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  Last updated
  8th May 2018

Laser Tales
These are emails from the Laser List (A newsgroup dedicated to Laser Sailing)
One of the best contributors is Dennis Olson, who sails near the Golden Gate Bridge - San Fransisco

This is one of his tales
"The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."
The northern end of Tomales Bay is not my usual sailing ground. Down-bay the winds are stronger, more predictable, and there's an easier launch access for my Laser sailboat. But I had recently sail-camped at White Gulch up here and also spent an afternoon close with a visiting Gray Whale. And again today I felt like a change.
Hanging suspended in a Bay afternoon - Dennis Olson
Photo: Dennis Olson --- Courtesy: www.drLaser.org

I felt crappy, actually. I was suffering a bit of a hangover. Last night we had hosted a dinner party for Elio and Theresa; our good friends who just moved back to California after years in Rome. My wife, Sharon put on an excellent meal and I was a somewhat frisky wine steward. The ocean air and exercise promised to be a proper antidote. No sense laying at home on a Sunday feeling sorry for yourself.

Now I was beating northwest into the breeze, heading for the Point Reyes side. I might check to see if the big Lion's Mane Jellyfish were still hanging in the White Gulch eddy, then land to see if some Elk are bedded or grazing down near the shore.

Mid-crossing, south of Hog Island are shoals. I had dragged my blades on last trip, so I tried to read the water closely to avoid them. Usually Tomales Bay's estuarine water is clear and transparent, but today the low misty overcast reflected an opaque shifting silver surface, and when I could peer down between waves the water was pure black, revealing nothing. One could only imagine, and I grew uneasy with the poor visibility beneath.
We are aloft above a valley, channel courses, plains.

The brooding headlands of Point Reyes rise higher here, too. Steep rocky cliffs front the humpy scrub-covered hills, and the wet cypresses leaning off Hog Island receded in my wake. Nobody else was on the water. The solitude combined with the unfamiliarity of the place and made me think: My own Cape Horn. A place of adventure. A place to pay attention. The fog shifted and pooled in a hanging valley where I could already hear a Tule Elk's high bugle.

Still trying to look into the water, I catch a movement beneath me and aft. Look again. No? Slide back in the cockpit and peer down harder.
There it is. Grey-brown. A moving shape. At least as long as my boat (thirteen feet), and following closely about three feet under. Sinuous, easy swimming motion. Unhurried.

Definitely following.

Now a lot of things happen in a very short time.

Someone once said: "You have the rest of your life to solve this problem. Is that perhaps only seconds?"

I quickly turn down and away; thinking of the song: "Shark Attack" by Wailing Souls that I had just listened to at happy high volume on the drive out. Thinking of the Great Whites that live and hunt here. Thinking then, "Uh-oh," as it followed my turn. Quickly I sheet in and turn up hard again.


It follows me effortlessly, staying just submerged and looking interested.

Two days earlier, while walking my dog on the beach just south of here we found the fresh hindquarters and leathery flippers of a large Sea Lion. Bitten off cleanly and washed ashore. A shark's discard, like we do with a prawn's tail. . . Some of life's most intense moments are spent in the middle of the food chain, rather than at the top. My wetsuit collar is starting to constrict my throat. My lifejacket is way too tight over my pounding chest. I may be talking aloud.

In fact, just like Homer Simpson, I suddenly shout "Wait a minute!"

I have unconsciously stopped the boat, and leaning hard over the transom, I see the imagined peril in a different light. And it is something I have never seen before (is that maybe what all imagined perils should be?): A thirteen-foot long-by-eight inch wide ribbon of some odd seaweed was caught on the bottom of my rudder. My Class-illegal long-blade rudder.

Shadow. Color. Shape. Movement. Jangly nerves. The unhindering fashion in which it herded me, swimming behind. No noticeable drag. The monster was imaginary! It felt wonderful to reach down and clear the weed and salute goodbye to it.

Then, I salute "Hello" to a new man.

I often meet a new person when I go out in the world. I keep using this as a motivating reason to get off the couch. You will always see or meet someone new.

The new man I have just met was a scared man. He was me.

I sail to be alone. There, being fierce, brave, or scared shitless - these emotions all take on a brighter meaning, not the same as alongside others or in a crowd, observed.

I am still grateful and enriched by meeting that man.

Dennis Olson

Tomales Bay, CA