The wind is now fresh from the E/SE, but I settle in for the slog and manage 2+ knots.
“What’s our strategy? I was thinking of cutting across to the north shore.”
“Let’s row along the south shore.” Don says.
This reminds me of a great quote in the book ‘Sod’s Law of the Sea,’ in which the husband says, ‘when it comes to deciding where to go my wife and I get on very well. If she wants to head north and I want to head south, we compromise and head north!’ Don is my guide and I follow my guide, so we head north!
We are half a mile from Mile Rock when a kayaker appears. He chats to me first and then to Don and asks if he can paddle along with us.
Twenty minutes into our convoy, the paddler comes close to my stern clutching his chest.
“I am sorry to say this, but I have a situation developing. I have a pain in my chest.”
“I’ll be alright. I just want to rest for a few minutes. Can I come alongside?”
“You would be better off going alongside Don’s boat, because of the motion of the two boats side-by-side,” I say. “He also has a spare seat if you need to get out.”
The kayaker goes alongside Don’s boat and hangs on for a few minutes, still clutching his chest leaning back on occasion. This isn’t looking good. Don’s boat and my boat drift at different rates and so I drift out of earshot. What I can see is the kayaker getting into Don’s boat.
“We need to row north and get out of the channel. There’s a ship coming!” Don shouts.
I see the ship and I also know the ship should be aware of me as I am transmitting AIS. In fact, I can see the ship making minor course adjustments to avoid us. Rowing across the ship’s path is not the right thing to do. Our best option would be to stick together.
Don pulls on his oars to head across the channel and I feel a mild sense of panic. I reach for my VHF and attempt to hail the CSL Frontier container ship. No reply. No matter. By now the ship has clearly diverted and something has happened on Don’s boat and he’s stopped rowing. From what I can see, Don is putting in the other oarlocks so that – and I assume this – the kayaker can row too. Except the kayaker doesn’t get in the seat to row, he lies down. This is when I decide to call the Coast Guard.
I notify the Coast Guard of the situation rather than call for assistance, because even though the kayaker claims he’s fine, we now have a 52 year old man with heart attack symptoms being rowed by an 86 year old man! Don is also towing the kayak, into wind!
The wind freshens still and it’s a haul for me in my big heavy boat. We’ve lost about 45 minutes to an hour and for me that’s critical. I may be the one needing assistance soon!
The Coast Guard have a station at Horseshoe Cove by the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge and one of their boats charges over to check out our situation. The Coast Guard cutter pulls alongside Don. There are a lot of men on deck in orange jumpsuits, some with helmets on. One it turns out, is Jerry Eaton the Commodore of the San Francisco Yacht Club!
Needless to say, both Don and the kayaker claim they are fine and the Coast Guard leave disappointed.
Don’s bow is pointed towards Kirby Cove and so I shadow them, the Coast Guard calling me intermittently for updates – which are hard to give because I don’t really know what’s going on and over speaker phone so I can keep rowing. Don rows all the way in towards the beach and the next thing I see is the kayak on the beach, with Don a little ways off.
‘Has Don anchored?’ I worry that there is no one on the beach, but the rowboat and the kayak attract interest and I can see stick insects moving towards the kayak. ‘Is the kayaker ok?’ ‘Is he staying on the beach?’ ‘What’s the plan?’ I wait for Don. We came on the row together, we go home safely together. I call Don and he says the kayaker has disappeared. Great! The Coast Guard call me for an update and I don’t know what to tell them. Don is waiting for the kayaker. I am waiting for Don. It’s all a bit of a farce and I am starting to get annoyed!
Finally the kayaker is back in his boat and Don is rowing along the shore and I am some distance off going under the bridge. At least the tide is incoming to help me fight against the wind.
There is absolutely no wind in the bay. Ha!
Don pulls away from the shore to head to Tiburon and I am also heading to Tiburon so we are now on the same trajectory. I am not very comfortable with leaving the kayaker to make his own way home. In fact, I am not very comfortable with the kayaker still being in his kayak and not being in a doctor’s office seen by a medic. So I look for the glint of sunlight catching his paddle, to know that he’s moving. When there is no glint and I see the bow of the boat, I divert. Don calls me.
“He’s really ok,” Don says.
The kayak straightens up and the paddle catches the light again, but the timing between the sun catching the paddle is slower. I watch until the kayak nears the built-up area of Sausalito, before diverting my attention to Tiburon. There’s no breeze at all, it’s hot and after 7 hours of rowing I am tired.