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Bay Menagerie

You see the darnedest things from a kayak on the bay.

By Kat Lynch

STARTING from the moment I slide into the ocean kayak, the grin never leaves my face. I haven't been out on the water for quite some time, not even in a pool. Today the Pacific Ocean is smooth as a lake with a cool, crisp breeze. What waves there are remind me of an oil painting.

"Do you want to go through or around the wharf?" Angela asks. We choose around. Soon after I pull away from the dock beneath the pier I start dodging nearly invisible fishing lines, which, evidently, some of the anglers on the pier find amusing. Someone shouts, "I caught a 125-pound blond!" Any discomfiture I feel while untangling from the lines melts away as soon as I see the next small dock.

"Look at the babies," Jessie murmurs. I can't help but make girly, cooing sounds along with my two friends at the sight of a group of juvenile sea lions. There are so many of them together, barking several octaves higher than the adults, their heads held just as high.

"Let's go to the lighthouse and back," someone suggests. I lean back in my little plastic bucket seat and dig in with the paddle, remembering that I need to save energy for the return trip. About 100 feet out, the going gets a little tougher. The kelp forests have begun to interrupt the fluid surface, making paddling awkward. An outrigger canoe speeds by; they must be practicing for the upcoming Aloha boat races.

One of our group has aimlessly paddled ahead and stopped a ways from Seal Rock, populated today by sea lions. I feel the slight sway of the ocean from atop our chosen kelp bed. Over by the lighthouse, on the ocean side of the fence, a few tourists try to take their pictures close to the basking sea lions.

As we make our way back, we cross paths with a sea otter. It glances at us, then resumes its preening. Halfway between the dock and the lighthouse, a fish pops out of the water not two feet from my kayak. Three sea lions leap from the surface in hot pursuit, splashing me on their way back down.

Soaking wet and with arms of lead, I eventually climb onto the Venture Quest dock, satisfied by a day of so much wildlife viewing so close to home.

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