain Classroom became tide-pool classroom when Jen talked about gravitational forces of earth, moon and sun. Notebooks of the paper era get filled with colour pencilled drawings of tide pool creatures. Brittle Stars, Sunflower starfish, Anemones, flatworms, a homeless Hermit crab, a Stingray and many more creatures making their living from the tides. Mid afternoon: high water springs. Gurgling and splashing noises, an immediate uproar in camp. Squid are moving into shallow water near the rocks and propel to the surface releasing jets of water. Colour changing red, yellow, grey, black, greenish, white. Black ink murks the water. Weaving into the rocks to beach themselves onto the sandy patches. The colour changes fade to grey. Staring into human like eyes. The squid are dying suicidal? Rescue the squid! Releasing some of the squid into deeper water has even more horrific consequences. Determined to beach themselves again, the squid propel themselves against rocks, tearing apart their skins and becoming less and less directional in their approach, but not less determined. They all find their way upon the tiny rock enclosed sand patches to die; a dozen in all. One swims away into deeper water... Nobody in camp knows at this time what this is all about. Why did the squid commit suicide? The beaching at a full moon high water springs cannot be just coincidence. A little later the teachers learn from the students of what has occurred in our little bay in the Sea of Cortez. I wonder if Squid know more about the full moon than humans do.
Returning to Bahia de Los Angeles two days later and getting back on board the Proctor Academy Mountain Classroom school bus. The solar powered inverter died and the students' i-pods die of exhaustion shortly after. I borrow Lucy's copy of a classic novel; their English reading on this trip. I heard about this American writer, but that is just about that. My appetite for reading was effectively 'killed' during my high school days by force-fed reading of indigestibles. At least it felt that way then. Yeah!, The Pearl indeed was that first (but only) gem. I became an artist of binary poetry instead. Some obscure Scottish poet had me once marvel at the power of the human language, interpretation and imagery: "Sheeted within the walkman wear the halo of distortion, aural contraceptive aborting pregnant conversation". How still fitting for the I pods, though NOT these bright kids! Later he wrote: "Read some Kerouac and that put me on the tracks to burn a little brighter now". I am on the road with the Dharma Bums.
I wonder what I really know about the moon and the tides...

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